Chuvash Gaining on Russian.

In a very minor, and possibly misleading, way, but still, Paul Goble passes on some tentative good news:

Hector Alos i Font, a Catalonian linguist who has been working in Chuvashia, says that the Chuvash language has improved its position relative to Russian as measured by signs put out for the New Year’s holiday but that the language of the titular nationality has a long way to go before achieving real equality as required by law.

On his Vkontake page, Alos i Font says that he is seeing “a striving toward parity” in the use of the two languages but that Russian is still predominant despite the campaign this year to boost the use of Chuvash in business and other public spaces in the Middle Volga republic (

Thanks for the link, Paul!


  1. Chuvash is faring better than other regional languages, because of demographics – the Chuvash are a solid majority of population both in the republic and in the capital Cheboksary.

    The Chuvash language is thought to be closely related to language of the Huns, it would be pity if it vanished.

  2. As much as I enjoy Goble’s blog, his observations on sociolinguistic trends should always be taken with a grain of salt. In the case of Chuvash, recent efforts of some ethnic activists have not managed to overcome much vaster demographic trends. In the wake of the 2008 crisis, movement of young people away to Moscow has increased. Also, the Russian state has also made attempts this year to settle more ethnic Russians in the Cheboksary area to dilute the Chuvash component.

  3. Several hundred thousand refugees from war-torn Ukraine fled into Russia in 2014.

    Russian government took steps to resettle the refugees (who were mostly ethnic Russians or Russian-speaking Ukrainians) throughout the country.

    Each region was given a quota of Ukrainian refugees to settle.

    Nationalistic circles in ethnic republics represented this plan as a move to change ethnic balance in republics, which I think is pure bullshit, since quota was pretty fairly allocated among all regions, including purely ethnic Russian oblasts.

    I think devaluation of rouble will have a larger effect on ethno-demographic composition of the country by removing incentives to work in Russia for several million Central Asian gastarbeiters.

  4. “Nationalistic circles in ethnic republics represented this plan as a move to change ethnic balance in republics, which I think is pure bullshit, since quota was pretty fairly allocated among all regions, including purely ethnic Russian oblasts.”

    It is precisely that “fair allocation” among regions that threaten minority peoples, and Moscow certainly knows it. Sending a certain amount of these refugees to ethnic Russian regions would not dilute use of Russian one bit, but sending the same share to non-Russian republics has a much more drastic effect on the titular nationalities and their languages due to their smaller size and the challenges they already face. Throughout the 20th century the USSR and post-Soviet Russia used “fair”, “country-wide” policies to intentionally reduce titular nationalities’ autonomy and the visibility of their languages in public, so it is only reasonable to assume the same is being done in this case, as part of killing several birds with one stone.

  5. Chuvash Republic with population of 1.2 million received 2000 Ukrainian refugees.

    This is supposed to “dilute ethnic balance”?

  6. The majority of refugees (and workers at the relocated factory) are expected to stay in the Cheboksary area. Cheboksary is a decisive place for the survival of the Chuvash language, as without high visibility in the capital city the language will suffer all the more from the negative image of a dying village language. Any added share of Russians to the population of the area is a substantial threat to Chuvash. Needless to say, any ethnic Russians who stay are not going to be learning Chuvash, and will resist any efforts to impart Chuvash to their children through education. (One need only look north to Mari El to see how these already played out for the Mari decades ago.). Again, Moscow knows this, and this is simple part and parcel of its longstanding disingenous approach to minorities.

  7. Cheboksary has population of 468 thousand. It’s population is about 63%.

    If all 2000 Ukrainian refugees settle permanently in Cheboksary, ethnic Chuvash share of city’s population would drop to 468,000*0.63/(468,000+2,000)*100%= 62,7%, that is by 0.3%.

  8. Now, obviously, if there was an influx on the scale of tens of thousands ethnic Russians/Ukrainians, then that would indeed change ethnic balance in the republic, though probably not enough to remove Chuvash ethnic majority.

    However, for such exodus to occur, Ukraine would have to collapse completely, resulting in inflow of millions or even tens of millions of refugees into Russia alone.

    Let’s hope it will not come to that.

  9. You are overlooking a great many details: 1) a certain portion of ethnic Russian arrivals have a guaranteed place of work due to the relocated factory and other development with ethnic Russians in mind, so they will stay, while the outflow of ethnic Chuvash continues; 2) these arrivals and the general context in which they come have brought a lot of ethnic Russian pressure, which limits the ability of the Chuvash to express opposition to Moscow-driven policies, to openly seek links with other Volga peoples (and other minorities of Russia in general) to resist ethnic Russian influence, and to increase their ties with other states; 3) these arrivals are promised to be exempt from mandatory learning of the titular nationality’s language, which will have ramifications for generations to come. All this has an impact on the strength of Chuvash in the capital far more than a “0.3%” drop in the Chuvash proportion.

    Looking at successful minority policies elsewhere, one can see that the best course of action to protect minority languages is to try to avoid any resettlement of the country’s ethnic majority there, and if such settlement is really felt unavoidable, then schooling in the local language must be mandatory. After many decades of case studies in this worldwide, one must assume that Moscow is perfectly aware of this, and has chosen to take these steps regardless of the potential effect on minority regions.

  10. Regarding Mari El, situation there is incomparable to Chuvashia. The Maris have been a minority in the region for eight decades, they speak two mutually unintelligible languages – Meadow Mari and Hill Mari and they form very small minority in the capital of Yoshkar-Ola.

    The trend towards decline of use of both Mari languages appears to be irreversible. It was delayed by Soviet nationalities policy for long enough anyways.

  11. I think you should change your assumptions about realities on the ground in Russia’s Volga republics since you appear to confuse them with republics of North Caucasus.

    There is no underlying ethnic conflict between ethnic Russians and titular nationalities and never existed. In traditionally Russian Orthodox republics of Chuvashia, Komi, Udmurtia, Mari El and Mordovia, titular nationalities have Russian names and surnames, speak fluent Russian and are generally indistinguishable from ethnic Russians.

    That’s the reason behind the “outflow of ethnic Chuvash” you mentioned. Since there are no actual ethnic or cultural barriers, the Chuvash do move into more prosperous regions instantly assimilating into Russian society.

    From political point of view, Chuvash republic has no conflict with the Moscow, though previous Chuvash leader sometimes clashed with President Yeltsin in 1990s. It is pretty much an ordinary Russian region these days, with leader of the republic appointed from Moscow.

    There is no real political opposition and certainly no ethnic Chuvash one.

    The only potential flashpoint in Chuvashia as in other Volga republics is a spread of Wahhabi Islamic extremism among Muslim minorities (in Chuvashia, it’s mostly Tatars).

    Hopefully, it can and will be contained.

  12. I hear that Russian authorities are wary of promoting local languages in the regions. They see it as a slippery slope to the rise of nationalism.

  13. for several million Central Asian gastarbeiters.
    With respect, may I query the use of the word ‘gastarbeiters’ in this context.
    It may have lost its perjorative meaning in Germany or South European Slavic countries, but in Russia it has, I understand, a strongly xenophobic, racist flavour.

  14. SFReader, all my views on Chuvash (as well other Volga languages and their speakers) are based on realities on the ground. I have travelled to Chuvashia a number of times for fieldwork or simply for leisure. With regard to Chuvashia and Mari El, you yourself might benefit from more time spent among the non-Russians there.

    “There is no underlying ethnic conflict between ethnic Russians and titular nationalities and never existed.”

    Oh, there certainly is conflict. In Chuvash-speaking circles, once people trust you, complaints about the Russian language and that majority of local Russians who refuse to respect Chuvash is frequent. A reduction in the amount of ethnic Russians in the republic is very much desired.

    “It is pretty much an ordinary Russian region these days, with leader of the republic appointed from Moscow.”

    You don’t think the fact that it seems to outsiders an “ordinary Russian region” has anything to do with the fact that republic heads are now appointed by Moscow and are instructed to minimize any divergence from the mainstream?

  15. My theory is much simpler. For ideological reasons, Soviet government maintained expensive policy of supporting minority languages and cultures.

    These ideological reasons are now removed and the old policy went away (though local authorities do continue to support local languages to the extent of their limited resources).

    And we are now seeing the result.

    Why publish a book in a small minority language if publication in Russian gives you a market of 200 million potential readers?

    Why bother learning to read fluently your native minority language if concentrating on improving your Russian reading skills gives you much better education prospects?

    Etc, etc.

    As for rise of ethnic nationalism, I think it’s largely dead as a credible threat to Russia’s unity.

    These days, what worries the Kremlin is rise of Islamic extremism. And Islamic extremists don’t care about local languages or cultures either.

    In fact, most of their propaganda clips on Youtube uses Russian language

  16. I only passed through these regions and haven’t lived there for extended time, but I do have ethnic Chuvash friends from Cheboksary and they tell me exactly same thing – there is no ethnic conflict and never was and that Chuvash and Russians are virtually indistinguishable.

    Regarding to “Chuvash-speaking circles” you mentioned, you probably met nationalistic fringe elements which don’t represent majority of Chuvash people.

    If they express desire to ethnically cleanse Chuvashia from its Russian minority, they certainly must be extremists of some sort.

  17. -gastarbeiters

    Is it now considered an offensive term? I had no idea!

  18. —republic heads are now appointed by Moscow

    Vladimir Putin won Russian Presidential elections of 2012 in Chuvash republic with 57,93% of the vote. Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov received 20,58% of the vote in Chuvashia and the liberal, pro-Western candidate Prokhorov came third with only 5,52%.

    That’s the political reality on the ground in Chuvashia. It’s a deeply conservative and ideologically backward place with not the slightest hint of opposition to Moscow.

  19. In general, your analysis looks very simplistic.

    It’s like if a Russian scholar attempted to analyze situation in the UK believing that there was an underlying ethnic conflict between ethnic Scots and ethnic English!

    There is no such ethnic conflict as everyone who read British press knows. There is some form of political standoff between the current regional government of Scotland and central government in London, but it has no ethnic dimension.

    And that’s exactly the situation in Chuvashia and most of ethnic republics in Russia (North Caucasus exempted).

    If you look for signs of ethnic conflict in the UK, you should go to Northern Ireland. The conflict in Northern Ireland has numerous parallels in Russian Caucasus (Ingush-Ossetian ethnic conflict is probably the closest comparison).

    Elsewhere in the UK, there is an ongoing racial tension between immigrants, especially from Muslim countries, and local British population. Again, very similar tension exists in Russia where local Russians sometimes clash with immigrants from Central Asia or Caucasus.

    Finally, large parts of Caucasus are zone of Russia’s war on terror. UK is fortunate in not having this problem at home. The Brits fight their war on terror far from home in Afghanistan.

  20. Christopher Culver knows the region well, whereas you have just passed through. You might be more careful about tossing around terms like “simplistic.” Also, your Chuvash friends may very well tell you what they know you want to hear. That’s how these things work. (Most men were utterly convinced, before the coming of feminism, that women were content with their lot; after all, the women they knew never told them anything different.)

  21. SFReader, you are Russian and, what’s more, an apologist for assimilation of ethnic minorities. It is no surprise that you would hear little of anti-Russian views, because people who hold such views keep quiet unless they know their interlocutor would respect their views. Your “ethnic Chuvash” friends count for little, because one may identify as an ethnic Chuvash on the basis of ancestry while still abandoning markers of Chuvash identity. Election figures mean nothing, as even if they are not greatly falsified, it is a frequent complaint here that one’s employer obliges one to vote for ER as a condition of keeping one’s job. Again, I think it would be enlightening for you to spend more time in Volga region, if you could find some way of obscuring your origin.

    When I say that there is widespread discontent with ethnic Russian influence among “Chuvash-speaking circles”, I do not mean small group of “extremists”; I mean any Chuvash village I stop to spend the night in, where as soon as the vodka and salo comes out, I hear the same bitter dislike of Russian domination as one hears among most non-Russian peoples of the former Soviet Union. There certainly is an ethnic dimension to this, as the discontent is based on ethnic markers such as language.

    Finally, you show very little understanding of minority language issues in general, let alone within your own country. Before claiming that people have to choose between Russian skills or a mastery of their own language (there’s no need to make a choice, both can be learned, as two parallel languages are learned successfully in many educational systems around the world), or that the Sovet nationalities policy was helpful (it was generally disingenous), you’d do better to familiarize yourself with the subject of language policy. Skutnabb-Kangas’s publications are a good starting point and fairly accessible to a wide audience.

    This will be my last post on the subject, as LH sometimes dislikes long debate in his comment threads.

  22. Trond Engen says

    This will be my last post on the subject, as LH sometimes dislikes long debate in his comment threads.

    I hope not. I find this discussion very enlightening.

    And I was reminded of another question I’ve been having for some time. What’s the role of the Church in this? I get the impression that it’s positioning itself as the bearer of Russian national identity, but I’d think its position is even stronger in the mostly rural minority regions, where it’s the center of the village and, I guess, the only functioning local institution.

  23. This will be my last post on the subject, as LH sometimes dislikes long debate in his comment threads.

    No, no, I dislike it when debate turns into heated and personal argument, but I enjoy a vigorous exchange of views, and like Trond Engen I find this discussion very enlightening.

  24. Trond Engen says

    I mean, I suppose it’s simple in Chuvashia and other regions that are traditionally Muslim (or of any other non-Orthodox-Christian faith), but how does it work where the minority has a long history of Orthodox Christianity?

  25. The Chuvash are Orthodox, aren’t they?

  26. Trond Engen says

    Yes, sorry, I first wrote Tataria, but for some reason I changed it. We might conclude that I really need this discussion…

  27. “Why bother learning to read fluently your native minority language if concentrating on improving your Russian reading skills gives you much better education prospects?”

    This sort of thing can actually spark full-scale language movements.

  28. Russian Orthodox Church is trying to regain its position as a bearer of Russian ethnic identity.

    So far, majority of Russians remain either atheists or profess to be Orthodox without practicing religion in any meaningful sense.

    Traditionally Orthodox ethnic minority regions like Chuvashia are also more rural and hence tend to be more religious than average Russians.

  29. In some areas, tradition of Russian Orthodox Christianity is not very deep and there are attempts to revive pre-Russian pagan religious traditions.

    As a matter of fact, there are pagan revivalists even among ethnic Russians (even though Russians have been Christian for one thousand years).

  30. A few demographic facts about Chuvashia.

    Chuvash make about 67 percent of population in Chuvash Republic. The next largest ethnic group – Russians – are only 26%.

