Why is Russian so uniform compared to other languages?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Couch Tomato, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    Why is Russian so uniform compared to say, Spanish, English or even a much smaller language, Dutch? This remains a complete mystery to me. I'm more or less tri-lingual. My native language is Russian, but I've lived most of my life abroad. Personally, I have a hard time differentiating between different Russian accents. I've known people from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Almaty and so on but I don't really hear a huge difference. Of course there are some dead give-aways like the Ukranian г, but on the whole the differences are quite small. In Moscow, we tend to say конешно, скушно and дощь, which is different from how it's written, and I believe that speakers from other cities pronounce these words the way they are written, but even so, I don't usually notice how people pronounce these words in day-to-day conversations.

    Now take English. The differences are huge. I'm not even talking about the differences between the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand. Even in one English speaking country, say England, there are massive differences between the English spoken in Manchester and the English spoken in Brighton. Or take a much smaller language: Dutch. I can easily tell whether someone is from Maastricht, Groningen, Enschede or The Hague. The differences aren't always obvious, but for such a small country they are rather surprising. And the Dutch spoken in Belgium is entirely different as well. It has a rather distinctive pronunciation and vocabulary.

    But Russian, which is spoken in many different countries, is surprisingly uniform. I'm not saying Russian is 100% uniform, because it isn't, but it is relatively uniform compared to the aforementioned languages. How come? You'd expect to hear great differences but they are in fact very minor in opinion. What could be the reason for this? Is there something intrinsic about Russian that protects its inherent uniformity?
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
  2. morbo Senior Member

    The Russian language of cities is what is more or less uniform. In no small part, it has to do with the fifty plus years of quite aggressive propagation -- through the education system, the media and otherwise -- of academically established norms, commissioned by the government. Since the early days of Soviet radio and later television, whatever spoken going on air was coming out of the mouths of specially selected people who were robotically articulating their lines. Now compare it with the history of the media in the free world -- the difference will be drastic.

    When it comes to the language of people living in the territories that weren't thoroughly consumed by the aforementioned propagation, the differences could be quiute noticeable, with both pronunciation and vocabulary not conforming to the mold of the "proper" Soviet Russian speech; the speech of some elderly lady from a distant Siberian village might be anything but uniform with the speech of a city-born Mr. Pupkin.

    So, to summarize, I tend to think of it as resulting from the psychotic idea of unification and standartization that permeated the whole Soviet period. And, of course, in the Soviet Russia (where 'Y' X's YOU!) the standards to be established would be comissioned in Moscow and developed primarily in academic circles of Moscow or Leningrad -- no surprise what speech standard was supposed to become ubiquitous.

    I may seem a bit fixated on the Soviet period, but I'd think that is where the perceived uniformity may be coming from. But then again, the question remains whether it is really that uniform or not...

    Disclaimer: I am by no means close to having any sort of expertise to speak of the problem with whatever authority.
  3. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    • The existence of such languages as Ukrainian and Belarussian actually expresses the diversity of Russian. Those languages escaped from being Russian, they abandoned Russian, thus making Russian to seem more uniform than it could be.

    • Russian was brought to the wide territories of EurAsia recently, approximately at the same time that English was brought to America and Australia. It had not the time to loose its uniformity. Actially, Russian started (пошел) in Kiev and Novegorod and NOT in Kazan or Astrakhan.

    • We can consider England as the homeland of the English language. If we have to exclude Ukrainian and Belarussian, we have to consider Moskovia as the homeland of Russian. English was brought to its homeland more than 1500 years ago. Russian was brought to its homeland about 1000 years ago. So, Russian had less time to reduce uniformity than Endlish.
  4. Maroseika Moderator

    I'm afraid there is some confusion. Ukrainian and Belorussian have never escaped of being Russian, but all three have escaped of being one language, and this language was very far from what we call Russian now. And let the term "Ancient Russian language" not confuse us, this is just a term, but it doesn't mean only Russian has derivates from it directly. No, all three have derivated and all three have the same status in this regard.
    As for Novgorod, some scholars consider it as the 4th East-Slavic dialect, which has not become the 4th language only because of the subordination to Moscow since the 15th century.
  5. learnerr Senior Member

