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[P]
An idiot's guide into Russian.

By i in Culture
Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 03:57:30 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In these series, most readers will meet less-than-familiar writing system, new sounds, new sentence structure, and other pleasant challenges. Happy language hacking!


Let's begin with the everybody's favourite first Russian sentence:

Мама мыла раму.

What?! How can I read that?!

If you can't figure out the first word, you probably need a better browser, better fonts, or a different OS. Otherwise, let's move on.

Yes, your guess is right. The first word means "mom". You can read it like Italians do for the time being. (If you don't know how Italians say mama, go watch some gangster movies.)

The second word has two unfamiliar letters. ы (it's one letter, not two) reads almost like "i" in "sit" or "y" in "myth". You can make a better approximation by noticing the difference between "beet" and "bit" and then extrapolating this difference even further. The other letter, л, resembles a scaled-down Greek capital lambda, which it basicly is. It reads like English "L". So The overall sound of the second word is something like "myh-lah". The stress in this word is on the first syllable. The meaning of the word is "washed" or "was washing" -- Russian verb tenses are much more coarse-grained than English ones.

The third word starts with р but it's not the same as English p, it's more like Greek rho, and reads accordingly. Similarly, the last letter looks like English y, but is related to Greek upsilon and reads like u in "full" or "oo" in "moo". The stress in this word is on the first syllable again (don't be so fast, there's no general rule), the overall sound is something like "rah-moo", and the word means "frame". (The sentence in children's textbooks usually goes with a picture showing a woman washing a window frame.)

And here's an amazing fact: this sentence is completely analogous (as far as nouns are concerned) to the first Latin sentence of The Trollaxor Approach to Latin, which reads Anna Sullam amat. Two distantly related languages, Latin and Russian, in fact share a lot of structure -- no wonder, because both are relatively archaic members of the Indo-European family.

In both cases, the first noun is the subject and so is in the nominative. The second noun is in accusative, for it's the direct object. The subjects' endings are even identical in Russian and Latin! The objects' endings don't look the same, but linguists can trace the Russian -у ending back to Indo-European -am. A nominative form of раму is рама -- all nouns in Russian dictionaries are listed in nominative, and it is important to be able to recognise this basic form.

So the meaning of the sentence is "mom washed a frame". Or maybe "the frame". With Russian one can never be sure because the language (surprise!) does not mandate any notion of specificity on the grammar level. In simpler words, English "a" and "the" have no counterparts in Russian.

Let us look at another specimen of the Russian speech:

Скоро Новый Год.

A reader familiar with the Greek language would probably guess that С is related to Sigma, Г to Gamma, and Д to Delta. I can only confirm that. В is like Beta and reads like English V. Н is, however, unrelated to Eta. It is, in fact, a modified Latin/Greek N and reads just like it. An interesting beast is й: one of only two Russian letters with diacritics, it is a non-syllable-making wovel which sounds approximately like "y" in "yet". The о letter isn't very different from its English or Greek counterparts, and neither is к.

A quick reader would conclude that the first word reads like "skoh-roh". Well, that would be too quick. The correct reading is "skoh-rah". Why? Because the stress is on the first syllable, and unstressed о reads just like а in Russian. Confusing? Wait, there's more! The meaning of the word is "soon".

The second word is not very troublesome, except I don't know how to transcribe it into English well. The first (stressed) syllable is "noh", the second one is best approximated by the "vy y" part of "navy yet". The word means (surprise!) "new".

The third word would sound like "god", except it sounds like "got". Why? Because д in the end of a syllable (and in some other cases) is read like "t", not like "d". That same word in accusative would be "года", and there д reads like d. The word means "year" and is linked, in mysterious ways, to English "good".

So the overall meaning is something like "New Year is soon". Except there's no werb in the Russian sentence. That's OK, Russian almost always omits its equivalent of "to be" in the present tense. So phrases like "I am a kuro5hin user", "he is a troll" or "they are serious" would all be verbless in Russian.

In conclusion, let's review what ve've learned today:

  • The subject is in the nominative case
  • The direct object is in the accusative case
  • There no counterparts to "a" and "the" in Russian
  • A letter can change its reading depending on position
  • "To be" is omitted in the present tense
  • Vocabulary:
    • мама: mom
    • рама: frame
    • новый: new
    • год: year
    • скоро: soon
    • мыла: washed
In our next lesson we will see more. More letters, more sounds, more cases, more vocabulary. Good bye -- пока! (The stress is on the second syllable here. How do you read this word?)

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Display: Sort:
An idiot's guide into Russian. | 143 comments (120 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
you mean Russian idiot or English idiot's guide? (3.33 / 3) (#1)
by sye on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 02:11:29 PM EST

And who are you? According to many here, i am an idiot but they wouldn't dare to call me an English idiot which pleases me very much. There are better languages than Russian to Russian, e.g., chess, maths. I believe comparative literature must NOT start like by comparing greetings from idiots all around the world. Those type of communications are reserved for minors and disabled mind, not for an idiot like myself!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
commentary - For a better sye@K5
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in

The ambiguity is intentional. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 02:16:24 PM EST

You adopt the sense you're most comfortable with.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Washing frames (5.00 / 2) (#11)
by Rasman on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:03:01 PM EST

I've never heard of anyone washing frames. Certainly I've never seen my mother do it. Do they have particularly dirty frames in Russia? Why do you think that is?

Can we get some more useful sentences? I hate learning sentences in a foreign language that I know I will never use.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
Gee. (none / 0) (#14)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:25:51 PM EST

I think we used to wash window frames once per year, usually at spring time, when the windows are commonly unsealed after the winter period.

The phrase about washing frames is the very first fhrase of the very first textbook of every Russian kid. (Or was until recently.) As such it has entered the status of a cultural phenomenon. It can mean, idiomatically, "the very basic thing", "the foundation of something". It's not exactly useless to know that.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]

just say its like "Hello World" for prog (none / 0) (#142)
by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 05:31:35 AM EST




=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
Addendum. (none / 0) (#18)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:34:08 PM EST

Alternatively, it could idiomatically mean "a useless, boring exercise" :)

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
washing frames (none / 0) (#71)
by svSHiFT on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 07:07:30 AM EST

that sentence is a simple check for correct pronunciation. It is also frequently used in kindergartens logopaedic groups :-)

[ Parent ]
logowhat? (none / 0) (#85)
by Rasman on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 12:43:10 AM EST

What the heck is logopaedic???

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Logopaedic (none / 0) (#91)
by nidarus on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 04:44:39 AM EST

I think it refers to a specialist that teaches kids how to pronounce different sounds correctly. Russian is a weird language. Not everybody are born with the innate capability to pronounce (and hear) all of these weird sounds. I know I wasn't*.

* It's a sad story, really. You see, I couldn't pronounce the Russian "р". It always came out more like the French "r". So my folks sent me to an particularily evil logopaed[?], that tortured me into pronouncing this sound "correctly". Unfortunately, soon afterwards we moved to Israel, and the Hebrew "reish" is very much like my old "r". But it was too late for me - I couldn't shake off my "correct" Russian "р". My kid brother didn't get to go to the Logopaed this much, so he has a perfect Hebrew accent (the bastard).

[ Parent ]

I've got the same problem. (none / 0) (#97)
by vadim on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 10:32:39 AM EST

I always found it funny that I can't say "correctly" correctly in any language I know (Russian, Spanish and English)

I also went to the logopaed, but it didn't help at all. I don't mind much, but some people find me a bit hard to understand, because I talk quite fast, and the "r" thing makes it worse.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Not everybody are born with the innate capability (none / 0) (#143)
by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 05:34:32 AM EST

<troll> So your language sucks, is that what you are saying? </troll>

Seriously, you'd think that a language with so many weird nigh-impossible to pronounce sounds would evolve to become easier...
maybe its a slow process, i dunno, but i guess now its hard for languages to evolve much seeing as how everyone insists on teaching it the "right" way...



=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
In Soviet Russia (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by ComradeFork on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:08:53 PM EST

In Soviet Russia, the government forced most of the member countries of the USSR to abandon their native tounge, and speak Russian.