    Chuvash are primarily rural – about 52 percent live in rural areas. Russians are primarily urban – only 14 percent of Russians in Chuvash republic live in rural areas.

    Thus, in rural areas of Chuvashia, the ethnic Chuvash outnumber Russians with 9:1 ratio.

    Moreover, ethnic Russian villages are concentrated in the west, near neighbouring Nizhny Novgorod region. This means that the remainder of rural Chuvashia is almost entirely ethnic Chuvash (with small ethnic Tatar rural area near southern border with Tatarstan).

    Thus, about 90% of rural Chuvashia is a conterminous ethnic Chuvash area without any Russians.

    Since almost everybody here is Chuvash, the language spoken here is Chuvash.

    Primary schools in rural Chuvashia teach in Chuvash and then switch to Russian.

    Situation in urban areas is much more worrying. Even though the Chuvash are a majority here as well (they outnumber urban Russians with 1.4:1 ratio), the primary language in cities is Russian. Chuvash has low prestige and ethnic Chuvash prefer to speak in Russian.

    The Chuvash republican government is trying to strengthen position of Chuvash, but so far with little success.

    Demographic trends among Chuvash are close to ethnic Russian. Birth rates are very low, there is a natural decrease of population as well as increasing outmigration.

    Outside Chuvashia, there is an increasing trend towards abandoning ethnic Chuvash identity.

  31. Since 1989, ethnic Chuvash population in Chuvashia decreased by 92 thousand or 11 percent. Ethnic Russian population in the republic decreased by 34 thousand or 10 percent.

    Ethnic Chuvash share in population decreased slightly from 67,8% in 1989 to 67.7% in 2010.

    It doesn’t appear likely that influx of ethnic Russians is the most challenging problem for Chuvash national cause.

  32. It’s hard for a language without cities to maintain itself in the modern era. Catalan survived despite Spanish government persecution because Barcelona; Occitan had no such cities and is losing users rapidly as a result.

  33. It may be getting a lot easier for the lesser languages to maintain their standing in the era of the Internet and the micro-publishing? Big-city media institutions aren’t the must-have instrument of survival anymore…

  34. “It may be getting a lot easier for the lesser languages to maintain their standing in the era of the Internet and the micro-publishing?”

    Not necessarily. It’s been observed that some of the most active minority-language bloggers in Russia do not speak the language to their children, which means that for all their flourishing on the web, they are not being transmitted to the next generation.

    This has to do with the fact that the internet is seen as a quasi-anonymous environment where people feel free to express themselves without consequence (hence all the vitriol one sees in blogs’ comment sections). Speaking to one’s children, however, is often a public act (you’ll be heard at the supermarket, the playground, etc.). Russians in some minority republics can be very disapproving when they witness the minorities using their languages in public, and even when the Russians standing around are actually understanding, it’s too late, the shame at using one’s language in public is already deeply inculcated.

  35. Another factor which may be relatively unique to Russia is the tradition of sending the city kids to the distant relatives in villages in summer. My Mishar friend grew in a big city speaking no Tatar and having a fairly limited passive knowledge of it. The very first summer in the village, where speaking Russian was actively frowned upon, changed it.

  36. “Another factor which may be relatively unique to Russia is the tradition of sending the city kids to the distant relatives in villages in summer.”

    While this might work for some minorities, for others children coming to the villages can actually be a vector for russianization. When children have been pressured in the cities or at boarding schools to abandon their languages, they are likely to retain that sense of shame when they go to the villages, and so they will continue to speak Russian even if the environment around them is a minority-language one. If villagers already have a reduced sense of pride in their language due to the scorn of the Russian majority, they will switch to Russian more readily than the city kid will speak in the local language. Village youth witnessing this process are then more likely to perpetuate it.

  37. Wow, this is an extraordinarily interesting discussion. I had no idea of some of the dynamics involved.

  38. From a completely uninformed standpoint, I have to say I felt a slight twinge of skepticism when I read that a Catalonian linguist asserts that the Chuvash language is faring better, especially when the evidence for this is New Year’s greetings. Wishful thinking by an advocate of minority languages? (Not that I’m against preserving minority languages.)

    At the same time, he insists that Chuvash has a long way to go. Christopher Culver’s interesting comments confirm this.

  39. J.W. Brewer says

    I expect that the language policy of the Russian Orthodox Church has, like that of the various secular regimes in the area (Czarist, Communist, and whatever-it-is-now) varied considerably over time and space, but here’s an interesting piece on “The development of an indigenous Orthodox clergy and liturgical life among the Turkic Chuvash people of the Volga region” in the last few decades before the Bolshevik Yoke descended. The IBT people (who specialize in Bible translations for the non-Slavic languages of the former USSR) have a heavily evangelical-Protestant vibe (Mr. Culver may have some opinions on them, since they do a lot of work out of Helsinki which tends to be into various Uralic languages, recently finishing the entire Bible – well, at least the entire Prot canon — in Udmurt), and the post-Communist Orthodox hierarchy has often been extremely suspicious of / hostile toward ev-Prot missionary activity, but I believe that with respect to at least some of the IBT projects they have had positive feedback/appreciation from the local Orthodox hierarchy.

  40. Thanks for the link!

    It turns out that Gospels were translated into Chuvash decades earlier than into modern Russian!

    Russian Orthodox Church stubbornly insisted on relying on Old Church Slavonic translation instead (which differs from modern Russian as much as, say, Bulgarian).

    On Chuvash clergy. A while ago, we discussed on Language hat, probable Chuvash origin of famous Sinologist father Iakinf (Bichurin).

  41. Russian Orthodox Church stubbornly insisted on relying on Old Church Slavonic translation instead

    As discussed at LH here in 2004.

  42. J.W. Brewer says

    One could say that precisely because the services are chanted in OCS rather than Russian, there’s no structurally built in Russophone dominance. Even if the entirety of the liturgy is not shifted into some alternative vernacular language, one can pair an OCS liturgy with the priest routinely using Chuvash (or Udmurt, or Buryat, or Aleut, or what have you) for preaching, teaching, hearing confessions, informal counseling etc as easily as you can with the priest using Russian for those functions — assuming, of course, an adequate stock of clergy fluent in Chuvash. It’s not unlike the way that the Latin Mass in Western Europe didn’t create a huge structural advantage for Spanish-speaking clergy dealing with Spanish-speaking laity over German-speaking clergy dealing with German-speaking laity even though one of those vernaculars had a closer ancestral link to Latin.

  43. I have been thinking that the sad fate of minority languages in Russia is quite a strange phenomenon.

    Historically, decline of native languages everywhere was accompanied with large influx of migrants from the majority population and their demographic predominance.

    In Russia, situation is exactly opposite. The majority population is suffering from long-time demographic decline and there is a continuing out-migration of ethnic Russians from minority areas into big, Russian-speaking cities.

    So, a question can be asked how is it possible for a linguistic assimilation to take place under such circumstances?

    Moreover, minority peoples are generally more rural and theoretically they should have higher growth rates than ethnic Russians.

    This is true for some nationalities, but not for people of Middle Volga region who have even worse demographic trends than Russians (despite being significantly more rural as in Chuvash example).

    However, it is quite clear that even ethnic groups with very high population growth rates feel that their native languages are threatened.

    This is especially true in Dagestan, multi-ethnic Muslim republic in Caucasus with very small Russian minority (about 3 percent), which nevertheless is likely to become majority Russian-speaking quite soon.

    This is because Mahachkala and other Dagestani cities are overwhelmingly Russian-speaking, since no single nationality predominates there, so people from different ethnicities in the city simply have to speak Russian in order to understand each other.

    John Cowan said that it is difficult for a language to sustain itself without cities. And this is exactly what is happening in Dagestan despite its very high, almost African level population growth rates, lack of significant numbers of ethnic Russians and strong racial, cultural and religious differences between Dagestanis and Russians.

    Neighbouring Chechnya and Ingushetia also lack Russian ethnic minority and are almost mono-ethnic with Chechens and Ingush making over 90% of population in their respective republics. Nevertheless, ask any Ingush and he will bitterly complain that younger generation of Ingush doesn’t speak their native language or speaks it very badly.

    What exactly is happening there and why the younger Ingush won’t speak their language even though they managed to get almost all ethnic Russians out of Ingushetia?

    Why do people stop speaking their native language if there are less and less ethnic Russians in their region with each passing year?

    This is a troubling question and I am interested to hear some theoretical explanations for this phenomenon.

  44. Evidently Russian is no longer thought of as the language of Russian ethnicity in these places, but as the language of upward mobility along economic and cultural lines. Similarly, once the elite in Ireland came to speak English, the fate of Irish was sealed, though it took a long time. The same story applies to Slovene in Carinthia (though of course that shift doesn’t threaten Slovene as a whole), and probably to the IE languages once spoken in what is now Turkey. Per contra, Finnish is thriving in Finland at least partly because the number of Finnish-speakers rose steadily in Helsinki and other cities throughout the 20C, terminating the elite dominance of Swedish.

  45. J. W. Brewer says

    I’m not sure which “IE languages once spoken in what was now Turkey” JC is referring to. The ones that lost market share two millenia ago as Asia Minor became overwhelmingly Greek-speaking? The dominance of Turkish vis a vis Greek/Armenian/Kurdish over the course of the most recent century in that part of the world seems to me to have had more to do with brute force than with upward mobility.

  46. I assumed the reference was to the Greek which started losing out to Turkish a millennium or so ago, although the plural “languages” now makes me doubt that. (Anyone interested in that process should read Speros Vryonis, Jr.’s The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh Through the Fifteenth Century.)

  47. 1-I am guessing that JC was thinking of the various Anatolian languages which had been replaced by Greek in Anatolia long before Turkish was spoken there.

    2-I am amazed that anyone (Especially among the readers of this blog!) could be surprised by the fact that L1 speakers of Russian needn’t be ethnically Russian: even a non-specialist such as myself knows that the Soviet census asked separate questions about mother tongue and ethnicity/nationality, and that Soviet census numbers indicated a steady rise in the number of Russian L1 speakers among members of most non-Russian nationalities: indeed in the case of Soviet Jews most were L1 speakers of Russian (I am fairly certain I read about that in Bernard Comrie’s THE LANGUAGES OF THE SOVIET UNION).

    3-SFReader: actually, large-scale language shift in a context where native speakers of the prestige language have undergone a sharp demographic decline/reversal of fortunes immediately before the shift in question takes place is not rare. Angola, for instance, is a country where large-scale shift to Portuguese on the part of Black Angolans (originally L1 speakers of Bantu languages) only took place *after* the departure of most White (=L1 Portuguese-speaking) colonists.

    To repeat a point I made once on another thread here at Language Hat, linguistic prestige always beats demographics: if people believe their low-prestige language is worthless and that they must speak to their children in a high- prestige language, then the low-prestige language is doomed. No matter how many children L1 speakers of the low-prestige language have.

  48. I meant the replacement of Greek (and possibly other languages) by Turkish without the actual replacement of locals by invaders.

    linguistic prestige always beats demographics

    Not always, or they’d be speaking Anglo-French in Grand-Bretagne today.

  49. A list of Soviet nationalities with Russian as their first language includes Jews, Germans, Koreans and a few more. Poles in Russian Federation too, but not Poles in Lithuania.

    Interestingly, it appears that Russian enjoys such a high prestige that Russian Jewish emigrants to United States and even repatriants to Israel continue to pass the language to new generations even after emigration/repatriation.

    This never happened to other emigrant languages in the US or in Israel, AFAIK.

  50. I wonder if linguistic assimilation would be followed by ethnic assimilation.

    I guess the answer would be yes for non-Muslim Volga nationalities and no to Caucasus Muslims.

    Russia is likely to end up with significant Russian-speaking Muslim population who will not identify themselves as ethnic Russians.

    Quite possibly, they will form a new ethnic group which would be called Dagestanis, Caucasians or simply Muslims.

  51. J. W. Brewer says

    This is not the sort of area where “always” is a good word to use . . . Sometimes conquerors adopt the language of the conquered, sometimes the other way around. Sometimes linguistic assimilation precedes cultural assimilation; sometimes it follows it. The percentage of residents of Anatolia who are L1 Turkish-speakers has sometimes been increased by assimilation but other times increased by mass ethnic cleansing. The Ashkenazim who came to the U.S. from the USSR and its successor fragments over the last four decades by and large have markedly different (i.e., generally more positive) attitudes toward the Russian language and its literature than those who came to the U.S. from the Romanovs’ empire a century prior did (not least because of the intervening collapse of Yiddish fluency among Soviet Jewry). Etc etc.

  52. Something strange is also happening with Russian Germans in Germany.

    German is definitely the prestige language in Germany, but ethnic German repatriants from ex-Soviet Union continue to speak Russian at home which looks like to stay as second largest language in Germany (spoken by about 5 percent of population).

  53. The Ashkenazim who came to the U.S. from the USSR and its successor fragments over the last four decades by and large have markedly different (i.e., generally more positive) attitudes toward the Russian language and its literature than those who came to the U.S. from the Romanovs’ empire a century prior did (not least because of the intervening collapse of Yiddish fluency among Soviet Jewry).

    On a recent visit to a Jewish cemetery in Toronto I was struck by the number of new gravestones whose inscriptions were entirely in Russian (or at least in a language written in the Cyrillic alphabet). The inscriptions on the very oldest stones in the cemetery were engraved mostly in Yiddish with a bit of English — sometimes only the family name. Newer “conventional” gravestones showed a mix of Hebrew and English, Yiddish having fallen completely out of favor.

  54. German is definitely the prestige language in Germany, but ethnic German repatriants from ex-Soviet Union continue to speak Russian at home which looks like to stay as second largest language in Germany (spoken by about 5 percent of population).

    This has to do more with the recency of immigration (starting basically in the 90s). Those who immigrated as adults mostly spoke (and often still speak) German badly, and feel more comfortable with Russian, so use that mostly at home. From what I see among the ethnic Germans from Russia I know, the children born in Germany show the usual immigrant patterns – speaking Russian at home with their parents and elder relatives, but German with their peers, except when they are with Russophone peers and don’t want to be understood. They all learn German for upward mobility and I even know a few families who didn’t want their children to learn and speak Russian in order to concentrate on learning and speaking German. I’d say that in 30-40 years, most of these immigrants and their descendants will be predominantly German-speaking.

    On sending children to the villages: My wife’s family (Russian-speaking Kazakh, like most city Kazakhs) told me how they once sent one of my nephews to a village in order to learn Kazakh. When they came back to take him home, the children were all speaking Russian with him – it’s the prestige language and they used the opportunity of having this “city slicker” around to improve their own fluency. I have heard similar stories also from other Kazakhs.

