Author Topic: Pre revolution spoken Russian  (Read 44917 times)

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Offline Nathalie

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Pre revolution spoken Russian
« on: April 22, 2011, 04:37:32 AM »
I have heard, that the spoken Russian before the revolution was a little bit different, than the Russian which is used now - Well I don't mean the grammar (though Im not sure, maybe grammar too), but the accent...
I also read even here somewhere, that it was like "silver troika bells across fresh fallen snow".
Is it correct?
Can a language/accent change within such a -relatively- short time?
Dites-moi, Vladimir Lvovich, si j'avais une amie ou une sœur plus jeune, et si vous appreniez qu’elle…enfin, supposons qu’elle vous aime…que feriez vous á cette nouvelle?

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2011, 09:35:44 AM »
Yes, it is quite true that the Imperial Russian accent was very different from modern Russian, and some grammar usage as well. I was very lucky to have known a lady, my "tante" Lilly who was born a Princess into an aristocratic Moscow family before the Revolution, and I heard her Russian accent often. It was indeed beautiful, and different from the modern accent.  It was I who found that analogy about the silver bells, and yes, it is true. 

One other interesting difference, for example.  At a Christmas (Orthodox) dinner one year, I toasted the table with "Nastrovya"...Tante Lilly on my right, touched my arm saying "no, no my Dear...not Nastrovya! Only the Polish say that, or Papa to his immediate family...When one has guests, you say "Vashestrova", to YOUR health, in the polite form."  So from then on I toast with "Vashestrovya."  I toasted some "modern" Russians that way once, and they laughed, at how "old fashioned" that was!

Offline Petr

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2011, 11:35:43 AM »
Yes, it is quite true that the Imperial Russian accent was very different from modern Russian, and some grammar usage as well.

I can confirm this having grown up as an émigré in a Russian family speaking "quaint" Russian. When confronted by modern Russians who are puzzled by both my vocabulary and usage I tell them the Russian I speak is "Russian in a bottle", it has never been subject to the influences that affected and developed the language after the Revolution. Sadly, to my way of thinking, the Bolsheviks greatly coarsened the language (compare Pushkin, Tchutchev and Lermontov to some of the young Bolshevik era poets (other than those that pre-dated the Revolution such as Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandelshtam)) by deliberately introducing various nationalistic (stripping out foreign words) contractions (viz., "vertalet" for "gelikoptr" and "samolet" for "aroplan") and obliterating the more mannered way of speaking that characterised pre-Revolutionary Russia (viz., your Тётя).  In the process of eliminating whole classes of people who were educated, cultured and had been exposed to various languages (and a more genteel existence) it was inevitable that the language would contract and suffer. The language of public discourse changed as well as the Government used more "revolutionary" and "marxist" rhetoric.  It is the problem of reverting the mean for ideological reasons to the lowest common denominator.  Again, the habit of contracting things (viz., Sovnarkom, Cheka, etc.) pushed the language towards a more short-handed nomenclature.  Furthermore, the terrible experiences of the Stalin era had a deleterious effect on the language. One can't be a "Zek" sitting in a camp and expect to be gracious and mannered and, in any case, to speak in such a way made one immediately suspect. Finally, Russian like any other language is a living thing which reflects its time and place and it is inevitable that the Russian language would have evolved.  Of course, whether the manner in which it evolved was "good " or "bad" is a matter of personal opinion. I should add that I don't like Hip Hop or Rap either even if it is deemed modern urban poetry but then again I live in a bottle.

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Offline Nathalie

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2011, 03:53:14 PM »
Thank you for the replies - I hope this thread will shed some new light on this topic..well, new for ME at least:)
Its very interesting for me, because -though I guess its not obvious from my (poorish) English, but forgive me, I'm always in a "rush" when I'm online- I am very much into different languages, I am also teaching a foreign language and such questions interest me...

"The language of public discourse changed as well as the Government used more "revolutionary" and "marxist" rhetoric. "

That is peculiar. In my country, socialism was only introduced in 1945 (well, apart from a brief intermezzo in 1919), but I haven't really noticed any drastic change in our language (considering that I am an ardent reader of classics)
But I can imagine it though..Sounds pretty "orwellish"....

