LANGUAGES IN MONASTYRKA.

I’m not even halfway through Pogorelsky’s Монастырка (The convent girl—see this LH post for my earlier encounter with the author), but I have to pause and post about some of the fun he’s having with languages. The novel starts with a traveler trying to get to an acquaintance’s house in time for a christening—he’s been asked to be godfather—and asking a local if the road is in good shape; this being in northeastern Ukraine, the response is given in the local dialect: “А тож! дорога гладка, от як тик; тилки пискив богато!” Pogorelsky helpfully translates this in a note: “А как же! Дорога гладкая, вот как ток; только песков много!” [Sure! The road's as smooth as a threshing floor, only there's a lot of sand!] He has a similarly dialect-infused encounter with a stationmaster who claims not to have horses for him; when he gets to the town of R. and gets a room at the inn, it is so filled with insects he doesn’t even try to sleep but decides to sit up all night. Looking for something to read, he finds three letters from an adolescent girl to a friend at the Smolny Convent in Saint Petersburg, where she had been a student before returning to her Ukrainian village; he’s so taken with them he makes inquiries and winds up meeting the author of the letters, now several years older, and the rest of the novel consists of his narration of her story (which includes one of those villains who can make a novel so memorable, Klim Sidorovich Dyundik).
Of course, the texts of the letters are included, and the first includes a complaint about the way the locals talk, which the author can barely understand; she quotes her beloved aunt talking with a distiller about barda and thinking of the bards in Zhukovsky’s works before she realizes it’s a local word for distillery waste. She provides further examples before saying “But I think I’m boring you with Ukrainian dialect; from now on I’ll write about my aunt as if she’s speaking in Russian.” (I’ll include the original passage below the cut for those who read Russian.) She also throws in a number of French phrases, which introduces the other major linguistic topic, and of that more in a moment. But while we’re on Ukrainian, I’ll mention there’s a character named Pryzhkov who originally had the Ukrainian name Pryzhko but added the -v because he was brought up in Saint Petersburg and wanted his name to sound Russian.
The most extended riff is about Dyundik’s daughters and their French lessons. Dyundik boasts that he’s paying a tutor 400 rubles a year plus room and board to teach them French; it’s a lot, but it’s worth it because they prattle away in it constantly and when they go off to Petersburg they’ll be received immediately into high society—”You’ll see when you meet them!” Alas, when the narrator does meet them, he can’t understand a word. They think he himself doesn’t know French, and mock him behind his back, but then they hear him conversing fluently in French at a social gathering and are deeply offended—he must have been making fun of them, pretending ignorance of the language for a joke. When Dyundik reproaches him later and says he should apologize, he explains that their French is so bad it’s unintelligible—for instance, they say “Kesse-kesse-kesse-lya!” for “Qu’est-ce que c’est que cela!” He convinces Dyundik and later his wife and daughters, whereupon they all begin cursing the hapless tutor and thinking up ever-escalating punishments, whereupon the narrator regrets having ever said anything about it.
But perhaps the most intriguing, and certainly the most unexpected, linguistic encounter is with a trader known as the “Gypsy ataman“; the narrator overhears him calling someone “Dšarro,” and he explains that that is “our word for son or sonny.” I have a few Romany references, but none of them have a word like that; the Kalderash word for ‘son’ is šyav and the Greek Romany word is tšavo (those two are clearly related to each other). If anyone knows what dialect dšarro might be (Servitka?), by all means speak up.


The aunt’s dialect:

Более всего мне надоел язык, которым здесь изъясняются. Поверишь ли, что я почти ничего не понимаю?
Вчера ввечеру сидела я в комнате и читала книжку; тетенька на крыльце разговаривала с винокуром. Ты не знаешь, что такое винокур, Маша? Это жид, который делает вино. Они много говорили о барде… я ничего не понимала, только слышала, что тетенька говорила: “Береги барду, береги барду!” — а жид отвечал: “Как зе, васе благородие, не берец; барда прекрасная, барда отлицная!” Я в Петербурге читала Жуковского сочинения и помнила, что он говорит о бардах… барда, в дистракции мне как-то представилось, что которую так хвалят, должна быть жена какого-нибудь барда, или поэта… и только что ушел винокур, я подбежала к тетеньке и просила познакомить меня с бардою. “А що тоби с нею робыть! — отвечала тетенька. — Я чула, що миются бардой, щоб шкура була билие…” Ах, Маша! как же мне стыдно было, когда я узнала, что такое барда! Здесь барда не то, что у вас в Петербурге: здесь так называют гущу, которая остается на дне, когда делают вино!
Но ты, может быть, не поняла тетенькиных слов? Она сказала мне, если перевесть их на русское: “А что тебе с нею делать? Я слышала, что моются бардою, для того чтоб кожа сделалась белее…” Миются по-малороссийски значит моются, а шкурой называют мою кожу, Маша!
Но тебе, я думаю, надоело и письмо мое, и малороссийское наречие. В другой раз я буду писать к тебе про тетеньку, как будто она говорит по-русски.

