I believe I mentioned that after finishing War and Peace I decided to read the much shorter Fathers and Sons, which I’m greatly enjoying, and I was delighted to run into this linguistically interesting passage (Russian below the cut):

“We’ve heard that song many times,” said Bazarov, “but what do you want to prove by it [etim, literally ‘by this’]?”
Eftim [‘by this’] I want to prove, sir” (Pavel Petrovich, when he got angry, intentionally said eftim and efto [rather than the standard etim and eto ‘this’], when he knew very well that such words are not allowed by grammar. In this caprice was expressed a remnant of the traditions of Alexander I’s time. The bigwigs of that day, on the rare occasions when they spoke their native tongue, used [nonstandard forms]: one would say efto, another ekhto, as if to say “We are native Russians [using the colloquial form Rusaki], and at the same time we are grandees, allowed to scorn the school’s rules”), “by this I want to prove that without a feeling of one’s own worth, without respect for oneself — feelings that are developed among aristocrats — there is no firm foundation for public… bien public, public order.”

The only parallel that occurs to me in English (where of course the element of not speaking your native language does not exist) is the nineteenth-century use of ain’t by British aristocrats, well after it had been deemed unacceptable by grammarians.
While I have your attention, I’m puzzled by the idiom “до положения риз,” which I encountered in chapter 21: “— Ах, Аркадий! сделай одолжение, поссоримся раз хорошенько — до положения риз, до истребления” [“Ah, Arkady, do me a favor, let’s have a real fight — do polozheniya riz, to destruction”]. It means ‘to the limit, to the finish’ (commonly in the context of drinking: напиться до положения риз ‘to get dead drunk’), but its literal meaning is ‘to the polozheniya of cassocks chasubles [d’oh!].’ Polozheniya means ‘position, condition, state,’ and a number of other things, but “to the condition of cassocks chasubles” doesn’t seem to make much sense. Can any Russian speakers explain it to me?

— Слыхали мы эту песню много раз, — возразил Базаров, — но что вы хотите этим доказать?
— Я эфтим хочу доказать, милостивый государь (Павел Петрович, когда сердился, с намерением говорил: «эфтим» и «эфто», хотя очень хорошо знал, что подобных слов грамматика не допускает. В этой причуде сказывался остаток преданий Александровского времени. Тогдашние тузы, в редких случаях, когда говорили на родном языке, употребляли одни — эфто, другие — эхто: мы, мол, коренные русаки, и в то же время мы вельможи, которым позволяется пренебрегать школьными правилами), я эфтим хочу доказать, что без чувства собственного достоинства, без уважения к самому себе, — а в аристократе эти чувства развиты, — нет никакого прочного основания общественному… bien public, общественному зданию.


  1. i think polojenie is used in the meaning of klast’, to lay down
    so maybe rizu-cassocks should be kept standing normally, but if there is some kind of disorder, upheaval, maybe they are kept down?
    the dead drunk meaning of ‘polojeniya riz’ could be the state of drunkenness until one’s horizontal

  2. Yes, “and” novels are usually good. Probably you should read Dostoevsky next, and then Jane Austen.

  3. I’ve heard that this is related to the other meaning of the word “риза” (from http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A0%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%B0: Риза (церковная утварь) — покрывало на аналоях, престоле и жертвеннике, покровец на потире. Ризы (как покрывала, так и облачения священников) хранятся в ризницах)
    Which means one is drunk so much that one can only is stoop or lie down to the level of those covers’ bottoms (i.e. almost to the floor).
    BTW, here’s the tale which was written by my acquaintance for fun. It uses tons of Russian idioms purposely literally translated to English. The result is probably incomprehensible for non-native Russians, but for those who know the originals it is hilarious: http://glo-ku.livejournal.com/9895.html

  4. I feel totally dated. The moment I saw EFTO I thought of the defunct European Free Trade Organisation.

  5. And now I feel even worse, because it was actually EFTA. Definitely going senile.

  6. rootlesscosmo says:

    Along with the upper-class use of “ain’t” there was the practice, I think especially among the rural gentry, of dropping final g in words like “huntin'” and “shootin’.” Lady Circumference, in Evelyn Waugh’s “Decline and Fall,” says of her ungovernable son Lord Tangent “He wants beatin’ and kickin’ and knockin’ about generally.”

  7. I think “ризы” could mean “garments” in Old Slavonic; the idiom, I have heard, refers to people selling (“полагающих”, putting down or taking off) their clothes (e.g. to buy another — last — drink), and, by extension, to any act of going to the extreme.

  8. I always thought it was that Russian aristocrats learned their Russian from the lower classes, since the language they learned from parents and peers was French. In the 17th century, German aristocrats similarly spoke “kitchen maid’s German”, especially the women, because their native languages tended to be French or Italian, depending on geography.
    This doesn’t apply to the British, of course, where the story is that the upper and lower classes both retained conservative variants while the bourgeoisie innovated.

