Linguist Nikolai Kazansky: Preservation of the native language requires us to make efforts

Weekly “Argumenty i Fakty” № 6. Dogs: heroes or outcasts? 09/02/2022

We all need precision in expressing feelings and emotions. And if there is one reaction to everything: “I'm in shock!” — then we cannot distinguish indignation from surprise and irritation.

Scientific Director of the Institute of Linguistic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academician Nikolai Kazansky — about things that threaten the Russian language, what words can leave our speech and without which teaching at school is impossible.

A wonderful property of the Russian language

Dmitry Pisarenko, “AiF”: — Nikolai Nikolaevich, it seems that the Russian language still has a high prestige in the world: it is in 4th place in translations, is one of the official languages UN. But does lose       his position? What if it will be excluded from the list of UN languages, given the current geopolitical situation?

Nikolai Kazansky: — The position of the Russian language is still strong, however, not as it used to be. During the Soviet Union, in many European countries, Russian was the first compulsory foreign language in secondary schools. For example, in France there were several public schools with Russian as the first foreign language. This is no longer the case.

For the leadership among the translated publications, we must first of all thank the classics of the 19th century. But in order not to lose this position, it is necessary to maintain interest in our literature, including contemporary literature. The interest and demand for texts is usually comparable within the country and for its borders. In recent years, the volume of books distributed has greatly decreased. Circulations have been greatly reduced, it can be difficult to buy a special book. Modern fiction is translated into other languages ​​quite actively, but Pelevin, Sorokin, Vodolazkin in circulation, I'm afraid they won't catch up soon Tolstoy and Dostoevsky

As for the possible exclusion of Russian from the official languages ​​of the UN, this, of course, will be very bad for world culture. Russia's contribution to it is huge, so this is unlikely to happen. In addition, it has been noticed that when relations between countries become aggravated, interest arises in the language of a potential adversary, based on practical considerations.

— My philologist friend, who lives in USA, just says that Americans have become much more interested in the Russian language than before.

— There's not much to be excited about here. After all, this interest is not at all dictated by what we would like, — not a disinterested passion for the spiritual culture of Russia. It is caused by the desire to get to know the enemy better in order to defeat him and receive the benefit that the winner acquires. That is, this is not some kind of suddenly awakened interest in & nbsp; Russian culture. The end goal is here — take advantage of the fact that, due to political circumstances, people who practically know the language will be in demand. This is how the desire to have a well-paid job is manifested, and not the desire to touch the heights of Russian culture. 

— But the English language no longer needs to gain authority for itself, borrowings from can be found anywhere, including Russian and a lot. Should do worry about it? Will our language digest such an abundance of Anglicisms?

— It will digest, because borrowings into the Russian language have occurred constantly, over the course of centuries, and very many entered the language forever. Foreign words flowed into our speech and adapted to it with their sound and grammar. This ability to absorb borrowings and make them your — wonderful property of the Russian language. Throughout the development of the East Slavic languages, starting with the Russian language, which by the XIV century was divided into Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian, borrowings were a source of vocabulary replenishment and served to accurately express feelings and thoughts. In  Russian, we can trace this replenishment both by direct borrowings and calques. The  number of the latter includes all compound words on  good-, partly translated from Greek. We can recall the flow of borrowings in Petrine's era, and borrowings in the first years of Soviet power.

As we know, in the 19th century, many borrowings from the French language appeared, and nothing terrible  ;happened. A lot is left (floor, cutletand other), a lot is gone (manto or mantelFew people remember). As for what's left, — who, except for philologists, now remembers that these are borrowings from & nbsp; French? The Russian language will weed out the unnecessary, it's not worth worrying about it.

Will will the “user” survive?

— A about the total penetration of Internet slang? Likes, users, stories, haters — Will they remain in our speech?

— Something will surely remain. Let likethere is no suitable analogue in the Russian language, I think this word will take root. User — hardly , instead of it and now often say user. In general, every younger generation has had and will have its own slang. For example, in the times of my youth, to place and not to place the word iron in meaning yes. "Are will come guests?" — “Iron!” But  many do they use it now? As as the generation grows older, the slang vocabulary disappears by itself, although something remains.

Without a doubt, the Internet has become a very powerful source for the development of written language. It is disturbing that in many cases written culture is giving way to written vernacular. In the previous centuries of Russian culture, the written text was an opportunity for conversations with those who were distinguished by a deep understanding of life's problems and situations. It is unacceptable if everything results in  primitive reactions, labels like the phrase “I in shocked!”. This phrase expresses anything, a whole palette of emotions — surprise, shock, admiration, fear or horror. And after all, it is important for a person to understand sensations — and our own and strangers, it is important to be able to describe them in words. This develops empathy, the ability to empathize. And all this is now replaced by one phrase — “I in shock!”.

