CIVIC ALPHABET.

As Wikipedia says, “The printed Russian alphabet began to assume its modern shape when Peter I introduced his civil script (гражданскій шрифтъ[...]) in 1708″ (though I don’t know what they mean by the following sentence, “The reform was not specifically orthographic in nature”: isn’t any change in how words are written orthographic in nature?). Thanks to the World Digital Library (see this LH post), you can leaf through Civil Alphabet with Moral Teachings on your own computer (rather than having to go to the Russian State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg), and see letters and symbols not to be used in printing civil books crossed out in Peter’s own hand! And it ends with a list of Roman numerals, which surprised me although I knew Latin had a strong presence in the curriculum back then. (Thanks, Jeff!)

Comments

  1. Thank you for this! I got as far as “В” in the moral teachings and came up short on “В пире не обличай искреннего” – huh? As best I can tell, that’s a shortening of a passage from Sirach that’s more fully “В пире вина не обличай искренняго и не уничижи его в веселии его: словесе поносна не рцы ему и не оскорби его во истязании” or “Rebuke not thy neighbour in a banquet of wine: and despise him not in hip mirth. Speak not to him words of reproach: and press him not in demanding again.” I love “despise him not in hip mirth,” even if it’s a typo for “his.”

  2. Peter’s reform was primarily typographical in nature: he decreed that certain letters should adopt Latinate shapes in civil (i.e. non-religious) writing. At the same time, he also abolished certain letters. For example, the letter Ѧ, or “little yus” (which resembles a Latin A with a line drawn from the middle of the crossbar to the baseline), was reformed in shape to become the letter Я, which had already been used in handwriting. At the same time, the letter Ꙗ, or “iotated a” (which looks like Ю with an A replacing the O), was abolished. The “little yus” in Church Slavonic had represented a nasalized /e/, corresponding in sound to Polish Ę (though the two nasalized vowels merged in Polish before separating again, and so there is not a direct match between the ancient and the modern vowels). By Peter’s day the two letters had come to be pronounced identically.
    However, Peter did not actually command words written with the “iotated a” to be written with the “little yus” instead: that was left to lower-level bureaucrats or to informal adoption. It is in this sense that the reform was not orthographic: that is, it was not directly a spelling reform.

  3. By “pronounced identically” I mean “pronounced identically in Russian” (and also in Ukrainian and Belarusian). See the Wikipedia articles on ya, yus, and iotated a for details on other languages.

  4. As for Roman numerals, they were (and maybe still are) used to write the month portion of a date. It was common for Russian typewriters to provide I rather than 1 as a numeral, which is why I (in a serifless form called palochka) is used as a diacritic for ejective sounds in many Caucasian languages. It normally takes the same tall form in both upper and lower case.
    I haven’t found any images of it, but I believe that some Russian typewriters also provided V for the same purpose: the standard Bulgarian computer keyboard layout, which is entirely unlike the Russian layouts, provides both I and V.
    “No.” often appears in place of “#” on Russian typewriters and keyboards, and in fact there is a distinct Unicode character for it, № (“numero sign”). It often appears in italic in Cyrillic contexts, as you can see on the Bulgarian keyboard.
    Some Russian keyboards even saved a key by omitting 3, requiring the user to type З (i.e. Cyrillic Z) instead.

