L'anthologie of Global Inestabilidad Transpuesta - Language Instability - Russia (Part 32)

Transposing emblem by Marina Shalunova
Our language is our heritage, legacy and future. It is not just a way to exchange information between people. Language is like a living organism. It evolves and changes, as all living things.

Russian is one of the richest and most beautiful languages. In terms of popularity, it is ranked sixth in the world and is spoken by more than 260 million people. Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov, Lermontov and Turgenev have made invaluable contributions to our language.

Russians have interacted with other peoples for centuries so there are many borrowed words from other languages. In modern Russian borrowed words are also appearing faster than before.

Cherepovets, Russia - Underground passageway
With the internet people from multiple countries are capable of communicating, making friends and working with each other. The world has become open. However, close interaction between cultures influences our languages.

Russians’ attitude toward foreign words has always been ambivalent. Some argue that the foreign words enrich our language, others are in favor of the integrity of Russian. There are two extremes – a glut of foreign words or complete denial of them.
Moscow, Russia - Woman
Sometimes the attitude toward borrowed words is non-judgmental, sometimes their impact is assumed to be negative. The coining of new words is inevitably linked to changes in public life – new technologies, culture, art, science, etc. Borrowing foreign words is a natural and inevitable process. Academics, writers, people in public and lovers of Russian have always paid special attention to foreign words in our language. Academics have wondered what role foreign words assume in our lexis, which languages the most borrowed words come from, what the reason for borrowing is, how foreign words affect our language, etc.

Back a long time ago, at the beginning of the 18th century, Peter the Great demanded that his contemporaries not abuse borrowed words in correspondence. Lomonosov and Turgenev believed that foreign words only litter Russian with trash, and favored the preservation of the language by using original Russian words. Many writers, poets and public actors have fought for the integrity of our language and suggested creating new Russian words instead of borrowing foreign ones.

Moscow, Russia - Subway station
However, some people have supported borrowing words. They think foreign words make our language more beautiful and richer. They argue foreign words don't glut Russian – only the relevant and useful words would stay in our lexis with the passing of time. Indeed, our language has the unique ability to adapt foreign words and make them sound natural to native speakers of Russian. For instance, "парковка" (parking) is a lexicalized word and the verb "парковать" has appeared in our language. The noun "контроль" (control) and the verb "контролировать" entered the lexicon and sound completely natural. These are just a few examples.

We cannot imagine our life without the word "okay." The English word "Yes" as used in Russian has a meaning that essentially states "I did it!" But these words have not become Russian in style.

Sometimes it's very difficult to distinguish original Russian words and borrowings because the evolution of the language has occurred over thousands years. Every day we use words such as хлеб (bread), фонарь (lamp), свёкла (beet), ангел (angel), тетрадь (exercise book), комедия (comedy), кофе (coffee), жемчуг (pearl), руль (rudder) and we don't guess that they came from foreign languages. Greek, Italian, French, English, German, Turkish, Arabic and Latin words have been adopted in Russian and sound quite nice.

Moscow, Russia - Subway station
New words which don't have equivalents in Russian come from foreign languages every day. Many new words come from English (computer, file, interface, printer, skateboard, image, presentation, video, show, etc.). A great number of new foreign terms appear in the banking sector, IT, trade and marketing. It's going to be hard for people to read contracts and manuals if they don't know such terms or don't speak English.

English equivalents of some Russian words are used in everyday language, business correspondence and even the mainstream media. You can hear "message" instead of «сообщение» or «послание»; "attach" replaces «вложить», "fake" appears in place of «подделка» or «обманка»; instead of «непонимание» someone can say "misunderstanding," etc. These words sound unnatural and awkward in Russian sentences, and it's not easy to pronounce them.

Teenagers tend to use foreign words in spoken Russian. Sometimes parents don't understand what their child is talking about. It's evident that an unbridgeable gap has opened between grandparents and their grandchildren.

Businessmen demonstrate their English even if it is poor in order to make a good impression. Any Russian who wants to look modern uses English catchwords.

Saint Petersburg, Russia - Subway station
We often encounter foreign words which nobody can understand in newspapers, magazines, on TV. Many foreign words in Russian sound rude or are perceived as academic terms. Our ordinary language looks official. It is teeming with bureaucratese. People speak difficult, almost academic language imbued with foreign terms when talking about movies, books, music, performances, TV shows and events in their own life. It has also become fashionable to use a foreign name for products, companies, restaurants, gym, music albums, works of art, etc.

Sometimes it seems that our great language is losing its beauty and poetry.

Borrowed words, which come to language along with new things, culture, technologies, are useful. And if such words adopt a Russian style and sound Russian, the language is enriched and evolves.

But excessive, inappropriate and unwarranted use of borrowed words leads to ridiculous and awkward phrases. The dominance of foreign words leads to misunderstanding between people and harms language.

Another feature of modern Russian is widespread use of jargon and slang.

Before, jargon was used reasonably in ordinary Russian and in literature, but we witnessed a boom in the 1990s. The blossoming of civic and linguistic freedom were the reason. Dynamic changes in social life transformed the manner of speaking and writing. Our ordinary language became rude.

Saint Petersburg, Russia - White Night on Nevsky Prospect
Now you find jargon everywhere – from print to TV, on the radio and in performances. Adolescent slang has special features. There is not a social reason at the very core of it but rather the desire to make communication bright and intense. Originality is the main thing in slang.

This is a rude, bright and saucy language. It has appeared as a consequence of the desire to remake the world in another manner.