Pryzhko(v):

Расспросив об имени его, он узнал, что этого молодого человека зовут Прыжковым, что он родом из малороссиян, но, будучи воспитан в Петербурге, переделал, по примеру многих других, малороссийское прозвание на русский манер, прибавя в к настоящей фамилии своей, бывшей первоначально Прыжко.

The French lessons:

Ведь я знаю, что вы, паничи, любите говорить по-французски, а мои дочери не хуже петербургского, то и дело, что между собою: коман ву порте? фор биень, мусье! — я тоже около них понаучился… почти всё понимаю! А что они… так, право, мне иногда надоедают! Всё по-французски да по-французски! Зато у них славный учитель: обучался в Москве, в ниверситете, и сам книги пишет… Ей-богу, не лгу! Ну — вы увидите! Правда, я денег на них не жалею: учитель получает у меня четыреста рублей в год и, разумеется, харчи мои! Да кроме того, почти каждый год подарок: то сукна домашнего на пару, то из своего платья что-нибудь, фрак или жилет, или что случится!
. . .
– Вы не знаете, что значит: кессе-кессе-кессе-ля? Быть не может! Вы шутите, Владимир Александрович?
– Клянусь честию, что не понимаю!
– Ну! кессе-кессе-кессе-ля значит на французском языке: что такое?
– A!.. Qu’est-ce que c’est, que cela!.. Теперь я понимаю! Владимир прекратил тут расспросы свои относительно неизвестного языка и, вслушиваясь внимательнее в разговоры барышень, действительно заметил, что они говорят по-французски, но притом так странно выговаривают и такие необыкновенные употребляют слова и выражения, что без большой привычки понять их никак невозможно.

The Romany:

— Как же мне послышалось, что сына твоего не так называли? Кажется, Шаро или Жаро…
– Дшарро, ваше благородие! Это по-нашему значит сын или сынок.

Comments

  1. The only Google result for дшарро that seems unrelated to this novella is a poorly-scanned German book entitled only “Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaft, Vol. 22.” It looks like дшарро was recorded as a diminutive of дшау, son (clearly related to the Kalderash and Greek Romany you give!), in Belgorod in the 1780′s. However, I will leave it to those who understand German and don’t have to type everything into Google Translate to further examine this finding.
    (I hope it’s not overly strange that I pipe up from the corner occasionally – I’m not much of a commenter generally, though a regular reader of this blog!)

  2. Chav (not useful for answering your question, but relevant).

  3. “дшарро” dšarro is glossed as “сынок” (diminutive of “son”, “sonny”, which is “дшау” dšau) in a Roma glossary found here:
    Title: Путешественныя записки Василья Зуева от С. Петербурга до Херсона в 1781 и 1782 году (Travel diary of Vasily Zuyev, from St Petersburg to Kherson in 1781 and 1782)
    Author: Василий Федорович Зуев (Vasily Fedorovich Zuyev)
    Publisher: Russian Imperial Academy of Science, 1787
    Page 180
    http://books.google.com/books?id=kTlFAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA180&dq=дшарро
    Zuyev says that he compiled it in Belgorod, so his glossary well may be the source both for Pogorelsky and for the German work mentioned above. He says that the language of the Gypsies (Roma) he encountered was already heavily “corrupted” (contaminated by Russian), but he tried to make a list of words that he felt were genuine Roma words.
    While I know no Roma whatsoever, Zuyev’s glossary seems reasonably bona fide. E.g. all of his numerals are exactly the native Roma numerals listed in Matras’ database in Manchester:
    http://romani.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/rms/browse/numerals/forms/numerals

  4. P.S. The same form also appears in a 1933 work on Roma dialects of Ukraine and South Russia:
    This little book also mentions Zuyev as a source, but I don’t know if it’s its only source on “дшарро” dšarro, as the book is only visible in a snippet form on Google Books.

