THE TRIUMPH OF POLISH IN UKRAINE.

Last year I posted a quote from Timothy Snyder’s The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 about language in what’s now Lithuania; now I want to quote a section about Ukraine which is equally interesting and enlightening (I went back to the book to get some background for Gogol’s “Страшная месть” [“A Terrible Revenge/Vengeance”], which I’ve begun reading):

As Reform raised religious disputation in Poland to a very high level, Orthodoxy in Ukraine continued its long intellectual decline. Its limitations inhered in the language created to spread eastern-rite Christianity among the Slavs. Old Church Slavonic, the remarkable creation of Cyril/Constantine, had allowed the spread of the Gospel throughout East and South Slavic lands. Although Old Church Slavonic served the medieval purposes of conversion from paganism to Christianity very well, it was insufficient for the early modern challenge of Reform. It provided no link to classical models. As centuries passed, it was ever less able to provide Orthodox churchmen with a means of communication among themselves — or with their flock, when this idea arose. As the various Slavic languages emerged (or diverged), Church Slavonic lost both its original proximity to the vernacular and its universal appeal. By the early modern period it had declined into local recensions which neither matched local speech nor represented a general means of communication among Orthodox churchmen.

In the sixteenth century, the humble literature of the Orthodox church was dwarfed by that of the Protestants and Catholics. Both Protestants and Catholics initially tried to use Church Slavonic in their schools and publications in Ukraine, before deciding that what they had to say could only be conveyed in Polish. Unlike all of its competitors, Polish was at once a living language and a language of culture, amenable to propaganda and proselytism. Churchmen’s use of Polish in Ukraine was not national prejudice, but a choice of weapons in a battle for souls. Proponents of Church Slavonic did rise to the challenge. Konstantyn Ostroz’kyi, the greatest of the Volhynian princes, sponsored the publication of the first complete bible in Church Slavonic. Pamvo Berynda published a lexicon. Petro Mohyla founded an Orthodox collegium, which later became the Kiev Academy. It used Church Slavonic, although the textbooks were generally in Latin and the composition generally in Polish. Because they were forced to learn other languages and classical rhetoric and disputation, Ukrainian churchmen became the outstanding interpreters of Church Slavonic texts, which made them much desired in Moscow. All the same, they too found the Polish language best suited their needs. After 1605, the majority of polemical tracts written by Orthodox churchmen were in Polish (though the titles, pseudonyms, and terms of abuse were often of Byzantine origin): after 1620, Orthodox churchmen usually signed their names in Polish; after 1640, most official documents in Ukraine were written in Polish. Mohyla, who died in 1647, wrote his will in Polish.

At this time, as Gogol writes, “уже ходят по Украйне ксензы и перекрещивают козацкий народ в католиков” [already Polish priests are going around Ukraine and rebaptizing the Cossack people as Catholics].
Oh, and here’s another interesting bit from a few pages later: “The traditional sacral designation ‘Rus” had been used in a political sense for centuries; now the vague military term ‘Ukraina’ took on something like a political meaning as the homeland of the Orthodox in Poland.”

Comments

  1. SFReader says:

    Same thing happened to the ruling lithuanian aristocracy, but twice.
    After the conquest of principalities of western part of Kievan Rus in 13-14th centuries, Lithuanian aristocracy underwent heavy mixing with local Rurikid dynasties, adopted what Soviet linguists used to describe as Old-Belarussian language and in large part even Orthodox Christianity.
    Then, starting from 15th century they were Polonized and Catholized. The process was finished by the end of 17th century.
    PS. In 20th century, part of this Polonized aristocracy returned to Lithuanian language and ethnic identity, while majority remained Polish (and also some of them chose Russian, Belarussian or Ukrainian identity. And of course, many of them ended in political emigration in Europe and America and now their descendants are likely to be English-speaking Americans…)

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen Peter Mogila called Petro Mohyla; I must not have spent as much time following Ukrainian nationalist polemic as I would have thought. Why Snyder is using a nationalist’s version of the name of someone who already has an established standard name in English scholarly discourse is puzzling, unless it’s a side effect of some global policy as to how he was going to do proper names throughout his book. I don’t even know whether “Mogila” reflects Polonization, Latinization, or Russification, although I guess each would be equally irksome to a nationalist. But maybe the joke’s on them and he should be reclaimed by Molovan/Moldavian nationalists under his birth surname of Movila.

  3. hey SFR, i saw a few days ago you linked to the banditto gangsterito song, here were all the series of Vrungel and of great sound and oicture quality
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BpzYSor11M&list=PLA7BBF44483CF238E
    hope you enjoy!
    about Mohyla -grave, what ominous name is that, hope he didn’t end tragically as the name would imply one’s fate

  4. read, Mohyla / Mogila / Movila is originally a mound or a hill or a kurgan, and only then a grave. Peter Mogila’s ancestral legend about being given this name makes it clear that it meant “a hill”.

  5. Snyder always uses the locally relevant name, which means the people and places he mentions are given Polish forms in some contexts, Ukrainian forms in others, Yiddish forms in others, and so on. He explains this policy at the beginning of Reconstruction.