  9. Turgenev uses до положения риз in a meaning that practically disappeared thanks to the next generation’s great, Chekhov. Here it means strongly, to desperation. It is a biblical reference and literally means, I think, to disrobe, i.e. to disrobe for a fight.
    Chekhov later coined a humorous phrase ‘Tatiana’s Day is the day when even innocent babies and headmistresses are allowed to drink themselves to a state when the start undressing’. Tatiana’s Day, in January, is the day when university exams finish and students celebrate.
    In Russian Chekhov’s phrase is: «Татьянин день – это такой день, в который разрешается напиваться до положения риз даже невинным младенцам и классным дамам»
    The biblical reference, I think, is to Noah getting drunk after celebrating his escape from the Great Flood.

  10. Kári Tulinius says:

    EFTA still exists, but only 4 countries still belong to it, one of which is Liechtenstein.

  11. I think “ризы” could mean “garments” in Old Slavonic; the idiom, I have heard, refers to people selling (“полагающих”, putting down or taking off) their clothes (e.g. to buy another — last — drink), and, by extension, to any act of going to the extreme.
    Ah, that makes perfect sense. Thanks, I knew my commenters would come through!

  12. and i imagined rizu are something like the frames of the icons, FAIL
    should have recalled ‘i rizu bednue svoi sushu na… etc vek jivi vek uchis’

  13. Meanwhile I was thinking of hassocks.

  14. And Cossacks. “Get as drunk as a Cossack” makes intuitive sense.
    In Khovanshchina it’s the streltsy who get drunk, but they seem like Cossacks. Mussorgsky also has a scene in the Polish act of Boris Godunov where the lead singer nods off drunk. Musorgsky researched these scenes carefully.

  15. As long as you’re on a Turgenev kick, don’t miss Новь! I think it’s just as good as F&S.

  16. What Ø said …
    I’ve actually read that one. I’m sure it was largely lost on me. I’m too unsofisticated.
    And I fail to see what’s wrong with a grown man playing the cello.

  17. > > I think “ризы” could mean “garments” in Old Slavonic; the idiom, I
    > > have heard, refers to people selling (“полагающих”, putting down or
    > > taking off) their clothes (e.g. to buy another — last — drink),
    > > and, by extension, to any act of going to the extreme.
    > >
    > Ah, that makes perfect sense. Thanks, I knew my commenters would come
    > through!
    Unfortunately, only half of my comment actually made sense. As another
    poster correctly noted, the reference is probably to drunk Noah taking
    his clothes off, not to a drunkard selling them, as I had thought: aphorism-list.com

  18. and i imagined rizu are something like the frames of the icons, FAIL
    That’s not a fail at all. A “riza” is a covering for an icon. A riza is usually made of metal, sometimes enameled or set with semi-precious or precious stones. Though it is unusual,I have on occasion seen (I wish I could remember where) rizas that were embroidered – seed-pearls or other beads and couched threads made with real gold or silver. Typically every part of the painted icon, with the exception of the hands, and faces is covered by the riza and all the important painted details covered up by the riza are reproduced in the metalwork of the riza itself. I took a quick look at, among other places, the Wikipedia page on rizas to see if there was anything major that I had missed. The article mentions that that a riza goes under the alternate name of “oklad,” which is something that I forgot so long ago that I never would have remembered it on my own.
    I went and got all confused looking through the Russian for the word for “cassock” and I finally asked my husband where it was. He looked at the screen and said, “What, риз?” I think my response was, “Oh, that also means cassock?” I’m used to referring to the priest’s garment as a “ryassa.”
    While we were at it, I had him look at the Russian phrase “do polozheniya riz”, and he more or less immediately understood it as “to the laying aside of garments,” though he did ask me how old the text was first. He knows “polozheniya” from a hymn sung every Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic that contains words that translate to, “Let us now lay aside all earthly cares.”
    My husband admits to being no expert at all in Russian (he isn’t even fluent), but he is guessing from putting together the things that he does know about both Russian and Church Slavonic that the word “riz” and the others related to it have a root meaning along the lines of “cover.” This would account for the riza on an icon and also for the same word being used to mean a type cassock. (Are we absolutely certain what sort of garment a “riz” was during that period? At least in the Russian Diaspora today, the word for the outer garment that a priest or deacon wears is “ryassa.” (Sorry, no Cyrillic.) The garment he wears under that one is a “podryasnik.” Is it possible that a “riz” was some other sort of garment? Or do I have it stuck in my mind that a “cassock” is only a clerical garment when it could be other things than that? Never mind, I think Hat and Maxim spoke to the question of “riz” possibly meaning “garment.” It’s late. I didn’t catch that.)
    Sashka, my husband also felt that the idiom “напиться до положения риз” was a reference to Noah getting drunk and lying uncovered in his tent. (I think he came to that conclusion without seeing what you had written that in your comment.) I’ll bother him tomorrow to look up the text about Noah in his Slavonic Bible and we’ll see if the words themselves happen to match. (I’m not going to bother him too insistently about it, since all five of us in the house are suffering from influenza to one degree or another, but he’ll probably do it since he usually has fun looking up things like that.)
    I also suspect that the usage of the phrase “do polozheniya riz” when applied to fighting might also be biblical. I think there is a chance that it might be the equivalent of the English “gird (up) your loins,” which refers to the rearranging of the fabric in a long, loose tunic or robe to make it temporarily more suitable for active pursuits including manual labor, running, and fighting. If he checks out the Noah passage, I’ll have him find the Church Slavonic equivalent for “gird your loins” and we’ll see what words are used. It’s just the sort of thing he’ll find extremely interesting if he isn’t too sick.
    I think I just wrote a much longer post than I should have, much later at night than I should have, and that I should proofread it properly, but I am certain that you will all be forgiving of any errors in it if I just take my relatively mild case of influenza off to bed with me right now instead of proofreading. Thanks.