    Did you try to consider whether urban Russian was very uniform before the Soviets? People liked to centralise at that time no less, as far as I know.
  6. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    It may take a Petersburger to respond, but there is or was a St Petersburg pronunciation. Too bad this article does not bear a date. The typical example I learnt when I was studying Russian back in the '80s was that Muscovites tended to say дощь while Lenigraders tended to say дожьдь (дошьть). I am not sure I have heard anybody say дощь these days.
  7. babosa daltónica Member

    United States of America English
    Do you know Spanish? It is VERY uniform, especially for such an international language spread out over thousands and thousands of kilometers and 20 countries with it as the official language. Similarly, English is similarly very uniform. The only type of English that I have trouble with, to my knowledge, is the Scottish accented one.
  8. morbo Senior Member

    I think you understand the difference between "liking to centralize" and "having a certain norm imposed on through a large-scale campaign". Things like likbez, total control over the media, education system conforming to a unified state-controlled program influenced the language in a way very unlike the influence of people getting together, intermixing, exchanging certain "speech customs" of their social strata and stuff like that.
  9. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    I couldn't disagree more. English is far from uniform. Surely you will know about the differences between British and American English? I'm not going to attempt to elucidate those differences here as entire books have been written on this subject. Also, within the US there are sharp differences between north and south in terms of pronunciation. As a speaker of both English and Russian, English is much less uniform than Russian in my view.

    As far as Spanish is concerned, I don't know for sure as I don't speak Spanish, but my Spanish speaking friends tell me that the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Latin America are quite different. The same goes for Portugese as well.

    I would say дощь and I'm from Moscow. I'm surprised you've never heard it as I hear it all the time (and I'm not that old).
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
  10. babosa daltónica Member

    United States of America English
    By "very uniform" I mean that I can understand British English speakers VERY well. Who cares if they write "learnt" or "colour"? I can understand them. The differences between English varieties are much less than that of Portuguese and German (Swiss-german vs Standard German), or arabic,for example.

    Have you been in the US? I don't have a lot of trouble understanding almost any US speaker, so long as they are not from a tiny rural town in the mountains.

    That is the rub. You don't speak Spanish so you don't know what it is like speaking to Mexicans or Spaniards. It is very uniform. At the extremes it is *harder* (though not impossible or unbearably hard) to understand some Spanish speakers but it is a matter of getting used to the accents. I talk to a lot of Spaniards even though I am most comfortable with Mexican Spanish/Latin American Spanish.

    Edit: I'm not saying that English/Spanish varieties are more uniform than that of Russian subtypes. Rather, I am saying that in absolute terms the English/Spanish accents aren't that hard to understand. The vast, vast majority of the words are the same and though the slang is different, a lot of it is understood by context. Or certain words in Latin American Spanish may be "formal" in Spain but they are still understood.
  11. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Not exactly never, but I try to pay attention and I have noticed that some Muscovites (or supposed to be? maybe they live in Moscow but I have the place they are from wrong?) say дожьдь a lot more frequently than I would have expected.And I agree with you, CT, about the "uniformity" of Russian as compared to other languages I speak: French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. I talk to a lot of speakers of Spanish from - and in - different countries. And the switch from Brazilian to European Portuguese takes me, erm... some concentration :). I perceive those changes less when talking to native speakers of Russian.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  12. learnerr Senior Member