  55. J. W. Brewer says

    Paul O.: It is also true in the NYC area that Jewish cemeteries (well, extrapolating from a sample size of one which I’ve had occasion to visit . . .) have a noticeable amount of Cyrillic on newish gravestones. I think I might have seen one or two that were some other non-English goyische language written in Latin script (maybe Romanian or Hungarian?) but that was notable because of its rarity whereas Cyrillic-script ones were notable for their frequency.

    Hans: that “in the village” problem can be ubiquitous for Anglophones. When I was a teenage exchange student in West Germany many many moons ago, many German teenagers I interacted with were more interested in getting native-speaker practice on their English than offering me native-speaker practice with my German, plus their English was objectively much stronger than my German so it was often the path of least resistance in terms of communicative efficiency. I do recall somewhat hilariously having a few very slow-paced conversations with another exchange student at the same gymnasium, who was a girl from France whose German was better than her English (and my German was by definition better than my non-existent French). On the other hand, I know some born-and-raised-in-NYC American teenagers who spend their summers at their grandmother’s farm in rural Montenegro, where they speak to their cousins/uncles/etc almost exclusively in the Former Yugoslav Language of Serbo-Croatian. Maybe the local school system hasn’t given that branch of their family enough English to want to practice with, or maybe the social dynamics are different.

  56. Jewish cemeteries

    In an effort to keep my earlier post simple I didn’t mention that I saw the Cyrillic script phenomenon on two cemeteries in Toronto. It’s also observable in Israel, where the gravestones in Jewish cemeteries are almost all inscribed in Hebrew alone.

  57. I am looking at results of 2010 Russian census.

    It appears that language of titular nationality is spoken by overwhelming majority of population only in two Russian republics – about 85 percent in Chechnya and 80% in Tuva.

    In Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, titular language (Kabardin in Kabardino-Balkaria) is spoken between 50 to 60 percent of population.

    In Tatarstan, Yakutia and Chuvash republic, titular language is spoken between 40 to 50 percent of population.

    In remaining republics, situation is much worse. The worst case is Karelia, where Karelian is spoken by 3 percent of population.

    While Chechen and Tuvin have few problems at present, it is hard to see how are they going to compete with Russian in the long run. These republics are poor and undeveloped and don’t have much of high culture either.

    Tatar which is spoken in one of the richest and most developed regions in Russia is probably the only viable language which can survive on bilingual model of some European countries.

    Enormous resource wealth of Yakutia means that Yakut has a chance too, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  58. Some of the Cyrillic-script gravestones in NYC’s Jewish cemeteries must be from the Bukhara Jews who moved to NYC en masse and whose language is written in Cyrillic. They also introduced the now-ubiquitous gravestone fad to NYC: the stones with halftone engravings of photographs

  59. Stefan Holm says

    I don’t know, SFReader, if your alias points to your being a fan of science fiction or not but anyhow I find your arguments in this thread closer to science than to fiction: Preservation of languages is in the final analysis a matter of ordinary people’s choice and not the preferences or faithful wishing of governments or even scientific establishments. In that sense language is a pretty ‘democratic’ thing.

    A hundred years ago Swedish was absolutely necessary if you wanted to make a social career in Finland. Today the percentage of L1 speakers of Swedish has decreased to perhaps fewer than five. Still nobody accuses the Finnish authorities for being hostile against Swedish. On the contrary it still in all respects enjoys equal legal status with Finnish and is furthermore mandatory from high school for Finnish L1 students.

    Of course there are people in both Finland and Sweden who find this a sad thing and wishes to turn the tide. But where can you find the arguments appealing to those who are actually concerned – the expected speakers?

    Basically the same must be valid for Russia so I find your ‘predictions’ reasonable. As far as I know Russian is still the prefered language even in the streets of Kiev/Kyiv.

  60. “Still nobody accuses the Finnish authorities for being hostile against Swedish.”

    Juha Janhunen, a very prominent Finnish linguist who chose early on in life to embrace speaking Swedish, has often argued in local press that Swedish is doomed without a political separation. The Finnish state’s preference to keep Swedes within a bilingual Finland is killing Swedish gently, while a monolingual independent/super-autonomous Swedish-speaking state formed out of the Swedish regions is what is really needed.

  61. Still nobody accuses the Finnish authorities for being hostile against Swedish.

    But the Russian language policies of the Baltic countries remain a target of complaints and fairly inflammatory accusations to these days. In fact it strikes me that we most often hear the high-placed laments about the decay of minority languages in Russia in a kind of a political “you-are-even-worse” game. Pretty much in response to Russia’s criticism. Like just yesterday, Estonian President complained that Russia’s seaport development is a supposed attack on Vot language. (A few years back the Estonian delegation even stormed out of a Finno-Ugric congress held in Khanty-Mansiysk, accusing Russia of hostile minority language policies, immediately after some Russian politician mentioned Russophone minority rights).

    I find it sad.

  62. a monolingual independent/super-autonomous Swedish-speaking state formed out of the Swedish regions is what is really needed

    Languages need a stable territory, true. But (excluding Åland, which is entirely swedophone and already autonomous), there are only 15 municipalities of Finland out of 300 that are majority swedophone, and only 3 of these are officially monolingual rather than officially bilingual. Indeed, about half of swedophones live in officially monolingual finnophone municipalities, and creating a Swedish-speaking state will not help them in the least.

  63. J. W. Brewer says

    The Chechen language is probably doing so well in part because the ethnic-Russian percentage of the population of Chechnya has apparently declined from almost 25% in the late 1980’s to less than 2% at the most recent census. If the same sort of dramatic demographic shift had occurred in Estonia and Latvia they would not currently have significant Russian-language-policy issues to deal with, although they might understandably think the Chechen approach to the situation had a number of undesirable side effects. I suppose the situation of Karelian is probably now so parlous that it would not be much helped by Finnish reacquisition of the territory Stalin stole from them, and doing so would under present conditions just give the Finns the unwanted headache of their own Russophone minority.

    I suppose part of the problem is that the sort of demographic shifts and ethnic migrations and whatnot that typically affect the status of particular languages often have the same linguistic effects regardless of whether the historical circumstances that led to them were benign or evil (and of course you can typically find some of both in any given chain of causation, with the proportions varying depending on the timescale you use).

  64. I suppose the situation of Karelian is probably now so parlous that it would not be much helped by Finnish reacquisition of the territory Stalin stole from them

    I have been wondering lately what Russian nationalists who claim that it was perfectly natural for Russia to take over the Crimea, since it was so recently part of Russia and everybody knows it’s really Russian, would say to the proposal that therefore Finland should be able to repossess Karelia. Of course the real answer is “Let them try! We will kick their asses!,” but I wonder about a hypothetical attempt to use actual logic to arrive at an answer. (For the purposes of the exercise, of course Finland would be able to conduct the same sort of post-facto referendum and produce the same sort of supermajority approval.)

  65. J. W. Brewer says

    I think Stefan Holm is correct when he says that language preservation is a “democratic” thing that can’t simply be imposed from on high, but there’s a certain asymmetry, where it is much easier to damage or destroy a language via hostile government policy than to preserve or revive it via benign government policy. Maybe sometimes you can via benign government policy remove certain potential obstacles to its revival/survival, but even then there may be disputes about whether a particular such policy is in fact wholly benign (since removing perceived obstacles to the health of language A may often in practice impose new burdens on the speakers of language B). And to somewhat restate my prior point, this is particularly frustrating when the reason a language is in trouble in the first place seems to be the result of wicked behavior by a prior regime. It seems highly likely that if Stalin had not done what he did, Crimean Tatar would be in better shape than it is, but acknowledging that does not provide much practical guidance for what can or should be done for the language now. Although if you go far enough back I suppose the overwhelming majority of extant human languages exist and/or exist in their current geographical locations because their ancestral speakers were better at using violence than the speakers of some rival language were.

  66. Excellent points.

  67. David Marjanović says

    The same story applies to Slovene in Carinthia

    That process is now slowing down, as higher education in Slovene has become available and upwards mobility without abandoning the language has become easier.

  68. J. W. Brewer says

    Now I’m suddenly worried about Putin’s potential irredentist claims on Kyrzbekistan.

  69. For all its proclaimed Finno-Ugric solidarity, Finland conducts campaign of linguistic genocide against Karelian which previously was spoken in much of Finland.

    Finnish government appears to believe that all Karelians in Finland must speak standard Finnish (Karelian is not even recognized as a language in Finland) and switch to Finnish ethnic identity.

    That’s what Russian government replies when Helsinki accuses it of mistreatment of Karelian in Russia.

    And from what I read, it appears quite true.

    It’s just that nobody even thinks it’s a problem – even the Karelians of Finland themselves.

    I wonder why.

  70. -monolingual independent/super-autonomous Swedish-speaking state formed out of the Swedish regions is what is really needed

    Perhaps Sweden should organize a referendum (guarded by polite Swedish-speaking men in green) and annex these regions to Sweden. This will solve problem of Swedish in Finland quite efficiently.

  71. -I have been wondering lately what Russian nationalists …..would say to the proposal that therefore Finland should be able to repossess Karelia…. For the purposes of the exercise, of course Finland would be able to conduct the same sort of post-facto referendum and produce the same sort of supermajority approval.)

    Russian nationalist answer – “They voted for independence? Let them go! We don’t want these traitors in our country!”

    That’s what Russian nationalists have been saying about Chechnya for twenty years, but unfortunately for them, Putin and Kadyrov are determined to keep it part of Russia.

  72. As I said, I don’t believe in long-term viability of Chechen language. This is because their future can be seen in neighbouring Ingushetia (the Ingush are very close relative of Chechen).

    Only two thirds of the Ingush speak Ingush language in their own republic, even though the republic is essentialy monoethnic (Ingush make up 94 percent of population).

    Once effect of the war subsidies, the Chechen is quite likely to follow this way.

  73. Re: Russian in the Baltic.

    If emigration of Balts to other countries of European Union continues at current rate, Russian is quite likely to regain its former predominance there without Russia doing anything.

  74. Certainly Russia would be opposed on geopolitical grounds to transferring Åland to Sweden. Beyond that, Finland would doubtless object to losing so much of its coast.

  75. Re: Juha Janhunen, prominent Finnish linguist

    He has rather non-Finnish looks and could even pass for a Mongol. Does he have some Asian ancestry?

    Surely it’s not a result of studying Altaic linguistics!

  76. – Finland would doubtless object

    They sure would!

    By the way, why there is no Finnish super-authonomy in Sweden? Surely half a million Finns living in Sweden deserve their own territory?

  77. Re: Russian nationalism/irredentism

    Ethnic Russians are in long-term demographic decline, which can be slowed, but highly unlikely to be reversed.

    Acquisition of territories with significant non-Russian minorities will be opposed by majority of Russians regardless of their political views.

    Assimilation of non-Russian minorities is greatly slowed by reluctance of ethnic Russians to accept assimilated minorities who are perceived as too different from racial, religious or cultural point of view.

    Russia will continue to remain diverse and multicultural country. Many non-Russian minorities will become native Russian speakers, while keeping their separate ethnic identity. Some of them will become sub-ethnic groups of Russian people. Processes of ethnic differentiation among ethnic Russians will continue, but they are likely to add more sub-ethnic groups and will not lead to total break of Russian ethnos.

    That’s my prediction for the rest of 21st century.

  78. J. W. Brewer says

    A bit thread-drifty, but since SFR has mentioned the confluence of nationalism and the demographic decline of ethnic Russians (and we have so many others at the hattery more knowledgeable about matters Russian than I am), I am curious as to whether anyone has actually read the book The Last Man in Russia (given a somewhat mixed review here ) and if so whether they would recommend it. It could be great, it could be great but to be taken with some grains of salt (because the actual situation might be less bleak than the compelling narrative than can be constructed by accentuating the negative while leaving countervailing trends unmentioned), it could be a failure because the attempt to weave together the broader national story with the specific life story of one remarkable man (and I do find the late Fr. Dmitri’s life astonishing: by turns heroic, inspirational, tragic, and disheartening) was overambitious and fails to gel.

  79. Stefan Holm says

    SFReader: Re: Juha Janhunen, prominent Finnish linguist … He has rather non-Finnish looks and could even pass for a Mongol. Does he have some Asian ancestry?

    Hey – hold your horses! I was actually trying to support your opinions about Russian vs the indigenous languages on its territory. E.g. that it’s also a matter of the level of economic (and thereby cultural) development. In the case of Finland-Sweden this is obvious. From Sweden having had the lead until modern day situation of an equal level it’s natural, that Swedish is declining in Finland and Finnish in Sweden.

    John way up in this thread mentioned that the development of modern English contradicted this. I’m not so sure. Weren’t the Anglo-Saxons, the vikings and the Normans after all the same kin with the same basic heritage, culture, moral etc? I’ve heard, that king Ælfred after defeating a viking army invited them to a party and offered them prominent posts in his administration (their dialects were probably to some extent mutually understandable). And alliances between Anglo-Saxon and viking ‘clans’ were an everyday business.

    As for the Normans they just 150 years prior to Hastings had spoken Norse. They took French (Frankish?) wifes, converted to the Catholic church and started to speak (Norman) French. But did they abandon or forget their Norse ancestry, habits or even language? Their historically documented behaviour is certainly very ‘viking-like’. So in a time when there were no ‘nations’, no ‘ideologies’, no ‘races’ and no apparent differences in heritage between them, the Normans, the Anglo-Saxons and the vikings, may all three have melted together quite smoothly.

    Legal documents after 1066 are in French and the clerical ones in Latin. But heaven knows what was actually spoken upon ‘those fairy isles’. After all the English today look more Norse than Romance – they are a warring kind and certainly don’t eat frogs 🙂

  80. Anglo-French was by no means entirely an offshoot of Normand. There were Picards and Central French speakers in England as well, and what developed was something of a dialect koine. It isn’t until about 1400 that Anglo-French ceases to be the elite language of England, although by 1363 its use in law courts is enough of a nuisance that an Act of Parliament is needed to institute pleadings and other oral process in English, though the court records remain in Latin.

    By the same token, the division between English and French was substantially enforced for centuries. The murdrum fine imposed on hundreds (aggregations of English villages) from the Conquest until 1340 is enough to show that: the hundred was fined if a man dead by violence was found within its boundaries, unless it could prove that he was English. Consequently, it was not enough to learn French to be treated as part of the elite.