Now, these countries such as Lithuania are abandoning Russian, and even imposing restrictions on the speaking of Russian (eg on signposts).

On the other hand Belarus is sticking with Russian over its original tounge for economic reasons.

Ex-soviet republics (3.00 / 2) (#64)
by Enocasiones on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 12:53:39 AM EST

The Balts: Since they are keen to get into the European Union, they must care for their minorities and their languages. That means they have to protect Russian speakers, even if they were opressed by them in USSR times.

The case of Belarus is different: they have a funny president who thinks that catering to the Russians will allow him to stay in power. So yes, the reason why they still favour the Russian language may be an economic one (preferential trade), but if they had a democratic government, things might look much more different.

---

Enoc

[ Parent ]

Well, there's a lot more to it than that. (4.00 / 2) (#124)
by voodoo1man on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 02:22:27 AM EST

After WWII, Stalin deported quite a large chunck of the Belarussian population to various camps around the USSR. After things cooled down a bit, some of them choose to stay in those countries, while other tried to/successfully moved to other parts of the SU, however their situation/luck/connections permitted. Surprisingly enough (or maybe not so surprisingly, considering they're nice places to live) some of these ex-exilees moved to the Baltic states, and at one time there used to be quite a large Belarussian population in Latvia (but a little less so in Estonia and Lithuania, at least from what I gather).

I'm not too informed on what Stalin did in Latvia after the war, but it probably involved killing a hell of a lot of people, as Latvia was pretty notorious for it's large population of Nazi-sympathizers during the war (I don't know if anybody kept statistics, but I'm pretty sure Latvia had the largest ratio of locally-operated concentration-camp capacity to population - even if that's not so, the ratio is still unusually high for such an eastern-situated country). In any which case, Stalin at least did an incredibly good job of getting rid of Nazis.

Getting back to present-day Latvia. They only award "protection" (which mostly means excemption from having to pass a Latvian language exam in order to keep your citizenship) to those Russian speakers that can prove they were politically persecuted by the SU (pretty much all the senior citizens who were deported after WWII qualify). Existing non-natural (ie born there) residents of Latvia have to pass Latvian language exams in order to maintain citizenship and be able to work. There is also supposed to be legislation mandating that all publicly visible signs of commercial enterprises be written in Latvian (and other Quebec-like restrictions), although there seems to be an informal excemption for English, at least the last time I was there. New immigration, is however supposed to be quite more rigorous, and I've heard anectodal accounts of policies being used to discriminate against immigrants from Southern former republics. The census data shows a large number of non-Latvian emigrants, and the country has experience a negative population growth for the last decade.

Now, as for the Belarussians today, the whole thing boils down to the fact that they have a funny language =]. It's in some ways very similar to Russian, shares some words, and in general sounds something like Russian with all the r's and l's flapped and the other consonants softened. Because of this similarity, a lot of native Belarussians acquired both langauges (speaking natively at home and their distinct Bela-Russian dialect and pronounciation professionaly). As well, Russia and Belarussia share a lot of culture, and there isn't nearly as much ethnic tension between them as there is between Russia and Latvia. Since most of the existing population understands/to some extent speaks the language, a large portion of immigrants from former SU republics haven't acquired Belarussian, and the new generations don't need to be fully bilingual to communicate in Russian effectively, there is less social pressure to change. However, you're probably quite right in stating that under a democratic government things would change much faster.

Well, there's a lot more to it than I've said here, but at least it's a starting point. =]

[ Parent ]

Russian speaks YOU (3.66 / 3) (#82)
by PurpleBob on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 08:41:42 PM EST

You know this is Kuro5hin when a post can begin with "In Soviet Russia" and be entirely serious.

[ Parent ]
um (none / 0) (#133)
by random832 on Wed Jan 01, 2003 at 09:13:29 AM EST

i find it very incredible that the epidemic of people standing on signposts speaking russian is widespread enough to require legislation

[ Parent ]
gosh (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by tweetsygalore on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:27:42 PM EST

i'm not sure what's wrong. but my russian alphabets from my comment below disappeared! : oh well!
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
An idiot savant's guide to the Russian alphabet (5.00 / 8) (#19)
by mesozoic on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:37:04 PM EST

The Russian alphabet consists of thirty letters and three symbols.  This is a bit confusing, but you can figure it out. (A few of these letters were not displaying properly no matter what, so I replaced them with Roman letters that look the same.)

а -- ah, as in far
б -- b
в -- v
г -- g
д -- d
е -- yeh, as in yes
ё -- yoh; if present, this vowel is always stressed
ж -- zh, like g in massage
з -- z
и -- ee, as in feet
й -- short ee, like y in yes
к -- k
л -- l
м -- m
н -- n
о -- oh, not like oa in boat, closer to o in office
п -- p
р -- r
с -- s
т -- t
y -- oo, as in shoe
ф -- f
x -- kh, like ch in German loch
ц -- ts, as in cats
ч -- ch, as in chop
ш -- sh, as in hash
щ -- shch (or sch), sort of like sh ch in fresh cheese, but blurred together
э -- eh, as in bet
ю -- yoo
я -- yah (this sound alone means "I")

Russian pronunciation is difficult in that most consonants can be pronounced two different ways, soft and hard. Consonants are soft or hard depending on the letter following them; soft vowels are those with a "y" sound at the beginning. Soft consonants usually involve placing the tongue further up against the roof of the mouth, but not always.

Notes: The letters x, ш, ж, ц are always hard. The letters ч, щ are always soft.

Russian also has three symbols, which are not considered proper letters:

ъ -- hard sign; the preceding consonant is hard.
ь -- soft sign; the preceding consonant is soft.
ы -- called "yery" (еры); the sound is not familiar to the English language, but (as said in the post) can be deduced by looking at the difference between ee and i in beet and bit, and then making the sound even further back in the mouth.

That is the Russian alphabet. It took me two weeks of daily practice, with a native speaker drawing tongue and mouth formations on a blackboard, to be able to comfortably sound out Russian words.

"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right." -- Salvor Hardin, Isaac Asimov's Foundation

Wow. (none / 0) (#22)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 06:01:13 PM EST

That's some advanced topics! Please bear in mind that ё won't render correctly on many free Unices with only vendor's fonts (a bug that should have been fixed at least 5 years ago, sigh). It's better to use ë (¨).

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Damn Scoop. (none / 0) (#23)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 06:22:20 PM EST

I mean, ë (&euml;).

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Renders fine on FreeBSD (XF4, Mozilla) [NT] (none / 0) (#34)
by strlen on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 10:31:04 PM EST



--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
and Debian 3, Mozilla -nt (none / 0) (#36)
by KnightStalker on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 11:09:42 PM EST



[ Parent ]
corrections (2.66 / 3) (#38)
by RelliK on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 12:06:46 AM EST

x -- h as in hot. NOT silent h as in honour.

ц -- this sound does not exist in English. A common non-English word where it occurs is pizza.

щ -- again, this sound does not naturally occur in English. It is sort of like ch and sh blended together, like the way some people pronounce schedule.

ы -- that is a proper letter

Russian pronunciation is difficult in that most consonants can be pronounced two different ways, soft and hard. Consonants are soft or hard depending on the letter following them

The thing is that nearly all of these sounds occur naturally in English. It's just that the distinction between hard and soft sounds is not emphasized. For example, compare r's in "red" and "real". The former is hard, the latter is soft. (I expect blank stares from most English-only speakers). In Russian you just need to be aware of the difference.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]

Corrections? (4.50 / 2) (#56)
by nidarus on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 05:35:35 PM EST

х is a kh sound, and it sounds like the ch in "loch", and not like the h in "hot".

Russian doesn't have the "h" sound. English doesn't (naturally) have the "х" sound. Modern Hebrew, for example, has both.

Also, I would like to know how are your explainations of the letters ц and щ better than the original poster's.

[ Parent ]

eh? (none / 0) (#74)
by RelliK on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 12:41:36 PM EST

х is a kh sound, and it sounds like the ch in "loch", and not like the h in "hot".

I see no difference between German ch in loch and English h in hot (*). The native English example is certainly better for a predominantly English-speaking audience.