  6. Tim Snyder is a very careful historian. Given his experience and, specifically, his research background, he is the last person who would fall for any nationalist agenda.
    In this region, *no* form of proper names (personal, geographic, and otherwise) can escape nationalist overtones — no name is neutral. The best you can do is have a consistent, objective policy.

  7. Although Old Church Slavonic served the medieval purposes of conversion from paganism to Christianity very well, it was insufficient for the early modern challenge of Reform. It provided no link to classical models. As centuries passed, it was ever less able to provide Orthodox churchmen with a means of communication among themselves…
    All the same, [Ukrainian churchmen] too found the Polish language best suited their needs.
    I guess I’m a bit obtuse, but I don’t quite understand the question of (1) the link to classical models (where was Old Slavonic lacking while Polish wasn’t?) (2) why did it provide no means of communication among Orthodox churchmen? (3) why was Polish better suited to their needs?
    Is this a linguistic matter or a cultural one? Linguists tend to take the position that all languages are inherently suitable for the purposes of expression, as against the layman’s idea that some languages are inherently more suited than others for certain purposes. Of course, the cultural and literary background of a language counts for a lot, and the linguists’ position is in reaction to popular prejudice against ‘primitive’ languages. But I’d be interested in knowing the background to the inadequacies of Old Slavonic.

  8. (1) the link to classical models (where was Old Slavonic lacking while Polish wasn’t?)
    Polish drew on the Greco-Latin tradition that was revived during the Renaissance; OCS did not. There were no translations of the classics into OCS, and in fact the whole ethos of OCS was against reading or studying anything but the Bible and authorized Christian documents. Therefore a tradition of disputation in a logical/secular fashion would have had to be created from scratch in OCS, whereas it was ready to hand in Polish.
    (2) why did it provide no means of communication among Orthodox churchmen? (3) why was Polish better suited to their needs?
    OCS was not a spoken language; Polish was.

  9. But Western clergy and clerisy communicated fine in Latin, which was also not a spoken language. Point 2 reflects the fact that Orthodox churchmen didn’t use Old Church Slavonic (which is linguistically speaking Old Bulgarian); they used “[insert ethnic name] Church Slavonic”, one for each ethnos. These varieties of CS were constantly drifting apart, moving further and further from OCS and closer and closer to the modern spoken language, whichever it was. Russian Church Slavonic, what with influence in both directions, is only a few steps away from being just another technical register of Modern Russian.

  10. Yeah, what he said.

  11. And here I had imagined that “clergy” and “clerisy” were just fancy alternative words for the same thing. But MW says “clerisy” = “intelligentsia”.

  12. Most of what I know about Slavic and Eastern European languages and cultures I have learned by reading this site, but some things I did learn on my own: as an undergraduate (who was already dimly interested in language contact, especially in pre-modern settings) I ran into an excellent book on this very topic, LA LANGUE POLONAISE DANS LES PAYS RUTHÈNES (UKRAINE ET RUSSIE BLANCHE) (1569-1667), by Antoine Martel (Lille, 1938), which I hope is in Snyder’s bibliography.
    This book examines the points explained by Hat and John Cowan in more detail, and I can only encourage hatters who wish to know more to consult it.
    As I recall he also pointed out that Church Slavonic within this area was becoming so heavily Polish-influenced (not just in vocabulary, but also in phraseology, grammar…) that the ultimate switch to Polish proper was probably perceived at the time as much less of a linguistic discontinuity than what is perceived by observers today.

  13. J.W. Brewer says:

    I appreciate the desirability of a book having a consistent policy on proper names, especially when the competing rivals are politically charged. I guess my view is that a sensible version of such a policy for an English-language scholarly work should start: 1. for historical figures mentioned with some frequency in prior English-language scholarly works I will use the name that is consistently used in that prior scholarship, if there is one; 2. for historical figures too obscure to have a preexisting standardized named in English-language scholarly works, I will do x y or z. That said, google n-gram does detect an upsurge in recent decades in Mohyla as against the previously market-dominant Mogila. One would have to dig deeper into the hits for each to see if there’s a pattern.
    There is btw considerable controversy within Eastern Orthodoxy on the writings of Peter and his Ukrainian contemporaries, with the negative view being that his knowing enough Latin/Polish to engage in polemical wars with the Jesuits was a bug rather than a feature, since it meant he was bamboozled into trying to explain/justify Orthodoxy within a Latinized conceptual/intellectual framework that was stacked against his side and thus ended up misexplaining it.

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    To give a simple example, if applying your naming policy consistently means you end up calling Copernicus “Kopernik” (in an English-language book), you’re doing it wrong, and readers are likely to infer that you are either a nationalist or a pedant. Take a step back and reformulate your policy.

  15. J.W. Brewer says:

    GS: for me at least “clerisy” has a pejorative ring and invokes, e.g., La trahison des clercs, where the French word I suppose remains broader in its semantic range than mere clergymen, as I suppose whatever Middle English word that may have split up into cleric and clerk once did (unlesss that’s the sort of doublet where one is straight from Latin but the other mediated through French).