    First, people's likes to centralise do result in large-scale campaigns. Bolsheviks were good at advertising, so we, lay people, do know a little tad about how they followed this wish of people (now their advertisement success plays badly on them, but that's another matter); but it takes to be an historian in order to know what the tsarist governments did in this direction. Are you one?
    Second, we need to understand the difference between what must have happened according to people's presuppositions and things that did actually happen. So again the question: was urban Russian very uniform before the Soviets?
    As for "total control over the media" and "education system conforming to a unified state-controlled program" – how do you think, why there were well-educated people who wanted total reorganisation of life in Russia, up to revolution? Maybe because the tsarist governments approved like programmes just as well?
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  13. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    How come then that Argentinian has 9000 own words that not only Spaniards, but even Peruvians don't understand? Even window panes and matches have different names. They have their "voseo" that is unknown in most "Spanish" speaking countries, too.
  14. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Standardization of language has not been invented by the Soviets. It had been tried out much earlier by the French, Germans, Italians and English as well, for not to speak about many other nations. In the case of English the standardization was effective only when people aspiring to upper and upper middle class were concerned.
  15. babosa daltónica Member

    United States of America English
    Um, I talk with a lot of Argentines online on skype, also. Do you skype chat or chat face to face with Argentines? My friends sometimes use their peculiar way of conjugating verbs, but I understand what they are saying even if I don't agree with their way of doing things. And when we talk they don't use "Argentine" slang but "international" Spanish. There are words like "patotero" and the like that are not used in other countries (although probably in Uruguay) but it isn't a big deal--they just don't use them when speaking with other Spanish speakers. Go to any English speaking country or even state within the US and there will be differences in slang. The British say "flat" instead of apartment and "mobile" instead of "cell phone" but these differences don't impede intelligibility. With one argentine friend that I've spoken to for about 25 hours online, I can count on my hand the few times that he has used a word that I didn't know because it was listed as "argentine" slang on wordreference.

    There are differences, but they aren't *that* big.
  16. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    I'm not sure what you are arguing with. The topic here is the degree of difference within Russian compared to other languages.

    I speak Spanish enough to appreciate some differences; my teacher was Mexican and I for a long time worked mostly with Agrentines. I can guarantee you there is much, much more differences between Argentine, Peninsular and Mexican varieties of Spanish than between any varieties of Russian.

    I also speak English fluently and work with Americans, Brits and Aussies. Again, the differences (altough not as big as in Spanish) are much greater than between any varieties of Russian.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  17. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Based on face-to-face experience, I second Rusita's input. I work with a British company and I talk to Americans. My Spanish is Venezuelan but I visit Argentina once a year. I learnt (learn - does one ever stop learning a language?) Brazilian Portuguese but I was in Portugal recently. Not to forget that I have been working with a Belgian (Francophone) boss for a couple of years. I notice differences. But I don't really notice anything significant when talking to colleagues or professional contacts in Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Minsk - just to give examples.
  18. morbo Senior Member

    I'm pretty sure I haven't claimed that it was *invented* by them. I've just surmised that a certain brand of the Russian language -- the Russian of today, which is heard to be seemingly uniform, may have been influenced by an agency whose actions were rapid and well-organized, the results of those actions being way more far-reaching and quick to settle in than ever before.

    I've repeatedly distanced myself from being assertive on the matter -- anyone can take a look at the Russian history of late 19th to mid 20th centuries and decide for themselves.

    Anyway, I've tried to highlight an influence instead of singling out something as "the" source of that uniformity.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  19. Maroseika Moderator

    Many people say this nowadays in Moscow, especially when speaking quickly.
  20. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Take any book dedicated to the Russian dialectology, and you'll see that the difference between various dialects is pretty minor, especially in grammar. This is in striking contrast with Slovenian, a Slavic language spoken in a very limited (though montainous) territory while exhibiting by far the largest dialectal variability.

    I won't pretend the reasons are clear, but from what we know about the history of Slavic dialects in what is now Russia, there was always a strong tendency for levelling. The Novgorod birch bark letters clearly show that the peculiarities of the former North-Western dialects diminished from the 11th to the 15th centuries and further — to such a degree that the dialects of this area to the early 20th century became minor variants of the Middle Russian dialectal belt. And all that happened with apparently no influence from the mass media ,-)

