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Thread: Two Short Articles on Russian Orthography

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    Two Short Articles on Russian Orthography

    I just read these tonight, and thought they may be of interest to some of you. Nothing really shocking (well, except the alleged Hebrew influence -- I know very little abou the topic, but I'd never heard this before), but it's a quick overview. Besides, I'm sure TATY will have some sage remarks to offer up! I'm going to post twice, to keep the articles separate. Sorry in advance if I'm clogging it up too much.


    RUSSIAN LANGUAGE: FOCUS ON ORTHOGRAPHY

    11. A POTTED HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN ALPHABET

    The Russian alphabet now has 32 letters -- or 33 if you allow "yo" to count as a separate letter. (1) It is the end product of successive reforms of the "Cyrillic" alphabet attributed to St. Cyril, a 10th-century missionary from Byzantium. (2)

    Cyril relied mainly on the Greek alphabet. Even today it is easy enough to spot most of the Russian letters that have their origin in Greek. Even those letters that look as though they might come from Latin mostly come from Greek (e.g. K -- kappa, P -- rho, T -- tau). But Greek letters could not be found for certain sounds in Slavic speech, and so there was SOME input from Latin, including a letter looking like S (for the sound "dz") that was later abolished by Peter the Great.

    There was also some input from Hebrew, which before Cyril had been widely used to transliterate Slavic languages under the cultural influence of the Judaized Khazars. In particular, the resemblance between the Cyrillic "sh" and the Hebrew letter shem is unmistakable (3 vertical lines joined at the bottom). The voiced counterpart to "sh" -- "zh," one of the letters apparently invented by Cyril -- looks like an adaptation of "sh" (with the outer lines bent inward). Later Peter added a hook to "sh" to make "shch"; so since then there have been 3 Russian letters that have their origin in Hebrew.

    The first great reform of the Russian alphabet was that carried out by Peter in 1708-10. Several letters, including the Greek xi, psi, and omega, were dropped and the form of others simplified. The Russian Academy of Sciences introduced further changes in 1735, 1738, and 1758.

    The second great reform came in 1917, following long and bitter controversy. (3) It can be regarded as the joint work of the Provisional and Soviet governments, both of which issued key documents specifying the content of the reform. (4) Another 4 letters were eliminated. One of them was the Greek theta (Russian doesn't have the sound "th"), turning "orthografiya" (orthography) into "orfografiya." Use of the hard sign was abolished at the end of words, but retained in the middle of words where required to indicate that a consonant is hard not soft. Some further minor modifications to spelling rules followed during the Soviet period.

    NOTES

    (1) See RAS No. 25, item 13.

    (2) To see the Russian alphabet as it existed at various times in history, go to http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cyrillic.htm

    (3) The source gives detailed information about the course of debate and the alternative schemes proposed in the decades leading up to 1917.

    (4) Circulars of the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment dated May and June 1917, a decree of the Council of People's Commissars in October 1917, and a decree of the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment in December 1917. The source for the following item reproduces all these and other documents.
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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    12. POST-SOVIET CHANGES IN RUSSIAN ORTHOGRAPHY

    SOURCE. T. Grigoryeva, Tri veka russkoi orfografii [Three Centuries of Russian Orthography] (Moscow: Elpis, 2004), pp. 228-43

    The author discusses two main developments in Russian orthography in the post-Soviet period: a limited revival of elements abolished in the reform of 1917 and the infiltration into Russian usage of letters from the Latin alphabet.

    The pre-1917 element most frequently encountered is the hard sign at the end of words ending with a hard consonant. This may be done just to create an "old world" impression, as in plaques indicating that Pushkin, Suvorov, or some other pre-revolutionary personage once lived in a certain building or in the names of firms and product brands that are supposedly successors to tsarist-era counterparts.

    In some cases the use of pre-1917 elements signals a genuine cultural or political orientation toward the tsarist era and its values. The publications of the nationalist-monarchist movement "Pamyat" (Memory) have always appeared in the old alphabet. Mainstream periodicals of the Russian Orthodox Church make limited decorative use of the old letters: they appear in headings and epigraphs but not in ordinary text.

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Academician Dmitry Likhachev (an eminent historian of moderate nationalist views) have both advocated a full return to the pre-1917 alphabet. However, the majority of Russian philologists are opposed to such a step. Grigoryeva herself says that use of pre-1917 elements should be restricted to people with the necessary competence and to cases in which they are "functionally significant." Using the old alphabet has become an "entertainment of the poorly educated" and errors are rife.

    The infiltration of the Latin alphabet reflects the widespread presence of Western languages, especially English. Numerous words have been adopted into Russian from English and transliterated into Cyrillic, so spelling them in Latin letters is obviously the next step. The practice is common in advertising, but it is found occasionally even in academic texts.

    It is, however, a trifle jarring to see Cyrillic and Latin letters used together in the same word. Among the examples of this cited by the author, we have a car repair firm called "Avtozona" with "avto" in Cyrillic and "zona" in Latin letters and a rock band calling themselves "deadushki" -- "dead" in Latin, "ushki" in Cyrillic. (This is a play on words, "dedushki" meaning "granddads.")
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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    You didn't type this in yourself, did you???
    Hei, rett norsken min og du er død.
    I am a notourriouse misspeller. Be easy on me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kalinka_vinnie
    You didn't type this in yourself, did you???
    No, no, no...
    Sorry, should have mentioned this was put together by Stephen Shenfield for Johnson's Russia List.
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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    Well it is all intersting, in any case!
    Hei, rett norsken min og du er død.
    I am a notourriouse misspeller. Be easy on me.
    Пожалуйста! Исправляйте мои глупые ошибки (но оставьте умные)!
    Yo hablo español mejor que tú.
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    Indeed.
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    Ленин пьёт
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    OK, I didn't pay much attention, but they don't mention yat'.