  16. Here’s the content of Snyder’s front-matter section “Names and Sources”:

    The subjects of this book are the transformation of national ideas, the causes of ethnic cleansing, and the conditions for national reconciliation. One theme is the contestation of territory, and contested places are known by different names to different people at different times. Another theme is the difference between history and memory, a difference revealed when care is taken with names. The body of this book will name cities between Warsaw and Moscow according to the usage of the people in question at the relevant moment. This minimizes anachronism, recalls the importance of language to nationalism, and emphasizes that the disposition of cities is never final. The gazetteer provides toponyms in eight languages in use as of this writing.
    The names of countries also require some attention. In this work, attributes of the medieval principality of Kyivan Rus’ are denoted by the term “Rusian”. The culture of East Slavs within the early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is called “Ruthenian”. The adjective “Russian” is reserved for the Russian empire, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and the Russian Federation. “Ukrainian” is a geographical term in the medieval and early modern periods, and a political term in modern contexts. The use of “Belarus” signals an orientation toward local traditions; “Belorussia” signals a belief in an integral connection with Russia. “Lithuanian” and “Polish” refer to the appropriate polities and cultures in the period in question. The historical lands of “Galicia” and “Volhynia” will be named by these Latinate English terms throughout.
    [details on sources omitted] Authors’ names are spelled as they appear in the cited work, even when this gives rise to inconsistencies of transliteration.
    Transliteration is the unavoidable practice of rendering words spelled in one alphabet legible in another. The Polish, Lithuanian, and Czech languages, like English, French, and German, use various orthographies within Roman script. Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian use various orthographies within Cyrillic script. Like translation, transliteration abounds in intractable problems: so critical readers will know that all solutions are imperfect. With certain exceptions for well-known surnames, Cyrillic script is rendered here by a simplified version of the Library of Congress system. Translations, except from Lithuanian, are my own.
    [The Gazetteer gives the names of Vilnius, Lviv, Kyiv, Minsk, Galicia, Volhynia, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia in English, Ukrainian, Polish, Belarusian, Russian, Yiddish, German, and Lithuanian.]

    Here are two examples of Snyder’s style of naming:

    The Bolsheviks expected communism to embrace Vil’na; Polish and Belarusian socialist federalists agreed that Wilno/Vil’nia would be a capital of a multinational state; Polish and Lithuanian nationalists agreed that Wilno/Vilnius would be included within a nation-state (while disagreeing on which one). [p. 59]

    Any form of independent Ukraine would require a capital, and in western Ukraine that capital would have to be L’viv. Yet Poles dominated Lwów. [p. 134]

  17. I ran into an excellent book on this very topic…, which I hope is in Snyder’s bibliography.
    He doesn’t have a bibliography, just notes, which is annoying, but he does indeed cite Martel in n. 4 to Ch. 6, calling the book “worthy of consultation in its entirety.”
    a sensible version of such a policy for an English-language scholarly work
    But “sensible” can in practice mean “perpetuating hidebound and counterproductive ways of thinking about the past.” Snyder’s solution makes readers work a little harder but forces them to see things in a way that is more true to the variety and changeability of the past; it does no service to someone who wants to understand history to pretend that (say) Lviv has always been Lviv and everybody calls it Lviv and that is all ye know and all ye need to know. History is messy, and if you want to engage with it honestly you have to engage with the mess. Another scholar I revere, Marshall Hodgson, took a similar attitude, junking the traditional, comfortable, “sensible” ways of talking about what he called the Islamicate world and forcing the reader to assimilate words like “Islamicate” and deal with scientific transcriptions of Arabic and Persian rather than the Anglicized versions inherited from Victorian times. Of course it’s your right and privilege to slam down the book and say “I do not choose to deal with these unfamiliar usages,” but it’s your loss.

  18. J.W. Brewer says:

    I can’t figure out from that how Snyder handles personal names (like that of Peter Mogila) for individuals who spoke and wrote in multiple languages and who lived in different locations and under different political regimes at different points in their lives. Do they change names from chapter to chapter, as if they were a city that had just changed hands in the latest war?
    I think the name-switching is rhetorically quite effective in the example sentences in isolation, but might be exhausting over the course of an extended passage. Hopefully at least some doughty copy editor got a larger than usual paycheck for making sure the naming in the MS actually worked according to plan.
    Loosely related: the founding of Rus’ by the Varangians is retold in fake/stage/vulgar Boston-Irish dialect here: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/lesson-4-a-short-history-of-the-norse-founding-of-russia-for-bostonians.

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    I call pop-Whorfian and/or exoticizing/orientalizing shenanigans. We already know that the conventional names for people and places in English are often at variance with the conventional names for the same places/people in other languages, including the languages spoken in those places or by those people. So what? Put it in a footnote. That’s what footnotes are for. Now, if English usage has itself changed over time (e.g. Constantinople -> Istanbul) and/or there’s already an established English convention that we use different names for the same place depending on the time period relevant to the particular reference, that’s another issue.
    Maybe I’m wrongly using myself and my own hideboundness as the measure of these things, but, you know, as someone who already knows who Peter Mogila was and already knows that Vilna/Wilno/Vilnius/etc. all have the same referent, I should think I’m ahead of 99.9% of the US population and part of Professor Snyder’s target market for his work. (By contrast, someone who’s never previously read any references to Mogila isn’t going to be initially put off by the Mohyla spelling but is almost by definition less likely to want to read this particular book.) Telling me I just need to be willing to put in extra effort at the lexical-parsing level in order to appreciate such-and-such academic’s brilliant new insights is not the way to get on my good side.