Anyway, that brings up a very good point too (sorry for venting a bit) concerning the evolution and/or devalvation of language(s)...Seems like you consider, that switching to a rather "marxist rhetoric" contaminated the language, at least that is the feeling I get from the post.
But I also think, that languages are like societies, they simply change with time...

"Russian like any other language is a living thing which reflects its time and place and it is inevitable that the Russian language would have evolved. "

Exactly:)

I am very curious though, how does the "old" spoken Russian sound, but I am sure that if I am able to master the "textbook Russian" (and why not-)), I will get the chance to get to know the Russian of the pre revolution days.



Dites-moi, Vladimir Lvovich, si j'avais une amie ou une sœur plus jeune, et si vous appreniez qu’elle…enfin, supposons qu’elle vous aime…que feriez vous á cette nouvelle?

Offline Nathalie

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2011, 02:44:52 PM »
Fine, I will try to revive the topic - with another question:) (what a surprise...heh)

I've read Robert O. Crummy's book on the Russian aristocracy in the 17th century ("Aristocrats and Serviteurs") where it is written, thatwhen addressing the throne, boyars usually  adopted a self-effacing  tone, referring to themselves as the tsar's slaves, and using a lower class form of their names - a nickname and surname, without the patronymic, "the sign of social distinction".

I wonder was it a tradition throughout the whole Romanov-era?
Dites-moi, Vladimir Lvovich, si j'avais une amie ou une sœur plus jeune, et si vous appreniez qu’elle…enfin, supposons qu’elle vous aime…que feriez vous á cette nouvelle?

Offline Svetabel

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2011, 11:56:10 PM »
Fine, I will try to revive the topic - with another question:) (what a surprise...heh)

I've read Robert O. Crummy's book on the Russian aristocracy in the 17th century ("Aristocrats and Serviteurs") where it is written, thatwhen addressing the throne, boyars usually  adopted a self-effacing  tone, referring to themselves as the tsar's slaves, and using a lower class form of their names - a nickname and surname, without the patronymic, "the sign of social distinction".

I wonder was it a tradition throughout the whole Romanov-era?

Not throughout the whole Romanov-era. I think the middle of XVIII cent. was the end of such "social distinction".

Offline Mike

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2011, 04:14:38 AM »
In 1776, Catherine II ordered to stop using the expression "your obedient slave" in petitions submitted to the monarch, and to replace it with "your loyal subject".

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2011, 09:54:53 AM »
In response to Petr and Reply #2 - I see all language as a living thing and I agree that all languages change as time goes on.

I know this thread is about the Russian language, but English is also a fluid and living thing and there are many words and uses of words that I (who also live in a bottle I think) don't pretend to understand.  I have to ask sometimes what the speaker is saying as the meaning of words I have used all of my life seem to have changed just in the past 10 years.

English has become coarser and even in our "politically correct" environment, we speak words and phrases that no one would have used in my youth without being publicly ostracized or at the very least, ignored.

Enunciation has become passe and even those students who should be proud of their learning and English skills will let their language skills devolve as soon as they go outside the school.  One must slur words and use improper pronunciation and even incorrect words in order to "fit in" with others.

And I can't even get started on texting and what it has done to English and spelling.

Is that also true of Russian or any other language which is now texted continuously?  Has a new "text Language" been born in every country and in every language like it has been born in English?

Offline Petr

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2011, 06:06:14 AM »
Of course one also has to ask whether the rise of electronic communication has had a pernicious effect on language (and not only Russian). The demise of the letter (apparently the post office is discussing eliminating first class mail) has eliminated a form of communication that has produced wonderful language that could not have helped but have a salutary effect on the spoken word.

Soon we will all be speaking in 140 character "sound bites". OMG 

Petr
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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2011, 09:48:13 AM »
Ok. who today can read AND understand this? (hint they are both in English!)

 Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
   Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
   Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
   And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
   That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
   Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,
   What with his wysdom and his chivalrie;
   He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
   That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
   And weddede the queene Ypolita,
   And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree,
   With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
   And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.

or this:

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
Nature's bequest gives nothing but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free.
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thyself alone,
Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive.
Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
Thy unused beauty must be tomb'd with thee,
Which, used, lives th' executor to be.