  5. marie-lucie says:

    they say “Kesse-kesse-kesse-lya!” for “Qu’est-ce que c’est que cela!”
    “Kesse-kesse-kesse-lya!” is probably meant to be Qu’est-ce que c’est qu’il y a?, a longer form of Qu’est-ce qu’il y a? ‘What is there, what is the matter?’

  6. SFReader says:

    I remember reading about an enterprising Gascon tutor who taught children of a Russian nobleman his native Gascon dialect instead of French. ;-)))

  7. Thanks for the detective work, all! And it makes perfect sense that dšarro is a diminutive of dšau, which (as Leslie says) is obviously related to šyav.

  8. I remember reading about an enterprising Gascon tutor who taught children of a Russian nobleman his native Gascon dialect instead of French.
    Yes, there must have been a lot of that sort of thing, considering the demand for French education in the boonies and the unlikelihood of being caught out. (Which reminds me of the joke I retailed at the end of this post.)

  9. SFReader says:

    The story reminds me of this movie
    Yu ming is ainm dom

  10. marie-lucie says:

    his native Gascon dialect
    Gascon is one of the dialects of Occitan, a language which is not mutually intelligible with French. Gascons typically speak French with a strong accent reminiscent of a Spanish one. It is quite likely that the Gascon man in question did teach French, but that his accent created problems for the Russian children thus taught when they tried to interact with others who had learned a more standard version of French. Children taught Gascon would have been unable to read French, for instance, and there would have been little written in Gascon for them to read. So “taught French by a Gascon” was interpreted as “taught Gascon”.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    “Как зе, васе благородие, не берец; барда прекрасная, барда отлицная!”

    Huh. Mazuzenie way beyond Poland… oh. Now I see.

  12. Mazuzenie-type changes are also found in the Old Novgorod dialect of Russian, perhaps under the influence of the lost Central Finnic languages, which like the rest of Finnic have no palatal(ized) consonants. The same change took place in certain varieties of Chakavian Croatian (sometimes called “Tsakavian” in recognition of this) — and for that matter in Cantonese. It’s a fairly easy transformation.

  13. And in Taiwan; I had to work to keep my Mandarin pronunciation up to snuff when I was living there (everybody said “bu si” for “bu shi,” etc.).

  14. David, John Cowan: actually, a mazurzenie-type change must have affected much of Western Romance prehistorically: it is quite clear that all Romance languages (minus Sardinian) originally had an Italian-like reflex of Latin /k/ or /g/ followed by a front vowel, which later in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan and Northern Italian varieties became /ts/ and /dz/, respectively (and subsequently were transformed in various languages, Modern French having reduced /ts/ and /dz/ to /s/ and /z/, for example).
    Considering how common such a change is a contact explanation may seem redundant. But in the case of Chakavian Croatian I strongly suspect Romance influence is involved, since Chakavian shows definite signs of Romance contact influence.
    Marie-Lucie: actually, if this Gascon tutor was teaching in a sufficiently isolated and remote area (lacking French-language books, of course) I could certainy imagine him getting away with teaching Gascon to his pupils. Which would not have been a total waste of his pupils’ time: I imagine that as a secret language Gascon in Russia would be quite adequate.
    Then again, considering how popular Biarritz was among well-to-do Russians in the late nineteenth-century, I wonder: could the source of this story be some especially excentric or intellectually curious Russian who, having fallen in love with the area (having been there, I can assure you that would be easy), would have wanted his children to acquire a local vernacular in order to get to know the area better? It was only in the twentieth century, after all, that French definitely displaced (Bearnese) Gascon as the L2 of French Basques.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    And in Taiwan; I had to work to keep my Mandarin pronunciation up to snuff when I was living there (everybody said “bu si” for “bu shi,” etc.).

    Yep. Stereotypically southern Mandarin is famous for doing that.
    Cantonese, unusually, has merged shibilants and sibilants in the other direction. Or is that just in Hongkong?

  16. Where there’s no longer a phonemic distinction between sibilants and shibilants, there may well be free variation. Finnish and Bengali /s/ are shibilant-like, for example.