  20. The multiple and mutating identities of that region *is* his brilliant new insight, or at least a large part of the point of the book. (And LanguageHat – thank you for the recommendation! I’m almost through the book, it’s been fascinating.)
    Physics texts don’t agree on how to spell “Schrödinger”. Life goes on.

  21. Oh, unrelated question – what is the s’ in Rus’? Is it a cyrilic letter without a latin equivilant, or a pronunciation that’s different from s, or…?

  22. “But Western clergy and clerisy communicated fine in Latin, which was also not a spoken language. ”
    That varied. It was probably as much a spoken language among Western scholars as English is among Indian IT people these days, or at least before they move to California. English has a similar status in China. People don’t actually, you know, speak speak it.
    Pope Bendict informed his audience he was resigning in Latin. So that was spoken. And hardly anyone caught on at first. So not all that widely spoken.

  23. s’ in Rus’? Is it a cyrilic letter without a latin equivilant, or a pronunciation that’s different from s
    Both. сь in Cyrillic letters where “soft sign” ь doesn’t have an equivalent => /sʲ/
    But “Rusian” w/o double “s” appears in the written texts pretty much as misspelling, accidental or deliberate. Perhaps Snyder should have stuck to “Rus’ian” to make his distinction 🙂

  24. dearieme says:

    “The multiple and mutating identities of that region *is* his brilliant new insight”: in what sense ‘new’?

  25. New to me, anyway.

  26. John Emerson says:

    Somewhere between my college days and ten years ago the English-language Mussorgsky became Musorgsky. Don’t know how, when, or why.
    I once collected about 20-25 spellings of Musorgsky’s name (or maybe it was Tchaikovsky’s) in different languages.

  27. And then of course there’s Tschebyscheff.

  28. And then of course there’s Tschebyscheff
    Thanks LH, a nice side-trip 🙂 (and a side-side-detour to a story about letter YO memorial ) !
    The 😉 😉 “Teutonic barbarism” used to creep into the Latin discourse every now and then … Like the scientific name for King salmon is Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, the latter a Russian name for the fish, “чавыча”, which was Teutono-Latinized by Johann Julius Walbaum in the late 1700s (and the twin “cha’s” got somehow separated in transmission – the first turning into TSH, the second into TSCH)
    As to why Mohyla rises and Mogyla wanes … my guess is that it isn’t simply about us redicovering multilingualism of Ukraine. It’s more like, the main national narrative of today’s Ukraine is akin to decolonization. The language wars against “regional languages” / use of Russian in education, broadcast, and government continue to rage wild. Therefore, a scholar who sticks to the traditional English transliterations of names or places Ukrainian would come across as disrespecting the very notion of Ukrainian nation. And it’s like, who are you afraid to offend more, the English readers or the Ukrainians?

  29. J.W. Brewer says:

    Look, even I’m smart enough not to take my views on transliteration to the point of picking a bar fight with Ukrainian-Americans over them. (When I first moved to NYC two decades ago, I would occasionally go drinking at a bar on I think East 7th St. called the Blue and Gold, whose clientele at the time seemed pretty evenly split between elderly Ukrainian-Americans and youthful punk-rock afficionados, but I don’t think transliteration disputes ever came up. I would have put my money on the elderly Ukrainians if any fights had broken out, although peaceful coexistence is all I ever saw.)
    OTOH, the whole point of being a tenured academic is so you can do the best scholarship possible w/o worrying unduly about politics and ruffling feathers, right? So I would like to assume Prof. Snyder’s policy results from nerdview or misguided enthusiasm for immersing his readers in his research subjects’ worldview (or at least that of their modern nationalistic descendents), rather than from fear of being denied a visa by some petty bureaucrat in Kiev or Minsk and/or losing possible honoraria from some diaspora ethnic-booster club. That said, Peter Mogila/Mohyla probably lived and died without having any idea he was a “Ukrainian,” since it’s apparently a rather anachronistic ethnic self-identification to retroject onto the early 17th century. And as noted above he was born a Moldavian boyar’s kid and died with a will written in Polish, so . . . he’s really beyond categorization in modern tribal/chauvinist terms. (I don’t know how variable orthography was in those days in the various Slavic languages, either in Latin or Cyrillic; I have at least one 17th century New England ancestor whose surname is not even spelled consistently in the various different places it appears in his own will.)

  30. JWB, for any nationalist in search of historical identity, an anachronistic ethnic self-identification is as good as any. The word Ukrainian may have had very limited use (if any) for ethnic self-identification in Mogila’s times. But his compatriot and contemporary Berynda (also mentioned in Snyder’s passage) is now considered to be a forefather of literary Ukrainian language because of his compiling a lexicon of “Slavonian and Russian”. And Mogila was the supreme church leader “of the Russians”. If Russia of Berynda’s time and place belongs to today’s Ukraine, then by extention so does Russia of Mogila’s. In other words, it’s not their self-id, but their place in the genesis of today’s language and culture which makes them Ukrainian?