  81. Trond Engen says

    Etienne: linguistic prestige always beats demographics

    John C.: Not always, or they’d be speaking Anglo-French in Grand-Bretagne today.


  82. Re: Last man in Russia.

    I haven’t read the book, only several reviews. I gather it is a good description of what demographic decline looks on the ground, but of course, decline in Russia is not uniform (there are places where ethnic Russian population is actually growing quite fast – both capital cities, oil regions in the Arctic, large parts of Siberia).

    Waiting for the last man in Russia can be a futile endeavor though.

    Not only Russians will remain with us for a long time, but they will continue to be the largest European nation as well. This is because poor demographics are a feature of all developed countries and Russia is not the worst (they have higher death rates, but what actually counts in the long run are birth rates and Russia has some of the highest in Europe)

    Some current demographic trends are quite instructive – there are three Russians born for every German, for example.

  83. -their dialects were probably to some extent mutually understandable

    Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;
    Si þin nama gehalgod
    to becume þin rice
    gewurþe ðin willa
    on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.

    Old Norse:
    Faþer vár es ert a himnom,
    verði nafn þitt hæilagt
    Til kome ríke þitt,
    værði vili þin
    sva a iarðu sem í himnum.

    Not close enough to be mutually intelligible, IMHO.

  84. Trond Engen says

    SFReader: Not close enough to be mutually intelligible, IMHO.

    Closer than your examples may indicate on first impression. The differences are to a lagre degree within variation in both languages. OE generally patterns with the innovative south in ON, quite likely because of common heritage. OTOH, I think ON generally patterns with the north in OE.

    Syntactically, ON might use þú es, þitt nafn, þitt ríke, þin vili, a iarðu svá sem í himnum (all closer to the syntax of the modern Danish form of the prayer). Lexically, the choice between “let your name be hallowed” and “let your name be holy” was available in both. The preposition before ‘heaven’ must have been up to choice, as is shown even within these few lines (and prepositions are pretty transparent anyway). Phonologically, the variation -fn- ~ -mn- went straight through ON. The same is generally true of the vowel differences. The loss of verbal prefixes could have been a problem to the English, but hardly, since they were on their way out there too. And no problem for the Norse. I’ll say it’s within the range of habituation, as between modern Scandinavian languages or not-too-distant dialects of German.

    Faþer vár es ert a himnom,
    verði nafn þitt hæilagt
    Til kome ríke þitt,
    værði vili þin
    sva a iarðu sem í himnum.

  85. Trond Engen says

    Sorry, I forgot to delete my cut-and-pastry.

  86. David Marjanović says

    Finnish government appears to believe that all Karelians in Finland must speak standard Finnish

    Really? Because it doesn’t believe that of anyone else. Even in Helsinki the distance between the spoken dialect and the standard language is really large.

    Are Finnish and Karelian a dialect continuum?

    Not close enough to be mutually intelligible, IMHO.

    To add to the point on internal variation:
    – The OE has si and gewurþe where the ON has verði/værði both times. But this is transparent just from modern Standard German: the first is “your name be hallowed” vs. “your name become hallowed” (sei, werde).
    – The OE has swa swa, the ON has sva […] sem. Isn’t this sem just “same”? “So on Earth, same in heaven” makes immediate sense even today.

    It has often been mentioned that these languages were universally expected to be mutually intelligible: for example, interpreters between OE and every neighboring language including Latin but not including ON are mentioned in contemporary sources.

  87. Are Finnish and Karelian a dialect continuum?

    Historically, yes. After a hundred years of Russian rule, Karelian is Russian-influenced in ways that Finnish is not. During various periods, Finnish has been able to serve as a Dachsprache for various kinds of Karelian.

  88. After a hundred years of Russian rule

    Well, seventy-five.

  89. Well, seventy-five.

    In many practical ways, a lot longer than 75. Eastern Karelia was ruled by Novgorod more or less continuously since at least XIII c., and the Christianity there was Orthodox Russian. After the Times of Troubles Sweden ruled the area for more than a century, but many Orthodox Karelians escaped the Swedish Protestant rule by taking refuge in Tver’. Peter the 1st made Karelia a Russian domain again, as finalized by Nystad treaty of 1721. Only in XIX c., when Russia wrestled the whole of Finland from the Swedish rule, did it transfer Western Karelia to the subjugated Finland.

  90. I should have said “a hundred additional years”, viz. since 1918. 75 years would apply to Western Karelia specifically.

  91. In many practical ways, a lot longer than 75.

    Good point, but how heavily was Karelian influenced by Russian in tsarist times?

  92. how heavily was Karelian influenced by Russian in tsarist times?

    From what I recall Tver’ Karelian was strongly influenced and for all practical purposes was a separate language in the 1930s when Cyrillic alphabet has been developed for it. Did we already discuss it on LH?

    But I don’t know if, within the continuum of Finnish dialects, Karelian unequivocally stands out. Worse, I wouldn’t be surprised to find strong political influences in scholarship on this subject. A people divided vs. two peoples is a classic ethno-political minefield.

  93. Heh, I’d completely forgotten about that — and it was less than two years ago!

  94. Trond Engen says

    Yes, but

  95. Trond Engen says

    I forgot to close the tag again, did I? This should look interesting.

  96. Fixed, and that gave me a rueful chuckle.

  97. Finnish government should do with regard with Karelian in Finland what it preaches to Russia regarding various Finno-Ugric languages there.

    Namely, establish superauthonomous region in its part of Karelia, make Karelian (it could be different from Karelian in Russia, no problem) an official language there, make teaching in Karelian mandatory all way to university level, sponsor publication of literary works in Karelian, fund Karelian language TV channels etc, etc.

    No doubt, Finnish government has vastly much more money to do this than governments of impoverished Finno-Ugric republics of Russia.

  98. SFReader, the dialects spoken in Finnish Karelian are not the same as the language of Russian Karelia, though both are referred to as “Karelian”. The former is considered by everyone, even the Finnish Karelians themselves, as part of the big mix of Finnish dialects. It differs no more from the Finnish standard language than any of the many other dialects of Finland, and the Karelian dialects are readily understood by other Finns. Finnish Karelians are quite content with speaking their regional variety on an everyday basis but using the Finnish standard language in writing, just like people from any other region of Finland do. Furthermore, if you visited a school in Finnish Karelia, you’d find that people spend much of the day speaking their local language, which is entirely natural. There is a small amount of dialect publishing, and it enjoys Finnish state funding.

    The Karelian language (= the one spoken in Russian Karelia), on the other hand, poses such great challenges to mutual intelligibility that it is better treated as a distinct language. “Like an American trying to understand a Glaswegian” is a common comparison. Thus while both regions share the name “Karelia”, they don’t speak the same languages.

    You evidently do relish any opportunity to defend the Russian state’s language policies and wave away criticism, but couldn’t you make the smallest effort to familiarize yourself with the issues first?

  99. J. W. Brewer says

    One problem with Finnish irredentism is that apparently on the order of 99% of the pre-war population of the territories stripped away by Stalin during WW2 was evacuated to other parts of Finland. So it would be like returning East Prussia to the Germans, where pretty much the entire current population of Kaliningrad and environs consists of non-German post-war arrivals and their descendants, and returning the territory vacant of its current population might not be feasible. I doubt the new population the Soviets moved into the suddenly unpopulated space evaculated by the Finns was disproportionately comprised of ethnic Karelians (of whatever language variety), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite were true.

  100. Oh, sure. I was proposing it purely as a thought experiment; obviously the facts on the ground are discouraging in all sorts of ways.

  101. Let me summarize this view.

    Finnish Karelian is just a dialect. And there is no need for official Finnish Karelian language, because Finnish Karelians are quite content with using standard Finnish. Besides, there is a small amount of publishing in Finnish Karelian dialect funded by Finnish state. So no problem.

    I think I’ve heard a lot of very similar opinions. Only one word needs to be changed throughout the text:

    Russian Karelian is just a dialect. And there is no need for official Russian Karelian language, because Russian Karelians are quite content with using standard Russian. Besides, there is a small amount of publishing in Russian Karelian dialect funded by Russian state. So no problem.

  102. Most of the territory which FInland lost after the Winter War was in the northern part of Karelian isthmus. It now forms Sestroretsk and Priozersk districts of Leningrad oblast.

    The region was repopulated after 1940 and then again after 1944 almost entirely by ethnic Russians and has no ethnic Finnish or ethnic Karelian minority.

    Finnish is spoken there regularly by Finnish tourists who come to drink cheap Russian vodka every Friday night.

  103. -returning the territory vacant of its current population might not be feasible

    I think World War Three might be necessary for these changes.

  104. Russian Karelian is just a dialect.

    Except it isn’t a dialect of Finnish (or Russian either), any more than Cantonese is a dialect of Mandarin or Catalan is a dialect of Spanish.

  105. SFReader, if the Karelian language of Russian Karelian is “just a dialect”, then what is it a dialect of? It certainly isn’t a dialect of the country’s dominating language, Russian, so that makes a good case for ensuring its use on at least a co-official basis in as many contexts as possible.

  106. Finnish government regarded Karelian of East Karelia as dialect of Finnish. Hence, during Finnish occupation of East Karelia, Karelian was replaced by Finnish in schools.

    Soviet Karelia was run for a long time by emigres from Finland, who fled to Soviet Russia after losing Finnish Civil War. So quite predictably, these Soviet Finns decided that Karelian language is just a dialect of Finnish and doesn’t really need to be made an official language. Instead, Finnish was made an official language of Soviet Karelia.

    After purges of 1937, leadership of Soviet Karelia was replaced and Soviet government decided that Karelian is indeed a separate language from Finnish. On the basis of rather diverse Karelian dialects, Soviet linguists created unified Karelian literary language which is still in use.

  107. From purely linguistic point of view, northern Karelian dialects are close to Finnish and could be plausibly regarded as dialects of Finnish, while southern dialects are more divergent and are not mutually intelligible with Finnish (or even northern dialects of Karelian).

  108. Karelian dialect/language problem is similar to other similar problems faced by Soviet language policy.

    Unified Soviet Turkic literary language to serve Turkic peoples of Soviet Union was proposed and seriously considered in 1920s. Buryat and Kalmyk used classical Mongolian written language which the Soviet linguists initially wanted to keep after reforming a bit.

    This unifying trend was ultimately rejected and Soviets ended up with dozens of Turkic and three Mongolian literary languages.

    Soviet Moldavian language was also criticized as artificial and purely political creation (Moldavians and Romanians speak essentially same language). However, some defenders of Moldavian argue that creation of literary Romanian in 19th century itself was artificial and political affair (change of script from Cyrillic to Latin and replacing many Slavonic terms with borrowings from French and Italian), so Soviet Moldavian was just restoring its historical heritage. Situation with Moldavian/Romanian resembles in some way Ottoman Turkish/Modern Turkish controversy.

  109. J. W. Brewer says

    I suppose the lack of any meaningful ethnic Karelian presence in much of the territory the Finns were driven out of explains why it got reassigned to Leningrad (not even sic, alas) Oblast rather than to the theoretically semi-autonomous Karelian SSR and its various successors. In perhaps a foretaste of more recent post-Soviet border disputes, it appears that the post-WW1 international border between Finland and the Soviets was set more or less on historical grounds, i.e. with only minimal exceptions to track what had been the internal border between the Grand Duchy of FInland and the rest of the Romanov empire, as previously determined by the Romanov regime for its own purposes. That had the advantage of being as it were objective, but the disadvantage of not optimally tracking the ethnic (or other arguably relevant) facts on the ground (with various Finnish nationalist groups wanting more expansive claims to liberate their brethren from the Bolshevik Yoke), but those ethnic etc. facts themselves had evolved over time (in part because the frontiers between the Russian and Swedish spheres of political rule and cultural influence had shifted multiple times over the centuries) and were no doubt messy and intermixed enough to make no alternative line the single obviously right solution even if considerations of relative military strength were taken off the table. And of course the placement of the border itself affected the future ethnic facts on the ground, not least because of Stalinist deportation to Siberia etc. of people living close to the border who might on ethnic grounds be viewed as potentially pro-Finnish, as did the character of the respective regimes of the day on either side. (So e.g. many of the subset of Finnish/Karelian speakers who were Eastern Orthodox predictably found living as a religious minority in a Lutheran-dominated polity preferable to living in an aggressively atheist-dominated polity, but might have weighed things differently had the Russophone-dominated regime of the day been pro-Orthodox.

  110. I suppose the lack of any meaningful ethnic Karelian presence in much of the territory the Finns were driven out of explains why it got reassigned to Leningrad (not even sic, alas) Oblast rather than to the theoretically semi-autonomous Karelian SSR

    It’s a good hypothesis but the facts are substantially more complicated. After the Winter War of 1939-1940, Vyborg / Vipuri and all the upper Isthmus were assigned to the newly incorporated Karelo-Finnish SSR, a Union entity outside of Russia. Note the hyphen, and its implicit claims to the lands of all Finns and Karelians. Pro-Soviet Finns, originally from Finlandia proper, joined the Finns of Vyborg and the Finns of Eastern Karelia with the USSR (Finns remained a substantial ethnic minority in Karelia even before the Winter War; it’s only near the end of WWII when most of them escaped to Finland).

    Vyborg and the Isthmus were transferred to Leningrad in 1944, and at that time the Finnic population of the area has indeed become virtually nil, but we wouldn’t know how big a role this population shift played in Stalin’s decision. I suspect that it played no role at all, because all across the USSR, there were massive land transfers from entities accused of collaboration with the Nazis to the ones deemed loyal (primarily Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia). So the motivation seems to be the same everywhere, punishing alleged traitors and rewarding loyalty.

    Still, Khruschev’s reversed many of the transfers but not the one of the Karelian Isthmus. As a part of continuing de-escalation with Finland, Khruschev ended up stripping the “hyphenated Finnish” name from Karelia in the late 1950s, not so much to emphasize the departure of the local Finns as to remove the appearance of a territorial claim.

    As to the ethnic identity of the Finns of the Isthmus, it appears that after the escape of Orthodox Karelians, Ingrians, and Vot from the Swedish rule (per the 1617 Treaty of Stolbovo), most of Vyburg have been repopulated by Lutheran Finnic settlers – Äyrämöiset from other parts of Western Karelia and Savakot from Eastern Finland. Protestant faith meant their being identified as Finns thereafter.