    A sidenote. I think it is inaccurate to speak of the ancient Pskov and Novgorod speech as of the fourth East Slavic language. We know about its peculiarities mostly because of the written evidence casually preserved in the archeological record and discovered in the last 60 years. We actually have no idea how far did the speech of other areas diverge from the literary standard of that time. Archeology and chronicles suggest that the East Slavic continuum was formed from two major waves of settlement: from modern West Ukraine and from modern northern Poland (словене, кривичи, вятичи), plus at least the accentological peculiarities of the dialects around Moscow suggest there may have been pockets of dialects that settled the Russian plain before the bulk of the Slavic migration and thus potentially exhibited in the past a number of specific features not less striking that in the North-West. Also the ethnic substrate was different: Finnic in the north, Baltic in the center and Iranian in the south. The modern boundaries between Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian are secondary and are largely defined by the political boundaries between the Horde, Polish Kingdom and the Great Duchy of Lithuania in the late Middle Ages. One thousand years ago the tribal boundaries were different and there is absolutely no evidence to think that dialects of modern Ukraine or of modern Russia were any closer to each other that to other dialects across the modern boundaries. In particular, in the couse of the history кривичи were divided between Belorussians and Russians, and северяне between Ukrainians and Russians.

    A second sidenote. In St. Petersburg me and many other people say «дощ, дожжя», at least as variants. The differences in pronunciation you can find in the literature are to a great extent philological myths copied from one author to the other without attention to the real speaking habits. Unfortunately, this is how philology works during several millennia: the written opinion of earlier authors has prevalence over field observations.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  21. My 2 cents... I dare to express an opinion that had the Russian Empire survived until now, there would be no such languages as Belarussian or Ukrainian and these would be considered as mere dialects of Russian. So the answer to the original question lays mostly in politics. A yet different view would be that Russian had at some point dialects so different form the standard, that they evolved into separate languages. Now, that these two languages had separated and considering that the communication is easier and heavily influenced by the TV and other media mainly coming from the Moscow/St. Petersburg the local vernaculars will not diverge from the standard or at least the process will be very slow.
  22. learnerr Senior Member

    Why do you think so? We can't know what decisions would the country of Romanovs do, if Romanovs remained at rule. They would have to act quickly, and possibly in similar lines to Bolsheviks, who knew how to win hearts at that time.
    By the way, that would be a funny monster: nearly an only major absolute actual hereditary monarchy in the world, and so vast.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  23. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Out of curiosity, how does the dialectal diversity of Russian compare to that of Polish?

    I recall a thread from a while ago where it was claimed that Polish has (virtually) no regional accents. Accents and dialects aren't exactly the same thing, but I wonder if there's any correlation here.
  24. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    In the Café Cultural Forum there was a thread called "the mystery of accents". It's a long thread but perhaps some of you have access to it. The subject about Russian having or not having dialect was brought out. I'll summarize what I remember. In Southern Russia /g/ is pronounced /h/ giving them a very recognizable accent. Likewise there are areas where unstressed /o/ and /a/ have merged into /a/, like Moscow, other areas like in Northern Russia where the two phonemes remain separate. A purer Russian is spoken along the Volga RIver. Moscow is sloppy in that speakers regularly assimilate consonants when they are back to back, or at the end of a word.
    Here is a map of European Russia showing three main dialects and the geographic distribution of each.

    Babosa Daltónica. I find the differences in vocabulary and grammar to be very important between different varieties of English and Spanish. Pronunciation too depending on the country. The average Spaniard may be lost in Argentina assuming no effort is made by either person and knowledge of the specificities of each other's dialect is not known. I have also heard stories of American tourists not understanding different people in the UK. That is probably greater than the case of Russian, where it seems that vocabulary and grammar is rather uniform.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  25. ryba

    ryba Senior Member

    What you are talking about is a language shift scenario. And I'd say that language shift might be one of the key issues here: most modern Russian speakers are descendants of people who shifted to Russian from another language, very often non-Slavic.