Slang changes at the blink of an eye. Today no one remembers slang that was popular in the mid-to-late 20th century. But new words have appeared. The spread of slang has distorted our language. It's difficult to say that the adolescents speak ordinary or standard Russian.

Many people argue that our language is in a crisis today. Russian is full of Americanisms and jargon. Grammatical rules often aren't obeyed. However, on the other hand, the current situation is understandable. In a globalized world and with the widespread use of the internet it is difficult to limit the pervasion of foreign words and control the spread of slang. Instant messaging makes people forget about grammar.

Moscow, Russia - Street view
Linguistic borrowing is a natural and unavoidable process for the evolution of a language. New words come with changes in life. The popularity of slang and jargon is explained by the features of our time.

Even so Russian has a unique ability to adapt to the era, absorb the best and abandon the unnecessary.

Certainly, we should care about our language. That's why Russian language shows appear on TV, enthusiasts of Russian create communities in social networks, and you can find a lot of websites about Russian grammar on the internet.

We live in an age of information where access to mainstream media has a major impact on people's minds and language. Television, radio, newspapers and magazines, public men and women as well as cultural professionals should be aware of their responsibilities and not allow themselves to speak broken Russian. Only love and respect for the mother tongue will save it from destruction. Let us not clutter up our beautiful language with foreign terms and jargon, rude words and expressions!

Marina Shalunova
Emblem in postcard booklet at 1080 Wyckoff (Queens, NY)

Photo 1: Moscow region, Russia - Mining excavator by xusenru

Photo 2: Cherepovets, Russia - Underground passageway by Ant Rozetsky

Photo 3: Moscow, Russia - Woman by xusenru

Photo 4: Moscow, Russia - Subway station by xusenru

Photo 5: Moscow, Russia - Subway station by Moomusician

Photo 6: Saint Petersburg, Russia - Subway station by Kim Chi Images

Photo 7: Saint Petersburg, Russia - White Night on Nevsky Prospect by Sergieiev

Photo 8: Moscow, Russia - Street view by xusenru

Parts of the Emblem of Instability

Alvisi, Andrea. Political and Social Instability: The Brexit Mess. May 2017.

Bichen, Svetlana Novoselova. Mental and Cultural Instability: Russia and Turkey. February 2017.

Caetano, Raphael. Instabilidade emocional: Brazil. February 2017.

Cordido, Verónica. Instability, a Stable Reality: Venezuela and America. April 2017.

Dastan, S.A. The Stability of Instability: Turkey and Syria. March 2017.

D'Adam, Anton. Psychosocial Instability in Argentina and America: El granero del mundo and The Manifest Destiny. January 2017.

Delibasheva, Emilia. Political Instability: Electoral Coups in America and Bulgaria. December 2016.

Ellie. Angry Folk: Korea. June 2017.

Friedrich, Angelika. Introduction: The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Fondevik, Vigdis. Unstable Nature: Norway and Denmark. October 2016.

Halimi, Sophia. Modern Instabilité: Youth and Employment in France and China. March 2017.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Embracing Instability - Spain. February 2017.

Kelvin, Sera. The Stability in Expecting Emotional Instability: Brazil. April 2017.

Larrosa, Mariela. The Very Stable Spanish Instability. April 2017.

Lobos, José. Political Instability: Guatemala. May 2017.

Mankevich, Tatsiana. The Absence of Linguistic Stabilнасцi: Does the Belarusian Language Have a Future? December 2016.

Meschi, Isabelle. Linguistic Instabilité and Instabilità: France and Italy. November 2016.

Mitra, Ashutosh. The Instability of Change: India. January 2016.

Moussly, Sahar. The Instability of Tyranny: Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. December 2016.

Nastou, Eliza. Psychological Αστάθεια and Inestabilidad during the Economic Crisis: Greece and Spain. December 2016.

Nevosadova, Jirina. Whatever Happens, It Is Experience. May 2017.

Partykowska, Natalia. Niestabilność and адсутнасць стабільнасці in the Arts: Polish and Belarusian Theater. January 2017.

Persio, P.L.F. Social Instabilità and Instabiliteit: Italy and the Netherlands. November 2016.

Pranevich, Liubou. Cultural Instability: Belarus and Poland. March 2017.

Romano, Mavi. Unstable Identities: Ecuador and Europe. October 2016.

Shunit. Economic Instability: Guinea and Gambia. April 2017.

Sitorus, Rina. Instabilitas Toleransi: Indonesia. May 2017.

Sousa, Antonia. Social and Economic Instabilidade: Portugal. January 2017.

Vuka. My Intimate Imbalanced Inclination. March 2017.

Walton, Éva. Historical and Psychological Bizonytalanság within Hungarian Culture. January 2017.

Zadrożna-Nowak, Amelia. Economic Instability: Poles at Home and the Polish Diaspora. November 2016.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Instability in Relationships: Russia. April 2017.

To follow: texts by Turkish, Russian, Mongolian, Serbian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian writers and translators

Further reading

Azazeal, Alex. Отражение Spiegelt Reflection. 2014.

Friedrich, Angelika. The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Friedrich, Angelika. Sub-Under-U-метро-Bahn-Ground-Way. 2014.

Gergiev, Vladimir. Street - Straße - Улица. 2014

Metivier, Anthony. Kunstart. 2014.

Smirnov, Yuri. Art de streetулица. 2013.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part I). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part II). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part III). September 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Forward to Next Transposing Emblem. January 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Changes to Transposing Emblems. November 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Excerpt of new emblem transpoзиция on trash. September 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Müll trashed мусор. 2013

Visit www.transposing.net for more information about transposition.

Emblem in postcard booklet at 1080 Wyckoff (Queens, NY)
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