  111. Finns remained a substantial ethnic minority in Karelia even before the Winter War; it’s only near the end of WWII when most of them escaped to Finland

    My sentence above may need a clarification – it only applies to the Finnish minority of the antebellum Karelia. The population of the Isthmus has already been transferred to Finnish hinterlands by the government of Finland during the Winter War (in Nov – Dec. 1939), in a truly massive population move which uprooted 12% of the nation’s population. Just under half of the resettled people returned to the Isthmus when it was reoccupied by Finland in WWII, only to escape again in 1944.

  112. Stefan Holm says

    J. W. Brewer: the frontiers between the Russian and Swedish spheres of political rule and cultural influence had shifted multiple times over the centuries.

    The Swedish interest in the area since medieval times was control over the Russian trade via the Baltic Sea. In 1703 Peter the Great founded Petersburg where the Swedish town and fortress Nyen had existed since 1648. Peter’s victory over Charles XII at Poltava 1709 marked the definite end of Swedish influence over the outlet of the Neva.

    Finland had since 13th c. simply been the eastern part of Sweden. It was lost in the 1808-1809 year war with Russia. Czar Alexander wasn’t really interested in a war against Sweden – his main interest was towards east and south. But he was forced by Napoleon, who wanted to tie upp Swedish troops in the north. The reason for this in turn was that the Swedes supported the English against Napoleon’s ‘Continental System’.

    So after his victory Alexander made Finland a relativley independent Grand Duchy which only had to obey him in foreign and military affairs. Swedish continued to be the administrative language (the entire Finnish elite spoke Swedish).

    This became the trigger for Finnish nationalism. A motto among the elite became: ‘Russians we don’t want to be, Swedes we can’t be – so let us be Finns!’ In this spirit Elias Lönnrot took up his life long project of creating a Finnish national epos. For some reason he (and others) believed that the purest Finnish culture, a kind of Urheimat, was to find in Karelia. So he spent much of his life travelling around there collecting folklore and songs – resulting in the Kalevala. The influence of Kalevala has since then played a significant role in Finnish emotional relations to Karelia.

    Stalin had no more expansionist ambitions towards Finland than czar Alexander. His concern was that Leningrad was within reach for artillery fire from the Karelian ishtmus. Already on the party congress in 1930 he stated that it isn’t a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’ a massive attack on the Soviet Union will come from one or several of the leading capitalist nations. This along with the strong greater Finland sentiments made the Russians negotiate with the Finns during the thirties about trading parts of the ishtmus against other (and larger) areas further north.

    The Finnish government however not only rejected this but also treated the Russians in a diplomatically arrogant manner throughout the thirties. So, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty (which they saw as a respite) the Russians launched the winter war with the main purpose of securing Leningrad. (But as always wars tend to run amok).

    The history of this corner of the world is indeed a composite one. There are more actors involved than Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Joukahainen of the Kalevala. In the words of Cicero it’s wise to ‘auditere et altera pars’ (listen also to the other party).

  113. Town of Priozersk (Korela/Kexholm/Kakisalmi/Kagisalmi) was Swedish for 114 years (1580-1595 and 1611-1710), Finnish for 26 years (1917-1940 and 1941-1944) and Russian for 563 years (1310-1580, 1595-1610, 1710-1917, 1940-1941, 1944-present).

    Complicated history indeed

  114. Stefan, interesting post. Prior to Alexander’s annexation, was there a long term trend of Finnish assimilation to Swedish culture and nationality? Without Russian interference would Finnish have ended up like Sorbian, a mostly rural minority language spoken by people who more or less identify ethnically with the national majority group, or been more like Czech and seen a national revival anyway?

  115. I would expect it to be more like Czech, but there’s no way to tell for sure; it depends on the strength of nationalism among the Finns and Fennomans. Just a universe away, the language of Bohemian identity turned out to be neither Czech nor Standard German, but an offshoot of German with a Czech ‘strate. As of 2004 it has 15 million speakers, vs. only 20,000 for Czech proper. The link gives some history, and a further link to the “Great Master Plan”, which gives the sound-changes (some merely orthographic) between Standard German and ta pémiš šprochna (Standard Bohemian) plus its five regional dialects.

  116. J. W. Brewer says

    One complication is that that the early-to-mid 19th century was when language-based nationalism within polyglot monarchies was becoming a Thing all over Europe, so it’s very hard to guess to what extent a switch from Swedish to Russian sovereignty at around the same time did or did not affect the course of events. And then consider the rather complicated situation in Estonia/Livonia where the local elite remained German-speaking under both Swedish and Russian rule and the “peasant language[s]” persisted but did not become dominant until Russian rule ended (although I believe that there may have been intermittent Czarist-era efforts to promote or at least preserve Estonian/Latvian as against German precisely to reduce the chances that the elites and peasants would form a united anti-Russian front, whereas further down the Baltics Lithuanian did not receive the same favor, because the political context was different). .

  117. There was an Estonian national movement in the 19C, including a national Estonian epic named (after its hero) Kalevipoeg; unfortunately, only about 12% of its 19,000 lines are authentic (whatever that may mean exactly), and the rest were written by its “editor”, Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, of Estonian origin despite his name. That makes it more like Ossian than like the Kalevala, where only about 15% of the lines are by Lönnrot, though he did touch up many of the rest.

  118. I forgot to mention that as Kalevipoeg is the son of Kalev, so the Kalevala is the land of Kalev.

  119. Stefan Holm says


    ’What if’ is of course an interesting and at the same time impossible question. When the 200 years anniversary of the ‘loss’ of Finland was paid attention to in 2009 Swedish commentators over and over again underlined that Finland was a self-evident part of Sweden, not a colony, not a federal ally, not an occupied territory or whatever. I.e. the Finnish speaking majority of the population after 200 years still didn’t seem to exist.

    Sweden’s position as a big power besides Russia in northern Europe was though doomed to fail in the long run. Swedish kings were lucky in the 30 years war (1618-1648) and during the reign of Charles X Gustav (1654-1660), Charles XI (1660-1697). They got in posession of German river outlets, took command in Estonia and – in front of all – in 1658 conquered Scania, Blekinge, Halland and Bohuslän from Denmark and thus took over the role as the dominating power in Scandinavia.

    However, with Charles XII (1697-1718) and particularly after his defeat at Poltava in 1709 the decline started. The eternal wars had ruined the country and the popular discontent was growing. So after his death the power of the kings were reduced and transformed to the parliament during ‘Frihetstiden’ (Age of Liberty, 1718-1772). Two parties, ‘Hats’ (advocating war against Russia) and ‘Caps’ (advocating peace and diplomacy) were fighting. But in 1772 the ‘theatre king’ Gustav III made a coup d’etat and reestablished the abolute monarchy.

    He dreamed about a glorious big power in northern Europe and started the preparations for this. One of those was to count the population in Sweden proper (at the time including Finland). Since 1686 all figures were available through the mandatory notifications of all births and deaths by the lutheran church (initiated by the professional warrior kings). Guesses were that the Swedes counted to some 10 million people.

    The actual result was a shock! We were just about one million – a fact so terrifying that it was classified and punishable by death to reveal – the czar would immediately attack if he got to know…

    So, my guess is that Sweden in the long run couldn’t have resisted the rights of the Finnish speaking majority in Finland. And the Russians to my knowledge never had the ambitions. Symptomatically Finland’s national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg wrote in Swedish during the ‘Russian rule’ but the opening song of his main work The Tales of Ensign Stål is today (translated) the national anthem of Finland.

  120. Sweden in the long run couldn’t have resisted rights of the Finnish speaking majority in Finland.

    Probably not, but that’s independent of whether they remained Finnish-speaking. In Spanish America, the American-born elite resented and eventually overthrew Spanish rule, but they didn’t stop speaking Spanish, or upgrade the status of any native language (Guaraní aside).

    Currently there are about twice as many Swedish citizens as Finnish citizens.

  121. Trond Engen says

    Irish is another interesting comparison. In the early 19th century, how different was the situation of Finnish in Finland to that of Irish in Ireland? How would Irish have fared if Ireland, say, had been lost to France in the Napoleonic wars?

  122. Two parties, ‘Hats’ (advocating war against Russia) and ‘Caps’ (advocating peace and diplomacy) were fighting.

    As seen at LH!

  123. Counted as a whole, Swedish empire in late 17 century probably had German speaking majority.

    Perhaps without Peter the Great’s efforts, Swedes would have been speaking German today…

  124. Stefan Holm says

    Probably not. On this map the orange area is Sweden in 1561 while the other colours mark conquered areas until 1658. German was spoken in the grey areas south of the Baltic and to some extent in present Estonia – hardly a majority:

    English Wikipedia on the Swedish Empire is here:

  125. After short googling found this distribution of population in mid17th century:

    Core Sweden – 1.25 mln (one quarter Finnish), half a million in recently conquered Danish-Norwegian provinces (including Scania region), half a million in Baltic provinces and quarter million in German provinces.

    Let’s say, eight hundred thousand Swedes, half a million Danish/Norwegian/Scanian, three hundred thousand Germans, three hundred thousand Finns, two hundred thousand Estonians and two hundred thousand Latvians.

  126. Sounds like a smaller northern version of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

  127. In yet another alternative universe, where Gustav II Vasa wins his wars and keeps his empire with the help of a townful of time-traveling Americans, the dominant language outside Sweden itself becomes Amideutsch, a sort of semi-creole version of High German with Low pronunciation and lots of borrowings from 21C American English. The grammar reductions result from the attempts of the Americans (and later others) to handle written German grammar. We don’t get many examples, but Boomenstoff ‘explosives’ is known, as is the fact that verbs don’t inflect for number and person.

  128. Back to Finnish varieties: here’s a “lighthearted, quickworded, and soon over” post on Savonian / Standard Finnish diglossia as seen from the inside. Savonian is spoken just west of Western Karelian, and belongs to the eastern branch of the tree that historically includes the Karelian language, whereas Standard Finnish is basically a western dialect koine with lots of eastern words put in for extra added flavor. Here are the numbers 1-10 in several Finnic varieties:

    Standard written Finnish: yksi, kaksi, kolme, neljä, viisi, kuusi, seitsemän, kahdeksan, yhdeksän, kymmenen.

    Standard spoken Finnish: yks, kaks, kolme , neljä, viisi, kuusi, seittemä, kaheksa, yheksä, kymmene.

    Spoken Finnish, counting fast: yy, kaa, koo, nee, vii, kuu, sei (or see), kasi, ysi, kymppi.

    Meänkieli (Tornedalian): yks, kaks, kolme, neljä, viis, kuusi, seitemän, kaheksan, yheksän, kymmenen.

    Ingrian: üks, kaks, kolmeD, neljä, vīz, kūz, seitsen, kaheksan, üheksän, kümmenän.

    Karelian: yksi, kak i, kolmi, ńel’l’ä, viisi, kuu i, eiččemen, kahek an, yhek än, kymmenen.

    Olonets (Livvi): üksi, kaksi, kolme, ńelli, viizi, kuuzi, seiččie, kaheksa, ükeksä, kümmene.

    Ludic: üks, kak , kolme, njelj, vii , kuu , seittj eme, kaheksa, üheksa, küme.

    Veps: üś, kakś, koume, nel’l’, vi˛, kuź, seiččeme, kahesa, ühesa, kümne.

    Sódjärv: ikś, kakś, kōme, n’el’, vi , kuź, seečmen, kahcan, ihcan, kimn’en.

    Votic (Vod): ühsi, kahsi, kõlmõ, nellä, viiz, kuuz, seitsee, kahõsaa, ühesää, chümmee.

    Estonian: üks, kaks, kolm, neli, viis, kuus, seitse, kaheksa, üheksa, kümme.

    Livonian: ik , kak , kuolm, nēla, vī˛, kū˛, seis, kādõks, īdõks, kim.

    As you can see, standard written Finnish is the most conservative of the lot. 7 and 10 are Indo-European borrowings, and 8 and 9 are “10 – 2” and “10 – 1” respectively.

    The digits 1-9 considered as characters have their own Finnish names, with spoken forms in parentheses: ykkönen, kakkonen, kolmonen, nelonen, vi(i)tonen, ku(u)tonen, seitsemäinen (seiska), kahdeksainen or kahdeksikko (kasi or kaheksikko) yhdeksäinen or yhdeksikkö (ysi or yheksikkö)

    And here’s Hungarian just for contrast:

    Hungarian: egy, kett (ő), három, négy, öt, hat, hét, nyolc, kilenc, tíz.

  129. Stefan Holm says

    No need, John, for any alternative universe. In the 14th and 15th centuries (Middle Low) German was the language in the streets of Stockholm. The influence of the Hansa League merchants was so strong that it had to be stated in the law that a majority of the members of a Swedish city council must be Swedes.

    In the late 18th c. during the reign of Gustav III nothing but French was spoken at the royal court. The aristrocacy was fully aware that they weren’t welcome if they even tried to use the inferior language of the peasantry. (If that was one of the reasons why the aristocracy assassinated him in 1792 I’m not sure).

    In its ‘code of conduct’ the multi-national company I’m working for says that if just one of the participants in a meeting in any country is a non-native, the language shall be English. Reasonable, of course, but bit of a ridicule if the only odd man out (in Sweden) is a Dane or a Norwegian. And in a meeting with British colleagues I once couldn’t restrain from introducing them with the words ‘I hope you’re aware that you are obliged to speak English’.

  130. Stefan Holm says

    Interesting, John. As a neighbour I know how to count in Finnish but it was new to me that kymmene(n), ‘10’, was of IE origin. I can spy a connection to ‘*kmtom’ (100) but not easily to (10): Latin: decem, Russian desyat’ etc. Is the theory that the Finno-Ugric hunter-gatherers just had words for the numbers one to six, beyond that just used ‘many’ and took the IE word for ‘hundred’ as the next step in a decimal system?

  131. *kmtom is short for *dkm-tom, presumably ‘ten tens’.

  132. John, your numerals list seems to be missing or misrendering quite a few letters, e.g. all instances of ‹š› and ‹ž›.

    This is also the first time I see kymmen claimed an IE loan. More usually it’s been considered a native derivation, perhaps somehow coordinate to kämmen ‘palm’. The appearence of the sequence /kVm/ does not strike me as much evidence, and I would suspect that you’re confusing something here, perhaps indeed the IE origin of ‘100’, or of several other terms for ’10’ across Finno-Ugric (e.g. the mentioned Hungarian tíz, or, according to one proposal, the -(d)eksan element in ‘8’ and ‘9’).

    No coherent explanation for how to derive ‘seven’ from PIE has been proposed so far either, though it looks like some kind of a connection is at least plausible here.

