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Posts tagged ‘Russia’

Russian to ban words

This is a bit rich coming from someone whose own endonym is a loanword:

“We’re tormented with Americanisms,” the leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, complained last week. “We need to liberate our language from foreign words.” He is drawing up a list of 100 words which he would like it to be illegal for broadcasters, writers and academics to use in public. Fines and unemployment could face anyone caught saying café, bar, restaurant, sale, mouton, performance or trader. Some of the words have come into use since the fall of the Soviet Union; others have been around for decades, if not centuries. “There are perfectly good Russian words you can use,” Zhirinovsky says. “Why say boutique when we have lavka?”….

The reality is that the Russian language is in no way threatened by loanwords from other languages; indeed, it is actually Russian that is threatening other languages, as the indigenous peoples of Siberia and elsewhere in Russia are increasingly shifting to Russian and abandoning their own (mostly) Altaic or Uralic languages. And even if those peoples are not shifting, they are still heavily borrowing words and sometimes syntax and idioms from Russian.

And a handful of loanwords does not threaten a language. Consider English. It has many layers of loanwords, in particular from French. Some of these date back to time contemporary with the Norman Conquest. And yet, English was in no way threatened by the French language and is in no way Romance in character. For example, it retains many typical features of Germanic languages, such as genitives using a sibilant suffix;* verb classes contrasting weak (dental suffix), strong (vowel change) and a few smaller classes;† (remnants of) a system of three genders, and so on. Now, the Russian loanwords are far fewer in number than English loanwords. Since loanwords did not substantially change or threaten the character of English, there is no way a smaller relative number could possibly threaten Russian.

And if Zhirinovsky is going to be consistent, he’d have to abandon all loanwords. There are a number of them from the Proto–Slavic period. Some of these have descendants in modern Russian and therefore fully qualify as loanwords. He cannot explain these away as being “old” as that is simply saying the desirability of a loanword depends on when it was borrowed, which is absurd and incoherent. Indeed, as I mentioned before, his own language’s endonym (and name for itself) are themselves loanwords. (Specifically, and skipping over the specifics, it ultimately comes from a Norse word meaning “the men who row”, which was something like *rods–). This must be why Zhirinovsky wants to change the name of his country, because it’s one of those “tormenting loanwords”. Right?

Hence, I conclude that the Russian language is not under threat from loanwords, that those who complain about them are incoherent, and that any consistent attempt to exorcise loan words from the Russian language would require excessive changes that would be taken to a ridiculous extreme. Indeed, banning certain loanwords is about as necessary as declaring onion domes the official architecture of that country.

Via.

* The ‘s is not actually a suffix, but its etymology is as a genitive suffix. Cognate forms appear in many other Germanic languages.

A question

Does anyone know why the exactly there are so many Russian language spam comments on my post about a reactionary SCOTUS judge’s disturbing beliefs? What exactly could those two things possibly have to do with each other?

Tomorrow is more like today than you think

I came across this post at Dispatches from the Culture wars. It got me thinking, and eventually my mind thought about previous predictions of what the 2010’s would be like. This led me to realize that the past is more like the present than you think. Indeed, if you predicted that the world thirty years from now would be exactly like today, you probably wouldn’t do too badly.

To illustrate, let’s pretend that some futurologist, Ima P. Rofet, writing (to use round year numbers) that the year 2010 will be exactly like 1980. Let’s see what predictions our prognosticator would have been correct on (not an exhaustive list):

  • Politics and international relations:
    • There will be two major political parties in the United States, the Democratic and the Republican. There will be other parties, but only these two will have a realistic chance of taking power.
    • Russia will be governed as an authoritarian state.
    • Nuclear weapons will never have been used in warfare since Nagasaki.
    • The conflict in the Middle East will have been unresolved.
    • There will be no peace treaty in Korea.
    • There will have been no female president of the United States.
    • Oil will give the Middle East disproportionate influence on world affairs.
    • Terrorism will influence some countries foreign policy.
    • The United Nations will not be a world government.
  • Culture and society
    • Television, movies, and recorded music will be popular forms of entertainment.
    • Classical music will be important in music education and most people will be exposed to it in movie and television soundtracks, but it will only retain niche popularity.
    • Most people in the western world will live in cities and suburbs.
    • An appreciable number of people will have used marijuana, even if it is nominally illegal.
    • Most people will travel by car or airplane and, in densely–populated cities, train or other public transport.
    • Many people will live in poverty and lack adequate access to food, water, and medicine.
    • Many women will still be oppressed and be second–class citizens, even if they nominally have equal rights with men. (more…)

Anti-gay bigotry weakens marriage

I came across this story on Pam’s House Blend (my emphasis):

Gay activists in Russia are planning to ask air passengers to boycott Aeroflot, Russia’s leading airline and not to use its services until the creation of equal conditions for all workers.

The call [for a boycott] comes following the revelation that gay flight attendant Maxim Kupreev was forced by his employers to enter into heterosexual marriage with his former high school girlfriend following his announcement last year to create an LGBT group within the company to fight for the protection of the rights of homosexual employees.

[…]

According to internal Aeroflot sources reported by GayRussia.eu, 25-year-old flight attendant Maxim Kupreev was given an ultimatum late last year to enter into heterosexual marriage or to lose his job. At the end of 2011 he married his school friend Sofia Mikhailova who got the right to fly Aeroflot for 10% of the fare – and other company privileges.

In order to register marriage with Kupreev, Mikhailova had to dissolve her real marriage to Grigoriy Andreykin. The divorce was finalised on 11 October last year.

Besides the fact that this is blatant bigotry, I’d also like to emphasize that this is actually weakening the sort of marriage anti–LGBT activists are always claiming needs to be protected.* First, Kupreev did not marry for any of the reasons anti–LGBT bigots are always claiming the purpose of marriage is (like having children), but rather to keep his job. And it required some other (different–sex) marriage to accomplish that. And if those things don’t weaken marriage, it’s beyond me how same–sex marriage possibly could.

* As far as I know, marriage equality hasn’t been much of an issue in Russia, and therefore I can’t know what sort of arguments are used about it over there. However, if I had to guess, anti–LGBT activists over there would probably use the same sorts of (refuted) arguments that are used over here.

Most disturbing thing I’ve read this month

[TW: Rape, kidnapping, suicide]

This is seriously disturbing (via):

Bride kidnapping, or “bridenapping”, happens in at least 17 countries around the world, from China to Mexico to Russia to southern Africa. In each of these lands, there are communities where it is routine for young women and girls to be plucked from their families, raped and forced into marriage. Few continents are not blighted by the practice, yet there is little awareness of these crimes, and few police investigations. The lack of reporting means there are no global statistics, but inquiries over many weeks by The Independent on Sunday have found anecdotal evidence that bridenapping is increasing. Something that belongs more to the Middle Ages is growing in the 21st century.

[…]

[In Kyrgyzstan], [d]espite bridenapping being a criminal offence carrying a maximum three-year jail term, very few cases are brought, and most of those who are prosecuted get away with a negligible fine…

“Little awareness” and “few police investigations”. Yet again legal systems are failing women. And the kidnapped women are often subject to rape and abuse, as indicated in the linked article. In Rwanda, kidnapped women are basically forced to marry their kidnapper, as they are raped and beaten, and then held hostage by their kidnapper, which results in them being seen as too “tainted” to be able to marry anyone else. (more…)

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