  19. oh thank you, Isidora, the word rizu just sounded to me something wooden, golden and upright
    so i, must be read, somewhere about the icon covers, but didn’t remember exactly what it was, should always check dictionary before writing something, didn’t know what cassocks mean even, just saw it’s its English translation and now my 1 reads a nice nonsense 🙂
    but ryasa i think is, yes, what svyashenniki wear, so rizu being clothes were totally new to me, the church language, old slavonic cz
    in Lermontov’s ‘i snegom supuchim odeta kak rizoi ona’ – i had some trouble imagining then what riza is that, surely, not the drunken people’s clothes or a tablecloth, so, that is the icon cover
    and it could be during some unrest the icons were kept uncovered to provide more help and defence? i just speculated that way, until the horizontal position 🙂

  20. Speaking of FAIL, a риза is not a cassock at all, it’s a chasuble. I should, of course, have looked up the word rather than depending on my memory, but it’s interesting to note the reasons for my screwup (beyond my general vagueness about uncommon garments): the words cassock and chasuble sound vaguely similar, the words риза and ряса (the Russian for ‘cassock’) are even more similar, and of course both are ecclesiastical outer robes. That’s no excuse, and I will let this serve as a reminder to me to be even more diligent in my looking up words I think I know.
    Just to complicate matters, the English Wikipedia page chasuble doesn’t link to the Russian one for риза but to the one for казула, a word so obscure it’s not in any of my Russian dictionaries.
    As for the etymology of риза, it’s disputed; some think it’s related to резать ‘cut,’ others think it’s borrowed from Byzantine Greek ῥίζαι ‘forearm.’ (You can see Vasmer’s discussion most of the way down this page.)

  21. i looked up how i ‘ve tried to translate ‘i snegom supuchim odeta kak rizoi ona’
    and it reads / And by crumbly snow is clad/
    Like by a chasuble she
    i don’t like crumbly there, as if it’s about bread crumbs, for example, need a more smaller scale of grainyness there, but don’t know the exact word
    glad that i looked up the word at that time
    but if riza is the ceremonial outerwear and is not to be worn except on the holy days ceremonially
    then the riza in ‘polojeniya riz’, means just, like casually, clothes as Maxim and Isidora’s husband said

  22. marie-lucie says:

    In French une chasuble is not just used for the priestly vestment worn during mass but also for a type of female garment, a kind of loose, waist-length sweater, which can be worn over a shirt or blouse or a more form-fitting sweater such as a turtleneck. The basic shape is very simple, like that of a short priestly chasuble, but the bottom ends of fronts and back are caught in a waistband to keep them in place. It has no sleeves but the top extends beyond the shoulders (falling over them), and the sides are open except for being joined at the waist. This sort of sweater goes in and out of fashion but it has seen a resurgence in the past few years (whether called by this name or not).
    The French Wikipedia article does not mention this item but it describes another kind of chasuble, a very light overgarment worn by members of sports teams and showing the colours and identifying marks of the team or player.

  23. I just had my husband look up the Noah passage in his Slavonic Biblia, and the wording shares nothing in common with the Russian “до положения риз.” However, this does not mean that the idiom is not a reference to Noah, especially since we know that Maxim found a source saying that it was a reference.
    He’s not feeling well enough to look up the Slavonic for “gird your loins,” and I’m not inclined to press him since neither of us feel that the likelihood is high that the words used are similar to this Russian idiom. And I promise you that I am not inclined to even attempt to look it up myself, not because my Slavonic is so terrible (which it truly is) but because Church Slavonic uses a non-Arabic numbering system for the pages, chapters, etc., and while I understand well enough how that numbering system works, I am very, very far from being able to actually use it.

  24. gird up your loins – may it’s ‘ukutai your chresla’
    chresla i think is the word for the loins
    gird up could be ukutuvat’ or maybe it can be said nakroi(close, hide), no? like in ‘nakrut’ litso, golovu platkom'(to cover the face or head by a scarf)

  25. Just to complicate matters, the English Wikipedia page chasuble doesn’t link to the Russian one for риза but to the one for казула, a word so obscure it’s not in any of my Russian dictionaries.
    I think might I know the reason for this. I followed the link you gave to казула, and the garment in question looks remarkably like a chasuble. The chasuble is a distinctively Western priestly liturgical garment. I don’t know how many (Western Rite) Roman Catholics and Episcopalians there are (or were) in Russia, but there might conceivably few enough to render the Russian word for ‘chasuble’ too obscure for your dictionary. The English page on chasuble does have a link to ‘phelonion’ near the bottom, and the Russian page on казула does have a link to Фелонь, which is the corresponding garment in Eastern Christian usage. (Both the chasuble in the West and the phelon in the East are derived from the same garment in antiquity but were cut down differently over the centuries in order to allow the priest to use his arms safely during liturgical functions.) In fifteen years, I have never heard the Orthodox garment called anything other than a felon or phelonion, and in my mind a phelonion and a chasuble are two entirely different garments. Even though they serve the same liturgical function in two different churches and are originally derived from the same garment, they are visually quite distinct, which is probably why they are not getting cross-referenced in quite the way you were expecting them to be.