(*) That is unless by "kh" sound you actually mean k as in king, in which case you are wrong.

Also, I would like to know how are your explainations of the letters ц and щ better than the original poster's.

If you can't see it, I can't help you there.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]

Can't see the difference? (none / 0) (#80)
by nidarus on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 06:39:51 PM EST

That's very odd. I guess I'm more sensitive to this difference, as my first language naturally has both sounds. However, I think that even people that know only English can tell the difference between the "ch" and "h".

If you want an example of an "h" sound in Russian, I don't think you can find it, at least not directly. However, you can compare the way Ukrainians sometimes pronounce "г" (closer to "h") with the way they pronounce "х" (closer to "ch", or, as I like to write it, "kh").

Now, let's review your explaination for the letter "ц":

"this sound does not exist in English. A common non-English word where it occurs is pizza."

Compare it to the original example:

"ts, as in cats"

Now, aside from that your claim that the sound doesn't exist in English is imprecise at best (isn't "cats" an English word?), your redundant example is a foreign word (and we both agree that foreign examples are worse than native ones, right?) and besides, you don't even say which part of the word corresponds with the "ц" sound (for all the native English speaker knows, it may be another quirky kind of "i").

Now, about "щ" - I looked at both comments again, and I must agree that "schedule" is a much better example than "fresh cheese", so I take this part of my comment back. However, here you make the mistake of claiming that this sound doesn't exist in English, and then giving an example in English where the sound exists. Huh?!

[ Parent ]

Schedule (none / 0) (#81)
by PurpleBob on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 08:28:45 PM EST

"Schedule" is never a good example for pronunciation, because everyone pronounces it differently. In the dialect I'm familiar with, it starts with an "sk" sound.

Discussions like this tend to be problematic, because English is a terrible language for giving phonetic examples. Articles about language should start by pointing everyone to the ASCII IPA chart. Approximations in English are fine for readability, but if there's any confusion they won't help one bit.

(Of course, some people will not be helped by the IPA because they can't identify individual sounds in a word. The grandparent poster would probably be an example. This is not an insult - just an observation.)

So: I pronounce "schedule" as /skEdZ:l/ ("sked-jl"). Some people pronounce it more carefully as /skEdZul/ ("sked-jule"). I've heard /SEdZul/ ("shed-jule") on occasion (from British people, perhaps?) But I've never ever heard /StSEdZul/ ("sh-ched-jule") as you're implying it's pronounced - at least, if that funny character is pronounced /StS/ (shch) like the article implied.

[ Parent ]

I (and RelliK) meant shed-jule (none / 0) (#88)
by nidarus on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 03:54:46 AM EST

The sh+ch thing doesn't actually mean "sh and then ch", any more than the Russian word for "no" is actually pronounced "nyet". It's just a slightly different "sh" sound - different from the "sh" in "shark", for example.

Btw, it may be the same sound in most proper English accents, so the example might be as meaningless as the "red"/"real" example, but it's at least better than "fresh cheese" - that one's just strange.

[ Parent ]

Fun And Learning With Schedule (none / 0) (#109)
by phliar on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:32:14 AM EST

Ever since Americans/USians started making fun of my pronunciation of schedule I've been paying attention to the various differences I hear in that word.
I pronounce "schedule" as /skEdZ:l/ ("sked-jl"). Some people pronounce it more carefully as /skEdZul/ ("sked-jule"). I've heard /SEdZul/ ("shed-jule") on occasion (from British people, perhaps?)
I find that Canadians usually say /SEdZul/ but the English say /SEdul/. I usually say /SEdul/ but in rapid speech I might say /SEdl-/. I've never heard /StSEdZul/ either, except one time a Canadian friend was teased about the /sk/ beginning and pronounced it something like /StSEdZul/ for effect.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

heh (none / 0) (#83)
by RelliK on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 10:58:55 PM EST

If you want an example of an "h" sound in Russian, I don't think you can find it, at least not directly. However, you can compare the way Ukrainians sometimes pronounce "г" (closer to "h") with the way they pronounce "х" (closer to "ch", or, as I like to write it, "kh").

My first language is Russian, I was born and grew up in Ukraine, and I studied German in high school, so I find this debate mildly amusing... Perhaps you can give me an example in Ukrainian or German to illustrate the difference?

Now, aside from that your claim that the sound doesn't exist in English is imprecise at best (isn't "cats" an English word?), your redundant example is a foreign word (and we both agree that foreign examples are worse than native ones, right?)

If you are indeed as sensitive and knowledgeble as you claim, surely you would realize that "ц" is not merely 't' followed by 's'. I used the word "pizza" as an example because I think it is safe to assume that all Enlgish-speakers know how to pronounce it.

Now, about "щ" - I looked at both comments again, and I must agree that "schedule" is a much better example than "fresh cheese", so I take this part of my comment back. However, here you make the mistake of claiming that this sound doesn't exist in English, and then giving an example in English where the sound exists. Huh?!

If you read my comment carefully, you will see that I actually said that this sound does not naturally occur in English, which is true. "schedule" is, to my knowledge, the only word where you can find it, and even then, most people pronounce it as "skedule", thus making it an imperfect example.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]

Hoch (none / 0) (#86)
by Dephex Twin on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 02:31:56 AM EST

If you want an example of an "h" sound in Russian, I don't think you can find it, at least not directly. However, you can compare the way Ukrainians sometimes pronounce "г" (closer to "h") with the way they pronounce "х" (closer to "ch", or, as I like to write it, "kh").
My first language is Russian, I was born and grew up in Ukraine, and I studied German in high school, so I find this debate mildly amusing... Perhaps you can give me an example in Ukrainian or German to illustrate the difference?
I think the best example would be with German, to compare the beginning "h" in "hoch" to the "ch" at the end of "hoch". That word has both sounds.


Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]
Sensitive ears (none / 0) (#89)
by nidarus on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 04:16:04 AM EST

If you are indeed as sensitive and knowledgeble as you claim, surely you would realize that "ц" is not merely 't' followed by 's'. I used the word "pizza" as an example because I think it is safe to assume that all Enlgish-speakers know how to pronounce it.

Whoa there, no need to be offended. I don't claim to be especially sensitive, and I never claimed to be knowledgeble. You see, I immigrated to Israel from Russia. Russian doesn't have an "h" sound, so, when I learned Hebrew, I also learned the difference between "hei" (ה) and "khaf"/"khet" (ח/כ), and how to pronounce each.

I must also note that you are the first person I see that claims that "kh" and "h" are the same sound, and that the "zz" in "pizza" isn't the same as the "ts" in "cats". I guess I have no real way to disprove the latter claim, other than sending you mp3s of these words, and even that might not help.

If you read my comment carefully, you will see that I actually said that this sound does not naturally occur in English, which is true. "schedule" is, to my knowledge, the only word where you can find it,

Your logic continues to baffle me. Maybe we don't mean the same things when we say "naturally occurs", or, for that matter, "occurs"?

[ Parent ]

ts (none / 0) (#100)
by Dephex Twin on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 11:39:24 AM EST

I agree that the "ts" in cats is the same as the sound in "pizza", as long as you aren't lazy in the pronunciation of "cats".

How about this?  I can think of an English word that uses this sound in the middle of the word: "antsy".  Also, German has this "ts" sound in their letter "z", and there is one word that uses this "z" that every English speaker knows: "Nazi".


Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]

wait a minute... (none / 0) (#141)
by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 05:28:04 AM EST

I must also note that you are the first person I see that claims that "kh" and "h" are the same sound, and that the "zz" in "pizza" isn't the same as the "ts" in "cats".

Haven't you ever seen a movie with the mafia in it???

They definately do NOT say 'pizza' like 'cats' ;)




=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
hmm (none / 0) (#123)
by ebatsky on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 06:28:31 PM EST

Didn't read your comment until after I posted mine so I pretty much repeated what you said. Sorry for the redundancy.

[ Parent ]
heh (none / 0) (#122)
by ebatsky on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 06:26:47 PM EST

Ok, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what 'kh' or 'ch' are suppose to mean, but the way I say 'x' in russian is the same way I would say 'h' in english 'hello', so technically, russian 'x' = english 'h'. Also, russian is my first language but I speak english as well as any native speaker since I moved to canada when I was 10.

