Test Your Slavic Knowledge.

I’m afraid this will only appeal to a smallish minority of LH readers, since you have to know Russian to read the quiz and a fair amount about other Slavic languages to answer it, but it’s such fun if you have those qualifications that I can’t resist posting it. I was congratulated (“Поздравляем, ваш результат: 5 из 7”), but my good result was mostly luck — those questions are hard. But I did learn some interesting stuff (they dig up some really obscure material), and I recommend it to those who can get in the door. (Via Steven Lubman’s Facebook post.)

Comments

  1. I’ve got only 4 out of 7.

  2. anhweol says:

    4/7 here (I can read Russian, have reasonable Czech, have dabbled in South Slavic and Polish a little). Presumably the question identifying Russian poets in translation (for which I could only guess) would have been easy to Russians with suitable education?

  3. Yes, that was the easiest one for me — I read the first quatrain, thought “Oh, Выхожу один я на дорогу,” and Vanya’s your uncle.

  4. 6 out of 7. I mistook West Polesian for Rusyn (Ruthenian). A few years ago, I vacationed in Croatia while a World or Euro soccer championship was in progress, so I know the meaning of “nogomet” and “napad.” (Actually I had known about “nogomet” and “rukomet” since childhood.)

    Three of the four poems are very well known.

  5. I also got 4 out of 7, using GT to translate the page to English and some googling to look up words. #1 was easy for me; #2 I had to guess and guessed wrong; #3 I would never have gotten except by chance; #4 wasn’t hard at all; #5 I managed using Google as a crutch; #6 again I guessed wrong; #7 I guessed right completely at random. So “4 out of 7 – Slavophile”, but really 3 out of 7 would have been closer to the truth.

  6. January First-of-May says:

    I knew about “nogomet”, having researched Croatian match results last year; I knew about Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz (and I can pronounce, at least approximately, both his name and his home town); and of course I knew about Glagolitic.

    I missed the Arabic question (I would have guessed Urdu, but that wasn’t an option, and I couldn’t read Arabic script at all), and the Petit Prince question (I thought it sounded South Slavic, so I guessed Slovenian, and I wasn’t up to date with Slavic interlanguage developments past the early 2000s or thereabouts).

    Funnily enough, I actually missed the “nogomet” question on the first try, because I didn’t quite ping on the part about secretaries being related to secrets.
    Similarly, I was uncertain between two poet lists, and guessed wrong – I immediately recognized Nekrasov, and I almost immediately recognized Lermontov, but I didn’t recognize the other two at all, and guessed that the Slovenian one sounded more Pushkin-y.

    Oh, and I guessed West Polesian correctly because I thought it was closely related to Polish but not quite Polish, and none of the other options fit that theory.

  7. Oh, and I guessed West Polesian correctly because I thought it was closely related to Polish but not quite Polish, and none of the other options fit that theory.

    Same here! And yes, the Glagolitic was the other easy one.

  8. GT turned West Polesian into “West-West”, which was entirely mystifying.

  9. 6/7 here. I tripped up on the Arabic question, though I might have given it more thought if it were only written in text instead of a scanned imaged.

    The question on distinguishing Serbian versus Croatian is very easy if you also speak Hungarian, as the Croatian word for ‘secretary’ is obviously a calque on Hungarian titkar.

  10. “Поздравляем, ваш результат: 5 из 7
    Славянофил
    Признайтесь, гимн «Гей, Славяне» – ваша любимая песня?”

    I had no chance with the last one, my knowledge of Russian poetry is… pitiful. And I was an idiot with 6, I should have recognized it. Bad bulbul!
    Side note: the Slovak version of “Гей, Славяне”, “Hej Slováci”, was the national anthem of the WWII Slovak puppet state and Slovak Nazis still prefer it. So no.
    Another side note: there is some debate among Slovak historians as to how to refer to the WWII Slovak puppet state. The accepted usage is Slovak Republic (1939-1945), but it’s a fucking WWII Slovak puppet state to me.