  26. Thank you! That’s extremely enlightening, and I will try to keep it in mind.

  27. Thanks, Isidora, marie-lucie and others. I love it that by hanging around LH you can pick up such a variety of fine words and facts.

    Isidora: My household is also stricken with the flu — some flu — possibly even the “swine flu”. We are getting very tired of the whole thing. Reading and commenting is not beyond my powers, and comes as a welcome distraction; if my posts are a little feverish I apologize in advance.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    to gird one’s loins means “to put on a belt or girdle”, the last word meaning not the constricting garment formerly worn by some women, but usually a kind of sash, a long piece of cloth wound around the waist:
    O.E. gyrdel “belt, sash, cord about the waist,” common Gmc. (cf. O.N. gyrðill, O.Fris. gerdel, Ger. gürtel “belt”), related to O.E. gyrdan “to gird” (see gird). [gird is defined as putting on a belt, etc].
    The purpose of the “girdle” in question was not just to hoist up the robe in order to free the legs, but also to carry small objects (such as coins) in its folds in the absence of pockets. This is why in the Bible men about to travel need to “gird their loins”, just like modern travellers carry their passport and money in a special pouch inside their shirts or in a money belt.
    Illustrations of the ancient “girdle” are found in many classical pictures, especially in depictions of Eastern costumes. Without trying to do an exhaustive search, the clearest pictures I have found are illustrations of Mongol men’s traditional costumes (found in several places on the internet).

  29. girdle one’s loins
    The equivalent Russian/Slavonic expression, also widely used colloquially, is “перепоясать чресла”, literally the same thing; “укутать” that has been suggested above actually means “wrap in (warm) piece of cloth, clothe warmly, or clothe tightly or with care”.
    As for the original question about “risi”, it’s important to note that, whatever it’s origin, the idiom is used to hint to taking something to the extreme (extreme state of intoxication reached by Noah — so drunk he took his garments off — probably being the story this idiom is hinting to), hence the phrase appearing in a lot of different contexts (e.g. arguing to the point of fighting).

  30. Isidora: My household is also stricken with the flu — some flu — possibly even the “swine flu”. We are getting very tired of the whole thing. Reading and commenting is not beyond my powers, and comes as a welcome distraction; if my posts are a little feverish I apologize in advance.
    You have my sympathy. Not only are we getting tired of the whole thing, were are just getting tired — period. I got up from several hours of nap and my husband commented that I didn’t look too well when I started nodding off in a sitting position no more than a quarter-hour afterward.
    They tested my husband and son for flu last Wednesday morning, and it came back negative. They prescribed antibiotics, but it is Sunday evening and they are both still running fevers. So is our preschool daughter, to the point where I don’t need a thermometer to know that she is running a fever, only to measure it. Our older daughter went to the doctor on Friday and tested positive for influenza. Around here, they either don’t or can’t test for the strain of flu a person is infected with.
    Back in high school, my husband was home from school sick with a high fever and he read Crime and Punishment more or less non-stop. He claims that a feverish state greatly enhanced the literary experience. He has never advocated going out and catching a fever just because one is planning on reading Crime and Punishment, but he does think that reading the book is a good way to use a fever. So, if you were in need another distraction from your influenza…
    Meanwhile I was thinking of hassocks.
    And meanwhile I had to look up what a hassock was. I’d never even heard of one before, even though I have seen them. Cassocks on the other hand…Maybe since we are not going anywhere anytime soon this would be a good time to get his cassock (a traditionally Russian-styled podryasnik) out of the car and mend the places where the seams are finally coming loose. Or maybe I’ll just go back to sleep. (Actually, I just learned that I have to check my daughter’s Latin exercises so that she can correct them.) In any case, I will consider “hassock” to be my word for the day, compliments of Ø. (And if I should ever find the need to talk about being dead drunk in Russian, I know how to do that now, as well, compliments of Language hat.)

  31. We haven’t been tested, but we’re calling it flu. I’m not asserting that it’s swine flu or H1N1 or R2D2 or anything, but yes, I’m sick, and tired, and tired of being sick.
    I am afraid that we have been spreading disease the modern way, by airplane. Last weekend we visited friends in DC. While we were with them their youngest child came down with something. Two days later, back in Boston, our 9-year old daughter got it. I was next, then our son. So far my wife seems to have been spared.
    This bug seems to follow a pretty regular course. For example, the girl was shaking with fever about 24 hours after the onset of symptoms, and it was about 60 hours after that episode that she reached the point of being loudly pissed off about the whole thing. The same is true of me, but with a later start time. Based on this, I would expect my son to reach the loud complaining stage around tomorrow morning.
    Crime and Punishment with a fever does sound about right, but I don’t think I’m going to try it right now.

