Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

CHAT: Russian et alia (was: YARPT)

From:Isaac Penzev <isaacp@...>
Date:Sunday, January 21, 2007, 11:02
I don't know if the subject is interesting for everybody, so I label it
CHAT, but still keep it onlist. If necessary, we could continue it offlist.
Warning: I'm going to have a two-week session for extramural students, so I
won't have too much leisure for emails from Jan 22 to Feb 3 :((

H. S. Teoh wrote:

| On Fri, Jan 19, 2007 at 11:40:28AM +0200, Isaac Penzev wrote:
| I see. I've heard final /a/ and initial reduced /o/ merge into a single
| vowel, though. I'm not sure if my hearing is accurate, but phrases like
| на обучений sound like [na:bu"tS_jenij].

Sounds OK. If I have time, I'll try to systematize major Russian
pronunciation rules and present them to dear colleagues, but not

| > I would recommend to study basic principles, and then do the "fine
| > tuning" of your accent by imitating a native speaker.
| [...]
| Good idea. I need much work on conversational skills though... since
| almost none of my acquiantances are native Russian speakers, my study
| has been mostly limited to reading and listening to Russian radio
| stations. I can understand about 20-30% of what I read, but listening to
| speech is hard for me, maybe only about 5% comprehension. :-/

Well, you're still on a beginner's level, no wonder you understand so
little. Try more reading, and speak up, even with mistakes. The Russian
language is very tolerant to mistakes and accents, if you are a foreigner.

| My personal approach is to read a lot of native text, and acquire a sort
| of "gut feeling" from seeing many instances of actual usage. Memorizing
| isolated rules from a grammar text doesn't quite cut it for me.

A good approach. But anyway, I meant there are NO RULES! Just learn them
like this:
_обучать кого чему_, _преподавать что кому_,
_благодарить кого за что_,
_помогать кому в чём_, _труден для чего_, _богат чем_ etc.

| > Btw, in Ukrainian both demands Dat.
| How different is Ukrainian from Russian?
| Or Czech, for that matter. (I
| got particularly interested in Czech when I stumbled upon some Czech
| text in, of all places, a computer puzzle game, and even though it is
| written in Latin alphabet, several words immediately strike me as being
| cognate with Russian, such as _posledni_ -> последний, _v_ as a
| preposition, etc..)

To be brief:
Slavic languages are a bunch of closely related langs in the IE family.
By origin, they are divided into three groups - Ilist only the major
- East Sl. (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian);
- West Sl. (Polish, Czech, Slovakian);
- South Sl. (Serb/Croatian, Slovenian and very peculiar
This division is mainly based on the regular sound changes and national
history. The real picture is complicated by tons of mutual influences and

So, RU. and UK. are very close in origin. RU. phonetics is more
conservative, but its vowels experience heavy reduction (found only in RU.
and BE.) UK. phonetics has a number of interesting innovations and its
stress system seems to be most complicated among the Slavic langs.
Major differences in morphology between RU. and UK.:
- RU. has 6 cases, UK. has 7 (it retains Vocative);
- RU. has 3 declension types, UK. has 4;
- UK. has almost lost short forms of adjectives;
- RU. has 16 main verb classes, UK. has 11;
- UK. retains Plusquamperfectum;
- RU. has 4 types of participles, UK. - only one.
But the most striking differnce is in vocabulary. They have only about 65%
of common vocabulary (while, e.g. UK. and PL. have 82%!)
In general, from the viewpoint of practice, Ukrainian and Polish are closer
one to another than Ukrainian and Russian (my subjective opinion).
Czech and Slovak are very close one to another, but have a lot of specific
innovations (like length opposition in vowels). Czech was almost dead in
16-19th cc., so the modern language is a revival of the medieval written
lang, thus in fact there are two langs under this name: Literary Czech
("Spisovna Čeština", very archaic, many borrowings from Old Church Slavonic,
thus closer to Russian) and General Oral Czech ("Obecna Čeština", more
innovative, etc.)
In general, Slavic langs have pretty much in common. Many things in a
foreign Slavic lang may be understood without learning. But each of them has
something peculiar only to this particular lang.

| > | Interesting slang...
| >
| > I can teach you some more! (when we both have time)
| Sure. :-) I'm more worried about getting basic conversational skills
| down first, though. Currently I'm at the point where I can sort of
| figure out what someone is saying if they would only write it down, but
| I've a hard time picking out words from listening to actual speech.

Ok, we'll wait for the proper time.

| So how did красный come to mean "red"? Talk about semantic shift...
| Seems almost Chinese in equating "red" with "beautiful". :-)

Ghu knows... Russian is very innovative and peculiar in its vocabulary (even
basic). Thus, _большой_, _плохой_, _мальчик_, _но_, _или_,
_красный_, _врач_
etc. are not Common Slavic.

-- Yitzik