  31. That said, Peter Mogila/Mohyla probably lived and died without having any idea he was a “Ukrainian,” since it’s apparently a rather anachronistic ethnic self-identification to retroject onto the early 17th century.
    That’s one of Snyder’s points. You’d probably actually like the book if you could bring yourself to accept his onomastic policy.

  32. Slightly off on a tangent, but it was illuminating for me at the time to learn that the protagonists in the Yugoslavian Civil War often referred to each other in religious terms. Use of national labels (Serb, Croat, Bosnian Muslim) in the Western press tended to obscure the fact that these ethnicities are separated more by religion than by language. Obviously it was a lot more complex than that, but that small difference in terminology brought a lot of things into focus for me.
    It sounds like Snyder does the same kind of thing on a much more ambitious and detailed scale, bringing into focus the world as it was then rather than our backward projections from the modern viewpoint.
    The problem with modern viewpoints is partly the rewriting of history by later nationalists etc. Another problem is that divisions that don’t seem intrinsic at the time become set in stone in following generations. It may take many decades before a change becomes entrenched and taken for granted as fundamental. (Even something like the American Revolution didn’t start out as a simple war between the ‘Americans’ and the ‘Brits’, to use the modern distinction. The terminology of the time, e.g., ‘Loyalists’, is essential in understanding the world in which these things happened.)

  33. Dmitry: It’s no worse than the Linnaean name of the Tokay gecko, which is Gekko gecko.

  34. David Marjanović says:

    Old Church Slavonic (which is linguistically speaking Old Bulgarian)

    In the sense of Bulgarian that includes Macedonian. Plus, I know of just one innovation it had that Slovene and BCSM lack.

    “But Western clergy and clerisy communicated fine in Latin, which was also not a spoken language. “

    From Linnaeus’ writing style in his books and his letters to colleagues, I’m sure he spoke Latin fluently and often.
    Pretty much the first lecture at a German university that was not in Latin happened in 1687.

    I can’t figure out from that how Snyder handles personal names (like that of Peter Mogila) for individuals who spoke and wrote in multiple languages and who lived in different locations and under different political regimes at different points in their lives. Do they change names from chapter to chapter, as if they were a city that had just changed hands in the latest war?

    That’s how people saw it themselves. Even today it’s how people treat the pronunciation of my first name – sometimes the same people change it depending on what language they’re speaking at the moment. 😐

    Gekko gecko

    There are lots more examples, like Babyrusa babiroussa.

  35. misguided enthusiasm for immersing his readers in his research subjects’ worldview
    Exactly so, except that I don’t think it’s at all misguided; I think it’s essential. His subject is not so much what happened in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after partition, but what the people living there made of it all.
    In the sense of Bulgarian that includes Macedonian.
    Until the 19th century, there is no other sense of Bulgarian. Similarly, the ancestor of Scottish Gaelic is called Old Irish even though at the beginning of the Old Irish period its speakers are already divided between Ireland and Scotland. But we do not speak of “Irish in the sense that includes Scottish Gaelic (and Manx, while we’re at it)”.
    Latin as a spoken language: The fact that people can lecture or even converse in certain subjects in a language does not make it a living language, which is what “spoken language” idiomatically implies, at least in linguist-speak. Living languages are acquired, not learned, and they are usable in all domains; if not, it is for lack of vocabulary, which can be added if the speakers have the collective will to do so.
    Gekko gecko
    Some people think it should have been Gekko fuckyou.

  36. In the early ’80s there was a brief gecko craze in NYC; they were supposed to keep your apartment free of cockroaches and other vermin. My then girlfriend and I succumbed to the mass hysteria and bought a gecko. We released it in the kitchen, whereupon it vanished into a recess in a wall and was never seen again.

  37. John Emerson says:

    It’s fairly common in the US for women named “Zoe” to pronounce it as a single syllable, as though the pronunciation “Zoey” were the familiar form. I’ve also met a “Nathalie” who pronounced her name to rhyme with bath-ily, and I have a HS craduate friend named Louie who doesn’t seem aware that Louis (pr. “Lewis”) is the same name.

  38. If I were a Macedonian nationalist, I could easily prove that Russian is a dialect of Macedonian. :-)))
    Since modern literary Russian is based largely on Old Church Slavonic which in turn is just an old version of modern Macedonian language….

  39. “Largely” is certainly an exaggeration. It’s true that there are whole chunks of Russian grammar which are Church Slavonic entirely, like the present participle, and a bunch of vocabulary doublets like golova ‘head’ / glava ‘chapter; chief’. But overall, Russian remains East Slavic.

  40. But nationalists don’t care a fig for your futile facts. They have a truthier truth.

  41. John Cowan says:

    Similarly, the ancestor of Scottish Gaelic is called Old Irish

    To their credit, though, Slavicists seem to have switched from “Old Russian” to “Old East Slavic”, at least when writing in English.

  42. David Marjanović says:

    I haven’t seen it in Russian yet, only древнерусский. But given the sample size that could be accidental sampling bias.