— And  you can only respond to with one of two emoticons — happy or sad.

— You you know, I saw condolences end with a crying emoji! Here's what it's come to. There was no  invented emoticon for the word delight. I'm afraid that both the word itself, and the ability denoted by it to admire, may disappear.

Primitive thinking leads to the fact that words in in should never leave from our speech. The things that touch us, and the feeling of being touched by a worthy deed, should not go away. And the word worthy. And it is in danger of disappearing, because social networks do not discuss such a thing as human dignity. This is a complex concept, it cannot be contained in the framework of legislation, but society rests on such basic things as dignity, trust and humanity.

It also worries me that people have begun to talk less, preferring written language. Life is now often replaced by its description, and, as a rule, uninteresting. Discussion is often limited to peers only. It is perfectly normal that such communication exists, but there is also a problem in that conversations between representatives of different generations are fading away. Even in the  family, there is not always time and strength to talk about family experience, especially since the grandson has been sitting in smartphone or computer since three years and has little interest in those who are near he.

Nowhere without Latin

— Love for native language begins not only with family, but and with  schools. Is she coping?

— First  — with the  family, since the school curriculum now almost does not provide for memorizing texts by heart, their pronunciation aloud. The school makes certain efforts despite the formalities of the Unified State Examination, but does not cope completely. It's good that the essays that were removed from the exam program were returned to the school. They are very important for developing the ability to think and analyze independently. It is also important  development of style — not  averaged, but own, allowing the child not to lose individuality.

It is difficult to set the goal of education to develop a taste for the native language. This happens little by little, when you get acquainted with diverse in style and texts in native and in foreign languages. It is the comparison that allows you to understand the beauty of the native language, to evaluate the accuracy of the expression of thought and feelings.

Watching young people, I came to conclusion that they now read about as much as as before, but read predominantly spontaneous texts, not only not passing third-party editing, but and  which the author himself did not bother to re-read.

These texts satisfy the needs of society, also because the philological culture in modern Russia is in an extremely deplorable state. There is a lack of erudition in the texts that make up the golden fund of our culture, there is a lack of the habit of sharing discoveries in this field and discussing good texts. Improving literary and linguistic taste is impossible without well-chosen works and without correlating texts with the whole European culture, including Latin and Greek literature.

I I see a very big problem in training teachers of Russian language and literature in the fact that they are now deprived of familiarity Latin and Ancient Greek languages, which is associated with irresponsible changes in university programs.

The proven system of teacher training, which included classical languages ​​and Old Church Slavonic, is now destroyed. Moreover, if these languages ​​were now introduced in regional universities, there would nobody teach them,because the specialized department of the philological faculty of Moscow State University enrolls only five people a year.

Now only two departments of classical philology have survived, one in Moscow, the other — in Petersburg. Set on them — for 5 students. Two more universities are training specialists in Moscow — RSUH and HSE. In all the mentioned universities, to which Tomsk University can be added, specialists are well trained. Therefore, it is not surprising that graduates continue their education abroad, where, unlike Russia, special philological libraries are properly stocked. Often, when graduates of Moscow State University or St. Petersburg State University graduate, they already receive an invitation to some European university. It turns out that the annual graduation of specialists is catastrophically insufficient: a dozen university teachers for a country with a population of 145 million people and two thousand universities!

In many universities, Latin and Ancient Greek are now taught mainly by enthusiasts who did not have the opportunity to get the right training. Every year in January, they gather at Moscow State University in order to discuss existing problems with colleagues, and to take part in commented readings of Roman writers. Despite the demand for such meetings, they cannot same as a systematic long-term study, which includes not only language classes, but acquaintance with philosophy, history and other aspects of knowledge about the ancient world, without which understanding of the text is not always possible .

— Is can't do without Latin in the modern world?

— Latin in all European countries is taught to a huge number of people — physicians, philosophers, historians, philologists. If future teachers of the Russian language do not get a full-fledged Latin course and although a brief acquaintance with Ancient Greek, the philological culture of our society will remain in a deplorable state.

As for the ancient Greek language, it contains the origins of our spiritual culture. Half of the words relating to the spiritual realm, — tracing paper from ancient Greek. Many don know how many there are in our language. There are they in & nbsp; prosaic, quite everyday areas. Even such a word as insect is a tracing paper both in Latin and in Russian. In Greek it is ἔν-τομα (cf. specialist name entomolog), in Latin — in-secta (cf. insecticides), in Russian — insects.

In conclusion, I would like to remind you that the language — this is a fantastic gift that is given to us just like that, free of charge, by inheritance. This gift must be preserved in order to pass it on to the next generations in all its charm and without significant losses. The Russian language is a European language, and its charm is especially visible against the background of other European languages.


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