Now, 'ц' is NOT 'ts'. It's very close, and can sound the same in some cases, but not all. For instance, if a word begins with 'ц' (ie tserulnik - old word for barber (excuse the english, I don't have russian keyboard and I've been copy pasting 'ц')) and you say it as you would say 'ts' in cats, you would sound like a foreigner. 'ц' does not have a 's' sound at the end or 't' sound at the beginning, only the middle sound. It's a distinct sound that doesn't exist in english.

As far as 'щ', I don't see where it exists in 'schedule' and I can't really think of any english word you'd find it in, because there's no such sound in english. You'd have better luck teaching an english speaker to say 'щ' if you made them drag the 'ch' (chair) sound.

[ Parent ]

You pronounce h the same as kh? (none / 0) (#126)
by nidarus on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 08:31:42 AM EST

You must have a very interesting accent. Mind to link to some mp3s of you pronouncing these sounds? I really want to see (hear?) the source of this confusion.

And about 'ts'... Hmm. I dunno, I pronounce the ts in tserulnik the same way I pronounce the ts in cats - maybe slightly "softer"*. If the "softness" of the sound is what you mean, then you could say that б is not like "b", к is not like "k", etc. Then again, I'm the first to admit that my Russian accent is far from perfect (I immigrated to Israel when I was 7).

In any case, I think we both can agree that the "ts" sound in Pizza and in Cats sound the same, no?

About "schedule". I don't think RelliK meant "sked-jule", the way Americans, and maybe Canadians pronounce it. It's logical to presume that he meant "sched-jule", the way Brits pronounce it.

* That is, I pronounce it like "це" and not like "цэ", the way a foreigner probably would. But that has nothing to do with "ts".

[I don't have a Russian keyboard either. I use Windows' Character Map+Calculator, and write the letters manually, using their Unicode numbers and HTML's &#xxx;... argh]

[ Parent ]

Which is why... (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by Meatbomb on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 05:01:02 PM EST

...you get very funny imported words like "gamburger" and "gumanitarny"!

_______________

Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
No, yery is not a proper vowel. (none / 0) (#65)
by mesozoic on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 01:09:54 AM EST

It cannot be used to begin a word, ever.  Thus, ы is considered a symbol, not a letter.

"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right." -- Salvor Hardin, Isaac Asimov's Foundation
[ Parent ]
no (none / 0) (#79)
by RelliK on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 04:04:39 PM EST

It cannot be used to begin a word, ever. Thus, ы is considered a symbol, not a letter.

It is certainly true that no existing Russian word begins with ы, but there is no general rule that says "though shalt not begin a word with ы". There is no reason a foreign word couldn't begin with ы, for instance. Very few words begin with й and all of them are foreign.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]

Look... (none / 0) (#129)
by mesozoic on Sun Dec 29, 2002 at 12:34:07 AM EST

It feels silly to get into an argument over this, but I invite you to ask any scholar of the Russian language whether еры is linguistically considered a vowel or a symbol. I'm confident you will receive the same answer I've given; the letter can simply never be used to begin a word, foreign or otherwise.

"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right." -- Salvor Hardin, Isaac Asimov's Foundation
[ Parent ]
Hard/soft r? (none / 0) (#66)
by Yosho on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 01:29:27 AM EST

For example, compare r's in "red" and "real". The former is hard, the latter is soft. (I expect blank stares from most English-only speakers) Although I natively speak English, I'm also familiar with German and Japanese, and I don't understand how the r's in red and real are different. The e in real is long, and the e in red is short, but I don't see any different in how the r's are pronounced. Maybe I say the words strangely. ;-)

[ Parent ]
Hard and soft. (none / 0) (#70)
by i on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 07:06:08 AM EST

The difference exists but you don't hear it. Don't worry, your ears are not defective. The problem is that the difference is not meaning-differentiating. That is, there are no two words in English (or German or Japanese) that only differ by "hardness"/"softness" of a consonant. There are plenty of such pairs in Russian however.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Is this a falling tree? (none / 0) (#78)
by pmc on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 03:43:03 PM EST

So there is a difference in pronunciation in of the "R"s, but you can't hear it? That doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

[ Parent ]
Strange but true. (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by i on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 03:38:58 AM EST

Japanese people generally have trouble hearing the difference between "l" and "r", but it most certainly exists. Same here.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Sounds you can't hear (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by phliar on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:59:21 AM EST

... there is a difference in pronunciation in of the "R"s, but you can't hear it?
There are lots of sounds that you probably don't hear unless you're a linguist (amateur or professional). I can't hear the -ll- sound from Welsh. Can you pronounce the name "Llewellyn"? I can't; I can't even hear the difference between the correct pronunciation and my various attempts at trying to pronounce it.

Here's a fun exercise: pronounce a sound you know and pay attention to how open your mouth is, where your tongue is, how the tongue/throat/lips move to produce the sound, and whether or not your nasal passages are open. Then change one of those parameters a bit so you still hear the "same" sound. Odds are that the two sounds will sound different to some people. For me: with my luck, I'd be on vacation and I'd go to a farmhouse meaning to ask the farmer if it was ok for me to walk across his field, but I'd end up telling him that I want to have sex with all his sheep and then sacrifice his daughter to Demeter.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

More Hard/soft "r" (none / 0) (#110)
by phliar on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:45:50 AM EST

The e in real is long, and the e in red is short, but I don't see any different in how the r's are pronounced.
My accent is basically RP ("received pronunciation") -- with the inevitable additions that come from having lived in the US for two decades -- and is "non-rhotic," i.e. I do not pronounce an "r" that is not followed by a vowel. As the joke goes, paak the caa in the yaad (Haavud Yaad if you're from New England). When the "r" is followed by a short stressed vowel (like red) I tend to roll the "r" a bit; when followed by a long vowel it sounds more like the North American "r" in "yard."


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

More like it! (none / 0) (#63)
by kichigai on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 11:53:04 PM EST

Now this is more like the Russian we know at our school. In my city, we're supposed to have the best Russian Program for High School in the state. But When I first learned the Russian alphabet, it didn't take me two weeks. It took me two days. But then again, as a small child, I was taken to Ukrainian School, where they actually taught very little language. I didn't really catch on. I can say a few things. For the longest time, people at my church (A Ukrainian Orthodox church) if I spoke Ukrainian. I'd accidentally say "Not Far." But I'm straying from the point. I learned the alphabet of Ukrainian, which consists of 36 characters. The ones not in the Ukrainian Alphabet, and are in Russian, are the ё ъ ы. And the sounds for е and э are reversed, The Russian и is replaced with the Ukrainian і(A character not present in Russian). But the alphabets are very similar. But I must say, the preceding comment is a better "Russian For Dummies" than the story! You need to learn the alpha bet before you can speak!

P.S. Is there any quick short-cut in Windows (Wish I wasn't using it) to access Russian? I have about seven language packs installed! Oh, good to see another Asimov reader here!

"I said I was smart, I never said I was mature!"
-Me

[ Parent ]
-1 No more languages (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:49:24 PM EST

You need at least a whole book if you want to learn a new language. I'm sure you could find a comprable explanation somewhere on the internet anyway. Also, this is not conducive to discussion.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
I have to say it... (3.12 / 8) (#21)
by MMcP on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 05:54:40 PM EST

In Russia, language speaks you!

True statements can take strange forms. (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 06:46:01 PM EST

One who writes a poem writes it because the language prompts, or simply dictates, the next line. -- J. Brodsky.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
No no no no no.. (1.00 / 1) (#58)
by phraggle on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 07:56:43 PM EST

In Soviet Russia, Idiots provide guides to English!

[ Parent ]
Accent? (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by nidarus on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 06:46:51 PM EST

unstressed о reads just like а in Russian

Isn't this rule an element of a specific (although very common) accent?

I recall seeing people from rural areas (although it may not be a specifically rural accent, I dunno) pronouncing unstressed о's just like stressed о's.

