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Thread: Creating sentences

  1. #1
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    Creating sentences

    Hi,

    I started learning Russian yesterday and have a few questions. I like logic, structure and systems (have studied Kant and Heidegger), and learned basic German pretty quick by focusing on grammar. A logical grammar system is like a Christmas tree on which one can hang all kinds of nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives.

    I can memorize vocabulary pretty fast, but I would like to know the basic principles of how to build sentences in Russian. I have read the following:

    “Russian is widely considered an SVO [subject-verb-object] language, as this is the most frequent constituent order under such conditions—all sorts of variations are possible, though, and occur in texts. In many inflected languages such as Russian, Latin, and Greek, departures from the default word orders are permissible, but usually imply a shift in focus, an emphasis on the final element, or some special context.”

    Does this mean that one can also find SOV variations, and are there other ways to make sentences? If every word is inflected perfectly, can one make sense of a sentence even when the words are arbitrarily put together? I read somewhere that a Russian can say the same thing in almost thousands of ways. If that’s true, it must be pretty difficult to understand what they are saying if one doesn’t master their inflection system?

    Are there “if-so” sentences like in English?

    I heard that Russian is very logical. Does this mean that all the inflection patterns are consistent? Or are there many exceptions when it comes to grammatical rules?

    I’m Norwegian, and we operate with gender inflection and still have remnants of the case system. With this background, will it be difficult to learn Russian good enough to have a basic conversation and read a newspaper? Will it take a long time if I study Russian two hours a day and live in Russia? I’m highly motivated!

    Is Russian more complicated than Latin? I ask because a memorization expert told me that he learned 150 Latin words in one evening, something I will not be able to do, but still it will be nice to know if Russian is more difficult to learn.

    Since there are six cases in Russian, I guess that one needs to know six different variations of each word, so that memorization of only ten words actually makes it necessary to remember 60 variations. Is that correct and is it difficult to remember all this or does one easily recognize inflection patterns?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. #2
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    Re: Creating sentences

    Hi, Plotin. Nice to meet you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Plotin
    Does this mean that one can also find SOV variations, and are there other ways to make sentences?
    Well, let us take a simple SVO sentence with logical stress on the last word: “Петя любит Машу. Petya loves Masha” and see what happens:

    SOV: Петя Машу любит. We say that Petya's love to Masha exists (the focus is people).
    OSV: Машу Петя любит. We say that it is Masha, who Petya loves.
    OVS: Машу любит Петя. We say that among others Petya loves Masha.
    VOS: Любит Машу Петя. We say that it is Petya who loves Masha.
    VSO: Любит Петя Машу. We say that Petya's love to Masha exists (the focus is love).

    This is, indeed, not the exact or correct explanation, it just a try to inerpret of simple structures without contextual meanings and intonational patterns.

    If every word is inflected perfectly, can one make sense of a sentence even when the words are arbitrarily put together?
    If it is only inflected perfectly. Random sentence structure, however, makes understanding dim in usual life.

    I read somewhere that a Russian can say the same thing in almost thousands of ways. If that’s true, it must be pretty difficult to understand what they are saying if one doesn’t master their inflection system?
    Actually, the sense hides in lexical meanings, not in grammar meanings. I think you’ll be able to understand the gist of the speech when you are mastered Russian enough. But, I think, reading without knowing the role of this or that inflection won’t take you far.

    Are there “if-so” sentences like in English?
    What exactly do you mean?

    I heard that Russian is very logical. Does this mean that all the inflection patterns are consistent? Or are there many exceptions when it comes to grammatical rules?
    Russian is logical and illogical to the same degree.

    I’m Norwegian, and we operate with gender inflection and still have remnants of the case system. With this background, will it be difficult to learn Russian good enough to have a basic conversation and read a newspaper? Will it take a long time if I study Russian two hours a day and live in Russia? I’m highly motivated!
    It depends on differrent factors... Judging by your introduction, I can say that you are able to crack the grammar fast. There's another Norwegian user here, kalinka_vinnie, that you can talk to and share experience.

    Is Russian more complicated than Latin? I ask because a memorization expert told me that he learned 150 Latin words in one evening, something I will not be able to do, but still it will be nice to know if Russian is more difficult to learn.
    It is better to consult with the user Лука, who recently registered here. You can find his introduction topic in general discussions.

    Since there are six cases in Russian, I guess that one needs to know six different variations of each word, so that memorization of only ten words actually makes it necessary to remember 60 variations. Is that correct and is it difficult to remember all this or does one easily recognize inflection patterns?
    Memorization of word variations is fruitless, nor it works in the consciousness of native speakers this way. Understanding the patterns is the clue, then practice of them follows, and some time after you will find that it is natural. I must say that it takes much time because of the big number of inflections to almost all parts of speech.

    Thanks for your help!
    You’re welcome.
    «И всё, что сейчас происходит внутре — тоже является частью вселенной».

  3. #3
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    Re: Creating sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by Plotin
    Is Russian more complicated than Latin? I ask because a memorization expert told me that he learned 150 Latin words in one evening, something I will not be able to do, but still it will be nice to know if Russian is more difficult to learn.
    Russian words may be more complicated to learn than Latin ones for western Europeans (though I am biased, as an Italian I wasn't even supposed to learn Latin vocabulary)

    Since there are six cases in Russian, I guess that one needs to know six different variations of each word, so that memorization of only ten words actually makes it necessary to remember 60 variations. Is that correct and is it difficult to remember all this or does one easily recognize inflection patterns?
    In Latin you had to learn nominative and genitive singular (but more often than not, if you know one you know the other).

    In Russian too you just have to learn the base form. There are inflection patterns, easier than in Latin, though a bit irregular. Besides, many cases are the same. By the way, your example is wrong, your ten words should be 120 variations keeping in mind plural as well.