    The relatively high stability of the pre-war Standard Polish language aside, Polish has largely dedialectalized due to the mass migrations after the borders of Poland shifted westward, as the Soviet Union won the Second World War. The areas repopulated with speakers of different dialects (or of different varieties of regionally-flavored Standard Polish) are the ones that show the highest levels of dedialectalization. I'd say this leads us to another key issue: that of the scale of the migrations. Stalin loved to move people(s) around from one part of the Empire to another.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  26. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    That actually partly happened with Belarussian: in the beginning of the twentieth century it was distributed somewhat further to the east, in what is now Smolensk oblast' of Russia (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Belarusians_1903.jpg?uselang=ru), and it was the school system that made the local population to switch to the language of educated classes, i. e. Russian. If you understand some Russian, you can read and listen about it here — http://echo.msk.ru/programs/netak/48841/ — namely: «Потому что там, по статистике, этих белорусов… если в 60-х годах их находили на западных окраинах Вяземского уезда, то где-нибудь уже к началу XIX века их находили где-нибудь восточнее Смоленска, около Дорогобужа, по той самой границе академика Карского. Поэтому, вот, ситуация достаточно стремительно складывалась. И если бы, вот, успехи императорского правительства по созданию значительного количества школ увенчались успехом, то никаких белорусов уже где-нибудь в 20-м году у нас бы и не было».
  27. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Let me confess: for my 38 years I have never ever heard any Russian dialect. Never. Neither personally, nor in the media. The only time I was exposed to something comparable was in the countryside near the Ukrainian border where the locals of older age spoke surzhyk, a Ukrainian-Russian mix.

    The southern accent does exist (Khruschev, Brezhnev and Gorbachov as examples), but it consists just in some peculiarities in the way people pronounce the sounds and emphasize the intonation (very flat in literary Russian and stronger in the south and close to the Urals), plus some minor lexical preferences.
  28. Skolkotvoyazhupa New Member

    English - UK
    This is a rant, but I hope it's educational, and it is on the subject of Slavic (inc. Russian) language divergence, and I hope to answer the OP's questions, without diverting onto romance languages etc.

    My observations on Slavic languages and why they are so internally uniform, and the recent threats to that uniformity (300 years or so, but now accelerating):

    1. Russian is quite uniform, but then all the Slavic language groups are quite uniform within each designation, it's normal, and the reason is that it is *easy to form native words*, because the affixes and suffixes and cases are all still Alive and Productive in Slavic languages.

    When I lived in Poland, I was able to 'invent' words when I didn't know the word, and imagine how pleased I was to discover that I almost always 'invented' the actual word! You don't get that in English or Spanish, if you don't know 'ladder' or 'polygraph', then you can't guess it. T

    he uniformity between different Slavic languages is broken more by the random importation of words from other language families than by internal mutation. So for example, Polish has lots of old (dying out, thankfully) words from german beginning Sz+consonant, particularly words used in mining (Silesian influence) Russian has lots of words from French (tsarists fault) and Latin (Bolsheviks fault).
    I can understand Ukrainians and Slovaks when they speak slowly, - how good is that??
    (Russians: too much foreign substitution (tartar words, French words, german words etc))

    Latin sounds particularly ugly and alien to Slavic languages. The former dominance of French and German, and the current dominance of English, more of these smelly pidgin-latin and greek words are slithering into daily use in Polish. Compare for yourself, in just one example field, the simple beauty of Slavic word-making compared to the recent bourgeois desecration and alienation of Polish:

    Języko+znaw+stwo - language+familiarity+collective - Lingwistyka: Linguistics.
    źródło+słów - Source+of words - Etymologia - etymology
    Mianow+nik - Nominate, name, elect + agent = nominative - "nominativus ETC" (recent Uni-speak)
    Bier+nik - Passive + agent = accusative
    Celow+nik - Goal, aim + agent = dative
    Dopełniacz - (Person/thing) which makes complete - genitive
    Narzędnik - Tool + agent = instrumental
    Wołacz - (person/thing) which calls out = vocative

    Do you know what this means? It means anyone who has a grip on the rootword (rdzeń) can quickly learn all technical vocabulary. I never understood "accusative" and "dative" and "transitive/intransitive" until I learnt Polish. My language, English is ruined and maimed and excludes ordinary people from being able to learn simple things. Because linguistics is a simple thing, if you could get rid of the high-sounding empty polysyllabic pig-latin nonsense.