  43. How do you call in English the language of a country called Rus?

    Politically correct answer: Old East Slavic 😉

  44. I have seen “Old Rusian,” but that is of course a difficult distinction to maintain.

  45. Ukrainians even invented special word for it – rus’skiy.

    Not only difficult to spell, but almost unpronounceable in both languages.

  46. John Cowan says:

    My Irish brain does not understand these mixed palatalized/non-palatalized consonant clusters.

  47. January First-of-May says:

    I haven’t seen it in Russian yet, only древнерусский.

    To be fair, a literal translation of “Old East Slavic” would be unwieldly in Russian (древневосточнославянский? good luck getting anyone to accept that).

  48. How has the understanding of the names “Irish” for the people or their language and “Ireland” for their land changed throughout history? Were they less confined to the island of Ireland in the past so that it was once ordinary to refer to Goidelic speakers in Western Scotland or the Isle of Man as “Irish” (or the historical equivalent) and even those places as part of “Ireland”?

    The continuing use of the terms Primitive Irish, Old Irish, and Middle Irish (instead of Old Gaelic, Old Goidelic etc.) for the common predecessors of not just Modern Irish but Scottish Gaelic and Manx would seem to make more sense if “Irish” was historically a broader term than it is used today. But is this actually the case, or is it just another example of a dominant people or region standing in for the whole, just as we use the names Old English and Middle English for the common predecessors of English and Scots (or should we really be using names like Anglic or Insular West Germanic instead)?

  49. Primitive Irish

    That’s good one, though not very politically correct.

    I wonder how public would take the assertion that Beowulf was written in Primitive English or that Lay of Igor’s Host was in Primitive Russian?

  50. @Jongseong Park: Scottish Gaelic was called “Erse” in Scots till recent times. The word is now considered not nice. Cf. Walter Kennedy to William Dunbar, ca. 1500:

    Thou lufis nane irische elf I vnderstand
    Bot it suld be all trew scottis mēnis lede
    It was the gud langage of this land
    And scota it causit to multiply & speede
    Quhill corspatrik that we of tresoū rede
    Thy fore fader maid irisch & irisch men thin
    Throu his tresoū broght inglise rumplis in
    Sa wald thy self myt thou to him succede

  51. J.W. Brewer says:

    I daresay most 21st century Anglophones would take no offense at the language variety of Beowulf being called “Primitive English.” It’s the nations, ethnicities, speech communities etc. who are doing comparatively badly (objectively and/or by self-perception) in the political/economic/cultural turmoil of the present who are at pains to emphasize how glorious, civilized, and definitely-not-primitive-or-barbarous their remote forebears, actual or imagined, were. Those who are doing well at present tend not to feel the same compulsion.

  52. I think it may be a matter of which label was applied first. Having given the name of Old Irish to the oldest manuscripts as is customary (Old French was contemporaneous with Middle English, and Old Frisian is even younger), another name was needed for the older variety of the language on the ogham stones. Archaic Irish has been used, but is now rather … archaic in English, though archaisches Irisch is still current in German. (I had hoped for Uririsch, but no such luck.)

    Karlgren had similar problems: having called what is now known as Middle Chinese by the name of Ancient Chinese, the older language partly recoverable from the rhymes in the Book of Odes and the phonetic information in the oldest style of Chinese characters (written on oracle bones and bronze inscriptions) needed its own name, and he called it Archaic Chinese. The general renaming to the current terms was done after Karlgren’s time.

  53. David Marjanović says:

    I had hoped for Uririsch, but no such luck.

    That actually surprises me, because the language of Scandinavian inscriptions in the Elder Futhark is totally urnordisch. (Runic Norse or Proto-Norse in English.)

  54. January First-of-May says:

    древневосточнославянский? good luck getting anyone to accept that

    I was perhaps too hasty here; the Russian Wikipedia article does give that as an alternative form (complete with a citation).

  55. per incuriam says:

    How has the understanding of the names “Irish” for the people or their language and “Ireland” for their land changed throughout history? Were they less confined to the island of Ireland in the past so that it was once ordinary to refer to Goidelic speakers in Western Scotland or the Isle of Man as “Irish” (or the historical equivalent) and even those places as part of “Ireland”?

    If I may quote at some length from Hobsbawn’s The Invention of Tradition:

    “Indeed, the whole concept of a distinct Highland culture and tradition is a retrospective invention. Before the later years of the seventeenth century, the Highlanders of Scotland did not form a distinct people. They were simply the overflow of Ireland. On that broken and inhospitable coast, in that archipelago of islands large and small, the sea unites rather than divides and from the late fifth century, when the Scots of Ulster landed in Argyll, until the mid-eighteenth century, when it was ‘opened up’ after the Jacobite revolts, the West of Scotland, cut off by mountains from the East, was always linked rather to Ireland than to the Saxon Lowlands. Racially and culturally, it was a colony of Ireland.