  32. I thought I was developing a flu as well when I found the best, I think, source explaining rizy, ryasy, and the two meanings of the idiom – do polozheniya riz. And, as it often happens these days, it is on a provincial Russian site of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Kaliningrad (Kønigsberg).
    Turgenev’s reference is to the ancient hebrew tradition of tearing one’s clothes (robes – rizy) in desperation or in anger. Chekhov’s reference is to Noah’s undressing (polozheniye – putting down, disrobing) when he got drunk on the wine made after surviving the great flood.
    When I was little I thought polozheniye riz was just another way of saying horizontal: you put your clothes flat down and they stay horizontal, naturally. There are three main meanings of rizy: outer garment of a priest worn at a church service on a holy day; just clothes (as in robes) and metal/silver/gold covering of icons where there are just clothes, but faces and hands are left open (same as oklad – оклад).
    On that web-site there is an exciting rencontre with Антипка, discussed in a previous Hat’s post about Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Dead House. ‘Antipka is low, he hides under a hundred robes’ – “Антипка низок – одет в сто ризок”. I’ve never heard that one. Apparently it means that the devil can use a hundred priestly robes to disguise himself.

  33. Turgenev’s reference is to the ancient hebrew tradition of tearing one’s clothes (robes – rizy) in desperation or in anger.
    This is done ritually with a small piece of black cloth that is pinned to the lapel. When the time comes in the ritual to tear the clothing, this black piece of cloth is ripped, I think as a symbol of mourning. The local neopagans have borrowed this ritual tearing to use at Samhain, which has a lot of death symbolism since it marks the beginning of the winter half of the year.

  34. ‘Antipka is low, he hides under a hundred robes’ – “Антипка низок – одет в сто ризок”. I’ve never heard that one. Apparently it means that the devil can use a hundred priestly robes to disguise himself.
    Rather like the idea, expressed in the Epistles and repeated over and over through the centuries, that the demons can disguise themselves as angels of light in order to deceive people.
    The link you gave to the site of the cathedral in Kaliningrad was great. I wish that my Russian were good enough to actually read it, but it simply isn’t anywhere close. I did check out the photo albums though, and was able to make out a number of the captions and enjoyed the photos a great deal.

  35. Isidora (or anyone else), any recommendations for where to get a Slavonic bible?… I’d be really excited if I could get my hands on a cyrillic transliteration of one of the OCS codices, like Zographesis or Marianus, but a Slavonic bible in general would be pretty neat.
    Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of asking this around here before. 🙂

  36. I used to badly want a Slavonic Bible, but just as with another old desideratum, the 11th edition Britannica, I find my needs are satisfied by having it online (e.g., here).

  37. Bible Gateway has Bulgarian in Cyrillic. Wiki has more links. Of course one can only “get ones hands on” anything there in the virtual sense–not the same as handling a book.

  38. Bulgarian is not Church Slavic (Slavonic), and the Wikipedia article does not link to any Slavonic translations.

  39. So “Slavonic” in this context means Russian, in the same way that KJV English is English? This is probably obvious to linguists, but ever since bulbul’s comments about the new Slovakian law, and finding out that people who speak Czech and Slovak understand each other, and adding it to my information that the Macedonians think Macedonian is a language, but the Greeks don’t, the whole eastern European Slavic/Slavonic/Slovakian/Slavonian language thing just isn’t falling in place for me. I guess Slavic and Slavonic are language groups, but Slavonic can also be a particular (archaic) language. Last week for some reason I picked up a Russian Bible, and at the same time stumbled on an old LH post about the Bible in Russia, but in spite of spending several hours at it, never was able to figure out what translation I have. I did figure out two of the three cities it was published in–New York and London. But I would guess its language is not the same as “Old Church Slavonic”.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, you could look up “Slavic languages” on Wikipedia. Slavonic is (was) a member of that group, but it is not Russian or an ancestor of Russian.

  41. Lovely link, language hat. Thanks!
    I’ll keep an eye out for a paper copy, but this will certainly do in the meantime!
    I’ve still got the photocopied passages we used in my OCS courses, but I have no idea where they came from. The originals were clearly handwritten, and I don’t know if that was something the professor did once upon a time, or whether they came from another book. I keep hoping I’ll be able to find a full copy somewhere, but I can’t imagine there’s much demand.

  42. m-l, but of course I google before asking here. Wiki considers Slavic and Slavonic to be the same thing. All of Russia is color coded as speaking East Slavic. It also says Old Church Slavonic is also called Old Bulgarian or Old Macedonian. I’m beginning to think if you need to look at more than four wiki entries to understand a comment, it’s time for some yardwork. btw, my earlier comment wasn’t a response to the LH link, but a cross post.

  43. Nijma,
    “Slavic” is not the name of a language; it refers to a family of related languages. “East Slavic” is not the name of a language; it refers to a subfamily of the Slavic language family. From the map in the article “Slavic languages” you can see that the language spoken in Russia (i.e. Russian) is one of the East Slavic languages.
    At the same article you can also read The oldest Slavic literary language was Old Church Slavonic, of which Church Slavonic is a later descendant. (And you can see that these are in the South Slavic subfamily.)

  44. (I couldn’t post that comment without also correcting the spelling of “descendant” in the quoted passage of the WP article. Get a life, huh? You may think that a little yardwork would have been better for me than exercising my little bit of know-it-all. All I can plead is that I’m not totally done with this flu.)