    In English, we waste so much effort learning latin and greek loan words.... half of university education in our countries is wasted learning big words instead of learning HOW and WHY to do things, sociology, psychology, business, littered with shoddy latin imports, devoid of content. More examples... what does 'diabetes' mean? Who knows. Asthma? No idea. you have to learn each word separately in English. Rather: in 'english'. But check out these (disappearing, alas) Polish versions:

    Sukrz+yca - sugar + illness: diabetes
    Dychaw+ica - breath + illness: Guess!
    Grzyb+ica - fungus/mushroom + illness : Guess!

    and eg:
    Lekarz (medicine - lek+arz - occupation) - doctor
    Lotnik (Flight + agent) - Pilot
    Urzędnik (office + agent) - administrator/govt official etc etc etc

    Help save Slavic languages from pollution: Don't say "medycyna" say: Lekarstwo! Don't say "agent" say: przedstawiciel!

    The welsh say : "If you lose your language you lose your identity" no wonder then, that we Anglophones have no proper identity or culture of our own...

    Thanks, Bye!
  29. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hi Skolkotvoyazhupa,

    Interesting post, but I wonder if it can be squared with the situation in Slovenian?

    Slovene seems (based on the few months I've spent studying it) to be a very puristic language. E.g., it uses Slavic coinages for the names of cases (rodilnik "genitive", orodnik "instrumental", etc.) and parts of speech (samostalnik "noun", glagol "verb" etc.).

    Yet, earlier in this thread, it was mentioned that Slovene shows greater dialectal diversity than Russian, despite being spoken over a comparatively tiny geographical area. Why would this be if Slavic languages "naturally" resist fragmentation into dialects?

    (Maybe part of the answer has to do with the contrast between written Slovene, the main type I am familiar with right now, and spoken Slovene, which I've heard is much less puristic than the written language.)
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2013
  30. Skolkotvoyazhupa New Member

    English - UK
    You could be right, I mean not just Slovenian, but there are lots of little languages in that whole area. I read about Baćka in serbia, and I swear to jesus, it is sooo like Polish/Slovak that I was stunned. Couldn't believe it, that so far away, for so long that there was more in common between a so-called 'south' Slavic Serbian dialect and two 'western' Slavic ones. So I looked into it further, and apparently a significant group of Slovaks had migrated to the Balkans after it had been settled by south slavs.... so there was a reason, you see!

    So I guess groups there have been shifting and moving a lot more than the central European ones - influences form the people who already lived there or arrived later (same with the decline of inflection in Bulgarian, I suspect that the so many different ethnic groups used Bulgarian as a lingua franca and not a home language, that they simplified it, just like happens with French creoles, and happened to Latin in the provinces). That's the explanation I would offer, together with the muslim domination for hundreds of years (for this reason too, Russian differs a bit from polish etc, and according to those haplogroup ethnicity maps, about a quarter of Russian ancestry is Turkic-Altaic, contrasting with parts of Ukraine, Poland where it is nearly zero).

    So, more mixing. That's why it's always a laugh for me when people speaking grammatically simplified languages talk about the purity of their nation... for a nation that had little mixing would still have a wildly complicated language (like medieval basque, Albanian, Georgian, eskimo languages etc) In Russia, the languages of those small groups of paleo-siberian languages have only disappeared and massively simplified within living memory... to do with being shifted around and using lingua francas, I think. I could be completely wrong.
  31. gentilhom

    gentilhom Senior Member

    Girona Espagne
    This is not so special. French is also very uniform.
  32. Skolkotvoyazhupa New Member

    English - UK
    Mmm but with french, there were originally many dialects, accents and even languages. The uniformity is due to government policy, rather than naturally conservative language. On example is Breton, where if a child in school was caught speaking Breton, he would be punished, unless he could catch another child speaking breton, and then he would escape punishment, and the second boy would cop it. This was the system of délateurs.
  33. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    I don't know about Russian, but in the UK and Scandinavia, geosocial reasons have a large part to do with dialect and accent.

