11.11.2016
Article Interview Medium

Why Today We don’t Drink “Caffè”, Meet «Deadlines» and Ask “Wut is This?”

Филолог Юлия Кувшинская разрушает три мифа о русском языке

Why today we do not drink coffee, meet the deadline and want th thread to understand
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Myth one: the Russian language is being simplified

– Yes, it is getting more democratic in the sense that it has become normal to use colloquial language even on television. But the vocabulary has not been simplified or more limited. Conversely, we have got more terms and borrowings. Such words as background, feedback and deadline now are clear to every student; they are widely used and have become a part of our lives.

Julia Kuvshinskaya, philologist, associate Professor, HSE
Julia Kuvshinskaya, philologist, associate Professor, HSE

In general, any language cannot live without borrowings. In Russian there are a lot of Turkish and Tatar borrowings from the Tatar language, they have become completely habitual. Many people believe that sarafan (pinafore dress), baraban (drum) and kaftan (a kind of tunic) are native Russian words. If a word has entered the Russian language, it is bound to be Russified, which involves an aesthetic factor. For example, coffee is masculine and associated with the drink which aristocrats “ate” in the 19thcentury. This moment is aesthetic, social, indicating a certain status but in no way linguistic. We do say moskovskoye metro (in the neutral gender), not moskovski metro (in the masculine gender), though the word metropolitan (undergroung), of which metro is an abbreviation, is masculine. It is essential to follow natural laws of the language.

Myth two: the Internet distorts the Russian language

– There used to be such a negative influence, but now there is a downtrend. It has become clear that to be understood it is necessary to speak good Russian, although elliptical sentences and abbreviations are still used to save time. Sometimes one can come across phonetic spelling. For example, wut instead of what, but there are not many such words. Now a lot of young people have mastered the art of “linguistic transformation”. At work, for example, they use elegant Russian, professional, which is formal and rich enough. And in the informal communication they speak like a totally different person, talking in youth slang, which is widely perceived as aggressive and almost flash language.

Myth three: obscenities and non-literary language are the same

In the fight for the “language purity ” some would go to extremes. Some “grammar-nationalists” even proclaimed themselves overseers who drive away all the “impure” from their “pure language”, which is an absolutely fascist stance. Linguists never do this, as they are interested in new phenomena and they are aware that language is very complex and diverse. In some cases, of course, it is necessary to make corrections. For example, obscenities are offensive others, and I would stop the person who uses it. But sometimes a grandmother would speak in a touching vernacular language. Why should it be corrected, because it is such a wonderful old-style speech. It sounds incorrect and non-literary but in everyday life this vernacular is appropriate not offensive. The choice of linguistic means should depend on the situation.

Interviewed By Maria Timoshenkov

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