Some remarks on the language of Leo Tolstoy and small-scale diachronic shifts.

2018. №5, 49-63

Elena V. Paducheva
Federal Research Center Computer Science and Control of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia;
Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow, Russia;


The opposition of synchrony vs. diachrony introduced by Saussure doesn’t lose its relevance: in modern research, synchronous description is often complemented by diachronic material. The interest is attracted to the diachronic evolution on a small scale — within two or three centuries. The notion of a smallscale diachronic shift comes into being. In this paper, small-scale diachronic shifts are studied on the basis of the text of the novel “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy (from time to time other texts are taken into account). Words, word forms, and constructions are considered that do not fit into the modern norm: they are substituted by something else, which means that a diachronic shift took place. For example, Tolstoy uses a short passive participle in the dative where the modern language has a full passive participle in the instrumental: Legko byt’ vvedenu v zabluzhdenie. Clearly, a shift took place, the old construction fell out of use. Several dozens of examples of this kind are presented. Each example could be the object of a devoted historical study, but the paper simply attracts the readers’ attention to this kind of phenomena.

For citation:

Paducheva E. V. Some remarks on the language of Leo Tolstoy and small-scale diachronic shifts. Voprosy Jazykoznanija. 2018. No. 5. Pp. 49–63. DOI: 10.31857/S0373658X0001396-4.


The work is supported by Russian Science Foundation, project No. 18-18-00462, “Communicative-syntactic interface: typology and grammar”.