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Russian and other Slavic languages

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Russianbear
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: Russian*, English, Ukrainian
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 9 of 43
15 May 2009 at 8:26pm | IP Logged 
Yeah, there is something to that. Imagine the Jabberwocky poem has an abundance of "ch", "zh" and "sh" sounds. Anyways, it probably is the case not just for the Russian speakers when they hear Polish, but also vice versa, or, for what matter, it is probably how any Slavic language sounds to a speaker of another Slavic language, and probably how many Romance or even Germanic languages sound to each other.

Edited by Russianbear on 15 May 2009 at 8:34pm

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Meadowmeal
Pentaglot
Groupie
Netherlands
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Speaks: Dutch*, French, English, German, Polish
Studies: Romanian

 
 Message 10 of 43
15 May 2009 at 10:17pm | IP Logged 
Sennin wrote:
On the other hand, I can understand 90% of what Serbs have to say and about 99% of Macedonian :). The difference Serbian<->Bulgarian (and vice versa) is like English<->Scots.


Russianbear wrote:
Bulgarian may be somewhat closer to Russian in terms of vocabulary (compared to Polish), but Polish is closer to Russian in terms of grammar. For a Russian who hasn't had any exposure to Ukrainian, Bulgarian may be easier to understand than Polish due to similarities in vocabulary - and writing is much easier, because it is Cyrillic and is pretty straightword compared to Polish.

Serbo-Chroato-Bosnian is hard for speakers of Russian to understand, I think. It is more remote than Polish, I think, though the writing may appear easier whenever it is written with the Cyrillic alphabet.


This seems a bit contradictory to me: for a Bulgarian native Serbian is to a great extent intelligible, whereas for a Russian native there's a huge difference in intelligibility beween Bulgarian and Serbian. Is this just a difference in personal appreciation, or is there an explanation for this, connected with the way Slavic languages are interrelated?


By the way: may I deduce from what you all said that once I can understand Polish and Bulgarian (next on my list) well, this will help me a lot if I want to learn Russian, because Polish will be of help for Russian grammar and Bulgarian for Russian vocabulary?
Professor Arguelles' enthusiasm about the old Assimils for Russian has made me curious, even though at work Russian won't be of much use to me, as long as Russia is no EU-member state ;-)

Edited by Meadowmeal on 15 May 2009 at 10:22pm

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William Camden
Hexaglot
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United Kingdom
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 Message 11 of 43
15 May 2009 at 10:29pm | IP Logged 
With quite a few languages, you get a kind of linguistic discount for closely related languages of an L2 you learn well. Native English speakers don't always grasp this because English is rather remote from other languages (its closest relatives, Frisian and Dutch, are very different from English). But with many languages, you do get this effect. I have a pretty good grasp of Turkish, so I can generally follow Azerbaijani without ever having studied the latter. A Kurdish friend once told me, after listening to some Iranians talking to each other in Farsi, that she could understand a lot of what they said, since Kurdish and Farsi are fairly closely related. And it is so with the Slavic family. To know Russian is to largely know Ukrainian and Belarusian, to partly know Polish and Czech etc.   
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Russianbear
Triglot
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United States
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 Message 12 of 43
17 May 2009 at 11:58pm | IP Logged 
Meadowmeal wrote:
Sennin wrote:
On the other hand, I can understand 90% of what Serbs have to say and about 99% of Macedonian :). The difference Serbian<->Bulgarian (and vice versa) is like English<->Scots.


Russianbear wrote:
Bulgarian may be somewhat closer to Russian in terms of vocabulary (compared to Polish), but Polish is closer to Russian in terms of grammar. For a Russian who hasn't had any exposure to Ukrainian, Bulgarian may be easier to understand than Polish due to similarities in vocabulary - and writing is much easier, because it is Cyrillic and is pretty straightword compared to Polish.

Serbo-Chroato-Bosnian is hard for speakers of Russian to understand, I think. It is more remote than Polish, I think, though the writing may appear easier whenever it is written with the Cyrillic alphabet.


This seems a bit contradictory to me: for a Bulgarian native Serbian is to a great extent intelligible, whereas for a Russian native there's a huge difference in intelligibility beween Bulgarian and Serbian. Is this just a difference in personal appreciation, or is there an explanation for this, connected with the way Slavic languages are interrelated?

I think there is a little bit of both. I think Bulgarian and Russian share some common history, and there is a greater amount of borrowed/shared words between Russian and Bulgarian than there is between Russian and Serbian. Part of it may be the fact that Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet is closer to the Russian alphabet than the SCB alphabet is. Also, I think SCB may have either lost certain vowels or at least those vowels are omitted in writing - and that may make it harder to recognize certain SCB words compared to the Bulgarian words. When I read the Bulgarian text, I immediately notice many words that are very similar to Russian words, as well as many one- and two- letter words that I am clueless about and that I take to be the articles and various other secondary parts of speech. With SCB, I recognize much fewer words, and while I may parse the syntactical structure of a sentence better, it doesn't help me any if I don't recognize as many words as in Bulgarian.