  11. More on Belarussian in Arabic script, with references and a larger image of the passage.

  12. Thanks! That was a weird and unexpected phenomenon to learn about.

  13. Oops, I got a threat warning from Avast about that site.

  14. Well then there’s also this book, apparently the standard work on the subject.
    And I swear I had a book of critical edition of some Belarusian Arabic texts lying here somewhere…

  15. Only 3 out of 7. I pressed the wrong answer on the Polessian question while scrolling on my phone, but I don’t want to claim that I would have got it right.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Now, I read this thread before taking the quiz, so I had some idea what to expect, but:

    1 – easy. (Though not as easy as it could be. That Greek is hardcore.)
    2 – actually no idea if Belorussian or 19th-century Bosnian, but I picked the right one based on this thread and on what might be more obvious to include in this kind of quiz.
    3 – wasn’t sure for some time if it could be Upper Sorbian, but it’s not; the nj gives it away, and the h for /x/ clinches it.
    4 – old hat.
    5 – tvor- can only be “factory”; I had recently seen nogomet on a newspaper here in Berlin (and might have noticed nog- anyway); and tajn- “secret” fits “secretary”, keeping in mind obsolete the obsolete German title Geheimrat (originally “privy counsel”). Also, iza- fits de-leg- reasonably well.
    6 – I’m not sure if I could have decided between West Polessian and Rusyn without this thread, but I would expect Rusyn to look less Polish.
    7 – absolutely no idea.

  17. Bill W. says:

    I was entertained by the idea that Russian speakers think Czech surnames are unpronounceable.

  18. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    1 – easy. (Though not as easy as it could be. That Greek is hardcore.)
    That Greek is a lovely minuscule hand of maybe the 11th or 12th century. Exodus 15:10ff. A fine specimen.

    I’m currently transcribing a late 13th cen. ms. Not quite so enjoyable to read.

  19. minus273 says:

    4/7, failed the Belorussian, Mežduslavic conlang, and mistook West Polesian as Belorussian. The Pushkin lines are known in China, so I muddled through the last.

  20. That conlang was a real killer. Who knew??

  21. SFReader says:

    tvor- can only be “factory”

    ‘tvor’ means “creature” in Slovak.

  22. Wow, should I even admit to 2 out 7, that was tough. Luckily, I’m not a Slavist so my self-esteem is mostly intact but still would have hoped I could have guessed my way to a better score.

    Wish there was a version that mostly tested current language recognition I think I could have done better even though I fell on a few in that vein, as well.

  23. David Marjanović says:

    ‘tvor’ means “creature” in Slovak.

    Fits: “made” derived from “make”, just like creature itself. Of the options on offer, “factory” was the only one I saw that fit.

  24. ‘tvor’ means “creature” in Slovak
    Yes it does. On the other hand, I would prefer to translate it as “being”, reserving “creature” for ‘stvorenie’. But then again, ‘stvorenie’ also means “(the act of) creation”, so, yeah, checks out.
    Slovak for “factory” is ‘továreň’ which, not having an etymological dictionary on hand, I assume is derived from ‘tovar’ = “commercial goods”.

  25. 5/7. I didn’t recognise the pan-Slavic conlang. In #7, I knew that the Polish piece was by Pushkin (and even that the translator was Julian Tuwim) but that left me with two options. I ventured a quick guess which proved incorrect.

    Everyone in these parts has heard of Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz, whose birthplace was Chrząszczyżewoszyce in the district of Łękołody.

  26. SFReader says:
  27. I got the same score as Piotr Gąsiorowski!

    *pats self on back*

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz

    I witnessed him being explained in the cafeteria on Friday!

  29. Everyone in these parts has heard of Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz, whose birthplace was Chrząszczyżewoszyce in the district of Łękołody.

    It’s horrors like these that caused good ol’ Bill Safire to call for an improved method of transliterating Polish into Latin letters.

    It all reminds me of SFReader’s collection of “typical[ly] Polish” sentences, the first of which is “W trzęsawisku trzeszczą trzciny, trzmiel trze w Trzciance trzy trzmieliny, a trzy byczki spod Trzebyczki z trzaskiem trzepią trzy trzewiczki”, and on which he comments “No, no! Russians can’t pronounce any of that even if it was spelled in Cyrillic.”

    (ObAngloPedantic: a typical Polish sentence would be one that is ordinary from the internal perspective of Polish itself, whereas a typically Polish sentence is one that shows typical Polish characteristics to a very high degree, and as such is probably not typical of Polish. In the same way, Ivanov is a typical Russian surname (in fact, the most common surname), whereas Khristorozhdestvensky is typically Russian from an English viewpoint, that is, long and seemingly cacophanous. Of course, some of the most scary Russian surnames, like Yastrzhembsky (the diplomat), Krzhizhanovsky (the writer), and even Pzhevalsky (of the horse) are in fact Polish Jastrzębski, Krzyżanowski, and Przewalski!)

  30. Ivanov is a typical Russian surname (in fact, the most common surname)

    Actually, “the most common surname in Russia is in fact Smirnov (from the word smirny, meaning meek): Smirnovs make up 1.8 percent of Russia’s population, while Ivanovs, only 1.3 percent.”

  31. SFReader says:

    It’s from the non-Christian (unofficial) name Smirnoy with same meaning.