  5. Thank you for this! I got as far as “В” in the moral teachings and came up short on “В пире не обличай искреннего” – huh? As best I can tell, that’s a shortening of a passage from Sirach that’s more fully “В пире вина не обличай искренняго и не уничижи его в веселии его: словесе поносна не рцы ему и не оскорби его во истязании” or “Rebuke not thy neighbour in a banquet of wine: and despise him not in hip mirth. Speak not to him words of reproach: and press him not in demanding again.” I love “despise him not in hip mirth,” even if it’s a typo for “his.”
    And thank you, because my bewilderment at the use of искренняго made me look up искренний in Vasmer, where I learned that it did originally mean ‘neighbor(ing)’ and is from искрь ‘near,’ which is probably из- plus the root of корень ‘root.’
    By the way, for those who don’t know, рцы, originally рьци, is an archaic Old Church Slavic imperative of решти ‘to speak’ (1 sg. рекѫ), which is no longer used as a verb in Russian but is related to the noun речь ‘speech’ (originally рѣчь); the prefixed form изречь (imperfective изрекать) is still in use as a pompous verb meaning ‘utter, speak solemnly.’
    It was common for Russian typewriters to provide I rather than 1 as a numeral, which is why I (in a serifless form called palochka) is used as a diacritic for ejective sounds in many Caucasian languages.
    And thank you for that (as well as your clear explanation of the reform); I had always wondered about that weird diacritic.

  6. Don’t all keyboards have a dedicated Ⅰ key?

  7. This seems like a good place and time to make this announcement:
    The U.S. Moby Latin keyboard for Windows allows you to type more than 650 different Unicode characters, without interfering substantially with the regular use of it as a U.S. keyboard. The way in which the additional non-ASCII characters are reached is by using the AltGr key. Not too many keyboards actually have this key, but its equivalent is the right-hand Alt key, or on keyboards without a right-hand Alt key, using the Ctrl and Alt keys at the same time. The keyboard is designed for people who use the regular U.S. keyboard heavily, but occasionally need to type other Latin letters (especially accented ones), symbols, and punctuation. In particular, the keyboard supports most of the Windows-1252 (U.S. and Western Europe) repertoire as well as almost every Latin letter in Unicode.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    is used as a diacritic for ejective sounds in many Caucasian languages

    As well as pharyngealized vowels and anything else that overwhelms most alphabets.
    BTW, the AltGr key is standard on the German keyboard layout and AFAIK many others.

  9. Yes, I should have said “keyboards [meaning physical ones] in the U.S.” However, U.S. keyboards are used in many other countries as well, with or without additional characters printed on them, in particular in East Asia where there is no real native keyboard tradition to compete with QWERTY.
    I now have a blog post with more detail about U.S. Moby Latin. Language Hat and other linguistics blogs are a great place to use it, and in fact it is now my only regular Latin keyboard; I also have the Microsoft Greek keyboard, Russian Phonetic YaWert, and Benct X-Sampa installed, which is why I didn’t bother adding mathematician’s Greek to Moby Latin. Moby, by the way, in this sense is hacker’s jargon for ‘large in size or quantity’, though what counts as large is context-dependent: a roll of double sixes on dice is moby sixes, but a roll of double ones is (sarcastically) moby ones.

  10. Now if they could just reform handwritten Cyrillic …
    http://s020.radikal.ru/i707/1308/96/a5d2e3f3830b.jpg

  11. John Cowan says:

    Moby Latin is now up above 900 characters. In addition, I have also created Whacking Latin for Windows, a version for the UK physical keyboard. Unlike Moby Latin, Whacking Latin preempts the number sign, grave accent, and circumflex accent keys as dead keys, though it provides ways to type the corresponding characters. This is for use by Welsh, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic users whose needs are not met with the UK Extended keyboard. I may revert the # key to regular use if there are too many complaints.

    If anyone’s interested in a French or German or any other Latin-language version, let me know (and supply a suitable slang term meaning “large, huge, big, enormous” etc.) Alas, I can only support Windows, though I’d be happy to work with someone who wants to supply a Mac or X version and has the appropriate tools.

  12. John Cowan says:

    I have now split Whacking Latin into four versions. Whacking John doesn’t preempt any of the regular keys (other than AltGr) as dead keys; Whacking Sandy is for English/Scottish Gaelic, and preempts grave; Whacking Mick is for English/Irish, and preempts hash (for acute and dotted letters); Whacking Taffy is for English/Welsh, and preempts grave, hash, and circumflex.

    I’m still looking for someone who uses German Windows to beta-test a German version of the keyboard; contact me here or at cowan@ccil.org if you are interested in either German or another Latin-script language.

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