    Look at a map of Scottish accents, and there is a massive correlation between terrain and accent: so the central belt, a reasonably flat area, has almost exactly the same accent throughout, except in the middle of cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh where they become distinguishable.

    Then, as soon as you reach hills, you get to cities like Dundee and Aberdeen, which have a totally different accent that even fellow Scots are hard pressed to understand. This goes back to Medieval times when media and travel were not so easy: there was a lot of travel in the central belt, and interaction, because anyone who lived there travelled to Edinburgh, Stirling or Glasgow frequently. But Dundee and Angus were an entirely different sphere of influence, so different accents developed. And indeed, if you go over to the other side of the highlands, you find Gaelic, an entirely different language, being spoken. The same goes for Norway: each fjord has a differnt dialect, because the mountains separated them from interaction. So huge long fjords have 1 dialect, but two fjords next to each other have different dialects from each other.

    European Russia is extremely flat, and it had large cities with their spheres of influence that radiated out from Moscow. Scotland and Norway did not really have a real capital city until recently, but St Petersburg and then Moscow have been easily the most important cities in Moscow since. Especially, because of the change, the established St Petersburg prestige dialect neutralised the Muscovite dialect as the centre of prestige shifted to Moscow. So the geography of Russia is not conducive to dialectalisation in the way that the UK is.
  34. korova_milkbar New Member

    Russian - Caucasus
    Poland has no accents in the regions with a plenty of post-war immigration from all the other parts of the country. This also why the Russian language is so uniform accross the USSR. The industrial mammoth cities between the Urals and the Pacific Ocean were planted and populated by Joseph Stalin.

    Makhachkala is unique in that people can tell exactly where in the Caucasus you are from based on how you speak your Russian. And that language wasn't spoken there until ~100 years ago. So recent language shift did occur but it didn't level regional difference at all.
  35. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    This is not correct. Most of the inhabitants of the modern Russia are descendants of people that had spoken Russian for centuries. The ethnic minorities today, mostly concentrated in the peripheries, are not so populous as to form a majority. Besides, people settling in new areas learn the local dialect in not more than one generation, unless they have a chance of living in thery dense minority groups.

    You must not forget that the acquired ("recovered") teritories include only 30% of the teritory and 25-27% of population. In the rest of the country the core population have remained mostly unchanged. So the reasons of declining of dialects in Poland must be sought elsewhere.
  36. Maroseika Moderator

    By the way, lekarz < leca (medical cure) < Germanic (cf. Gothic lēkeis - doctor, Anglosax læce - doctor, Swedish läkare – doctor and so on).
    Discard this stem?
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  37. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Slovene uses zdravnik for "doctor" and zdravilo or sredstvo for "medicine", but the lek- root shows up in e.g., lekarna "pharmacy".
  38. ryba

    ryba Senior Member

    Prove me wrong. I want statistics. Besides, why are you talking about modern Russia only? I wasn't. What exactly do you mean by "for centuries"? Do you think a language shift that ocurred, say, in the times of Peter I (i.e. 3 centuries ago) has no bearing whatsoever on the current shape of the language?

    This thread is about Russian, not about Polish (or any other Slavic language). I constructed my post in a way that was supposed to keep the discussion focused on Russian, and give prominence to the link I provided.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  39. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Could you please explain where is it intended to get this kind of statistics? Anyway, even if all the Russian population would have acquired their current language from some Martian colonizers, it would not explain its uniformity across most of Eurasia. English in Australia or New Zealand or South Africa, being less than two centuries old, already represents separate regional variants, Dutch in South Africa has developed into a separate language. Nothing comparable exists in Russian: all the tendencies are centripetal there.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  40. ryba

    ryba Senior Member

    Exactly. Which is why I restrained myself from stating in what way the language shift(s) may have influenced the development of Russian, and merely named the issue among the factors to consider. :)
  41. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    If we do not go deep in history and only touch the last centuries, the language shift may have been statistically important only in the areas between Volga and the Urals or in the Caucasus, and even there I cannot imagine any source of reliable data as to the percent of speakers — only a subjective feeling that the percent of strangely looking people there is higher than elsewhere. Belarus and Ukraine are a different thing, but with all the peculiarities of the Russian language there, it is nothing remotely comparable to the regional variants of English or Spanish or French overseas. From the St. Peterburg perspective, people in Ukraine may speak Russian with a funny countryside accent and use some local words, but it is not a dialect.
  42. korova_milkbar New Member