  45. I hate the word descendant with a passion, because it comes from Latin descendens and should end in -ent, dammit. I misspell it constantly and only that spellcheck red underscore saves me.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    the word descendant … comes from Latin descendens and should end in -ent
    That would be true if the word had been lifted bodily from Latin, like dependent, but it has been borrowed from French, where all present participles end in -ant not -ent regardless of the Latin difference, as also in defendant. I sometimes have to think about -ant or -ent when writing in English, for that very reason.

  47. I have a 1910 bible in Church-Slavonic. I swapped my pair of Levi-Strauss jeans for it back in 1975.
    I think Nijma is right: Slavic and Slavonic are two words for the same thing. The Russian word славянский covers both. I’d say Slavic refers to ethnicity, while Slavonic to language. Old Slavonic (праславянский) is the name of the protolanguage which developed into the Slavic family of languages (Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Polish, Slovak, Chech, Ukrainian, Belorussian and several others). Church Slavonic is the written language developed to write down the Bible – and conduct services. Church Slavonic fragmented into several versions as churches became autonomous. So, the original started being refered to as Old Church Slavonic, or, in clipped form, Old Slavonic (старославянский). Hence the confusion, including to us, modern Slavs.
    I have a different question: has anyone heard of the theory that Slavs are descended from ancient Celts? Celtic tribes inhabited Central Europe until the rise of Germanic tribes in the North and Roman Empire in the South. Pressed by both the Celts split into two large groups, one moved to the West – Breton, Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Scots, and the second to the East – Slavs. While studying modern Welsh I was struck by how similar many sounds are to Russian ones. And the penultimate stress is the same as in Polish. Anyone?

  48. I hate “predecessor” because it seems as though it means “someone predeceased”, which it sometimes does in fact mean, so that I feel awkward using it for non-dead people.
    I just now found out that Latin “dcedere” meant “retired, departed” so that I’m wrong to feel awkward.
    Seemingly “deceased” is an old euphemism that’s lost its euphemistic power and now just means “dead” without the cover meaning — the Latin version of “passed on” or “departed”.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura, Nijma: speaking as a historical linguist:
    In English, Slav, Slavic and Slavonic are not the same thing. Slav refers to the people, Slavic to the entire language family (divided into East, West, South, each subdivided into specific languages), and Slavonic to the language used and developed by the Church. A proto-language is the reconstructed ancestor of a group or family of languages: this means that linguists have studied the resemblances and differences between the various languages and come to conclusions as to what the ancestor language would have been like in order to develop into the existing or documented languages. For the Slavic languages, this reconstructed ancestor (not to be confused with a language for which there are old documents) is referred to as Proto-Slavic. Old Church Slavonic (the oldest documented form of a Slavic language) is NOT synonymous with Proto-Slavic, it is just another descendant, although very archaic as it has been preserved for centuries with few changes, for specific purposes other than everyday conversation (like Latin in the Catholic Church). I am sure that there are many books or articles by Russian (and other Slavic) linguists documenting this history.
    has anyone heard of the theory that Slavs are descended from ancient Celts?
    There is a difference between people or ethnic groups, and the languages they speak. Genetic ancestors (especially in a genetically very mixed area like Europe) have little to do with what language people speak: there are just too many documented examples of whole populations switching to a more dominant language in as little as two generations (the US being an obvious example).
    As far as the languages are concerned, I am sure I would have heard of the theory if it had been proposed by a reputable historical linguist. The Slavic, Celtic and Germanic languages are all forms of language descended from the proto-language referred to as “Proto-Indo-European” (abbreviated as PIE, estimated to have been spoken about 6000 years ago) which is also the ancestor of most of the languages of Europe, Northern India and places in between such as Iran and Afghanistan. There is an extensive literature on the subject. For non-linguists I would recommend James Mallory’s In search of the Indo-Europeans (which deals not just with the languages but the history and culture as revealed by archeology), and no doubt there is also a lot written in Slavic languages, especially in Russian.
    Celtic tribes inhabited Central Europe until the rise of Germanic tribes in the North and Roman Empire in the South. Pressed by both the Celts split into two large groups, one moved to the West – Breton, Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Scots, and the second to the East – Slavs.
    Celtic tribes (or rather “tribes speaking Celtic languages”) inhabited most of continental Europe at one point (even parts of Spain and Turkey). They were absorbed by Germanic-speaking tribes in Germany, Switzerland, Austria in the prehistoric period, and much later in England, and by the Latin-speaking Romans in Spain and France (then called “Gaul” and speaking “Gaulish”, another Celtic language). Eventually Celtic-speaking populations gradually switched to the dominant languages (Germanic, Latin, later English and French), and the Celtic languages survived only on the Western fringes of Europe along the Atlantic, where most of them are now severely endangered if not already extinct. Welsh is the one most likely to survive, even though it too is endangered.
    Whether the Slavs (or some of them) are genetic descendants of Celts is not relevant to what languages they speak, since Europeans are very mixed genetically, but if the Celtic and Slavic languages had originated from a common proto-language (which would have been an early subdivision of Proto-Indo-European) spoken as recently as the Roman empire (which broke up about 1500 years ago), the present languages of the two families would still have much in common, just like the Romance languages, which developed during and after the Roman empire, are still very similar to each other (and in most cases you don’t need to be a historical specialist to notice the similarities). The older documented languages, such as Old Church Slavonic and Old Irish, spoken 1000 or more years ago, would have even more in common with each other than the modern languages, and any specific commonalities they shared would have been noticed long ago. Instead, the Celtic and Slavic language families are related because they are both branches of the Indo-European superfamily (the descendants of Proto-Indo-European), and in this respect they are also related to Greek, Persian, etc. but they don’t have a special relationship with each other.
    While studying modern Welsh I was struck by how similar many sounds are to Russian ones. And the penultimate stress is the same as in Polish
    Overall resemblances of sounds, and even more of stress patterns, are totally unreliable as features that can decide whether languages are related or not. Russian and Polish are closely related even though a person ignorant of both finds them very different on hearing them spoken. They are closely related not because they sound the same (they do not), but because they have many words or at least roots in common (including words meaning for instance “who, what, where”) and especially because the way they form and use words are similar, so a person knowing one of them finds it relatively easy to learn the other one. Similarly, French and Spanish (both descendants of Latin) are closely related for the same reasons, even though they sound quite different. Russian and Welsh are indeed related, but extremely distantly. Apart from a few sounds, knowing Russian would not be of much help in learning to speak Welsh, and neither would English: the common ancestor, Proto-Indo-European, is just much too distant in time for people now to notice at first sight the specific features which show that these languages are indeed related.

