Transformations of the lexical row životъ — žiznь — žitije in Slavic: A linguostatistical analysis

2022. №2, 65-101

Oleg F. Zholobov
Kazan (Volga Region) Federal University, Kazan, Russia;
Victor A. Baranov
Kalashnikov Izhevsk State Technical University, Izhevsk, Russia;


The article presents the fi rst linguostatistical description of the historical transformations of the lexical row životъ — žiznь — žitije ‘life’ in Old Slavonic and Old Russian writing based on the materials of the historical corpus “Manuscript” (, with comparison to the Proto-Slavic reconstruction, Slavic data and current use. The mentioned lexical items had constituted a synonymic row since the first written records, which reflects the Proto-Slavic situation. This row was subject to cardinal transformations in all Slavic languages. In the Russian language it transformed to the row žizn’ — žitjë — žitie, where only the first word is stylistically neutral, while in other Slavic languages the noun žizn’ went out of use. We propose an explanation of the semantic transformation of Russian život, which acquired the meaning ‘belly’ under Polish influence in the 16th century. The work refutes the statement about the Preslav origin of the noun žizn’ and its borrowing in the Old Russian writing. The linguostatistical description shows that the quantitative formulae of the relationships within the lexical row and lists of collocates of its members not only associate with the subject and genre individuality of the sub-corpora of Gospels, copies of Parenesis, Menaia and books of Sticheron, but also reflect exactly the structural properties and textological features of the texts constituting the sub-corpora. The distributional-quantitative indexes suggest the dominant position of the lexical item žitije in the book writing. In the process of analysis key points were found in the transformations of the lexical row, including the emerging trend to domination of the noun žiznь.

For citation:

Zholobov O. F., Baranov V. A. Transformations of the lexical row životъ — žiznь — žitije in Slavic: A linguostatistical analysis. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2022, 2: 65–101.


The research was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 20-18-00206).