    Russian peasants had large families with many children, so a quiet and not loud baby was a great help to struggling mother.

  32. John,

    This “typically Polish” sentence contains multiple occurrences of one of the most salient Polish regional shibboleths. Half the country can’t pronounce it “correctly” because they have the cz/trz merger and pronounce trz as a retroflex affricate (rather than the normative stop + fricative cluster). One could say it’s too difficult for millions of Poles. The diacritic use of z, as in sz, cz, rz (whose function is like that of the Czech háček) contributes to the visual impression that Polish is heavily consonantal, while in fact it isn’t much worse than Russian.

  33. in fact it isn’t much worse than Russian

    The “scary Russian surnames” of Polish origin I listed above were among those found difficult by Russians themselves when borne by other Russians (of Polish descent, but Russians nonetheless). So since they are written in Russian orthography, that eliminates any influence from the Latin orthography. The problem lies elsewhere, then.

    I suspect the answer is either with nasal vowels, which become VN in Russian spelling and pronunciation, or with consonant clusters that are impossible, or impossibly complex, in Russian. Of course the first problem can make the second one even worse by prefixing /m/ or /n/ to already difficult intervocalic clusters.

    Update: I suspect that Russians would find *на́стемпств as unpronounceable as anglophones would find *NAH-stempstf.

  34. But take the name Przewalski. It was transliterated as Пржевальский, with superfluous orthographic complications which have given rise to a tongue-twisting spelling-pronunciation, and which conceal the fact that the Polish realisation of prz has for three of four centuries been the same as that of psz, i.e. [pʂ]. Russian has this cluster e.g. in пшеница (Pol. pszenica). Had the Russians chosen to spell the name in a non-etymological manner as Пшевальский, it would be both unproblematic in Russian and phonetically faithful to the original.

  35. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    6/7

    The Russian poetry question was killer for me. I have read some novels and stories in Russian but almost no poetry (only a few Mayakovsky’s and Yesenin’s poems I think) so I’m really clueless about it. Also with the Arabic script one I picked Belarusian just because it seemed a ‘surprising fact’ you’d put in such a quiz, I didn’t try to decipher it.

  36. January First-of-May says:

    Also with the Arabic script one I picked Belarusian just because it seemed a ‘surprising fact’ you’d put in such a quiz, I didn’t try to decipher it.

    I also guessed it was probably Belarusian for the exact same reason, but I thought that thinking along those lines was cheating, and picked Turkish, knowing that I was probably wrong. (As I’ve said, I actually thought it looked like Urdu, but Urdu wasn’t one of the options.)

    I should have guessed that the same trick was going on with that Inter-Slavic thing. I didn’t, and answered honestly (I didn’t think Slovenian was South Slavic, but I googled, and it was, so I was confident enough in that choice).

  37. SFReader says:

    Trying to pronounce Gzhegozh Bzhenchishchikevich…

    Marginally better, but still a tongue twister.

  38. @David Marjanović: 5 – tvor- can only be “factory”…

    The test is designed to offer false leads to Russian speakers. “Master class,” akin to “creative workshop,” makes them think of tvorchestvo, “creativity” or “creative activity.”

  39. Lars (the original one) says:

    in fact Пржевальский is so illogical that John transliterated it as Pzhevalsky.

    Przewalski is the only one of these names I’ve encountered in Danish, because of the horse. Spelt like in Polish, but I’m pretty sure everybody put an epenthetic e after the r if they had to say it. (Except possibly the boy in my class whose last name was Rzenno, pronounced /rɛno/).

    (Of course Brzezinski was notable too, but only the nerdiest of nerds tried to impose Slavic pronunciation on that American name).

  40. Brzezinski is usually [bɹəˈzɪnski] or [bɹəˈʒɪnski] in English, which is a reasonable approximation of Polish [bʐɛˈʑij̃ski]. Przewalski may be “Prezhivalski” or “Purzhivalski”, but also “Shevalski”. The last one is nice: the cluster is simplified in the familiar psycho- manner, and “Shevalski horse” sounds like a Franco-English equine pun.

    But then “purzh” and Russian “prž” are reminiscent of the labial trill used in many countries for commanding a horse to stop.

  41. John transliterated it as Pzhevalsky

    Pzhaw, a mere typo, he said airily.

    “Shevalski horse”

    I’m going to adopt this. It has to be “Shevalski’s horse” in English, though, despite such counterexamples as “Down syndrome” (once k,and in some places still known as “Down’s syndrome”).

    But anyway, even if prz isn’t as bad as it looks, my point remains: plenty of Polish consonant clusters can be very hairy even by Slavic standards.

  42. /mpst/ can be found even in English (glimpsed). Polish just adds one extra consonant for good measure.