    Back on history, as far as the loss of dialect variety goes? Historically Western Finland has been arguably at least equally diverse as the entirety of Karelia, and it’s regardless been since the turn of the 20th century steadily levelling towards Standard Finnish as well. Exactly what instituting schooling in a standard language does to dialect continua.

    By all sorts of measures this is also a far lesser loss than assimilation to an entirely unrelated language. Equating koineization of Finnish with “linguistic genocide” strikes me as an overstatement at best…

  133. Stefan Holm says

    The digits 1-9 considered as characters have their own Finnish names.

    Apropos of nothing, the same goes for Swedish 1-12. Just add an ‘-a’ after removing any unstressed final vowel:

    Counting: ett, två, tre, fyra, fem, sex, sju, åtta, nio, tio, elva, tolv.
    ‘Naming’: etta, tvåa, trea, fyra, femma, sexa, sjua, åtta, nia, tia, elva, tolva.

    The latter are used for e.g. a 10 crown coin (‘tia’), scores in a competition: ‘han kom trea’ (he came third) or ‘han fick två sexor’ (he got two sixes) in playing cards or dice. It also works in compound numbers so highway 61 is ‘sextioettan’ (with the ‘o’ being mute and the ‘n’ marking definite case).

  134. Stefan Holm says

    Even English of course can make nouns out of numbers. A tenner I’ve learned is a noun for ten of something, e.g. pound sterling. And as for compounds there is this apogee in English poetry:

    In a cavern, in a canyon / excavating for a mine / dwelt a miner, forty-niner / and his daughter Clementine.

    I particularly like the version by the favourite of my very young years, Connie Francis: Ruby lips above the water / blowing bubbles soft and fine – priceless!

  135. You do know it’s a satire, right?

  136. Russian has a similar series; двойка is the figure 2 or the Number 2 (tram etc.) or a grade of 2 (second-worst of five) or a two of clubs etc.; тройка четвёрка пятёрка шестёрка семёрка восьмёрка девятка десятка are similar for 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.

  137. You forgot единица (name for the number one, but also digit and unit) 🙂
    Grammatically it’s a noun (while “one” isn’t an adjective like in English, but a numeral, considered to be a distinct word class)

  138. David Marjanović says

    German forms such nouns from numerals too; they’re masculine, and they end in -er like in English. But in Germany (unlike Austria!) they aren’t used for grades in school or university, or for figures on a page – instead the unmodified numeral is used as a feminine noun: die Eins.

    Exactly what instituting schooling in a standard language does to dialect continua.

    Not so much schooling as living together in a city.

  139. One in English actually is three different words: a pronoun, a cardinal number, and a common noun, with plural and ‘s inflection and all. See the 2013 Payne/Pullum/Scholz/Berlage paper “Anaphoric one and its implications”.

  140. One in English actually is three different words

    of course, but I don’t think there was any confusion that I mean a number, which reputed sources describe as a subtype of an adjective part of speech. The same word type classification into parts of speech exists in Russian, of course (часть речи, in both languages calqued from Lat. pars orationis). But in Russian, many word-class labels are more directly calqued from Latin too, unlike in English. There is broad super-class of “names” (as in Lat. nomen substantivum ~~ noun, nomen adiectivum ~~ adjective, with the third and distinct class in this superclass of names being numerals).

    I mean of course it’s no surprise if unrelated languages possess completely different word classes, but English and Russian are too related, and too reliant on the classics, to easily explain why their parts of speech are in such a mismatch?

  141. Stefan Holm says

    A problem with putting words into classes is that people often don’t differ between (1) how they are formed and (2) their actual function. I’ve seen heart-rending debates on whether to classify participles as adjectives or verbs. Of course there are transitional forms. Old Swedish grammar (like Russian according to Dmitry) borrowed its terminology from Latin, often based upon how a word was formed. In my school days preterite was thus called ‘imperfect’, ‘have’ + past participle was called ‘supine’, optative was called ‘present conjunctive’ and subjunctive was called ‘imperfect conjunctive’.

    Nowadays focus is on the function. So I see no problems in unambiguously calling tio (ten) a cardinal number, tionde (tenth) an adjective and tia (tenner) a noun, because that’s how they actually work in normal speech. As for the (even in math) unique one it just ‘happens’ that different modern functions (i.e. words) look the same. In Swedish en can mean (a) a number, ‘one’, (b) an indefinite article, ‘a/an’, (c) an indeterminate pronoun, ‘one/you’ and (d) a noun, ‘juniper’.

  142. Stefan Holm says

    You do know it’s a satire, right?

    Sorry for a late answer, John, but indeed I knew it’s a satire – and that was my point! The satire I appreciate is the one that aims towards your own prejudices or towards the ones of your own cultural environment. And that’s how I’ve perceived My Darling Clementine, an American satire over something very American..

    Nothing is easier than making fun of ‘the others’, ‘the bad guys’. If you do you are safe in getting the hoi polloi, ‘our people’, ‘the good guys’ to laugh. Don’t misunderstand – murderers are murderers and the freedom of speech is sacred. But that said I’m moderately impressed by an editorial staff in Paris year after year mocking the very core of the faith of a billion ‘other’ (mostly poor) fellow creatures. There are enough state of affairs in France (as in every other country, including my own) to ridicule.

    Long live Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Connie Francis’ version of My Darling Clementine – that’s what I call satire (as opposed to ideological warfare).

  143. I’m pretty sure Charlie Hebdo mocks the state of affairs in France regularly and vigorously, as it mocks every religion and ideology. Most of the mockees, however, do not pick up guns and head for the editorial office.

  144. Stefan Holm says

    Thank you, once again, for correcting my typo errors.

    As for your answer I can’t really argue against your point. But let me say this: In Sweden there is a law stating that on a pedestrian crossing the pedestrian has all rights on his side and the car driver is always the guilty one – regardless of the circumstances. I think that’s a good law. But that doesn’t mean it’s very wise to run out in the street in front of a nearby fast running car. You could – in best case – spend the rest of your life in a roller chair finding consolation in the fact that ‘I was right’.

    I mean – what’s the purpose? You and I, Obama and Putin, Merkel and Assad, the abolute majority of people on this earth, wishes an end to terrorism. But is this pupose gained by Charles Hegbo? They are in my opinion fighting windmills in the shape of the ‘prophet’, when the real issue is to (1) defend the freedom of thought, including the islamic variety and (2) isolate those people willing to kill.

    My personal favourites are Spinoza, Newton, Marx, Darwin, Einstein, and – whoever wrote them – Sermon on the Mountain and Ecclesiastes. May anybody attack them! They aren’t ‘holy’ to me, just reasonable. And a common reason of those guys is: keep on searching for the truth, even if it is in vain. Leave the concept ‘good guys – bad guys’ or ‘heroes – villains’ behind.

  145. I mean – what’s the purpose?

    Satire. Humor. Surely that’s clear?

    Here‘s a good response by Adam Gopnik (who knows France well): “The right to mock and to blaspheme and to make religions and politicians and bien-pensants all look ridiculous was what the magazine held dear, and it is what its cartoonists were killed for—and we diminish their sacrifice if we give their actions shelter in another kind of piety or make them seem too noble, when what they pursued was the joy of ignobility.”

  146. Stefan Holm says

    Satire. Humor. Surely that’s clear?

    Perfectly clear, respected Hat. Freedom of speech, including use of humour, is an invaluable contribution to mankind from the enlightment and the American and French revolutions. One should though remember that it was originally aimed against the mighty, the rich, the oppressors.

    Mocking the (albeit supersticious) belief of those the very poor (the muslims of the world still more than half a century after Frantz Fanon mainly belong to Les Damnés de la Terre, isn’t that funny in my book. Especially not when the style and approach in the satire so closely resembles that of Der Stürmer – not that I would deny the freedom of speech for even an infamous publication like that.

    Kicking upwards is the real essence of freedom of speech. So why don’t the world leaders gather in Moscow under the banner Je suis Edward Snowden or in London shouting Nous sommes Julian Assange? And why don’t they pay any other attention to the villages of Pakistan, where to and fro some forty participants in a wedding celebration are killed by a misdirected drone, other than: ‘Oops sorry for the mistake’? Killing is killing.

    So on the bottom line – summa summarum – it’s sad when the great idea of freedom of speech boils down to the eternal ‘we and them’. Or to ‘It’s all about oil’.

  147. Again, the magazine does not mock only Islam, and I remind you that Islam is not only the religion of the poor and oppressed. In fact, if you look at a roster of the world’s richest countries and individuals, you might notice quite a few who fall under the banner of Islam.

    As for not being funny in your book, humor, of course, is notoriously subjective. I don’t find the vast majority of the cartoons in the New Yorker funny, and there were (amazingly) lots of people who didn’t find Mad funny even in its glory days. But the bottom line, as somebody pointed out recently (if I can remember and locate the essay, I’ll link it), is that if somebody threatens to kill you for mocking them, you owe it to yourself and humanity to do so, because otherwise the killers have veto power over everything.

  148. I have to say, the recent Muslim-themed CH cartoons I saw in the press after the massacre did not seem to me particularly anti-Muslim or anti-Muhammad, except for the very fact that they drew a cartoon of a person and implied that the drawing represented Muhammad. They were, however, critical of fanaticism in the name of Islam.

    Following the Danish Muhammad cartoon debacle in 2006, an Iranian paper reacted, not very nicely but not violently either, by announcing an antisemitic cartoon contest. I was proud of the reaction of Israeli cartoonists who announced their own antisemitic cartoon contest, and in my opinion blew the Iranians out of the water. That contest was to have been judged by various illustrious cartoonists, including Art Spiegelman (who’d offended many Jews by his drawing of an Orthodox Jewish man kissing an apparently gentile black woman.)

  149. Yes, that was a brilliant response. Spy vs. Spy, Cartoonist vs. Cartoonist!

  150. Long live Monty Python, […] (as opposed to ideological warfare).

    Monty Python did ideological warfare at times too. E.g. the following, which was a part of why The Meaning of Life was banned in Ireland on its release:

    “I’m a Roman Catholic
    And have been since before I were born
    And the one thing they say about Catholics is
    They’ll take you as soon as you’re warm
    You don’t have to be a six footer
    You don’t have to have a great brain
    You don’t have to have any clothes on
    You’re a Catholic the moment Dad came
    Every sperm is sacred
    Every sperm is great
    If a sperm is wasted
    God gets quite irate …”

  151. The clip, for those who aren’t familiar with this immortal classic.

  152. It seems to me that satire that mocks the rich and powerful is one thing, but the powerful mocking the weak is quite something else. Majorities mocking minorities is not the same as minorities mocking majorities in terms of civility and good taste. Fortunately, minstrel shows in the American South are no longer considered good taste.

    Should both be legal? Yeah. Should we applaud incivility? I don’t think so.

  153. Do you consider people who kill people for humor civil? Assuming the answer is no, how do you weigh the various incivilities? Personally, I applaud humor no matter how uncivil it is as long as it’s actually funny. I recognize not everyone feels that way, but I would hope everyone maintains a sense of proportion in directing their outrage.

  154. “Do you consider people who kill people for humor civil?”

    Of course I do not. But, because a few members of one religion or ethnicity commit acts of incivility (actually brutality) does not, in my opinion, justify incivity to all members of that group. As I said before, should it be legal? Yes, I think it should.


  155. Well, we don’t really disagree, then, except in our attitude toward uncivil humor. Having cut my teeth on Lenny Bruce and later reveled in the genius of Richard Pryor, I am very fond of it (and consider that humor that strives too hard to be civil will wind up toothless and generally unfunny).

  156. As far as I recall, Bruce and Prior were critical of the establishment, not the impoverished or powerless.

  157. Again, the magazine does not mock only Islam, and Islam is not only the religion of the poor and oppressed.

  158. So, as long as I mock the powerful, I have license to mock the weak?

  159. As a child in the American South (I am a white septuagenarian), I can remember attending an annual minstrel show in my small, southern town. City leaders (all white) would do black-face comedy, mocking poor blacks based on stereotypes – you know, lazy, subservient, dirty, speaking non-standard English, lovers of watermelon, chitlins and fried chicken.

    Fortunately, in my opinion, today, this is considered uncivil and in very bad taste.

  160. I entirely agree, as I suspect you know.

  161. Were someone to put on such a minstrel show today, I don’t think that they should not be legally punished and they absolutely should not be killed. However, I would not applaud what they did.

  162. Being an old-fashioned guy, I think we should restore duels.

    You have a right to mock my religion and I have a right to call you to a duel and kill you.

    Or die trying.

  163. Sam: Johnson on duels:

    Sir, as men become in a high degree refined, various causes of offence arise; which are considered to be of such importance, that life must be staked to atone for them, though in reality they are not so. A body that has received a very fine polish may be easily hurt. Before men arrive at this artificial refinement, if one tells his neighbour he lies, his neighbour tells him he lies; if one gives his neighbour a blow, his neighbour gives him a blow: but in a state of highly polished society, an affront is held to be a serious injury. It must therefore be resented, or rather a duel must be fought upon it; as men have agreed to banish from their society one who puts up with an affront without fighting a duel. Now, Sir, it is never unlawful to fight in self-defence. He, then, who fights a duel, does not fight from passion against his antagonist, but out of self-defence; to avert the stigma of the world, and to prevent himself from being driven out of society. I could wish there was not that superfluity of refinement; but while such notions prevail, no doubt a man may lawfully fight a duel.

    Personally, I prefer my society less polished.

    Boswell continues:

    The General [Oglethorpe] told us, that when he was a very young man, I think only fifteen, serving under Prince Eugene of Savoy, he was sitting in a company at table with a Prince of Wirtemberg. The Prince took up a glass of wine, and, by a fillip, made some of it fly in Oglethorpe’s face. Here was a nice dilemma. To have challenged him instantly, might have fixed a quarrelsome character upon the young soldier: to have taken no notice of it might have been considered as cowardice. [In any case, princes of the blood were immune to challenge.]

    Oglethorpe, therefore, keeping his eye upon the Prince, and smiling all the time, as if he took what his Highness had done in jest, said ‘Mon Prince,—’. (I forget the French words he used, the purport however was,) ‘That’s a good joke; but we do it much better in England;’ and threw a whole glass of wine in the Prince’s face. An old General who sat by, said, ‘Il a bien fait, mon Prince, vous l’avez commence:’ and thus all ended in good humour.

  164. Mark Twain on journalism in Tennessee:

    “The Colonel appeared in the door a moment afterward with a dragoon revolver in his hand.