That's Standard (or Literary) Russian. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by i on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 06:56:23 PM EST

Which is of course based on one of the dialects (the Moscow dialect, to be specific). Northern dialects don't have this shift, but they are not the standard language.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
There is no "standard language" (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by pin0cchio on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 08:50:40 PM EST

Northern dialects don't have this shift, but they are not the standard language.

Some linguists such as John McWhorter have claimed that there are no distinct "languages" but only dialects. Specifically, there is no "standard language" that is "better" in an absolute way than the other dialects. There is only a "dialect that happens to be spoken in a capital city" such as Moscow Russian, Parisian French, or DC English. (However, recent London English has tended to move away from BBC "Received Pronunciation" toward adoption of some "cockney" features such as realizing some /t/ sounds as [?] glottal stops and moving the nonpostconsonantal /r/ sound toward [w], sort of like Elmer Fudd.)

In fact, the written language doesn't even have to match any language as it was spoken at some time; at one point, "you was" was the accepted singular second person copula in English. Only after linguists more comfortable with Latin than with English wrote their heinous prescriptive grammars ("if Latin does it this way, so must English") did "you was" die.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Standard language (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by i on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 06:39:06 AM EST

is merely a dialect spoken by the educated classes, especially in formal situations. It's not inherently better than any other dialect. It's distinguished only by the fact that it constantly reproduces itself across the country through the education system.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
unwarranted relativism? (none / 0) (#84)
by adequate nathan on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 11:36:28 PM EST

Isn't it possible that the literary language, from which the standard language develops (as it is studied by the educated class) may be better suited to literary expression than the peasants' street language?

Another thing. If the language of the educated class were the standard language, I'd expect to hear more Americans speaking with Hahvahd accents.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

"Literary expression" (none / 0) (#140)
by pin0cchio on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 11:19:48 AM EST

Isn't it possible that the literary language ... may be better suited to literary expression than the peasants' street language?

Read some good novels with a good amount of peasant dialogue and ask me that again.


lj65
[ Parent ]
There actually is something like that (none / 0) (#95)
by vadim on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 09:47:31 AM EST

AFAIK, Russian is unregulated. But at least in Spain there is the "Spanish Royal Academy of Language", which defines what's official spanish and what's not.

Of course not everything they say becomes adopted by the people, like the weird spanish adaptation of "CD-ROM" they tried to add and nobody I know heard about. But they still seem to have a quite big influence, by publishing a dictionary for example.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

sort of (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by RelliK on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 11:45:49 PM EST

Isn't this rule an element of a specific (although very common) accent?

I guess you could say that except that this is, in fact, the most common/mainstream accent, so much so that it has been the standard pronounciation for several centuries.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]

Sort Of (none / 0) (#90)
by bugmaster on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 04:36:05 AM EST

Actually, in rural areas the unstressed "o" is pronounced as "o". This accent is somewhat common, and is commonly regarded to be the accent of backwater country bumpkins. It's similar to the situation the Southern US accents (a.k.a. hick drawl) find themselves in.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Yikes! What next? (3.25 / 4) (#27)
by kaemaril on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 07:23:15 PM EST

First Latin, now Russian ... has K5 become a language instruction site? Will Rusty be selling "Listen with Kuro5hin" tutorial tapes? New policy for me: -1 on all language-related stories ... unless it's a really useful one, like Klingon :)

But seriously, what's next? Double Dutch? hmm... actually, after having just seen Austin Powers III : Goldmember, that idea is more than a little disturbing... :)


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


Just abstain (none / 0) (#51)
by duffbeer703 on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:34:27 AM EST

What is so wrong about getting a little culture? Isn't that what Kuro5hin is about?

Rather than post another "USA is evil and Bush is a evil WTO Supporter" troll, how about something enlightening like a short article on a foreign tounge.

[ Parent ]

Why? (none / 0) (#52)
by kaemaril on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:47:59 AM EST

Rather than post another "USA is evil and Bush is a evil WTO Supporter" troll, how about something enlightening like a short article on a foreign tounge<sic>.

I hope that wasn't directed at me personally. I've never claimed that "Bush is a<sic> evil WTO Supporter". Mainly because I don't think he can spell it :)

FWIW, I don't think there's anything wrong with getting a little culture. I just don't think that K5 is the right avenue for a serious discourse on other languages, in much the same way that I wouldn't recommend Slashdot for it's coverage of extreme ironing :)

As such, I voted -1. That's my privilege.


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


[ Parent ]
I don't get the point (4.66 / 3) (#33)
by nonhuman on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 10:01:50 PM EST

I love Russia and the Russian language, but I just don't see the point of this. It would be great to see more people take an interest in the culture and language, but I don't see this article doing it. Maybe if there were some discussion of the language, and how it is different from what most westerners are used to, but as it I just don't see it sparking much interest.

I dunno. (2.33 / 3) (#35)
by Icehouseman on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 10:54:31 PM EST

If you live in the US and you're an idiot; then you'll probably never go to Russia. Example 1: Me.
----------------
Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory
At least you've more a chance of going to Russia.. (5.00 / 3) (#45)
by fraise on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 03:02:03 AM EST

... than of being able to practice Latin with some native speakers. :)

[ Parent ]
Nahh.... (1.00 / 1) (#50)
by Icehouseman on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:21:18 AM EST

I'd say it's about the same.
----------------
Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory
[ Parent ]
Modern Latin (none / 0) (#61)
by pin0cchio on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 08:57:24 PM EST

Latin forked in the Middle Ages, spawning French, Spanish, Romanian, Sardinian, etc. The main branch became known as "the vulgar language" ("vulgar" meaning popular, not crude) and then as Italian after the mid-19th century unification of the peninsula. Thus, you can meet millions of native speakers of "modern Latin" in Rome and the surrounding areas.

But given my nick, it is ironic and unfortunate that I know only a few words of Italian.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Wrong, and wrong. (none / 0) (#76)
by rodgerd on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 01:56:06 PM EST

Latin forked a long, long time before the Middle ages.  The vulgaer Latins appeared in the time of the Romand empire, and the rise of the Romance languages began in the Dark Ages.

As for Italian as "modern Latin", that's just silly.  You might as well tell people to learn Old English and go to York, or suggest that Gothic might help you with Bavarian German.

[ Parent ]

yes, but... (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Sairon on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 07:31:01 AM EST

as a dumb American, I recently wished I could speak Russian or German mainly because that cute Ukrainian I was at the museum with spoke them. People really seem to think its cool when you give a true attempt at speaking to them in their native language. Jared

[ Parent ]
the language family tree (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by RelliK on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 12:36:47 AM EST

A question for linguists: is there such a thing as a "family tree" of languages? I couldn't help but notice that the structure of Latin is very similar to Russian (thanks to the recent article), though there are practically no words that are common to both languages. Further, since both are, apparently, part of the Indo-European family, that implies that they are related to Indian. Yet it seems almost unreal that the languages so different could be related. So, if there are any linguists on k5, I would like to see an explanation to this.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
No common words? (4.40 / 5) (#40)
by Trollaxor on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 12:55:32 AM EST

What?

You're fucked.

[ Parent ]

IANAL: But, yes ... (4.50 / 2) (#62)
by Hobbes2100 on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:30:53 PM EST

In an eigth grade project of mine, I did some philology research (that's an old school term for linguistics). I was inspired by good old J. R. R. Tolkien.

It turns out that very, very fundamental words like "mom" tend to change less drastically than terms like "supercollider" *grin*. So, if you look at "brother" in Sanskrit it is bhratr, in Greek it is phrater, Latin frater, Old Irish brathir, Old Norse brothir, Old Saxon brothar, Dutch broeder, Russian brat, Modern German Bruder, and English *ahem* brother.

I should note that there are only a couple handfuls of these "common" words that are very readily noticable as "the same" throughout.

Google for Indo-European languages and some history type terms. There's a lot interesting out there.

Regards,
Mark
Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal
[ Parent ]

IANAL, but I did take a class on it (none / 0) (#108)
by czar chasm on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:22:18 AM EST

Yes, there are language families which even further group together to form a disputed amount of original language families (a group of Russian linguists in the cold war said >5, but other linguists say hundreds).