(first: Chaucer "The Knight's Tale",  second Shakespeare Sonnet IV)

Alixz

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2011, 10:39:29 AM »
I didn't know the first was Chaucer, but I recognized the second as Shakespeare before I got to your note.  (Iambic pentameter)


And without studying it, I wouldn't know what they were talking about, although I do know that when a movie was made of Romeo and Juliet, by the middle of the movie most in the audience has adjusted their ears to Elizabethan English and by the end it actually was making sense!

Good call, though, even English has been much changed since Elizabeth I.


Fyodor Petrovich

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2011, 06:59:16 AM »
Enunciation has become passe
What evidently also has become passé is people taking the time and effort to get their diacritics right! Ô mœurs, ô temps !

Quote
And I can't even get started on texting and what it has done to English and spelling.

Is that also true of Russian or any other language which is now texted continuously?  Has a new "text Language" been born in every country and in every language like it has been born in English?
Yes, but in the case of Norwegian, at least, it's fast dying again, as people start to treat SMS more like regular notes (with built-in, typing-reducing spell check) instead of pay-per-character telegramms.

BTW try to read any medieval manuscript text, even the Bible, and you'll hardly be able to decipher it without a knowledge of all the abbrevations of the monkish 1337/leet-speak.

Quote from: Petr
Of course one also has to ask whether the rise of electronic communication has had a pernicious effect on language (and not only Russian). The demise of the letter (apparently the post office is discussing eliminating first class mail) has eliminated a form of communication that has produced wonderful language that could not have helped but have a salutary effect on the spoken word.
Reading and writing tends to destroy the natural diversity among people (e.g. dialects.) and to encourage uniformity and confirmity.

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Ok. who today can read AND understand this? (hint they are both in English!)

Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie;
He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
And weddede the queene Ypolita,
And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree,
With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.

Are you sure this is Chaucer? This is so easy to understand it's hard to believe it's from the 14th century!

Quote
Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
....

The words and grammar are easy enough to understand, but I have no idea what and whom Shakespeare is talking about.

Quote from: Alixz
Good call, though, even English has been much changed since Elizabeth I.

Compared to many other languages, written English has changed very little since Elizabeth I. What has changed tremendously is the pronunciation. (i.e. the Great Vowel Shift). If you heard Elizabethans talk, you would probably not understand them, as they pronounced it quite differently than you do, even if you could understand what they wrote. E.g. they would pronounce "time" as "teem", archaïc speakers perhaps even as "teemeh". See this great outline.

Nobody who knows anything more about Russian? What about palatalisation? Did the pre-revolutionary acrolect differ from contemporary standard Russian in that regard?

I know there historically has been rather small dialectical differences within Russia, compared to other, smaller European speech communities, but surely they must have been more pronounced in Tsarist days, when most of the population couldn't read and write? And since the upper classes often learnt their Russian from village nurses, perhaps they sometimes picked up some dialectic Russian?

Offline TimM

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2011, 04:05:12 PM »
Quote
And I can't even get started on texting and what it has done to English and spelling.

Yeah, this compressing and merging of words is getting dangerously close to Newspeak (Newspeak was the language spoken in George Orwell's novel 1984, for example, Ministry Of Truth was Minitrue).

Was Orwell decades ahead of his time?  It seems so.
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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2011, 03:50:34 AM »
Quote
And I can't even get started on texting and what it has done to English and spelling.

Yeah, this compressing and merging of words is getting dangerously close to Newspeak (Newspeak was the language spoken in George Orwell's novel 1984, for example, Ministry Of Truth was Minitrue).

But such things are not a result of SMS language. You muddle things because you have read more science-fiction than medieval manuscripts, I presume.

Alixz

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Re: Pre revolution spoken Russian
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2011, 10:25:39 AM »
Tim is right.  Already we have combined the names of Hollywood Celebrities  Ben and Jennifer are Benifer.  Tom and Katie became TomKat.

We are not too far from Newspeak as we "speak".

I believe that Orwell was ahead of his time as are most SciFi writers.

And, in case you have forgotten, "Big Brother Is Watching You" and has been for a very long time.