    He said, “Sir, have I the honor of addressing the poltroon who edits this mangy sheet?”

    “You have. Be seated, sir. Be careful of the chair, one of its legs is gone. I believe I have the honor of addressing the putrid liar, Colonel Blatherskite Tecumseh?”

    “Right, Sir. I have a little account to settle with you. If you are at leisure we will begin.”

    “I have an article on the ‘Encouraging Progress of Moral and Intellectual Development in America’ to finish, but there is no hurry. Begin.”

    Both pistols rang out their fierce clamor at the same instant. The chief lost a lock of his hair, and the Colonel’s bullet ended its career in the fleshy part of my thigh. The Colonel’s left shoulder was clipped a little. They fired again. Both missed their men this time, but I got my share, a shot in the arm. At the third fire both gentlemen were wounded slightly, and I had a knuckle chipped. I then said, I believed I would go out and take a walk, as this was a private matter, and I had a delicacy about participating in it further. But both gentlemen begged me to keep my seat, and assured me that I was not in the way.”

  165. So, as long as I mock the powerful, I have license to mock the weak?

    I’m unclear about your notion of “mocking the weak” and “punching down.” How exactly are they doing either?

  166. As I recall, the duelists missed each other and hit Twain.

  167. “I’m unclear about your notion of “mocking the weak” and “punching down.” How exactly are they doing either?”

    Aren’t Muslims in France largely the economic and social underclass? That is what I have read and it conforms with superficial observations when visiting.

  168. J. W. Brewer says

    A group that is the insider/overdog in one social context may be the outsider/underdog in a different one. How does GeorgeW feel about the mockery of southern whites that is a staple of modern American popular culture (generated in places like NYC and Hollywood where southern whites are a deprecated-to-loathed outsider group with no power)?

  169. Trond Engen says

    Muslims are the underclass, as a broad generalization, and mocking Muslim stereotypes as a way to keep them in their place would be bad. But is that what Charlie Hébdo was doing? They’ve been constantly pointing at and laughing at the expence of all and any oppressive or reactionary forces. That means especially bigots and nationalist demagogues (and those yielding to them), but also false prophets and real priests, both within and outside oppressed communities. Danish Jyllandsposten, starting the caricature showdown in 2005, had a very different agenda (or at least, they were easily understood as having one, being the chief vehicle of the coalition between center-right and radical-right parties that brought Denmark into the Gulf war and imposed new and harsher immigration laws, especially targeting Muslims). As we all agree, the social motivation and political objective has nothing to do with whether it should be allowed — but it does explain the strong, immediate sympathy, also among French Muslims, in the Charlie Hébdo case.

    Charlie Hébdo are mocking violent Islamists as well as the idea that all Muslims are violent islamists, and supporters of the Israeli occupation as well as Western and Muslim anti-semitism. It’s a difficult balance, maybe too difficult, especially when the mocking often consists of taking reactionary views to the extreme. A harsh caricature of the views of a certain French politician is something quite different from the harsh caricature without the contemporary political context..Those being the victims of one caricature might rather choose to be vocally offended by another one taken out of context.

    Not to say that I find Charlie Hébdo funny. Far from, in the rare cases it’s crossed my path I don’t think I’ve laughed. But then, not following French political debate, I hardly have any context.

  170. “How does GeorgeW feel about the mockery of southern whites that is a staple of modern American popular culture”

    I don’t appreciate it. I am a southern white.

  171. Stefan Holm says

    Thank you Trond for explaining the differences between Charlie Hébdo and Jyllandsposten. The latter case started with a Danish author, Kåre Bluitgen, complaining over de difficulty to find somebody willing to illustrate his children’s book about the Quran and Mohammed. (It might have had something to do with his former book, in which he urged people to throw menstrual blood on the Quran).

    The cultural editor of Jyllandsposten, Fleming Rose, got upset and sent a letter to 40 cartoonists, asking them to make drawings of the prophet for immediate publishing next weekend. This resulted in the 12 infamous drawings.

    This in turn lead to a letter from eleven ambassadors to Denmark from muslim countries to prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking for a meeting to discuss the situation. He said no and told the press that the ambassadors had asked him to punish the newspaper. They then answered that this must be a misunderstanding of some kind. We just want a discussion, they said, and absolutely no restrictions of the freedom of speech. Fogh Rasmussen however publically continued to answer the urge that never was made.

    So it went on for four months, during which some religious leaders in muslim countries exaggerated what had happened, including showing false caricatures of Mohammed (worse than the actually published ones). Then Danish flags were burned in the muslim world, some Danish institutions were attacked and a ban on Danish products was proclaimed.

    Part of the picture is that Jyllandsposten two years earlier had refused to publish some comic strips of Jesus by cartoonist Christoffer Zieler with the motivation ‘it would violate the feelings of many people’.

    (Source: the book Världens lyckligaste folk (‘The happiest people in the world’) by Swedish journalist Lena Sundström).

  172. My wife’s a southern white now resident in NYC, and she holds that the trouble with Southern Baptists is that they don’t hold them under long enough. (As a baptised Southern Baptist, she says this with authority, and not like the scribes and ferishers.)

  173. Self deprecating humor and humor that demeans others are quite different.

    The fact that blacks use the ‘N-word” in reference to each other, does not, in my opinion, license me (white, southerner) to use the word.


  174. J. W. Brewer says

    Yet I expect GeorgeW would not get very far if he started a campaign against demeaning comedic portrayals of southern whites, and relevant decision-makers would find attempts to characterize such humor as “punching down” either unconvincing or irrelevant.

    But perhaps the reason that our US-in-bad-old-days analogies don’t work well for foreign circumstances or at least these foreign circumstances is because even back in the Jim Crow era both whites and blacks could and did make fun of preachers (and pious-yet-hypocritical laity) of all denominations on all levels of the class-prestige ladder.

    In the words of the old blues song:

    “Yes, I’m gonna get me religion
    I’m gonna join the Baptist Church
    Yes, I’m gonna get me religion
    I’m gonna join the Baptist Church
    You know I wanna be a Baptist preacher
    Just so I won’t have to work.”

  175. Aren’t Muslims in France largely the economic and social underclass?

    But they are not mocking “Muslims in France”; they are mocking the pieties of official Islam (“thou shalt not make representations of the Prophet”). You are going out of your way to make them look hateful. Or do you think no religion should be mocked, in order to spare the feelings of whatever poor and oppressed people believe in it?

  176. I think that religion is very much a big part of the identity of many people. It is more than just a concept a person happens to believe.

    And, for those in the dominant social class to mock the underclass, of which religion is a major part of their identity, is not civil behavior, in my opinion.

    I don’t think it is good taste to mock racial minorities, people with disabilities, religious minorities, minority ethnic groups, etc. On the other hand, presidents, kings, senators, CEOs, white people in white-dominant society, etc., are all fair game.

  177. David Marjanović says

    Charlie Hebdo strikes me as similar to South Park.

  178. A good comparison, and I imagine GeorgeW doesn’t care for South Park either. Which is fine! Tastes differ, especially when it comes to this kind of thing. But I repeat that as far as I’m concerned, when humorists start worrying too much about injured feelings, they cease to be humorists and become Borscht Belt “comedians.” (I just flew in from Vegas, and boy are my arms tired…)

  179. “I imagine GeorgeW doesn’t care for South Park either.”

    For the record, I am neither a fan nor a non-fan. I don’t know enough about it to comment as I don’t watch much TV (except news and sports). And, yes, tastes do differ. I personally don’t find humor at the expense of the underdog particularly entertaining. I wouldn’t ban it, I just don’t applaud it.


    Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Srtereotypes. Disclosure, I have an essay in it.

  181. I wouldn’t ban it, I just don’t applaud it.

    And I’m absolutely fine with that. Let each applaud what they choose, and let nothing be banned!

  182. David Marjanović says

    Yeah, I don’t like South Park either. It tries really hard to be “fair and balanced”, to punch in all directions, lest not everybody be exactly equally much offended – no matter how much offense they can easily take in cultural context. :-/

  183. The same word type classification into parts of speech exists in Russian, of course (часть речи, in both languages calqued from Lat. pars orationis). But in Russian, many word-class labels are more directly calqued from Latin too, unlike in English. There is broad super-class of “names” (as in Lat. nomen substantivum ~~ noun, nomen adiectivum ~~ adjective, with the third and distinct class in this superclass of names being numerals).

    Asya Pereltsvaig just posted on this topic of emergence of numerals as a distinct morphosyntactic category in modern Russian with numerous examples and historic usage snapshots (cardinal numbers turned out to not yet represent a separate part of speech in Old Russian; a similar process is reported to have occurred in Polish too)

  184. Very interesting, thanks for linking it. I didn’t realize Old Russian had ta pjat’ butylok ‘that five of bottles.’ And the last paragraph on “paucal morphosyntax” is fascinating.

  185. Right, these vestigial features and irregularities of Russian, and the extent to which grammar and syntax (rather than mere vocabulary) of Slavonic are discernible in the old and contemporary Russian, are surprising for the vast majority of L1s, too.

  186. Stefan Holm says

    Ta pjat’ butylok doesn’t look strange to me. It’s a partitive, a semantic category possible to express (I think) in any language. In some like Finnish and Estonian partitive forms a distinct case. In Russian it can be expressed by the genitive. Russian wiki’s article on partitive says:

    ’В большинстве случаев в современном русском языке партитив может быть заменён родительным или винительным падежами: вместо налить чаю (партитив) — налить чай (винительный падеж), вместо стакан сахару (партитив) — стакан сахара (родительный падеж).’

    In older Slavonic the partitive maybe was more widespread. As for the 12 vodka bottles one could in English say ‘there were twelve of them’, formally a partitive genitive construction. In modern Swedish grammars you beside the definite and indefinite articles find the partitive one ‘lite’ (Eng. ‘some’). In would you like some tea? it’s the only possible particle – you can hardly use ‘a’ or ‘the’. The alternative is to specify the amount, ‘a cup’, of this collective noun.

  187. It’s the definiteness (which has no overt markers in the Slavic languages, except for Bulgarian which gets it from the Balkan Sprachbund) that makes the difference. In English we can say five bottles (indefinite selection from an indefinite set), or the five bottles (definite selection from an indefinite set), or five of the bottles (indefinite selection of a definite set), but hardly *the five of the bottles(definite selection from a definite set).

  188. Ta pjat’ butylok doesn’t look strange to me. It’s a partitive

    I think you’re missing the point. It’s not the partitive genitive that’s strange (in fact, it’s the same in modern Russian), it’s treating “five” as a feminine noun.

  189. Stefan Holm says

    I see, but that I found less strange. En sexa whisky, ‘a six of whisky (6 cl)’ is ordered all the time in Swedish pubs. And the noun ‘sexa’ is for sure feminine in dialects still using the three gender system. Playing dice sexan, ‘the six’, beats all other numbers etc.

  190. it’s treating “five” as a feminine noun.

    as surprising as it sounds, it’s similar to the modern language constructs using numeral-derived counting-unit nouns (which have been widely discussed earlier in this thread, and which are largely feminine in Russian): та пара бутылок, та дюжина бутылок, but masculine тот десяток бутылок. For the number five, it would have been пяток ~~ “five of”, which is masculine and really archaically sounding (although in the 1930s, Ushakov’s dictionary still categorized it as a normal spoken form)

  191. En sexa whisky, ‘a six of whisky (6 cl)’ is ordered all the time in Swedish pubs.

    Yes, we have such counting-unit nouns in English too, and of course in modern Russian. The point is that in Old Russian they weren’t a curious corner of the vocabulary, they were the only way to count things. They didn’t have numerals as we think of them. That doesn’t seem at all odd to you?

  192. Stefan Holm says

    It would seem odd if (as you put it) ’they didn’t have numerals as we think of them’. But I’m not sure that Asya’s article proves they hadn’t. In the oldest Swedish texts you will find the numbers 1-4 inflected by case and gender. In masculine ‘thrir’ (three) is nominative, ‘thrim’ is dative and ‘thri’ is accusative.

    If you were brought to court, you had in the Older Law of the West Geats the right to defend yourself mæd tvem tylptum ‘with two (dative) twelves (dative)’. This meant that you at two subsequent trials had to gather twelve (free) men to testify that you are not guilty (the root of the modern American jury system – in continental Europe replaced by Roman law).

    So what’s the big deal? Numerals in both Slavic and Germanic seem to have connections to both nouns and adjectives.

  193. David Marjanović says

    mæd tvem

    You can still write mit zweien and mit dreien in German without making yourself look weird, but only really if there’s no following noun. From 4 through 6 it does look weird, and from 7 upwards it’s impossible, unlike in Russian.

  194. The Grauniad interviews an American satirist:

    Satire is unfair. It’s rude and uncivil. It lacks balance and proportion, and it obeys none of the normal rules of engagement. Satire picks a one-sided fight, and the more its intended target reacts, the more its practitioner gains the advantage. And as if that weren’t enough, this savage, unregulated sport is protected by the United States constitution. Cool, huh?

    Granted, being sent an envelope full of used toilet paper by Hunter S. Thompson isn’t the same as being shot; nevertheless, je suis Garry.

  195. f you were brought to court, you had in the Older Law of the West Geats the right to defend yourself mæd tvem tylptum ‘with two (dative) twelves (dative)’.

    Still true in the U.S. in an inverted kind of way: to convict you of a felony, the State must get twelve people (a majority of a 23-person grand jury) to indict you and another twelve to (unanimously) convict you. As former New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously said, though, it would be easy to get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what you wanted”.

  196. Stefan Holm says

    It seems like the Americans (and to some extent the British) have kept the old Germanic law system, while the Europeans in general have adapted the Roman law (mediated through the Catholic church). The Swedish law book (‘Svea Rikes Lag’) is a very thick one with the ambition to foresee every possible situation. If your act is not stated in the law book as a crime you are not guilty. If it is you – no matter what you say – are.

    E.g. if you with your car crash into the rear of somebody in front of you, you are guilty – period. You could in the court present whatever you like, witnesses, photographic evidence etc. that the other guy had made a completely unmotivated and surprising sudden brake on the at the time traffic free highway – it doesn’t matter. The law is clear and you are as a citizen obliged to know it (and in this case should keep a safe distance for whatever eventuality).

    I may be wrong but I have sensed the American system to be different. The Constitution is a very short document and the possibilities to interprete it are prodigious. Instead you value precedents, which make your lawyers have a million documents to search – and claim valid in front of the court!. No wonder that one fifth of the lawyers in this world are Americans. Don’t ask me what is to prefer – the ‘rigid’ European system or the ‘flexible’ American one?