For example, English, German, Dutch, Icelandic, and more fall into the Germanic family which come from their original proto-germanic root.  Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, etc) are derrived from Latin (IIRC).

I can't remember any more right now and am kicking myself for leaving my book back in my dorm over the holiday.

-Czar Chasm
Bloo!
[ Parent ]

Indian? (none / 0) (#112)
by phliar on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 01:55:43 AM EST

Further, since both [Latin and Russian] are, apparently, part of the Indo-European family, that implies that they are related to Indian. Yet it seems almost unreal that the languages so different could be related.
Disclaimer: I'm not a linguist.

First: there is no language called "Indian"; the Indian sub-continent has a ridiculously vast and rich set of languages/dialects. Broadly speaking they fall into two categories, the Aryan and the Dravidian; relationships between the Aryan Indian languages and others may be approximated by considering the relationship between Sanskrit and the other language. (In modern times the increased communication between cultures is leading to some convergence, due to borrowed words etc.)

As others have pointed out, simple ancient words like mother and father tend to have similar forms in many languages. Consider the word vidya in Sanskrit (also Hindi) that means understanding or learning, and the Latin word videre, to see. These are cognate to view, wit, wisdom etc. in modern English, and wissen in German. Also related words: gyan -- knowledge, cognoscere to recognise or learn. Colloquial Hindi (and other Indian languages like Punjabi and Urdu) use janna. Compare to modern English gnostic and know.

And, of course, consider that most basic, essential and fundamental verb, to be. In English, Latin, Greek, French, Sanskrit, Persian, German: is, est, esti, est, asti, ast, ist. (Interestingly, Dravidian languages I've looked at are different and seem related to different European languages. Here's to be in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian: ullu, undu, andu, ole-, ole-, val.)

Disclaimer: not only am I not a linguist, I know no Finnish, Estonian, or Hungarian and very little Persian; I have tiny bits of the other languages mentioned. These opinions are worth what you paid for them.

Here's more than you probably ever wanted to know about cognates and evolutionary relationships between languages.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

the language family tree (4.33 / 3) (#43)
by RelliK on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 01:19:23 AM EST

A question for linguists: is there such a thing as a "family tree" of languages? I couldn't help but notice that the structure of Latin is very similar to Russian (thanks to the recent article), though there are practically no words that are common to both languages. Further, since both are, apparently, part of the Indo-European family, that implies that they are related to Indian. Yet it seems almost unreal that the languages so different could be related. So, if there are any linguists on k5, I would like to see an explanation to this.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
The family tree. (none / 0) (#44)
by i on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 02:18:05 AM EST

part 1 part 2. There are some common words (cognates, not loanwords) in Russian and Latin, like video, ovis, luna, domus, to name a few (find their Russian eqivalents). A lot more can be shown to be related though apparently very distinct, like latin therma and Russian жара. English "warm" and "burn" are also related -- and ghee known from Indian cooking too. It may seem unreal, but when in the 18th century European linguists discovered Sanskrit, they were amazed to learn that a lot of Sansktit words they already knew from Latin and Greek.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
great links (none / 0) (#67)
by gullevek on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 01:34:47 AM EST

but do you have out of coincidence links to a complete map (eg for east/south east asian languages)?
--
"Die Arbeit, die tüchtige, intensive Arbeit, die einen ganz in Anspruch nimmt mit Hirn und Nerven, ist doch der größte Genuß im Leben."
  - Rosa Luxemburg, 1871 - 1919
[ Parent ]
Here are some maps (none / 0) (#105)
by lucius on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 01:39:15 PM EST

http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/languagefamilies.html

But the bit about the North Caucasian languages is a little dubious from what I understand.

[ Parent ]

There's no such language as Indian! (3.33 / 3) (#53)
by the on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 11:03:46 AM EST

But there are Indian languages that are members of the Indo-European family. For example I was listening to the music to Monsoon Wedding a few days ago. One of the tracks is Aaj Mera Jee Kardaa (Today My Heart Desires). That word kardaa is Hindi for heart. Notice the similarity to cardiogram or even the French word for heart, coeur. The similarity to English becomes even more apparent when you realize that a hard 'c' or 'k' has a habit of evolving into 'h' (often via 'ch' as in loch) over the years. So in fact the word heart comes from the same Indo-European root as kardaa.

The explanation is pretty straightforward. Indo-European culture spread over a large part of Europe and Asia several thousand years ago carrying language with it. All Indo-European languages are presumed to have developed from a common language - proto-Indo-European. Many techniques have been used to recover fragments of this language. And, for example, the root corresponding to the word heart appears to have been something like kerd-.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]

The word for heart (and to see/watch) (3.50 / 2) (#55)
by acoustiq on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 05:10:12 PM EST

Just thought I'd point out that the word for heart in Esperanto is "koro." What's that you say? That's because Esperanto intentionally borrowed common roots so it would be easier to learn? That's true! </advertisement>

What's always amazed me is the fact that the word for heart/soul in Japanese is "kokoro." That's so similar as to be creepy because of how isolated Japan is. Yet another is the Japanese word for "to see/watch": "miru." That's strikingly similar to "mirar" from Spanish! Can anyone explain that?

--
"When someone says, 'I want a programming language in which I need only say what I want done,' give him a lollipop." - Alan Perlis
[ Parent ]

False cognates and false friends (5.00 / 2) (#57)
by pin0cchio on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 06:06:29 PM EST

What's always amazed me is the fact that the word for heart/soul in Japanese is "kokoro." That's so similar [to French coeur = "heart"] as to be creepy because of how isolated Japan is. Yet another is the Japanese word for "to see/watch": "miru." That's strikingly similar to "mirar" from Spanish! Can anyone explain that?

Words that have similar forms and similar meanings in unrelated languages are called "false cognates". Perhaps the famous false cognate is Mbabaram dog = "dog". The Power of Babel by John McWhorter (which I highly recommend reading if you're at all into historical linguistics) presented the following examples of Japanese-English false cognates as an example to discredit the way "Proto-World language" theorists attempt to draw parallels from chance resemblances among reconstructed protolanguages.

  • Ja = "more"
  • Ja = "thus" (think "so")
  • Ja sagaru = "hang down" (think "sag")
  • Ja nai = "not" (think "nay")
  • Ja namae = "name"
  • Ja mono = "(single) thing" (think "mono-")
  • Ja miru = "see" (think "mirror")
  • Ja taberu = "eat" (on a "table"?)
  • Ja atsui = "hot"
  • Ja hito = "man" (think "he")
  • Ja yo = emphatic particle (think rap "yo")
  • Ja kuu = "feed one's face" (think "chew")
  • Ja inki = "dark spirited, glum" (think "inky")
  • Ja o = honorific prefix (think "O, mighty Isis")

On the other hand, chance homonymies across languages with completely different meanings are called "false friends". For example, German Gift = "poison" not "gift"; Japanese saikou = "the best" not "psychopath".


lj65
[ Parent ]
Not really Hindi (4.00 / 2) (#68)
by trill on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 05:41:23 AM EST

Well actually this is not Hindi but Punjabi. "Kardaa" does not mean heart (from this song it is "jee" which means heart) . So, I think I am playing the spoilsport here. However, there are quite a few words in Sanskrit (from which Hindi got derived) which have common roots with latin. I do not have a list ready at this moment. In the book "Secrets of the Veda" Sri Aurobindo has used these connections to interpret the Vedas in a way that was not done till that time (early 1900s, I think).

[ Parent ]
Hearts and Hindi (none / 0) (#113)
by phliar on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 02:20:27 AM EST

Aaj Mera Jee Kardaa (Today My Heart Desires). That word kardaa is Hindi for heart. Notice the similarity to cardiogram or even the French word for heart, coeur.
Hold it right there, pardner! First: I haven't seen the movie Monsoon Wedding or heard this song. However, I suspect the song is in Punjabi, not Hindi; that's what it sounds like. In Punjabi the title does mean "Today My Heart Wishes/Desires" -- and jee means heart by allusion: the literal meaning is life, cognate with jeevan in Hindi. The word kardaa in Punjabi has the Hindi equivalent kartaa; however that word (used to mean wish or desire) is used more in a poetic sense rather than in everyday speech. (In vulgar speech it means does.) There is no Hindi word kardaa that's in common usage.