    As in Latin and German, there are prepositions, with rules on what preposition + case is needed in each "logical function". Preposition + case is a complication, but also helps understanding better (and many prepositions take only a few cases).

    I'd say nouns are not the most difficult part of Russian grammar. I have problems with verbs instead (but good news: very few tenses).

    There are Russian grammars available for free on internet. Before that, make sure to learn the Cyrillic alphabet well.

    If you also plan of finding a concrete use for your Russian apart from curiosity on its grammar (that is, conversating in Russian, visiting Russia), spend a good amount of time learning its pronunciation, which is much more difficult for a Norwegian than German (or Latin).
    Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
    Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.

  4. #4
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    Just a few more words on word order, a conclusion of sorts..
    “Russian is widely considered an SVO [subject-verb-object] language, as this is the most frequent constituent order under such conditions—all sorts of variations are possible, though, and occur in texts.
    True, SVO order is the most natural, neutral order. But any other combination is possible, because in Russian it's cases that give us an information about the word's function (S, V or O), not the word's position (for example Subject is always in nominative).

    What happens when you change word order? The general meaning of the sentence doesn't change - the words are the same, after all. But there's a slight (sometimes almost imperceptable) change in impact of the sentence, because in Russian the last words of the phrase are percieved as the most important, and it gives you a clue on what the speaker's focus is.
    So:
    Я пишу стихи - I write poetry (neutral or possibly with the stress on "poetry" - I write poetry, not novels)
    Я стихи пишу (I write poetry, not read it)
    Стихи пишу я (It's me who writes poetry, not my brother)

    You must remember, though, that in spoken language any word can be stressed as the most important (inflection, loud voice, etc.) regardless of the actual word order.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your answers! Appreciate it. I am not embarrased about not speaking perfect as long as people understand what I am saying. If the SVO pattern is the most common form, then I am tempted to ask a silly question: how difficult can it be compared to English? Just put in the Russian word for "I", followed by the Russian word for "walk" and end with the Russian word for "the street". Put in the preposition "down" (somewhere) and that's it? It may not be perfect, but a Russian will understand it?

    When I wrote about if-so sentences I actually meant sentences like: if I walk fast, I will get there quicker. Does the same pattern appear in Russian, with the "if" at the beginning of the sentence?

    Can one in Russian start a sentence with the conjunction "but"?

    In English one can write short sentences while it is common in German and French to write longer and more complicated sentences. Can one communicate with short sentences in Russian too?

    Now you will probably say that I have to forget about English and learn Russian from scratch, but the above questions can help me see how the SVO patterns in Russian differ from English.

    The questions may reveal my ignorance, but I am only a beginner, so please have a little patience. Thanks!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plotin
    If the SVO pattern is the most common form, then I am tempted to ask a silly question: how difficult can it be compared to English? .... It may not be perfect, but a Russian will understand it?
    Simple sentences - probably yes, especially if the context is helpful. More complex ones - hardly. Anyway it wouldn't be Russian, the same as a bunch of English words put together without proper tenses, articles, prepositions, etc. are not English.

    SVO is the most neutral/natural way to say some things, but it's not used all the time. For example, in some situations SOV sounds more natural: "Я тебя люблю" (I love you) - literally "I you love".

    So Russians are used to the free word order, and they wouldn't necessarily assume that S is in the beginning and O is in the end. You can confuse them. They rely on cases to understand the phrase, not on the word order.
    Does the same pattern appear in Russian, with the "if" at the beginning of the sentence?
    Can one in Russian start a sentence with the conjunction "but"?
    Yes and yes.
    Can one communicate with short sentences in Russian too?
    Sure, why not? Though Russians do tend to speak in longer sentences.

  7. #7
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    Thanks! Switching between SVO og SOV is not that hard in theory, almost like German where verbs can be at the end of sentences.

    But what other patterns beside the SVOs and SOVs etc can be used when constructing sentencens? And which is the most difficult to grasp?

    I ask since Rtyom wrote:

    Memorization of word variations is fruitless, nor it works in the consciousness of native speakers this way. Understanding the patterns is the clue
    The case system may be difficult, but I find it fascinating that each word is almost like a universe/monad in itself independent in many ways of the rest of the words in a sentence. I can see how it makes the language precise. I have not thought that much about the principles of grammar, so for me it is actually a new discovery of languages work. Fun but difficult...

  8. #8
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    I saw I was mentioned regarding comparisons with Latin —

    I'd venture to say that for a native of a Northwestern European language (i.e. Germanic) that Russian is still more challanging than Latin — if for vocabulary alone. I'll put it in a little chart:

    Aspect of Language........Which Easier

    Vocabulary.............Latin
    Verbs....................Latin
    Verb Tenses...........Russian
    Inflexions...............Latin
    Cases....................Latin
    Plurality.................Russian
    Declensions............Russian
    Gender..................Russian

    So it depends. Russian has a higher learning curve than Latin, but it does plateau a little sooner, I think.
    · Л · У · К · А ·

    "велик и могуч русский язык"
    — Л.Н. Толстой

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Лука
    Aspect of Language........Which Easier

    Vocabulary.............Latin
    Verbs....................Latin
    Verb Tenses...........Russian
    Inflexions...............Latin
    Cases....................Latin
    Plurality.................Russian
    Declensions............Russian
    Gender..................Russian

    So it depends. Russian has a higher learning curve than Latin, but it does plateau a little sooner, I think.
    I wonder, why did you put cases easier for Latin, Plurality and Gender for Russian? I'd say cases and gender about equal, plurality easier for Latin.

    That said, I agree that Russian probably is a bit more difficult than Latin. Certainly knowledge of one helps knowledge of the other, at least in my personal experience.
    Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
    Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.

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