    Even politically these two Celtic societies, of Ireland and the Western Highlands, merged into each other. The Scots of Dalriada retained, for a century, their foothold in Ulster. The Danes ruled equally over the Western Islands, the coasts of Ireland and the Isle of Man. And in the later Middle Ages the Macdonald Lords of the Isles were nearer and more effective rulers both in Western Scotland and in Northern Ireland than their nominal sovereigns, the kings of Scotland and England. Under their rule, the Hebridean culture was purely Irish. Their hereditary bards, physicians, harpers (for their musical instrument was the harp, not the pipes) came from Ireland. Even after the destruction of that lordship, the Macdonalds continued to be a force in both countries. It was not till the mid-seventeenth century that the Plantation of Ulster under English authority, and the rise of the Campbells to hegemony in the Western Highlands, broke that potential political unity. But the cultural unity, though weakened, continued. In the eighteenth century, the Western Islands were still essentially an Irish overflow, and the Gaelic language spoken there was regularly described, in the eighteenth century, as Irish.

    Being a cultural dependency of Ireland under the ‘foreign’, and somewhat ineffective, rule of the Scottish crown, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland were culturally depressed. Their literature, such as it was, was a crude echo of Irish literature. The bards of the Scottish chieftains came from Ireland or went thither to learn their trade. Indeed, we are told by an early eighteenth-century writer- an Irishman- that the Scottish bards were the rubbish of Ireland periodically cleared out of Ireland and deposited in that convenient dump. Even under the oppressive rule of England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Celtic Ireland remained, culturally, an historic nation while Celtic Scotland was, at best, its poor sister. It had- could have- no independent tradition.

    The creation of an independent Highland tradition, and the imposition of that new tradition, with its outward badges, on the whole Scottish nation, was the work of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It occurred in three stages. First, there was the cultural revolt against Ireland: the usurpation of Irish culture and the re-writing of early Scottish history, culminating in the insolent claim that Scotland – Celtic Scotland – was the’ mother-nation’ and Ireland the cultural dependency. Secondly, there was the artificial creation of new Highland traditions, presented as ancient, original and distinctive. Thirdly, there was the process by which these new traditions were offered to, and adopted by, historic Lowland Scotland: the Eastern Scotland of the Picts, the Saxons and the Normans.

    The first of these stages was achieved in the eighteenth century. The claim that the Celtic, Irish-speaking Highlanders of Scotland were not merely invaders from Ireland in the fifth century A.D., but had an ancient history in Scotland and were in fact the Caledonians who had resisted the Roman armies, was of course an old legend which had done good service in the past. It was effectively refuted in 1729 by the first and greatest of Scottish antiquaries, the Jacobite emigre priest, Thomas Innes. But it was reasserted in 1738 by David Malcolm and, more effectively, in the 1760s, by two writers of the same surname: James Macpherson, the ‘translator’ of Ossian, and the Rev. John Macpherson, minister of Sleat in the island of Skye. These two Macphersons, though unrelated, were known to each other- James Macpherson had stayed with the minister on his visit to Skye in search of ‘Ossian’ in 1760, and the minister’s son, afterwards Sir John Macpherson, governor general of India, would be his close friend and accomplice later- and they worked in concert. Between them, by two distinct acts of bold forgery, they created an indigenous literature for Celtic Scotland and, as a necessary support to it, a new history. Both this literature and this history, in so far as they had any connection with reality, had been stolen from the Irish.

    The sheer effrontery of the Macphersons must excite admiration. James Macpherson picked up Irish ballads in Scotland, wrote an ‘epic’ in which he transferred the whole scenario from Ireland to Scotland, and then dismissed the genuine ballads thus maltreated as debased modern compositions and the real Irish literature which they reflected as a mere reflection of them. The minister of Sleat then wrote a Critical Dissertation in which he provided the necessary context for ‘the Celtic Homer’ whom his namesake had ‘discovered’: he placed Irish-speaking Celts in Scotland four centuries before their historical arrival and explained away the genuine, native Irish literature as having been stolen, in the Dark Ages, by the unscrupulous Irish, from the innocent Scots.”

  56. per incuriam says:

    I daresay most 21st century Anglophones would take no offense at the language variety of Beowulf being called “Primitive English.”

    Not sure if that’s what SFReader is implying but I think it highly unlikely that Hibernophones would take offense at the use of the term Primitive Irish to denote the language of their forebears.

  57. January First-of-May says:

    Random mostly unrelated fleeting analogy that I decided to post here rather than on Twitter: it’s surprising, in retrospect, that the Linear B texts were read at all – it’s basically as if the Novgorod birch bark letters were written in katakana and discovered by people who could write and speak fluent Belarussian but thought the texts were probably in Estonian.

    (My mind goes to strange places sometimes. I’m reminded of a much more salient analogy putting the Song of Hiawatha into a Russian context; offhand, it was something along the lines of “the adventures of Tokhtamysh, son of Ilya Muromets (the ancient Slavic solar deity)”.
    Apparently it was written by Anna Korostelyova, whom I have quoted on other subjects several previous times in the comments of this blog; I’ll try to post the link later.)

  58. January First-of-May says:

    I’ll try to post the link later.

    Might as well do it: the post in question is here (the specific analogy I was talking about is described in the penultimate paragraph).

  59. Thank you, per incuriam and Rodger C. That was most illuminating on a topic I only had fleeting familiarity with.

    Are there any other languages besides Irish where the established term for the earliest historical stage includes “primitive”? “Archaic” seems to be the usual term when one needs something older than “old”.

