THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
While there is a standard Russian, there are also several Russian dialects. We can divide them into three main groups.
- First, Northern Russian, with a different Russian culture of o, g and t.
- Second, Central Russian, a mongrel of the other two.
- Third, Southern Russian, which is wetter, fricative and less accented.
In the world
In fact, Russia is a federal country and gathers a couple of sub states. Russian is then the official language of all of them, except Karelia.
Also, due to both the great size of the country and powerful former empire, Russian has spread beyond its borders. Thus, it is also the official language of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan. But that is not all as it also enjoys a high status in other states of Europe and Asia. Indeed, 20% to 75% of people speak Russian in different other states.
Finally, with about 150 million native speakers, Russia is the main language in Eurasia, and the 7th in the world. And with a total of about 260 million speakers, it ranks 8.
Some experts place the origin of the Slavic ethnic groups in the upper Dnieper valley. This place is in current northern Ukraine and in Belarus. At that time, various ethnic groups spoke different Slave dialects. We then consider that they led to modern Russian.
Around 3,500 or 2,500 BC, people who spoke an Indo European language slowly formed dialect groups and took distance from each other. As the tribes moved West and East, the Slavic ones separated from the mass of other tribes. They then could build their own dialect, called Common or Proto Slavonic. These tribes settled in the heart of Eastern Europe. For centuries, they have used use almost unchanged dialectal forms.
From the 6th century
Around 500 AD, the Slavic speaking peoples split into western, eastern and southern groups. The Slavs of the East settled in the current Ukraine.
From these three Slavic branches, Old Russian divides itself into three dialects: Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian. Although we think that the first one emerged around 950, it will become an official language in 1906 only. The second one had to wait until independence to finally grow. The latter comes from dialects of south West Minsk region.
Old Russian derives from Old Slavonic, of which it is a kind of outgrowth. Or, at least, another dialect strongly influenced by it. It even remains the basis of a Russian lesson for beginners. Also, linguists think it appeared in the 10th century. And its common use, from the 14th century when it then evolved into a more modern Russian.
Very different from Latin languages, Russian uses a Cyrillic script.
Let us go back years. In the 9th century, two holy monks and brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, left the Byzantine Empire. As religious missionaries, they entered the Slavic lands. Naturally, to achieve their project, they had to be in contact with natives. As the latter had no codified writing, the two clerics transcribed the sounds they heard with letters derived from the Greek system.
Finally, their efforts succeed through the baptism of Prince Vladimir I who ruled Kiev. Indeed, he fostered the spread of Old Russian. By the way, the term "Rus" refered to all lands subject to the Kievan rulers and converted in their wake.
Cyrillic spelling is phonetic, with declensions according to gender, case and number. Of course, the original Cyrillic alphabet, made of 33 letters, has known many changes over the centuries. It is then better to talk about Russian instead of Cyrillic alphabet. In fact, in spite of the existence of the Cyrillic script, the spoken language Slavonic still evolved to the point of differing more and more from the way it was written. As a result, linguists have to readapt all morphologies and phonologies of an idiom. Thus, the Russian script is now not often written in the same way as we pronounce it in Russian.
As a religious language, Slavonic allowed to translate and fix Christian texts into the local dialect. This ancient language remains the sacred language used by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Catholic Church. It was created a thousand years ago for a Church still linked to Catholic Rome and the Orthodox faith. If it was the major dialect until the 17th century, it then lost its prestige to the benefit of modern Russian.
In the 18th century came the literary Russian. While French, which was spoken in all the courts of Europe at the time, was gaining in popularity in the 18th century, Czar Peter the Great wanted to follow the example of the West, and it is to him that we owe the spread of literary Russian.
Not only did he confine Slavonic to the liturgy, but he also modernised the existing Russian language, inherited from Old Russian. Modern Russian is a mix of the grammar of Lomonossov and Slavonic. It was spoken by the elites of the time. Also, various brilliant authors gave it its letters of nobility, such as Pushkin, Gogol or Chekhov.
Unlike the other Slavic dialects, but also Castilian which became Spanish or Florentine which became Italian, classical Russian is not made from a particular dialect which became universal over time. Rather, it is a mix of Old Russian and Slavonic. In fact, the spread of the Russian language reached its peak with the USSR. Indeed, Russian served as an international language with the satellite or allied states.
TO GO DEEPER
Important to note that Russian gives two aspects for each of its verbs. In turn, each aspect gives a pair of Russian verbs, each with its imperfective and perfective forms. We therefore learn Russian verbs in pairs.
On one hand, we use the first verb aspect to express the present, the past or the future. This, for an action that has already taken place or is in the process of taking place. On the other hand, we use the perfective verb to express the past or the future, but never the present. This, to talk about a brief or completed action, or to express a result.
In short, these two aspects provide relevant nuances. In fact, they gives the Russian language tenses much more body. Indeed, there is no tense concordance in Russian.
Also, verbs of motion or movement are used differently, governed by their own rules.
Here is another aspect of the Russian language. Russian declensions are a clever system that simply assigns words their role in the sentence, regardless of their location. Of course, you have to know and understand them. Also, we decline them, based on 6 cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, locative.
As with English, Russian considers three genders, not two: masculine, feminine and neuter. In 80% of cases, we know the gender of a word by the masculine, feminine and neuter endings. For example, the neuter gender often refers to a thing like an object.
The word order in Russian does not really change the meaning of the sentence. That is so true that cases make the order of words very free. Indeed, as its case gives the word its role, its place does not really matter.
However, changing the word order allows for nuances by highlighting the subject or the complement a bit more, depending on what you want to say. But the overall meaning of the sentence does not change.
In Russian, every word with more than one syllable has one syllable with one accent. In fact, this syllable will be toned, not the other(s). It is then said to carry the tonic accent. Thus, the place of the accent may fully change the meaning of a word.
Animate / Inanimate
Words for animate beings and words for inanimate things have different meanings. However, the rule is very simple. On the one hand, the accusative of a word that designates an animate being will be similar to its genitive.
On the other hand, the nominative of a word that designates an inanimate being will have its accusative similar to its genitive. This rule applies to both masculine and neuter forms.