  50. Thanks for this, Marie-Lucie, extremely useful, I will keep it for reference.
    I strongly disagree on one point: knowing Russian did help me learning Welsh, at least phonetically. The English struggled with their -ch- (hard ‘h’) and liquid ‘l’ – ‘-ll-‘, while I didn’t.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    Sashura, thank you, but note that I wrote “apart from a few sounds”, since the words and grammar are so different.
    But I am surprised that you consider Welsh “ll” as equivalent to a Russian sound. It is actually the voiceless lateral fricative (noted in phonetics by the symbol [ɬ]), which is relatively rare among the sounds of the world’s languages. In Europe it is only found in some languages of the Caucasus, and it is common only in some indigenous North American languages. Perhaps your Russian voiced palatalized lateral was accepted or tolerated as equivalent to Welsh “ll” because it was different from English “l” and therefore would not cause confusion?

  52. It is different, yes, but I linked it through French liquid -ll- as in bouteille, or in Spanish/Basque/Catalan -ll- which is more like -ii- or -yy-.
    The Russian word for bread, khleb, хлеб, is the most indicative. The sound there is practically identical to the Welsh -ll- (as in Persian/Iranian Pekhlevi). Academics regard the word khleb as one of the ‘original’ Indo-European words, phonetically.
    I am not an expert, obviously, it’s just what I remember from lectures of 30-35 years ago.
    Are we on to something worth of a Nobelevka in linguistics? or not yet?

  53. there is something primeaval in that sound:
    llefrith – milk
    молоко-млеко-млечный (moloko-mlyeko-mlyechny)
    хлеб-хляби (khleb-khlyabi)
    прохлада-охлажденный (prokhlada-okhlazhdenny)…
    voiceless lateral fricative
    -ll- in llefrith is definitely identical to khl- in khleb (bread).
    I’m falling asleep – gotta go…

  54. one final: you, of all ac-s, would know that alphabetic transcriptions would not always correspond to the sounds of a living language. describing one sound in several latin/cyrillic characters only demonstrates the descriptive inadequacy of the l/c alphabet, not of a LIVING language, n’est-ce pas?

  55. Just one small emendation, Marie-Lucie: What in North America is called “Slavic”, in the rest of the Anglosphere is called “Slavonic”. So in Britain they speak of the Slavonic language family, and consider “Slavic” a hideous Americanism.
    I would also add that Old Church Slavonic, if it hadn’t become a language of liturgy, would probably be called Old Bulgarian today.