  60. If necessary you could borrow some tricks from Randall Munroe – “Overwhelmingly Old Irish”, “Oppressively Archaic Irish”, “Mind-Numbingly Antiquated Irish”, “Despair Irish”.

  61. @SFReader: “Ukrainians even invented special word for it – rus’skiy.”

    It’s руський, hence rus’kyy, where the first y is Polish and the second is close to the y in yet. Pretty easy to pronounce if one’s first language is Ukrainian or Russian.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    from Randall Munroe

    It should be mentioned that the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope was so named not just because it would have been larger than the Extremely Large Telescope, but also so it could be abbreviated as OWL.

  63. the first y is Polish

    I thought Ukrainian и was simply “short i” (/ɪ/), not the Polish vowel.

  64. Pretty easy to pronounce

    but absolutely impossible to pronounce in a way that wouldn’t be misheard as the Russian word “russkiy”

  65. “I think it highly unlikely that Hibernophones would take offense at the use of the term Primitive Irish to denote the language of their forebears.”

    Maybe. The colonial description “mere Irish” is quoted today with levels of irony varying from 0 to 100.

  66. @LH: I thought Ukrainian и and Polish y both represent [ɪ].

  67. David Marjanović says:

    The Polish y is [ɘ] or something by default, approaching [ɨ] after (current or former) retroflexes. The Russian ы varies between [ɨ] and a diphthong [ɨɪ̯].

  68. The field of magnetoresistance provides a few more adjectives — giant, colossal, and extraordinary (and a bunch having nothing to do with the size). It could have been applied to telescopes directly and to Old Irish with some inventiveness like Giantly Colossally Extraordinarily Old Dead Ice Age Irish.

    It’s руський, hence rus’kyy …. but absolutely impossible to pronounce in a way that wouldn’t be misheard as the Russian word “russkiy”

    It’s the only way to do it in Ukrainian. I am unqualified to give you the rule on palatalization of consonant clusters, but it is a normal way Ukrainian does this type of things. The difficulty is the word itself and it’s distinction from (prescriptively) more traditional “rosijs’kiy”. Two words are very close synonyms with some people trying to carve out exception for rus’kiy that doesn’t include modern (15c. on or something:)) Russia.

    In Russian, the distinction is, of course, different with rossijskij more or less restricted to official designations pertaining to the state (with occasional branching out into more informal use) and never applicable to the language.

  69. @D.O.: One of my my professional colleagues works on solid state magnetism. He says that when he was in graduate school, they had a white board in one of the offices with the letters A to Z written out, and they tried to fill in each letter with an adjective describing a form of magnetoresistance. A was for “axial magnetoresistance (AMR),” which was the original form of magnetoresistance discovered by James Clerk Maxwell. “Giant magnetoresistance (GMR)” is the one that spawned the interest in having so many adjectives; it provides the way that magnetic fields are detected in hard drive read heads today, and it won the creators the Nobel Prize in 2007. However, most of the other terms just seemed to be invented to take advantage of the fame and importance of GMR My colleague was particularly dismissive of “colossal magnetoresistance (CMR),” an effect that was discovered decades before GMR, but was not named until the GMR revolution. The effect is not very interesting either, since it just involves inducing a metal-insulator phase transition by turning on a magnetic field.

  70. John Cowan says:

    Overwhelmingly Large Telescope

    OWL is also the acronym for the Web Ontology Language, with an allusion to Winnie-the-Pooh.

    “mere Irish”

    In the original context that meant the ‘pure[bred] Irish’, mere < Latin merus pure — as opposed to what I will call (with an allusion to American Indians) the hang-around-the-fort Irish. The Emperor Nero had a satirical nickname, TIberius Claudius Nero > biberius caldius [< calidus by metathesis] mero ‘drinker of hot pure [wine]’, people who drank wine unmixed with water being considered uncivilized. Judges still do things on their mere motion from time to time, that is, on their own hook without prompting from either side.

  71. per incuriam says:

    The colonial description “mere Irish” is quoted today with levels of irony varying from 0 to 100

    Yes, but that description applied to the Irish people, quite a different matter, especially considering that any perceived disparagement is by comparison to others rather than to a later version of itself, as in the case of Primitive Irish.

  72. Brett, well, that’s nice to know. My knowledge of magnetoresistance is limited to a few chuckles over somewhat pompous names and whatever physical idea can be gleaned from the word itself. And I am determined to keep it that way. Though when my hard drive misbehaves the next time I might exclaim “giant magnetoresistance!” with an expletive or two added for clarity.

  73. I thought Ukrainian и was simply “short i” (/ɪ/), not the Polish vowel.

    I believe in this particular case, the vowel being unstressed, it’s a good enough approximation.

    The standard phonological narrative for Ukrainian, as far as I’ve been able to understand, is the i-vowel and the y-vowel having converged into /ɪ/. In this, Ukrainian differs from its neighbor languages – Russian, Belarusian and Polish. But listening to Ukrainian as spoken on Ukrainian TV, I hear и realized closer to /ɨ/ than /ɪ/. I suspect that for most of those speakers, highly proficient as they may be, Ukrainian is a second language so Russian phonetics could be playing a part there.

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