Sreznevsky, Izmail

Image - Izmail Sreznevsky (1870s).

Sreznevsky, Izmail [Срезневський, Ізмаїл; Sreznevskij], b 13 June 1812 in Yaroslavl, Russia, d 21 February 1880 in Saint Petersburg. Russian philologist and Slavist; full member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences from 1854. A graduate in political science at Kharkiv University (MA 1837), he lectured in Slavic philology at Kharkiv (1842–6) and Saint Petersburg (1847–80) universities. Sreznevsky was one of the central figures of the Kharkiv Romantic School. He collected and published songs of wandering Slovak tradesmen (1832) and of Ukrainian peasants in Kharkiv gubernia, Poltava gubernia, and Katerynoslav gubernia (Zaporozhskaia starina [Zaporozhian Antiquity, 1833–8]). With I. Roskovshenko he published Ukrainskii al’manakh (Ukrainian Almanac, 1831), where his own verses in Ukrainian romantic style and narratives in Russian appeared. He was a founder and editor of Izvestiia Imperatorskoi akademii nauk po otdeleniiu russkogo iazyka i slovesnosti, where he published many linguistic and historical monuments of the medieval period in Old Church Slavonic and Eastern Slavic. As a linguist Sreznevsky belonged to the Romantic school of philology. In his Mysli ob istorii russkogo iazyka (Reflections on the History of the Russian Language, 1849) he gave a synthetic survey of the comparative phonetics and morphology of the Slavic languages and then of the East Slavic languages, including Russian. Treating Ukrainian as a dialect of one Russian language, he held that the ‘southern’ (ie, Ukrainian) dialect, as distinct from the ‘northern’ (Russian and Belarusian) dialect, arose only in the 13th to 14th century, and that in the 15th to 16th century the former divided into the western (Transcarpathian and Ruthenian) and the eastern (‘Ukrainian’) dialects, while the latter divided into the Belarusian and Great Russian dialects. He believed wrongly that until the 13th century there was no distinction between the religious and secular styles of the literary language, that the structure of the vernacular changed in the 13th to 14th century, and that elements of the popular language began to enter the literary language in the 15th to 16th century. These views and Sreznevsky's authority paved the way for the theory of the Proto-Russian and Old Russian language of the Eastern Slavs (see Common Russian). Following A. Vostokov's example, he turned to grammatical and lexicographic studies and the publishing (not always very accurate) of medieval manuscripts. He systematically collected lexical data from old Eastern Slavic manuscripts, which his daughter edited and published posthumously as Materialy dlia slovaria drevne-russkogo iazyka po pis’mennym pamiatnikam (Materials for a Dictionary of the Old Russian Language of Literary Monuments, 3 vols, 1893–1912; 4th edn 1989). It is a unique lexicographic collection, based partly on monuments of Old Ukrainian.

Oleksa Horbach

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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