One thing to keep in mind about the colloquial spoken language of northern India is that it's more accurate to call it Hindustani. It's a creole of the original Hindi (which is pretty closely related to Sanskrit) and Urdu/Persian with a few other loan words. Urdu was the language the various Persian invaders and the Mughal Dynasty were responsible for. Punjabi is very close to Hindustani; get the inflection right (for English speakers: think about the inflection in Italian) and you'll have no trouble communicating.

The Hindustani word for heart is dil and this is the word you'll find people using in daily speech; I believe it's borrowed from Persian. The Hindi word is the one that is related to Sanskrit: hridaya. I don't believe that the words coeur/corazon/cardiac are cognate to hridaya but I'm not a linguist. Your suspicion that k- goes to ch- which goes to h- would make a connection plausible.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Yes. dil is heart is Persian. (3.00 / 2) (#114)
by jjayson on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 03:41:20 AM EST

دل
_______
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
Family tree of languages? Yes. (4.50 / 2) (#60)
by texchanchan on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 08:51:59 PM EST

Yes. There are many family trees of languages.

Among many other languages, English, Russian, Latin, Farsi (Persian), and Hindi (and Pashtun, lately in the news) belong to the Indo-European family. You can't tell what family a language belongs to by looking at its writing. For instance, Farsi and Pashtun use the Arabic writing system, but the structure and vocabulary aren't at all like Arabic (except of course for borrowed words).

Simplified theory: Some time long ago (OK I don't know when, I should return my degree) a tribe lived somewhere between Europe and India. Some of them went east, displacing the Dravidians, etc. Some of them went west, displacing who knows what but probably Basques among others.

Get an American Heritage hardback dictionary and look at the end papers inside the cover.

This has all been worked out in great detail. You can imagine how thrilled the early European linguists were when they first got hold of a Hindi grammar-book and dictionary.

I am not a linguist, but I do have a degree in linguistics.

C. Crowley

[ Parent ]

The Language Family Tree (none / 0) (#72)
by trill on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 07:38:23 AM EST

http://www.ethnologue.com/family_index.asp

[ Parent ]
IE family tree (none / 0) (#103)
by ataltane on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 12:44:18 PM EST

Here ya go. That's a family tree of the Indo-European group from the web edition of the Ethnologue, which is a directory of known languages/dialects. There's also a page linking to may other language families here.

If you're interested in the common ancestor language, here's a dictionary of Indo-european roots (Scroll down to Indo-european roots), roots being items of Indo-european vocabulary reconstruced from looking at daughter langauges.



a.

[ Parent ]
Language trees (none / 0) (#106)
by nixterino on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 01:54:32 PM EST

And interestingly enough (at least to me) the same techniques that molecular biologists use to build phylogenetic trees (family trees showing the evolutionary history of species) have been used to generate trees for languages.

[ Parent ]
Goroveet, meenya zavoot, syeka! Da! (1.37 / 8) (#49)
by Hide The Hamster on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:19:24 AM EST

А он неплох в постели? Что ты, у него всё время на полшестого! Ruskaye all up and in your poop chute! I own this hizzy! P.S.: Это статья тимеет малое умысел.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

What do you call a... (3.00 / 2) (#75)
by lhand on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 12:57:02 PM EST

Q) What do you call a man who speaks three languages?

A) Trilingual

Q) What do you call a man who speaks two languages?

A) Bilingual

Q) What do you call a man who speaks only one language?

A)An American.

I, for one, love these language articles. We Americans need to be exposed to more of this.

Thanks.


four languages (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by genux on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 07:06:37 AM EST

Q) What do you call a man who speaks four languages?

A) Belgian

You do raise a good point about most Americans. Do you get a 2nd language in high school?
If yes, from what age?


---
What you do is insignificant, but it's important that you do it...
[ Parent ]

high school (none / 0) (#96)
by nosilA on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 10:13:29 AM EST

It varies by state and school system, but most schools tend to require 2-3 years of a language in high school.  In my district, we had the option of starting as early as 6th grade, but most start in 9th.

It's important to note that the difficulty level of high school language is usually very low.  I would equate 2 years of high school language to about 1 semester of college language.  The third year of high school language covers the second semester of college.  In a way, learning slowly does drill in the language better - French (which I studied for 4 years in high school) still comes much more naturally to me than Russian (which I studied for 3 semesters in college).  But I do know more Russian grammar than French.  

-Alison
Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

My experience (none / 0) (#98)
by Dephex Twin on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 11:32:09 AM EST

For me it was not even possible to study languages (within the school system) before 9th grade.  And even then, the options are very basic (French, German, Spanish, Latin).  I studied German all four years and in my 4th year German class, there were still students who would make mistakes saying things like "I am".  I feel like a lot of Americans don't truly understand how to learn and speak a foreign language, even those that take foreign language classes... probably because they start too late.  Very few seem to actually have the intention of using the language outside of school.


Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]
too late (none / 0) (#121)
by blisspix on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 06:12:11 PM EST

you're right that schools start teaching foreign languages too late. The language 'trend' didn't start in Australia until around 1990 and by that time I had started high school. Kids who had just started school were learning Italian at age 5, the best time to learn. I was trying to learn it at 12 and it was hard. I go back to my old grammars now at 24 and it's really really hard.

How my grandparents learnt French at 60 I'll never know.

[ Parent ]

I got hosed (none / 0) (#102)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 11:46:29 AM EST

When I started in Junior High, I had the option of learning other languages and I thought "Kewl" and signed up. That school taught 6 weeks for German, 6 weeks of Spanish, and 6 weeks of French. Unfortuneatly, I transferred to another school after 8 weeks and I wound up in a class where everyone else had 8 weeks of Spanish to my 2.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
I'm not a Belgian (none / 0) (#130)
by luser on Sun Dec 29, 2002 at 08:31:49 PM EST



[ Parent ]
the only russian i know (none / 0) (#92)
by macpeep on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 05:35:14 AM EST

Stoi! Ruki wer ruski soldat!

And I don't know how to spell it, the army only taught us how to shout it at enemy Russian soldiers. How sad is that?

Ruki (V)VERKH (none / 0) (#117)
by nidarus on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 10:02:40 AM EST

You forgot the all-important kh in the end of the word, and Russian doesn't have a "w" sound at all. Also, Stoi should be pronounced as "Stoy" and not "Sto-ee". I would also note that there should be a comma after the "verkh", but I guess that commas don't matter much when you're yelling at a soldier to raise his hands.

[ Parent ]
Go on ! (none / 0) (#93)
by tim toron on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 05:44:26 AM EST

I like those learning guides, especially when they are written as good as this one.

very well :-) (none / 0) (#99)
by sputnik on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 11:36:38 AM EST

hey, very nice! i cant wait for your next guide.

Is Russian.. (none / 0) (#101)
by awgsilyari on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 11:43:35 AM EST

I would ask my girlfriend this, since she speaks Russian, but she doesn't understand linguistics any better than I do, so...

Is Russian a "head-first" or a "head-last" language?

See, I learned cool terms in college..

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com

head-off (none / 0) (#136)
by axxackall on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 01:42:25 AM EST

for centures, Russian was "head-off" language: you say the word and your head's off.

[ Parent ]
A few corrections (none / 0) (#104)
by msbrauer on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 12:55:44 PM EST

(Can't get the Cyrillic to post, so I've transliterated.  I guess that's what happens when one tries to cut and paste without a proper keyboard installed.)

Hate to be nitpicky, but there area  couple of errors in the article.  Biggest among these, "goda" is genetive singular and not accusative.  Inanimate masculine nouns, which is what "god" is, appear nominative in the accusative case.  Second, "i kratkoe" (the "i" with the diacritical mark) is a consonant and not a vowel, and it does have a very slight voicing (conversationally, of course, it probably doesn't, but there is a very light sound made by the letter when I've heard Russians trying to sound "proper.").  Third, you're correct that "-u" ending in "ramu" sounds like the "oo" in "moo," but I don't know how "u in 'full'" relates.  Otherwise, I liked it, especially the introduction of the alphabet as you walked through the phrases.