For example, a Bulgarian Wiki article on 'Растения'("Plants") is relatively transparent to me. The Bulgarian word for "plants" itself is not just close to its Russian equivalent - it is actually written exactly the same way the corresponding Russian word is. When I switch to the SCB entry for the same article, not only don't I recognize the name of the article - "Biljka" - I cannot even think of any Russian cognate that would be relevant. And it is not just one word - I could easily think of other examples. So I am a little surprised to hear that it is that much easier for a native speaker of Bulgarian to understand Serbian compared compared to Russian. But maybe a lot of it is subjective.
Quote:



By the way: may I deduce from what you all said that once I can understand Polish and Bulgarian (next on my list) well, this will help me a lot if I want to learn Russian, because Polish will be of help for Russian grammar and Bulgarian for Russian vocabulary?
Yes, once you master Polish and Bulgarian, Russian should be relatively easy
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Chung
Diglot
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 Message 13 of 43
18 May 2009 at 5:54am | IP Logged 
Russianbear wrote:

For example, a Bulgarian Wiki article on 'Растения'("Plants") is relatively transparent to me. The Bulgarian word for "plants" itself is not just close to its Russian equivalent - it is actually written exactly the same way the corresponding Russian word is. When I switch to the SCB entry for the same article, not only don't I recognize the name of the article - "Biljka" - I cannot even think of any Russian cognate that would be relevant. And it is not just one word - I could easily think of other examples. So I am a little surprised to hear that it is that much easier for a native speaker of Bulgarian to understand Serbian compared compared to Russian. But maybe a lot of it is subjective.


Keep in mind that Bulgarian and BCS/Serbo-Croatian are not classified as Southern Slavonic languages for nothing. The grammars of Bulgarian and BCS share greater similarity with each other than to Russian. Each of the standard languages in the Southern Slavonic dialectal continuum were standardized at different points on that continuum. Thus the languages merge from Bulgarian and Macedonian in the southeast to Serbo-Croatian in the center and finally to Slovenian in the northwest.

I have a couple of anecdotes that indirectly back up the observation by a Bulgarian native speaker about understanding Serbian better than Russian. My Croatian friend who has never learned Russian told me that she understands Bulgarian and Macedonian better than she understands Russian. Another time I was using Croatian on a Bulgarian friend and he said that he understood the gist of what I was saying, but what I said sounded like a strange Bulgarian dialect where I was doing funny things to the nouns and adjectives but not using the tenses in the way that he was used to. (N.B. Bulgarian has done away with almost all of the declension for nouns and adjectives but has expanded on verb conjugations. A few tenses that are rarely used or common only in prose or story-telling in BCS/Serbo-Croatian are quite active in all registers of Bulgarian).
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jbbar
Senior Member
Belgium
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 Message 14 of 43
21 May 2009 at 1:59am | IP Logged 
Thank you all very much for your interesting replies. Much appreciated. :)
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Sennin
Senior Member
Bulgaria
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 Message 15 of 43
21 May 2009 at 9:42am | IP Logged 
Russianbear wrote:
For example, a Bulgarian Wiki article on 'Растения'("Plants") is relatively transparent to me. The Bulgarian word for "plants" itself is not just close to its Russian equivalent - it is actually written exactly the same way the corresponding Russian word is. When I switch to the SCB entry for the same article, not only don't I recognize the name of the article - "Biljka" - I cannot even think of any Russian cognate that would be relevant. And it is not just one word - I could easily think of other examples. So I am a little surprised to hear that it is that much easier for a native speaker of Bulgarian to understand Serbian compared compared to Russian. But maybe a lot of it is subjective.


Biljka means herb in Bulgarian :). I believe Bulgarian proves to be the "middle ground" in this case.

One of the things that bring Bulgarian and Serbian closer to each other is some shared Turkish vocabulary. Bulgarian also has a ton of Russian loanwords, dating back to the good old times of communism. Perhaps Serbian was affected to a lesser extend by this influx of Russian vocabulary, as it adopted a more independent political stance at the time. Of course, this can't be the only reason.

Chung wrote:
Another time I was using Croatian on a Bulgarian friend and he said that he understood the gist of what I was saying, but what I said sounded like a strange Bulgarian dialect where I was doing funny things to the nouns and adjectives but not using the tenses in the way that he was used to. (N.B. Bulgarian has done away with almost all of the declension for nouns and adjectives but has expanded on verb conjugations. A few tenses that are rarely used or common only in prose or story-telling in BCS/Serbo-Croatian are quite active in all registers of Bulgarian).


Both Macedonian and Serbian sound extremely old-fashioned and dialectal to me ( that's subjective, of course). They use some words than only my grandmother would consider using and put the stress on the "wrong" syllable ;p.

In witting, Macedonians drop all the -ъ- from their rightful places and place -j- at seemingly random locations.

These, and other issues, make graceful self-expression impossible but you can get the gist of it without much difficulty.



Edited by Sennin on 21 May 2009 at 10:14am

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Julie
Heptaglot
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PolandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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 Message 16 of 43
21 May 2009 at 1:24pm | IP Logged 
William Camden wrote:
Somewhere on Wikipedia, the opinion was expressed that for a Russian, Polish was a little like the Jabberwocky poem in English would be for an English speaker. The basic grammar and some of the basic words are the same or nearly the same, but much of the vocabulary is unfamiliar. So there is a combination of familiar sentence structure with incomprehensible words.


That's a great analogy! And that's how I feel when I try to read something in Russian or in Czech.

By the way, I feel like Polish speakers are quite unlucky in the terms of Slavic intercomprehension. Almost always I have an impression that I understand a Slavic language interlocutor worse than he understands me... Do you have the same / different impression?


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