  56. It is, in fact, often called Old Bulgarian.

  57. The llateral fricative, wherever it is found, is a Dravidian relic. Ironically, the Dravidian languages themselves have lost this sound.
    Unfortunately, the comment box is too smal for me to explain this properly.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Welsh ll:
    I linked it through French liquid -ll- as in bouteille, or in Spanish/Basque/Catalan -ll- which is more like -ii- or -yy-.
    A “liquid” is an l-type sound. French bouteille and similar words had a “soft l” as in Russian centuries ago, but nowadays the -ill- is pronounced [y] (stronger than in English). Older Spanish, Portuguese and Occitan had the same sound, which also became [y] in most varieties of these languages.
    The Russian word for bread, khleb, хлеб, is the most indicative. The sound there is practically identical to the Welsh -ll- ….
    “Practically identical” does not mean “identical”. The sound shares some phonetic properties both with the lateral or liquid [l] and with other “fricatives” such as [f] and [x] (which is usually written kh in transliterating Russian). Early missionaries and others who encountered the sound of Welsh ll in the native languages of the North Pacific Coast of Canada and the US often transcribed it as thl or lth. On the other hand, the Welsh name Lloyd which begins with this sound became American Floyd because the initial sound was interpreted in terms of a familiar English sequence [fl]. In fact the sound is none of these complex sequences, but a single sound, although most people who do not have it in their language hear it as a sequence of two sounds from their own language, so English, French or Russian speakers (among others) would each hear a different sequence.
    Academics regard the word khleb as one of the ‘original’ Indo-European words, phonetically.
    No, because the sound [x] is not reconstructed as part of the sound system of Proto-Indo-European. if there is indeed a reconstructed PIE ancestor for this word, it must start with [kll] not [xl].
    alphabetic transcriptions would not always correspond to the sounds of a living language. describing one sound in several latin/cyrillic characters only demonstrates the descriptive inadequacy of the l/c alphabet, not of a LIVING language, n’est-ce pas?
    Transcriptions for the Latin or Cyrillic alphabet have been worked out over many years, even centuries, in order to write specific languages, for which the speakers know the sound value to be attributed to each letter or sequence of letters. As we all know, these values are different for different languages: for instance, the digraph ch represents different sounds in English, French, German and Italian. Therefore, for detailed sound study and for comparison of sounds between languages, linguists avoid the confusion between the various national alphabets by using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) which (with very minor variations) is used internationally for technical linguistic purposes. This alphabet is not meant to replace the national alphabets but to be used as an adjunct through which it is possible to indicate pronunciation very precisely. This is especially useful for languages such as English or French where the spelling is often confusing. When I first learned English (at the age of ten) we learned the symbols for all the English vowels, and later when I was a student of English I bought the “English pronouncing dictionary” which had no definitions at all, only words with their pronunciation indicated in phonetic symbols. The IPA includes the symbol [ɬ] for the sound written in Welsh “ll”. This symbol is never used in linguistics to represent Russian [xl] or English [fl] or [lth] or [thl], all of which have been used at one time or another to transcribe the unfamiliar sound in familiar terms.

  59. marie-lucie says:

    JC, I did not know that “Slavic” was frowned upon outside North America. In any case, the Slavonic language family and the Old Church Slavonic language are two different entities. Perhaps Old Bulgarian is preferred as an equivalent of Old Church Slavonic in order to avoid the ambiguity of the word Slavonic. But Old Slavonic avoids the impression that the Bulgarians are somehow favoured over other Slavs. (I am not a Slavicist, so I am not taking sides).

  60. It should be noted, though I think that someone has already done so here, that Old Church Slavonic is not the same language as Church Slavonic. Church Slavonic is a direct daughter language to Old Church Slavonic, and only a cousin to Russian (belonging to a different branch of Slavic), although Church Slavonic (Old and new) and Russian have spent the last millennium growing up alongside each other and influencing each other. There are other types of Church Slavonic, but any knowledge I have is of the Russian recension.
    I don’t know much about the history of Church Slavonic, so I can’t even guess how much of it’s development was organic and when its development ceased to be organic and any developments occurred through periodic redactions of the language intended, I believe, to keep it in more tune with the Russian of the day and also more in tune with itself as some of the letters became unnecessary. I think some of the redactions also standardized spelling and some other conventions. I have been told that Russian Church Slavonic was due for another redaction by the turn of the 20th century, but before those in charge of such things could gather themselves together and accomplish the task the Russian Revolution was accomplished, and that put and end to that. Then, of course, Modern Russian underwent an orthographic reform during the Soviet period, and modern Russian Church Slavonic still hasn’t been redacted yet, so the two languages are farther apart than they were ever intended to be.
    I’ve been told by a Russian-speaking priest here in America that Patriarch Alexei of Moscow, who reposed last year, spoke a distinctly Slavonicized form of Russian.
    @Sashura That was a good deal on a Church Slavonic Bible! Ours is a 1910 edition republished in Moscow in the 1990’s.
    We obtained it some years ago through the American Bible Society, but they might not be my first recommendation of mail-order vendor since a quick trip to their web page has shown me that they are no more clear today on the difference between Slavonic and Slovenian than they were then. (Imagine our surprise when we unwrapped a Slovenian Bible, having ordered a Slavonic one. My husband did eventually get the difficulty straightened out and obtained a very nice Church Slavonic Bible, but some effort was required.)
    @CL As far as a paper copy, I’ll keep looking around for a vendor who will know what you are looking for the first time you ask them. Anything I could find, though, would be a Modern Church Slavonic Bible. I wouldn’t even know where to find one in Old Church Slavonic, as no one I know would have any use for one, but I know plenty of people who would have need of a modern Church Slavonic Bible.
    And I am entirely in agreement with those of you who are bothered by English words that do not use the appropriate stem vowel from Latin. Every time I go to write down a word from Latin pronounced with a schwa, I start listing off the principle parts of the appropriate Latin verb or the nominative and genitive singular of a noun/adjective. My daughter still looks at me strangely even though she is in her second year of Latin. I guess she and I process information differently.

  61. Marie-Lucie: thank you very much for the thorough explanation, it’ll take time to digest all, but special little merci for Floyd-Lloyd mystery. ‘Go geddem Floyd’ is a little phrase between my son and me re house chores.
    Isidora: Levies for Bible, at the time I wasn’t sure it was that good.

  62. no one I know would have any use for one
    Yeah, I know they’re not exactly in demand. It seems like there must be some Slavic department or museum somewhere that has something of the sort though. I managed to take a couple of semesters of Old Church Slavonic as an undergrad, and I wasn’t the only one in the class, so surely someone’s interested! (Ok, maybe about 3 people in the whole country, but I think I’ll keep hoping.)

Speak Your Mind