Languages of the world: 6. Russian

Languages of the world:

Russian is a Slavic language spoken primarily in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is not an official language in Moldova, Latvia, Estonia but is widely spoken in these countries.

Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and its closest relatives are Ukrainian and Belarusian.

The standard well-known form of Russian is generally called the “Modern Russian Literary Language”. It arose in the beginning of the 18th century with the modernization reforms of the Russian state by Peter the Great.

In the 20th century, Russian was widely taught in the schools of the members of the old Warsaw Pact and in other countries that used to be satellites of the USSR. In particular, these countries include Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania, former East Germany and Cuba.

The language possesses five vowels, which are written with different letters depending on whether or not the preceding consonant is palatalized. The consonants typically come in plain vs. palatalized pairs, which are traditionally called hard and soft. The standard language, based on the Moscow dialect, possesses heavy stress and moderate variation in pitch. Stressed vowels are somewhat lengthened, while unstressed vowels tend to be reduced to near-close vowels or an unclear schwa. The Russian syllable structure can be quite complex with both initial and final consonant clusters of up to 4 consecutive sounds.

Russian is written using a modified version of the Cyrillic (кириллица) alphabet. It consists of 33 letters:

А
/a/
Б
/b/
В
/v/
Г
/ɡ/
Д
/d/
Е
/je/
Ё
/jo/
Ж
/ʐ/
З
/z/
И
/i/
Й
/j/
К
/k/
Л
/l/
М
/m/
Н
/n/
О
/o/
П
/p/
Р
/r/
С
/s/
Т
/t/
У
/u/
Ф
/f/
Х
/x/
Ц
/ts/
Ч
/tɕ/
Ш
/ʂ/
Щ
/ɕɕ/
Ъ
/-/
Ы
/ɨ/
Ь
/ʲ/
Э
/e/
Ю
/ju/
Я
/ja/

Russian Facts:

  • It is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages.
  • There are around 155 million native speakers in the world, being the 8th most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers.
  • There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neutral
  • There is no article.
  • Russian distinguishes between consonant phonemes with palatal secondary articulation and those without.
  • TheNovgorod Codex is considered to be the most ancient Russian book which dates back to the beginning of the 11th century.
  • Russian is classified as a level III language in terms of learning difficulty for native English speakers, requiring approximately 780 hours of immersion instruction to achieve intermediate fluency.

False Friends:

  • In Russian language, the word магазин (magazin) does refer to a shop and not to a magazine, which is said журнал(zhurnal).
  • If you overhear the word  kабинет (kabinet) you need to know that they are referring to an office.
  • There are more words similar to English like лук(Luk) that sounds similar to the name Luke, but the meaning is actually onion.
  • Декорация, sounds like decoration but it is a setting, while to say decoration you need to use the word украшение.

Here, at the University of Almería, you can find Russian courses in our “Centro de Lenguas

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