Novegradian is an artificially constructed language, an experiment in language development and evolution set against an alternative historical timeline. In working on it, I sought to create something realistic, a language that could conceivably be seen as a modern-day sibling to the other Slavic languages of Eastern Europe. The contents of this grammar were not simply created out of thin air; it involved a great deal of research into the other Slavic languages, their development, and the historical linguistic background of the broader Slavic language family, as well as the Uralic languages that were traditionally spoken in the same territory as the real Old Novgorodian and my own Modern Novegradian. Most of the inherited vocabulary was hand-derived from reconstructed Common Slavic, believed to be the ancestor of all the modern-day Slavic languages. A great deal of thought and effort was put into literally every single word of this language. It has been a project of four years at the time of writing, and hope that time is reflected in the quality of the product.
Although the Novegradian language is artificial, it does have some roots in reality. The idea for it originated when I first came across an article on the “Old Novgorodian Dialect” on Wikipedia, a real and attested dialect spoken in northwest Russia around the city of Veliky Novgorod and throughout its vast territory from roughly the 10th through 15th centuries. This discovery sparked a long-lasting interest in me regarding both the medieval state of Novgorod and its language, both of which were highly unusual given their place and time on the periphery of Slavic-speaking territory. The Old Novgorodian dialect had a number of very unique features, such as its apparent lack of the Second Palatalization seen in all of the other Slavic languages, its unusual Ŏ-stem nominative singular ending -e, the origin of which is still a matter of great controversy, and unique phonological phenomena such as cokanje and šokanje, referring to the confusion of /ts ~ tʃ/ and /sʲ ~ ʃ , zʲ ~ ʒ/ respectively. As someone with a great interest in Slavic historical linguistics, I couldn’t pass up the chance to delve deeper (although I realize to someone without a background in Slavic linguistics, the previous statements probably wouldn’t appear nearly as intriguing as they were to myself). After some searching, I was able to come across some very high-quality literature and research regarding this dialect in both English and Russian.
To some extent, that may make Novegradian more of a hybrid language, an attempt to see what this long-extinct dialect might look like had it survived to the modern day. Much of the early history of the language as discussed in this grammar is real; I simply took various trends to their full conclusion, developing the Old Novgorodian dialect into a distinct language (and for that matter, a completely separate branch of the Slavic languages, albeit with heavy East Slavic influences). However, as a creative work, I was also able to take a number of artistic liberties. I did rewrite a few aspects of early history of Old Novgorodian; if you have much familiarity with the dialect, you may notice how I have preserved the Common Slavic vowel *ě at least in certain cases, while it seems that in reality Old Novgorodian was one of the first Slavic languages to have lost it, merging it with *i. I was also able to fully side with various theories that in reality are debatable, and take phenomena that were inconsistent in reality and make them consistent. In no way should any part of this work be taken as a scholarly piece on the real Old Novgorodian, despite the many real elements incorporated into it.
I must also give credit to a number of individuals whose own research and publications on the Old Novgorodian dialect have been invaluable in helping me to learn about it and create this work. In particular, A. A. Zaliznjak’s amazingly thorough tome Древненовгородский диалект 1 has been a wonderful source of information on virtually every aspect of the language, and to this day remains the most detailed work on the subject that I am aware of. Others include Willem Vermeer 2 and Henrik Birnbaum 3 ; in particular, I have referenced in summary Vermeer’s theory on the origins of the Novgorodian nominative -e in Section 24.5.2 of this grammar.
1) Зализняк, А. А. Древненовгородский диалект. 2nd Ed. Moscow: Издательство «Языки славянской культуры», 2004. ↑
2) Vermeer, W. “On Explaining Why the Early North Russian Nominative Singular in -e Does Not Palatalize Stem-Final Velars”. Russian Linguistics, vol. 18, No. 2 (Jul. 1994), pp. 145-157. ↑
3) Birnbaum, H. “Reflections on the Language of Medieval Novgorod”. Russian Linguistics, vol. 15, No. 3 (1991), pp. 195-215. ↑