MICROHISTORY OF SEMANTIC SHIFTS: THE CASE OF THE RUSSIAN ADJECTIVE SLAVNYJ
The paper proposes a corpus analysis of a Russian adjective slavnyj. Its semantic
evolution is analyzed through its distribution in XVIII–XXI centuries texts, including
the main types of its usages, its main meanings, and possible shifts from one meaning to
another. It is shown that the initial semantics of ‘being famous’ that the adjective slavnyj
expresses up to the beginning of the XIX century gives rise to the idea of strong positive
evaluation. Slavnyj is very frequent as a positive marker during the XIX century, and then
it gradually loses its intrinsic expressiveness. Nowadays, this adjective became much less
frequent, having undergone a peculiar meaning shift: it marks a moderate compliment.
While the grammaticalization pattern of slavnyj represents a well known shift ‘famous’
=> ‘good’ (as a specific case of a more general pattern ‘differing from the others’ =>
‘good’) widely attested crosslinguistically, the further stage of the semantic evolution of
the word slavnyj appears to be more exotic.