    And in most Russian things I've read they even say it has 33 letters and then possibly put (32 if you don't include Ё). I'd put 33 (or 32 if you exclude yo), rather than 32 (33 if you include yo).

    I'm not sure about the evidence that Ж derived from Ш, or if the author just made the link himself. Although the link between Hebrew shin and Ш is pretty unmistakeable.

    Also the order of the Russian alphabet, came from Greek, which in turn got it's order from Hebrew:

    Alef, Bet, Gimel, Datel
    Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta
    А Б В Г Д

    Then Hebrew Shin is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and Russian Ш сomes near the end.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    OK, I didn't pay much attention, but they don't mention yat'.
    Yat' was one of the four letters he mentioned being abolished in the 1917 reforms -- he only specifically mentions Theta, but the others, according to the footnoted link are i, weird v, and yat'. Personally, it seems a pity to me -- such interesting characters, but again, I'm some dumb foreigner studying Russian.

    And in most Russian things I've read they even say it has 33 letters and then possibly put (32 if you don't include Ё). I'd put 33 (or 32 if you exclude yo), rather than 32 (33 if you include yo).
    Yeah, I guess that one sort of writes their own personal opinion into that one. I think the rough argument would be, though, that ё is something that doesn't merit it's own listing in a dictionary, being simply lumped in at various points with е.

    Also the order of the Russian alphabet, came from Greek, which in turn got it's order from Hebrew:
    Interesting. I guess I just never though about Greek taking on Hebrew influence. But then, I'm not a Biblical or linguistical scholar.
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barmaley
    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    OK, I didn't pay much attention, but they don't mention yat'.
    Yat' was one of the four letters he mentioned being abolished in the 1917 reforms -- he only specifically mentions Theta, but the others, according to the footnoted link are i, weird v, and yat'. Personally, it seems a pity to me -- such interesting characters, but again, I'm some dumb foreigner studying Russian.

    And in most Russian things I've read they even say it has 33 letters and then possibly put (32 if you don't include Ё). I'd put 33 (or 32 if you exclude yo), rather than 32 (33 if you include yo).
    Yeah, I guess that one sort of writes their own personal opinion into that one. I think the rough argument would be, though, that ё is something that doesn't merit it's own listing in a dictionary, being simply lumped in at various points with е.

    [quote:2rryr0wu]
    Also the order of the Russian alphabet, came from Greek, which in turn got it's order from Hebrew:
    Interesting. I guess I just never though about Greek taking on Hebrew influence. But then, I'm not a Biblical or linguistical scholar.[/quote:2rryr0wu]

    Regarind Yat'. I know it was one of the four. But I mean, I'd have mentioned Yat' over Theta, since the former was much much more common.

    The thing about Hebrew isn't true, since the Greek alphabet actually developed before the Hebrew. I got mixed up.

    Both Hebrew and Greek scripts both evolved from the Phoenician script, which started:
    Aleph, beth, gimel, daleth.

    The Phoenician language was a Northern Semitic language spoken by the Phoenicians who were a (likely semitice) people who lived in an area which is now Lebannon, the coast of Syria and Northern Israel. The script was actually not an alphabet, but an abjad (like the modern Hebrew and Arabic alphanets, there were no vowels, just consonants. An alphabet must also have vowels).

    The Phoecician script was developed in about 11th century BC, then Greek in the 8th cent. BC, then Hebrew in the third century BC.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet

    You will notice that Hebrew today still uses the same names for it's letters as the phoetician script.
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    Very interesting, thanks for sharing, Barmaley!
    P.S. - Исправление ошибок в моих текстах на русском всегда приветствуется

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    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    Regarind Yat'. I know it was one of the four. But I mean, I'd have mentioned Yat' over Theta, since the former was much much more common.
    Besides, looks really cool! I think it just appealed to the author for some reason -- maybe just because the example of how it changed the word "orthography." In that sense it provides an obvious, striking example to readers.
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barmaley
    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    Regarind Yat'. I know it was one of the four. But I mean, I'd have mentioned Yat' over Theta, since the former was much much more common.
    Besides, looks really cool! I think it just appealed to the author for some reason -- maybe just because the example of how it changed the word "orthography." In that sense it provides an obvious, striking example to readers.
    Pre 1917: Орθографія
    Post 1917: Орфография

    There were two changes.

    Before a vowel or Й, you used to have І instead of И.

    So Russia was: Россія

    The history of Russian orthography is something which highly interests me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    Pre 1917: Орθографія
    Post 1917: Орфография

    There were two changes.

    Before a vowel or Й, you used to have І instead of И.

    So Russia was: Россія

    The history of Russian orthography is something which highly interests me.
    But I thought there used to be the distinction between мир and мiр -- wouldn't that not fit the usage you described above? And since you seem to know about this, what was the usage of the funny "v" looking letter?
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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    Yes, good ole yat'. That letter was pronounced /e/ before hard consonants. Its removal is why we have a hard time knowing whether Лев 'Leo' is pronounced /l'ef/ or /l'of/.

    I miss the forest лес without its tree in there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barmaley
    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    Pre 1917: Орθографія
    Post 1917: Орфография

    There were two changes.

    Before a vowel or Й, you used to have І instead of И.

    So Russia was: Россія

    The history of Russian orthography is something which highly interests me.
    But I thought there used to be the distinction between мир and мiр -- wouldn't that not fit the usage you described above? And since you seem to know about this, what was the usage of the funny "v" looking letter?
    Мир and Мір was an extra thing.
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    Awesome. It looks like a Japanese character.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TATY
    Мир and Мір was an extra thing.
    What exactly do you mean by this?
    Заранее благодарю всех за исправление ошибок в моём русском.

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