Unstressed o (none / 0) (#107)
by phliar on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:06:14 AM EST

Скоро Новый Год.

...

A quick reader would conclude that the first word reads like "skoh-roh". Well, that would be too quick. The correct reading is "skoh-rah". Why? Because the stress is on the first syllable, and unstressed о reads just like а in Russian.

Is the unstressed о pronounced like the schwa, the indistinct vowel sound (example: the e in synthesis) that the International Phonetic Alphabet writes as "ə" (your browser may not display the correct character) -- an upside-down "e"?


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

unstressed O (none / 0) (#115)
by bloat on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 05:04:55 AM EST

Is the unstressed o pronounced like the schwa, the indistinct vowel sound

If the 'o' is in the syllable next to the stress it is pronounced like an 'a'. If it is two or more syllables from the stressed one then it is pronounced like a schwa.

CheersAndrewC.
--
There are no PanAsian supermarkets down in Hell, so you can't buy Golden Boy peanuts there.
[ Parent ]
Russian Grammar ? (none / 0) (#116)
by gyan on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 06:26:33 AM EST

 Privyat

 I had 1 semester of the Russki Yzik. Seemed OK enough.

 Although I hear it gets pretty complicated with regards to inflections. Unlike francais which remains simple enough. Can anyone who knows both the languages fluently (and not natively) comment on this ?

 Cpaciba e Paka

********************************

Fairly easy (none / 0) (#118)
by Palijn on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:42:03 PM EST

Fairly easy: in French (français) there are NO inflexions.
That is, the only inflexions you do want to have in a sentence correspond to where you want to express meaning.
Like in , the only inflexions you want to have in a sentence ... bold means, voice up , italic means, voice down.

Volume, tone, it does not matter to the meaning, it matters to your own way of expression.

But anyway, all these inflexions are usually perceived as fluctuations in the sentence, because they are applied to the all word.

Native french speaker speaking here, with a sound background in other languages.

[ Parent ]
Not in that way. (none / 0) (#125)
by gyan on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 05:25:07 AM EST

"Fairly easy: in French (français) there are NO inflexions."

 Wait a minute, I'm not sure we're on the same page here.

 I meant grammatical inflexions in the written language. Like the different cases in Latin or Finnish. I was told by some friends in higher Russian classes that the grammar tends to get complicated. Like a lot of myriad modifications to nouns, adjectives and verbs ..etc  Does it ?

********************************

[ Parent ]

I don't know about russian (none / 0) (#134)
by alkaline on Wed Jan 01, 2003 at 09:59:50 AM EST

but in french, nouns only have one form (like english) but there's about 10 different verb tenses (if you count the more archaic ones. There may be more I'm not aware of). English actually has all the same tenses as french, but we just combine 2 verbs to achieve it. Some french past tense forms (yes, there's more than one, but they're pretty similar) work by combining the word for 'is' or 'has' with the past participle. (Kind of like we would do 'has gone' or 'is dead' in English.) French does the same for the future (e.g., 'will go'). There's also the imperfect past tense which doesn't combine 2 words, but is a different conjugation, as are the subjunctive, conditional and near future tenses. One other cool thing, the different past and future tenses let you specify relatively how far in the future or past you're talking about.

[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#135)
by gyan on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:06:33 AM EST

But I pretty much know about french (cinq ans en ecole. J'espere que j'ecrit ca bien) But regarding Russki, the reason I ask is because I read somewhere that most books which get translated into other languages usually get translated into Russian earlier than other languages. This is supposedly because of the vast 'expressiveness' of the Russki Yzik and that the myriad inflections had something to do with that.

********************************

[ Parent ]
heh (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by ebatsky on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 05:49:05 PM EST

I don't have russian letters on my keyboard, so I'll just type russian the way it's pronounced in english.

Mama mila ramu - the first sentence you give means "mom was washing a frame" and can't mean "mom washed a frame". That would be "mama vimila ramu", because 'washed' by itself is 'pomila' or 'vimila' (if it's female gender). I can't really explain the rules and such because I wouldn't know how to explain it and it's too much work but that's how it is.

 As far as pronunciation in the second part goes, that really depends on what part of russia you're from and even on who's speaking. I've heard plenty of people saying 'skoro' and 'god' just the way it's written, and they (like me) are native russian speakers.

perfective and imperfective verbs (none / 0) (#139)
by mcarling on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 03:21:20 AM EST

&#1084;&#1099;&#1083;&#1072; is the feminine past-tense form of &#1084;&#1099;&#1090;&#1100; the imperfective (&#1085;&#1077;&#1089;&#1086;&#1074;&#1077;&#1088;&#1096;&#1077;&#1085;&#1085;&#1099;&#1081;) aspect of the verb to wash.  Therefore, it means "was washing" and cannot mean "washed".  To say "washed" in Russian, one must use a perfective (&#1089;&#1086;&#1074;&#1077;&#1088;&#1096;&#1077;&#1085;&#1085;&#1099;&#1081;) aspect.

Generally, the imperfective aspect of a verb means that one spent (or will spend) time doing something, while the perfective aspect implies a result, change, or accomplishment.

[ Parent ]

I need a better browser, seemingly. (2.00 / 1) (#127)
by darkaddress on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 12:35:29 PM EST

If you can't figure out the first word, you probably need a better browser, better fonts, or a different OS. Otherwise, let's move on.

Thanks for your helpful comments to guide me into the article.

So how about telling me which of these you recommend? Or giving some sense of giving a fuck about fostering inclusion among your audience? I'm using Mozilla, so I think my browser's pretty good. I'm using Mac OS, which isn't bad. So have I set the character encoding wrong? Why don't you tell me what I should set it to? Or what fonts I need, and where I can get them?

Oh, by the way, sgjh ertkjh dfgh rthhk dfkjh rtkjh rete.

If you can't understand my secret language, you need a better brain. Otherwise, I'll move on.
cgkn hlkj skjh lkjhdk ttt kjh rrtjh kld.

You just need fonts. (none / 0) (#128)
by i on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 01:35:12 PM EST

I'm about 99.95% sure that your OS comes with suitable fonts, you've just chose not to install them. Try to locate cyrillic fonts on your installation medium.
Better yet, just install all fonts, they don't take much space.

I personally use Mozilla (on both Unix and Win) and it works; other people report that Mac OS X works too. I'm not sure about older Mac OSes. Unfortunately I'm no expert on Mac OS; should you have an X11-based system I'd guide you through font installation in no time.

I don't think that setting an encoding would help any. All cyrillic characters are encoded with &#dddd; and should display correctly whatever encoding you set.

IME most modern OSes display international text right out of the box. It's pretty unusual that yours doesn't.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]

Mac OS X and Cyrillics (none / 0) (#131)
by DigDug on Mon Dec 30, 2002 at 01:24:59 AM EST

I like Mac OS X, but I've had no luck with Mac OS X and Cyrillics. When I want to read a page in Russian, I use Windows. I've tried IE, Mozilla, Chimera, and Opera, and have had the same results.

The fonts are installed, and they do display, but the rendering is horrendously slow, and the letters are spaced very far apart. Russian text is, for all practical purposes, unreadable.

This is an improvement over earlier versions, however, which did not include any Cyrillic fonts at all -- not even a mention.

It will be a while before I buy a Mac of my own, I guess...

--
Yavista - if you haven't found a nice homepage yet.

[ Parent ]

Rename (none / 0) (#132)
by Quila on Mon Dec 30, 2002 at 07:03:01 AM EST

Part 1: Cyrillic

Not cyryliic. (5.00 / 1) (#137)
by Stomil on Fri Jan 03, 2003 at 12:09:22 PM EST

Its not Cyryllic. This was old Russian alphabet. This is Grazhdanka.

[ Parent ]
Differences?<n/t> (none / 0) (#138)
by Quila on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 04:14:28 AM EST



[ Parent ]
An idiot's guide into Russian. | 143 comments (120 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
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