    Russian - Caucasus
    There is no Kavkazaans because the Mountainous Republic didn't last quite as long as the Orange Free State.
    Although the Skoropadsky hetmanate fell soon after establishment as well. And still Ukrainian is a proper language.
    Go figure!
  43. Maroseika Moderator

    Ukrainian is a proper language not because it has separated once from Russian and developed separately for centuries. But just because both Ukrainian and Russian are equal descendant of once common language, and it is a big question actually, which one resembles that common language more.

    As for other examples, it would be interesting to compare language of Volga Germans with the corresponding German dialects. Anybody knows how far they diverged?
  44. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    There is no question: lexically and orthographically Russian is more conservative (cp. http://litopys.org.ua/yushkov/yu04.htm or http://litopys.org.ua/oldukr/pouch.htm), otherwise both languages have changed in a more or less similar degree.
  45. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    By the way, there is not only geographical but also a considerable social uniformity. The school and media for the last century have largely eradicated the speech of old uneducated classes: even a person of lowest educational rank now speaks the language that is much closer to that of the heroes of e. g. Tolstoy than to those of Dostoyevsky or Zoschenko — in the sense that the spoken language of the latest decades is not descendant in any perceptible way from the speech of uneducated classes of the past.
  46. korova_milkbar New Member

    Russian - Caucasus
    Uzbeks speak the best Common East Slavic. They still have consistent polnoglasie and ultra-short vowel-yers. As to Volga German you're better off asking in the German forum. The Volga Germans live in Germany now. My best guess is it went to the very same graveyard as Kalmyk Oirat and Meskhetian Turkish.
  47. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Евгений Ваганович, здесь не все в состоянии понять Ваш искромётный юмор...
  48. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I haven't got the statistics, but I still maintain that the develpoment of the Russian language (at least since middle ages) has not been influenced by absorbtion of people speaking other langauges. The few Mongol and Tatar loans don't change the picture.

    It's you that have brought the Polish dialects to the thread, so mine was just a response to it.

    By the way, the decline of dialects in both Poland and Russia in the XIX and XX century may have the same reasons. Both countries had a peasant population that had been hold as an underprivileged caste of quasi slaves, with extremely low social status. This population, emancipated in the 1860-s, began to move to towns and losing their dialects that were treated as a social stigma. With the social advancement of the rural population and migration to towns under the Communist rule, people were even more eager to become as anybody else in the cities, and to speak the standard language.
  49. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    In Russian it is not constrained to the cities: wherever in the countryside I was, I never heard any dialect spoken there. Plus, indeed, as I had written some posts above, the dialectal differentiation in Russian never was strong, even before the acquisition of the lands lying eastwards. I recall in this connection the situation with the Old Norse: so far no dialectal variability is documented there prior to the viking times (judging from the runic inscriptions and subsequent developments), yet since the medieval period especially Norway became a real patchwork in this respect — without any foreign influence and with exactly the same connections between different parts of the country. So, there are processes in languages we do not quite understand: different societies are not equally ready to accept the language deviations.
  50. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Well, dialects are quickly disappearing in the country in Poland too. The rural population has followed, albeit later, the general trend of acquiring the standard language, helped by spreading of secondary and higher education. The regions that still stick to dialects are usually located in regions with lower accessibility, especuially mountains.

    I think that the flat configuration of the Great European Plain is a feature that promotes easy communication between people, and therefore lesser pulverization of the langauges.

    In Norway it's both the mountains and fiords that form natural barriers and create an incredible patchwork of dialects. Often people living a couple of kilometers from each other speak very different dialects.

Share This Page