ORIGIN OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
The official language of Russia is Russian. This language developed from the east-Slavic languages resulting in a need to form an equal dialect understandable to all people. Let us look into a deeper historical view of the origin of the Russian Language.
During the 6th century AD, the Slav people migrated from Old Poland. They occupied the Balkans by expanding westwards and southwards towards the River Elbe and Adriatic sea. The 10th century gave rise to 3 language groups- Western, Eastern and Southern. Eastern Slavonic gave rise to the languages- Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian. Theses three languages were pretty similar in many aspects-both grammatical and phenetical and hence, these three separate groups were able to use one common written language. This was known as Old Slavonic or Old Church Slavonic- commonly used in its written form only. These languages came into use in the ninth century when two missionaries Constantine and Methodius were ordered to write the scriptures in Old Church Slavonic and to preach Christianity to the people of Moravia. Constantine later went on to take the name of Cyril on his deathbed. Cyril invented a Slavonic now known as Cyrillic alphabet. It is closely similar and based on the Greek Alphabet with the extra inclusion of a dozen additional letters meant to represent Slavic sounds not found in Greek.
This Cyrilic alphabet was first made use of in the early middle ages in clear, legible and large (Ustav) forms. After further modification in 1918, the alphabet was left until how it is today.
In Russia, until the middle of the 18th century, Old Church Slavonic was used as the written language but then a need for the existence of a written language closer to the education norm was felt. The Moscow State University was invented by Lomonosov who invented these styles
High Style- Church Slavonic, to be used for poetics and religion
Middle Style- to be used for lyric poetry, prose and science
Low Style- to be used in personal correspondence and in low comedy
THE WRITTEN LANGUAGE
The history of the written language has an evolution of planned language change and reform. These events include- the birth of the Cyrillic alphabet in 862AD, a set of 13th century reforms known as the second southern Slavic influence, Peter the great’s reforms and the Communist reforms
A large number of Byzantine and Bulgarian scholars fleeted to Moscow after the fall of their empires. Noting the poor level and usage of the language, they decided to standardize it. This event refers to the Second Southern- Slavic influence, the first being the influence of the Macedonian dialect.
Another example took place in the 18th century, when Peter wanted to spread literacy among the people. He introduced an easier alphabet called Civil alphabet with the exceptions of
” (/i/) as “i,” and doing away with accent marks and titly, which were superscript marks indicating abbreviations
” (tvjerdyznak, “hard sign”), having lost its sound value due to phonological change, was eliminated
THE PHONOLOGICAL AND PHONEOTIC SYSTEMS-
The most common and important sound changes occurred between Common Slavonic and Old Russian
The common Slavonic language had two voiceless vowels known as “jers”. These letters were frequently interchanged and omitted in certain positions. These letters found various drastic changes often and it resulted in the complete omition of these letters, being transformed into /o/ and /a/ respectively. The soft sign is still maintained In the language, indicating the softness or palatine nature of their position in the word.
During the 13th or 14th century, the unstressed ‘o’ began to be pronounced. This variation began In Central Russia.
The palatalization of the velar consonants /k/, /g/, and /x/ is another important change in the phonological history of Russian. As Matthews points out, “the Common Slavonic velars were hard i.e. not palatalized . . . and the beginnings of their palatalization in Old Russian may be observed sporadically in the eleventh century” (156). Evidence for this change comes from texts where the character ” ” (/ /), formerly written after these velar consonants, began to be replaced by the front vowel ”
HISTORICAL REFLEXES IN THE MODERN LEXICON
The history of the words used in the Russian language is complex. The meaning of the words represent the history and roosts of the Russian places and rulers themselves. The Russian lexicon can be divided into 4 groupings-
Common Slavonic words
Eastern Slavonic words
Pure Russian words
Words borrowed from other languages
A particular Russian dictionary contains 3191 words of common Slavonic origin. These words reflect nature, body, social and work themes and have relationships with Slavic languages. For example, a Russian today would use very similar words such as “rain”, “heart”, “neighbour” to those used by his 5th century Slavic ancestors
The next group of words include those of Eastern Slavic origin. These words are common to the Russian, Belanorussian and Ukrainian languages, but absent from the southern group od Slavic languages and those of the west too. These words include family relationships, colours, and time references. Most of the words are, however, derived from Pure Russian, it being a part of the Soviet Era, particularly compunds and contractions that flourished during the era of beuracratic language.
Nonetheless, Russian has borrowed countless words from other languages, but without any main influence or origin.
In countries like North Ossetia, Dagestan, Mordovia, Buryatia, Ingushetia and Kalmykia native languages are spoken apart from the national language.
Some of the examples of languages of many other countries used in Russia- Ukrainian, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Azerbaijani, German, Latvian, Belarussian and Bulgarian
Russia had about 100 languages of the family of Indo-European languages in the year 2000