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10 interesting facts about the Russian language


'Russian flag' photo (c) 2005, Jennifer Boyer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/In my previous post I promised to follow with the  interesting info about some other languages. So here are 10 facts about the Russian language which might be of interest to those who are studying it. If you would like to have this list in Russian, please contact me and I will send it to you by email. So, what do I find interesting about my native language?

1. Russian has about 500,000 words, but only 2,000-2,500 of them are used frequently. 100 most frequently used words make 20% of all written and oral speech. A high school graduate's vocabulary usually has 1,500 to 4,000 words. Those who have graduated from a higher educational institution normally have a richer vocabulary consisting of approximately 8,000 words.
2. It's compulsory for all astronauts in the international space station to learn Russian, so we can call it an international language of space :)

3. The word "неделя" which now means "a week" actually stems from the phrase "to do nothing" and used to mean "a day of rest".
4. The only adjective in Russian with one syllable is "злой" (="angry").
5. In Russian, the terms "индеец" (native American) and "индиец" (a person who lives in India) are different words, whereas in most Western European languages they are homonyms.
6. There is an old rule according to which native Russian words can't start with the letter "a". Almost all words that start with this letter are borrowed from other languages, with the following exceptions: "азбука" (alphabet), "аз" (old way of saying "I") and "авось" (maybe, perhaps).
7. Similar to the words starting with "a", words starting with "f" are also borrowed. When Pushkin wrote his poem "Сказка о царе Салтане" (The Tale of Tsar Saltan) he took great pride in the fact that there was only one word there starting with "f" and that word was "флот" (fleet).
8. The words "зАмок" (castle) and "замОк" (lock) are homonyms in the Russian language, and this is not by chance. These words came to the Russian language from German through Polish and Czech. In German both "castle" and "lock" are translated as "Schloß". The words became homonyms because a castle is a so-called geographical lock as it "locks" the enemy and doesn't let the troops go further into the country.
9. I think this fact would be especially interesting for translators. In 1969, a novel "La Disparition" was written by Georges Perec. One of the peculiarities about this novel is that it doesn't have the letter "e" which is the most frequent letter in French. The same principle was used to translate the book into English, German and Italian. There was no "e" in those translations. As for the Russian version, the novel was translated in 2005 by Valeriy Kislov and it doesn't have the letter "o" as this is the most frequent letter in Russian.
10. There are 10 one-letter words in Russian: а, б, в, ж, и, к, о, с, у, я. There's the same number of words in our language that consist of one sound, and the list of those words is almost the same: а, б, в, ж, и, к, о, с, у, ль.



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