    When it comes to the jury system there is no such thing in Sweden with one odd exception – cases concerning freedom of the press. Don’t ask me why but those are decided by a (12 person) jury of ‘laymen’. In all other cases the court that decides whether an accused person is guilty or no is an equal mix of professional lawyers and ‘citizens’ (proportionally appointed by the political parties). Regularly the laymen vote ‘guilty’ and the professionals ‘not guilty’. The following penalty though is decided by the judge.

  197. E.g. if you with your car crash into the rear of somebody in front of you, you are guilty – period.
    Are you sure? Perhaps it’s really like this in Sweden, but there is a similar popular belief in Germany (“Wer auffährt, ist immer schuld”) that is actually not true; you can prove that there were circumstances which exculpate you or even make it the fault of the driver in front. And Germany has a similar book-law based system like Sweden.

  198. Yeah, I’d be very surprised if “you are guilty – period” was literally true; I find it hard to believe that anyone would put up with patently unjust outcomes.

  199. Article 8.11 of the Traffic rules of Mongolia says:

    “The drivers should select, depending on the traffic speed, sufficient distance with the vehicle ahead to avoid collision if it stops”

    Hence, any complaint that the car ahead stopped suddenly will be met with same response – you failed to maintain sufficient distance to avoid collision, so it’s your fault.

  200. Mongolian law is said to be based on European continental law and Mongolian courts are very strict about following the letter of the law (even if results in clearly absurd verdicts).

    So if a paragraph of the law could be produced which a judge feels was clearly violated, then it is simply not possible to avoid guilty verdict.

    If it can be proven that the driver of the vehicle ahead stopped suddenly without good reason and thus caused the collision, this will only lead to both drivers being found guilty – the driver of the vehicle ahead for causing collision and the driver of the second vehicle for failing to maintain safe distance.

  201. Finally, a whole passage in Amideutsch (see above) has been published, though admittedly in a deutero-canonical source: “Komm to dat Mine Disaster Memorial abend heute oder dat zeitunger drucken dat sie und ihre mutter sind hexen. Sie wiss was geschieht hexen. Komm alleine. No cops.” Of course, not all Amideutsch is exactly the same, and it’s clear in-universe that this was written by a native anglophone; the story is written by one Bjorn Hasseler, who appears to also be a native anglophone (though I can’t be sure, because immigration and Maryland).

  202. Онлайн-библиотека суваро-булгар


  203. In Russia as in Germany, the rule of thumb is, the driver in the back is at fault in a rear-end collision. On the other hand, if someone pulls in front of you and brakes down, she could be the negligent party. Your problem is the difficulty of proving it, but now that dashcam records are allowed as evidence, you may have a chance.

  204. David Marjanović says

    …That’s a way to put it, yes. :-S I’ll have to read it at leisure.

  205. Bathrobe linked to a story about Albert Razin, who burned himself to death to protest the neglect/suppression of Udmurt and other indigenous languages of Russia.

  206. The Udmurt language is of the Uralic stem, which also includes Finno-Ugric languages. The number of people who speak the language has decreased from 463,000 in 2002 to 324,000 in 2010.

    I wonder how is that possible. Most likely, the ethnic Udmurt who claimed in 2002 that they speak Udmurt, stopped pretending by 2010 and said that no, actually we don’t.

    There is also similar drop in the ethnic population:

    The Udmurt population is shrinking; the Russian Census reported 552,299 in 2010, down from the 2002 Russian census figure of 637,000, in turn down from 746,562 in 1989.

    I wonder what is the mechanism. Mixed marriages probably. (41% of Udmurt women are married to non-Udmurts)

  207. @SFReader: Another possibility is that the 2002 speakers were predominantly elderly people, who have the unfortunate habit of dying in bigger numbers than younger people.

  208. Not to such extent. The number of ethnic Russians in the Udmurt Republic fell by 3% in 2002-2010 (from 944,108 to 912,539) while the number of ethnic Udmurt fell by 12% (from 460,584 to 410,584). Contrast this with the 42% drop in the number of Udmurt speakers (in Russia as a whole) for the same period.

    Clearly some kind of shift in ethnic identity is taking place accompanied by language shift (or rather acknowledgement of the shift which already occurred).

    It is strange how assimilation is being accelerated to such extent not only in the absence of any ongoing colonization, but with the majority group in actual decline.

    In some republics of the Caucasus, the situation is getting absurd. The number of Ingush speakers fell 35% in 2002-2010, even though the Ingush Republic hardly has any Russian population left (0,78% of population in 2010) and the number of ethnic Ingush actually grew in the period by 6%.

  209. This seems to be a typical incident of decolonization: you wind up with a population speaking the colonial language but of mostly indigenous or mixed origin. There must be approximately nobody in Latin America (other than recent immigrants from Iberia) who has limpieza de sangre / limpeza de sangue any more.

  210. January First-of-May says

    In this spirit Elias Lönnrot took up his life long project of creating a Finnish national epos. For some reason he (and others) believed that the purest Finnish culture, a kind of Urheimat, was to find in Karelia. So he spent much of his life travelling around there collecting folklore and songs – resulting in the Kalevala.

    Mildly neat story: in 2009 or so, I happened to visit an ethnographic museum in Petrozavodsk, and while our tour group was visiting a room dedicated to the Kalevala, I asked the guide if a particular place name in Karelia had anything to do with it.
    “Of course not,” she said, “the town of Kalevala was named for the poem, and only in the 1960s.”
    “No, you misunderstood me.” I replied. “I was asking about Louhi.”

    (She wasn’t actually sure if it was related or not.)

    However, with Charles XII (1697-1718) and particularly after his defeat at Poltava in 1709 the decline started. The eternal wars had ruined the country and the popular discontent was growing. So after his death the power of the kings were reduced and transformed to the parliament during ‘Frihetstiden’ (Age of Liberty, 1718-1772).

    It might have been a bit more complicated than that. Charles XII was succeeded by Ulrika Eleonora (1718-1720)…

    (Note: the following description is summarized from Wikipedia. It is also very long and very rambling, and in places probably wrong.)

    Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden was born in 1688, as the second daughter of Charles XI. Not considered especially intelligent or attractive, she was mostly overlooked in favor of her older sister Hedvig Sophia.
    As her brother Charles XII was unmarried and childless, Hedvig Sophia was expected to inherit the throne.

    This all changed when Hedvig Sophia died in 1708. Suddenly, Ulrika Eleonora was the only remaining adult heir (aside from her elderly grandmother). However, her 8-year-old nephew Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp was technically ahead of her in line by primogeniture succession.

    Normally this would be enough to declare him the heir. However, in Sweden, hereditary monarchy had only been established in 1660; previously, the monarchy had been elective.
    As such, the rules of inheritance had not yet been settled down, and an adult sister of a king could have had precedence over his not-yet-adult nephew.

    Meanwhile, Charles XII himself had ended up in exile in the Ottoman Empire, having barely escaped after the disastrous battle of Poltava in 1709. As the main adult heir, Ulrika Eleonora was eventually named his regent in 1713.
    In 1714, Charles XII was allowed to return to Sweden; however, he then proceeded to invade Norway in 1716, and, having been commanding the army at the frontlines, ended up mostly absent from the capital again, while Ulrika Eleonora apparently continued her regency (I think; Wikipedia is vague at this point).

    In the meantime, in January 1714, Ulrika Eleonora became engaged to Prince Frederick of Hesse-Kassel, whom she apparently loved; they married in March 1715. It was expected (mainly by her scheming grandmother, then 78 years old) that this marriage would make her leave to Hesse and abandon any plans for the Swedish crown. However, this didn’t exactly work out.

    On November 24, 1715, Ulrika Eleonora’s grandmother died. Almost immediately – perhaps even a little earlier than that – Frederick started plotting to take the Swedish throne for himself as Ulrika Eleonora’s heir. Naturally, neither of them left to Hesse.

    Charles XII died, in somewhat mysterious circumstances, on November 30, 1718. Five days later, on December 5th, the news made it to Sweden and Ulrika Eleonora.
    Having already been the regent at the time, she took the opportunity to officially declare herself the new monarch, on the grounds of being the closest living relative of the previous king (citing the precedent of Queen Christina in the 17th century).
    Ten more days later, on December 15, 1718, she declared that she was willing to abolish the hereditary succession (introduced in 1660) and the absolute monarchy (1680), and reign as an elected monarch under parliamentary rule. She was duly elected on January 23, 1719; she then proceeded to sign the new constitution heavily reducing the monarch’s powers on February 19th, and was officially crowned on March 17th.

    However, she apparently did not have that much interest in being the monarch, and in particular had no problem with her husband’s ambitions to that title. She had proposed a co-monarch system along the lines of William and Mary of England; however, this was apparently not allowed under Swedish traditions.
    Eventually, however, when the Riksdag realized that Ulrika Eleonora and Frederick were basically de facto co-monarchs anyway, having been discussing most matters of state between them, a compromise was reached that she would abdicate in favor of her husband, leaving him as the official sole monarch.

    On February 29, 1720, after the failure of yet another attempt at making them officially rule together, she did just that, with the added clause that she would be her husband’s heir and succeed to the throne should he die before her. (As it happened, their marriage was childless, so he never got any direct legitimate heirs anyway.)
    She never got around to fulfilling that clause, having died of smallpox in 1741, ten years before the death of her successor.

    In one of history’s weird ironies, the above-mentioned nephew, Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, managed to bring his family into historical fame anyway by marrying Anna Petrovna of Russia, a daughter of Peter the Great.
    After the first several rounds of the Russian palace coups, their son, Carl Peter Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp, ended up the only possible remaining (non-imprisoned) Romanov heir, and succeeded to the Russian throne as Peter III on January 5, 1762.
    He then proceeded to get overthrown by his wife Sophia Augusta Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst (aka Catherine II) on July 9, 1762, having reigned for a grand total of six months and four days.
    Sadly, my collection does not (currently) include any coinage from his reign (except for some overstruck coppers, which don’t really count).

    As it happened, Carl Peter Ulrich’s “last remaining Russian heir” position led the Swedish Riksdag to propose a member of the Holstein-Gottorp dynasty as the heir for the Swedish throne after Ulrika Eleonora died; said member, Adolf Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, proceeded to get said throne after Frederick I’s death in 1751.
    In turn, Adolf Frederick’s successor, Gustav III, apparently ended up reintroducing the absolute and hereditary monarchy. But that is another story entirely.

    (Actually, now that I’m looking at this text again, it’s not actually complicating anything. Still a neat summary though.
    The text is from this old CCF post by me, incidentally, which explains the occasional numismatic reference.)

    For the number five, it would have been пяток ~~ “five of”, which is masculine and really archaically sounding

    This word reminds me of a poem from Zakhoder’s rendition of Winnie-the-Pooh:

    “Вопрос мой прост и краток”,
    – Промолвил Носорог,
    “Что лучше – сорок пяток
    Или пяток сорок?”
    Увы, никто на это
    Дать не мог!

    [Very approximately:

    “‘My question is short and simple,’
    Declared Rhinoceros,
    ‘What is better – forty heels
    Or five magpies?’
    Alas, no one to this
    Any answer
    Was able to give!”]

    These days the “normal spoken form” would probably be та пятёрка бутылок, coopting the (previously mentioned) digit words (also for numerals other than 5, though not for 2 or 10).

    Incidentally, пяток “five of” is (somehow) a different word from пятак “a fiver” [in a Russian context, a five-kopek coin – whence пятачок “pig’s snout”, and in turn the name of Piglet in the aforementioned Zakhoder rendition of Winnie-the-Pooh] – and both of these are distinct from the above-mentioned пятёрка “(the digit) five”.

    E.g. if you with your car crash into the rear of somebody in front of you, you are guilty – period.

    What, even if your car was stationary and the other guy was driving backwards (e.g. while incompetently trying to leave parallel parking)? Or does “safe distance” in this context apply even to parking?

    (…And now I’m imagining a scenario where someone noticed the car in front of them trying to drive backwards into their car, and reacted by driving their car backwards to get away – and possibly then hitting a third car.)

  211. January First-of-May says

    (She wasn’t actually sure if it was related or not.)

    …Apparently one modern theory notes that (supposedly) Louhi (the character) is only ever referred to as Louhi Pohjolan emäntä “Louhi, mistress of Pohjola” – and that the original texts would have actually said Louhi-Pohjolan emäntä “mistress of Louhi-Pohjola” (~= “…of rocky Pohjola”), without actually attributing a name to her.

    (IIRC, though, Pohjola is indeed assumed to have been located somewhere in the rough vicinity of the town of Louhi.
    In any case, the modern town had embraced the connection, putting Louhi the character on its flag and holding a festival in her honor.)

  212. John Cowan says

    Considering how nasty Louhi is, and how she is almost certainly a doublet of Loviatar, the goddess of death, pain, disease and Everything Bad (in one pre-consolidation poem called “Whore-Mistress of Pohjola”), I’m surprised anyone would do that. The city of Arnold, Missouri would hardly hold a festival in honor of Benedict Arnold, even if the place had been named for him.

  213. Lars Mathiesen says

    I was taught in driving school that if you slam on the brakes to avoid running over a small bird or cat — or indeed without motivation at all — and the car behind you hits you, you have at least partial blame. But if it’s a deer or large dog or something that could damage your car or endanger yourself, it was a forced action and the driver behind you is at fault for not keeping a safe distance. Much the same applies to sudden lane changes.

    (Insurance companies love to split the blame, and sometimes do it even if the court assigns 100% to one of the parties. That way they can reset the no-claims bonus of both drivers).

  214. E.g. if you with your car crash into the rear of somebody in front of you, you are guilty – period.

    What, even if your car was stationary and the other guy was driving backwards (e.g. while incompetently trying to leave parallel parking)?

    Something close to this actually happened to my daughter. She came around a bend on a country road and hit a septuagenarian who had been backing out of his driveway and kept rolling down the road that way for some distance. I don’t think she was held liable, but her insurance premium went up.

  215. In ordinary non-poetic Karelian louhi just means ‘large rock, rocky ground’, however; another point of comparison would be the related louhie ‘to mine’. (As evident e.g. as the naming motivation behind the 00s Finnish national supercomputers Louhi and Murska ‘crush, crack’). I doubt pre-revolution Russians would have approved of naming a railway stop specifically after a character associated with then rising Finnish nationalism, even a villain.

Speak Your Mind