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Words new to me: дарственная versus духовная

June 15, 2020

In part 2, chapter 9 of Pisemskii’s The Masons (Масоны, 1880), Liab’ev has proposed to Muza Nikolaevna, the youngest daughter of Iuliia Matveevna, and announced that there is no need to give Muza any property, as he is wealthy and willing to take her without a dowry. Iuliia Matveevna, a widow, isn’t all that rich but won’t go along with this:

“I can’t do that, I can’t!” she spoke up, enunciating very clearly. “My fortune is not my own, but my children’s. Though my husband did leave it to me, I want to divide it between my daughters right away.”

“And it will be divided!” said Egor Egorych, who was present at this conversation, hoping to calm her down.

“The paper, give me the paper to sign..! I give Muza the estate outside Moscow and Susanna the rest!“ said Iuliia Matveevna as crisply and cleanly as before: as it had with naming her daughters, her maternal instinct did much to prompt her in this desire.

The next day Egor Egorych, realizing that it was impossible to dissuade the old woman in this instance, sent to the city for the district court secretary, who wrote a darstvennaia to Muza from Iuliia Matveevna and a dukhovnaia to Susanna. (295)

It’s fairly clear from context that these are legal documents that let Iuliia Matveevna divide her property between her two surviving daughters in the way she has described, but I had never thought about there being two different kinds of documents that could come into play in a situation like this.

Ushakov’s dictionary confirms that darstvennaia used as a noun is identical to darstvennaia zapis’ ‘gift note,’ and was the name for a document used to give property to someone else.

Dukhovnaia as a noun is equivalent to dukhovnoe zaveshchanie ‘spiritual testament,’ which just means a will, a document indicating how property should be disposed of after one’s death. It’s under the seventh meaning of dukhovnyi in Ushakov, marked as obsolete. It’s interesting that its ending is feminine, so the implied noun can’t be the neuter zaveshchanie, grammatically speaking. I wonder if the feminine noun bumaga ‘paper’ or zapis’ ‘note’ is implied, or if the feminine dukhovnaia began to be used instead of neuter dukhovnoe by analogy with words like darstvennaia. Any native speakers have an intuition about this? As Languagehat says in the comments below, the full phrase is dukhovnaia gramota, which explains why it’s feminine.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. languagehat permalink
    June 15, 2020 8:27 am

    Духовная грамота. (Via Dahl, who is a good first stop for 19th-c. usage.)

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