  17. As are those of Peninsular Spanish and Greek.

  18. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne, your theories about Gascon are interesting but I think the story is based on a misunderstanding, as I hypothesized above. If a Russian father or mother was so interested in the Biarritz area (which they were wealthy enough to visit), why would they pretend that their children were learning French when they were actually learning Gascon? In wealthy social circles, of what use would Gascon be to those children unless they learned it in addition to French? On the other hand, even in a remote corner of the Russian Empire, having children (unbeknownst to their parents) learn Gascon instead of French could easily be discovered as soon as the family (proud to have a French tutor and eager to display their children’s proficiency) interacted with an educated person who actually spoke French (a doctor, a visiting administrator, for instance), and the Gascon tutor would have been promptly dismissed with no further possibility of employment in the region. I think it is much more likely that the Gascon tutor taught the brand of French he spoke, without making extra efforts to sound like a Franchiman (the Occitan word for a Northern French speaker). Other Russians knowing some French but unfamiliar with the speech of French-speaking Gascons, let alone actual Gascon speech, and barely able to understand the children’s speech, could then have interpreted the situation as “This is not French! He must be teaching the children Gascon!”

  19. SFReader says:

    @Etienne, Marie-Lucie
    Found this interesting piece which probably was an actual origin of the story.

    Шевалье Фердинанд Корно де Кюсси,
    дипломат и генеральный консул короля Людовика XVIII в Дрездене
    октябрь 1826 г.
    Князь Лобанов. Барин, очень богатый, очень добродушный, часто бывающий в Дрездене, расказывал мне о французских лжеджентельменах чей авантюризм заслуживает быть здесь изложеным…
    Первый был учителем в деревне у одного престарелого русского помещика, который мало общался со своими соседями и слабо знал о том, что происходит за пределами России. Этот лжеджентельмен взялся обучать тонкостям французского языка внуков этого почтенного русского. Веселый и услужливый француз вскорости сделался любимцев поместья. И мало помалу стал заправлять в этом семействе. Однаждя встал вопрос об обучении внуков помещика итальянскому языку и стали разыскивать учителей. Но этот человек сумел убедить помещика, что он владеет и итальянским и сможет обучать детей.
    Помещик согласился на это, но вскоре заметил, что уроки итальянского ведутся в странной манере, избегая появления любых итальянских книг. Три года спустя князь Лобанов проездом посетил этого помещика, и выяснилось, что этот “джентельмен” на самом деле был мелким гасконским торговцем, преследуемом на родина за мошенничество. Оказалось, что учитель сам объясняется на очень плохом французском и с полным отсутствием грамматики. Что до итальянского, это был гасконский диалект, которому он обучил внуков помещика.
    —-
    Rough translation.
    Chevalier Ferdinand Korno de Coucy (sp?), French consul to Dresden court, October 1826.
    “Prince Lobanoff, a rich Russian aristocrat who frequently visits Dresden told me about some enterprising French false-gentlemen…
    One of them was a tutor in the estate of one very old Russian nobleman who had scarce social interaction with neighbors and little knowledge about life outside Russia. This false gentleman has agreed to teach French to grandchildren of this Russian nobleman. He quickly became very popular and when once there arose a question of finding some tutor of Italian, he managed to persuade the nobleman that he speaks Italian as well and can teach it.
    The nobleman agreed, but soon noticed that the tutor teaches Italian in a very strange manner without use of any Italian books. Three years later, Prince Lobanoff visited the nobleman and revealed that this “gentleman” was in reality a petty Gascon tradesman, fleeing fraud charges in France. It turned out that he spoke very bad French without any trace of grammar. The “Italian” he taught was actually his native Gascon dialect. ”
    http://severr.livejournal.com/870085.html#comments

  20. SFReader says:

    The second anecdote the chevalier reports is very funny.
    A French tutor for the rich Muscovite family once went to sauna and the Russians noticed a lily brand on his shoulder. They asked what did it mean. And he answered that this is fleur-de-lys, symbol of French royalty and that he actually was a French prince!
    Only later was the truth revealed by some educated guest who explained that it was custom in old regime France to brand criminals with fleur-de-lys

  21. David Marjanović says:

    As are those of Peninsular Spanish and Greek.

    No, they’re just apical (like the Basque s) instead of laminal (like elsewhere in Europe, and like the Basque z).