    “Shevalski’s horse”

    Yes, of course. A mere ptypo, as you psaid.

  43. Rodger C says:

    I’ve usually heard it called “Prevalski’s horse.”

  44. Hi Piotr, sorry you weren’t around to comment on the Kabaservice posting.

  45. Oh, these topics always return.

  46. January First-of-May says:

    I’m reminded of an old conversation on TV Tropes involving someone saying that the proper pronunciation is “Sher-wall-ski”, and someone else saying that this is a heavily anglicized pronunciation, and that it’s basically pronounced exactly how it’s spelled given Polish orthography and any Polish speaker would find it easy to pronounce.
    Sadly I have completely forgotten how the correct Polish version was explained for the English speakers.

    (Actually, TV Tropes being what it is, that conversation might well still be there. Let me check…
    …nope. Either it was edited away, or it wasn’t where I thought it was. Or possibly both.)

  47. /mpst/ can be found even in English (glimpsed).

    Here’s Jonathan Swift’s rant on the subject:

    There is another Sett of Men who have contributed very must to the spoiling of the English Tongue; I mean the Poets, from the Time of the Restoration. These Gentlemen, although they could not be insensible how much our Language was already overstocked with Monosyllables; yet, to same Time and Pains, introduced that barbarous Custom of abbreviating Words, to fit them to the Measure of their Verses; and this they have frequently done, so very injudiciously, as to form such harsh unharmonious Sounds, that none but a Northern Ear could endure: They have joined the most obdurate Consonants without one intervening Vowel, only to shorten a Syllable: And their Taste in time became so depraved, that what was a first a Poetical Licence, not to be justified, they made their Choice, alledging, that the Words pronounced at length, sounded faint and languid.

    This was a Pretence to take up the same Custom in Prose; so that most of the Books we see now a-days, are full of those Manglings and Abbreviations. Instances of this Abuse are innumerable: What does Your Lordship think of the Words, Drudg’d, Disturb’d, Rebuk’t, Fledg’d, and a thousand others, every where to be met in Prose as well as Verse? Where, by leaving out a Vowel to save a Syllable, we form so jarring a Sound, and so difficult to utter, that I have often wondred how it could ever obtain.

    /glɪmpsɪd/

  48. David Marjanović says:

    3 – wasn’t sure for some time if it could be Upper Sorbian

    Silly me. Upper (like Lower) Sorbian uses w, not v. It’s not even pronounced [v] or [ʋ]; the English Wikipedia says it’s [β], or [ɥ] when palatalized.

  49. Jastrzębski, Krzyżanowski, and Przewalski

    I’d rather say Krzyżanowski, Przewalski, and Grum-Grzimailo/Grumm-Grżymajło.
    I first came across Jastrzębski, 20+ years ago, in Lingua Mentalis (by yet another pole, Anna Wierzbicka): The score is tied and Jastrzębski is at bat(quoted from McCawley).
    (I like her “I would like to thank my husband, John Besemeres, for his persevering attempts to polish and dePolish my English prose.”)

    Had the Russians chosen to spell the name in a non-etymological manner as Пшевальский, it would be both unproblematic in Russian and phonetically faithful to the original.

    And what about those who barely speak Russian? My maternal grandmother, born in Przhevalsk a few years after Karakol/Qaraqol was renamed that, never once called it Przhevalsk.

    At a pinch, I guess, you can call the horse the Karakol horse.

  50. David Marjanović says:

    that I have often wondred how it could ever obtain.

    Nice self-demonstrating example.

  51. Probably a typo in the transcription I used; the header warns that they may be present.

  52. A linguist is someone who knows how to say Kuryłowicz vr̥ddhi.

  53. ktschwarz says:

    W trzęsawisku trzeszczą trzciny, trzmiel trze w Trzciance trzy trzmieliny, a trzy byczki spod Trzebyczki z trzaskiem trzepią trzy trzewiczki.

    Polish offers an arena for a duel of the machines:

    DeepL: “Reeds are creaking in the moorland, three bumblebees in the trze in Trzcianka and three bulls from Trzebinia with a crackling crackle flutter three bumblebees.”

    … Shouldn’t there be only one bumblebee in this sentence, not six?

    Google Translate: “In the quagmire, reeds creak, the bumblebee bunts three spindles in Trzcianka, and three screers from under Trzebyczka flick three boots.”

    … WTF, “screers”? That’s a neural-net hallucination, not ignorance — Google’s more literal alternate translation has “bulls” — but hallucinations usually at least produce English words!

    It’s puzzling that they both fail here. Are these really unusual words or spellings in Polish, or unusual grammar?

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