Monday, May 08, 2006

Russian Alphabet

I'm only decent at alphabetizing in English (sometimes I still have to sing the alphabet song), so alphabetizing in Russian is even harder, because a lot of the letters come in unexpected places. (Actually, I don't have to alphabetize so much in Russian as I do look up words in the dictionary -- which activity still requires knowing the order of the Russian alphabet.)

I even went so far as to put the Russian letters to the English alphabet song (though I've no idea if Russian children use the same song):

Ah, Bay, Vay, Gay, Day, Yeh, Yo (oops! -- it turns out that Ë isn't considered a separate letter from E),/
Zheh, Ze, Ee, Ee Karatkoyeh (which is a separate letter, even if it doesn't so much scan in the alphabet song), Kah, Ell, Em, En, Oh (Of course, keeping the Ë in earlier makes it rhyme at this point, so I'm loath to take it out),/
Pay, Ar, Ess, Tay, Ooh, Eff, Kheh, Tseh, . . . and at this point I forget all of the rest except I know that You is second to last and Yah is last of all. And the Znaki go on either side of the Ooey. The letters at the end of the alphabet are pretty uncommon, so by the time I get to that point, I can usually just hunt around in the dictionary for the one I want, regardless of the actual order. I'm always surprised at how early З comes in the alphabet, and how late С is. (Of course, if you think of the latter as being more analogous to the English S, it makes more sense. But, still . . .)

Today's word:
небоскрёб - skyscraper

"Небоскрёб" is an example of what linguists call a calque, or a literal translation of a foreign word. "Небо" means "heaven" or "sky" and "скрёб" is the past participle (?) of "скрести" - "to scrape, scratch."

2 Comments:

Blogger Compulsive Indecision said...

For what it's worth, I think it's funny that the Spanish word for "skyscraper" is also a calque: "rascacielos," from "rascar," to scratch, and "cielos," sky/heavens.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Katya said...

It's the same in French, too (gratte-ciel) and it looks like it's the same in German (Wolkenkratzer). Optimistic will have to enlighten us as to Japanese.

8:36 AM  

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