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Merci SFReader!
    Passing off Gascon for Italian was more likely than passing it off for French, in a country where many people knew French but few knew Italian. That the Gascon tutor did not use any books for his fake Italian suggests that he did use French books for teaching French, although his French must have been heavily Gasconized.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    DM: Spanish and Greek s : apical (like the Basque s), instead of laminal (like elsewhere in Europe, and like the Basque z)
    There are several ways of producing a sibilant, resulting in minor auditory differences. I am not sure what name to give to my own pronunciation in either French or English, except to say that it is NOT laminal. In my experience this is true of most people I have heard speaking the same languages.

  24. SFReader: my own thanks for the story as well. I can’t help but note that Gascon (especially the more conservative mountain varieties) is in many respects closer, phonotactically and phonologically, to Italian than it is to French (indeed I think it was André Martinet who observed once that teaching Italian in Alpine and/or Southern France ran into a major sociolinguistic difficulty: it sounds so “patois-like” that French speakers, psychologically, simply cannot reproduce its sounds and phonemes)
    Meaning that this Gascon “gentleman” definitely showed some degree of shrewdness.
    This assumes that the story is true, of course: but as the Italians themselves would say, SE NON È VERO È BEN TROVATO.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    I agree with Etienne about the sounds of Gascon (and most other Occitan dialects). Although I was never in a position to learn more than a few phrases and a few songs from my Occitan-speaking grandparents, I am conscious that it is my good pronunciation of their dialect (reproducing what I heard in childhood) which made it easy for me to acquire a good pronunciation in Spanish. For instance, in both languages the voiced consonants b, d, g become fricatives between vowels (within a word or between linked words).

  26. David Marjanović says:

    I am not sure what name to give to my own pronunciation in either French or English, except to say that it is NOT laminal.

    All the French and English I’ve heard have a laminal (“dental”) /s/ – even though the other English alveolars are apical (not the French ones, though). I haven’t noticed a difference to the /s/ of, say, Russian, Mandarin, or Mexican or Chilean Spanish. Greek and peninsular Spanish (I haven’t actually heard Basque) are different.

  27. marie-lucie says:

    David, I wonder if we are talking about the same things, or disagreeing on the terminology alone. This reminds me of a discussion a few years ago where you insisted that the French /r/ was not a uvular fricative but something else, I forgot what.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    The French /r/ is usually a uvular trill*; in the increasingly many conditions where it devoices, it approaches a velar (not uvular)** fricative. For some people, but not many (and apparently not any in Paris), it is a voiced uvular fricative; this pronunciation is almost universal in northern Germany.
    Do you keep your tongue flat for /s/, or do you curl it back a bit like for English /t d/?
    * The only difference to Piaf’s “je ne rrrrrregrrrrrrette rrrrrrien” is that the trills in that song are extremely long. Usually, at least nowadays, they’re reduced to a single contact.
    ** This makes sense because uvular trills are made by closing between the uvula and the part of the tongue that lies opposite to it and then squeezing air through so it passes in individual bubbles. (The uvula then moves, not the tongue. In alveolar trills the tongue moves.) All other uvular consonants are made with the part of the tongue that’s used for velar consonants; it’s rectracted all the way to the uvula. That’s a fundamental difference that doesn’t seem to be described anywhere.

  29. Petrus Augustinus says:

    In the Hungarian Gypsy dialect there is ‘csávó’ which we also use in Hungarian.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    DM: French /r/: Piaf’s “je ne rrrrrregrrrrrrette rrrrrrien” … the trills in that song are extremely long. Usually, at least nowadays, they’re reduced to a single contact.
    Piaf was a singer and in her singing style she often exaggerated some features of her normal pronunciation, such as the r’s in the above words. She did not do that all the time, or while speaking: in the song Milord (pronounced “milor” in French), she sometimes uses her spoken voice, and in addressing “Milor” then her final r is a single contact.
    The deep uvular fricative or trill is a stigmatized feature of the working-class “accent parisien” which Piaf consciously used.
    Do you keep your tongue flat for /s/, or do you curl it back a bit like for English /t d/?
    I don’t curl it back at all. When I speak I put my teeth together so that the upper ones overlap only very slightly with the lower ones, and the tip of my tongue then presses slightly against the teeth, close to where they join. I am not sure what position the rest of my tongue is in.
    If I want to produce a hissing sound in a non-speaking context (eg to imitate some animal), I keep my jaws closed, with my lips spread as in a thin smile, and it is more the front part of my tongue rather than just the tip which presses against my teeth.

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