October 29, 2004

Who says the Mongols didn't leave anything lasting behind?

Posted by Curt at 10:23 AM in Language | TrackBack

So I’m taking a class in Russian in Paris. Now, Russian is a very beautiful language, but it has one letter, one sound, which as my professor puts it, “makes foreigners cry.” It’s even worse than hearing French people trying to pronounce the letter “h”: the written letter appears approximately like “bl,” and it’s impossible to describe the sound, since there is no European-language equivalent, except to say that if someone punches you in the stomach while you are pronouncing the sound “ee” you will have a suprisingly similar result. Rather than bask in the impenetrable idiosyncrasy of such a linguistic quirk, my professor apologized while disclaiming responsibility for it. She claims that it’s not a Russian sound, that it is borrowed from the language of one of the Tartar or Mongol tribes that conquered Russia during the Middle Ages. I assume this is why the sound does not exist in many of the Southern Slavic languages. Well, now every time I pronounce the sound (which is pretty often—it’s the plural ending for most words) an image of burning villages and madly cackling horsemen always springs into my mind. Why, oh why, when Peter the Great was Westernizing Russia, could he not have taken time off from shaving off people’s beards to expel this barbaric Asiatic sound from the language?


For those that don't know what Curt's talking about, it's this letter: ы

Posted by: shonk at October 29, 2004 10:58 AM

Do Macs have Cyrillic? Or did you buy a program?

Posted by: Curt at October 29, 2004 01:30 PM

Do Macs have Cyrillic?

Yes, although I just copy-pasted from the Pravda frontpage.

If you want to be able to type in Cyrillic, though, open up "System Preferences", click the "International" icon and go to the "Input Menu" tab. Then just check the "Russian" option. This will cause a little flag (the American, by default) to appear in the top right of you menu bar. Then, in any application, if you want to type in Cyrillic, click the flag and choose "Russian" from the menu and start typing. The only problem is that, obviously, the keys on your keyboard aren't labeled with what Cyrillic letter they correspond to, so it takes a while to figure it out. Roughly, the vowels are on the left and consonants on the right.

Posted by: shonk at October 29, 2004 05:47 PM

No, I've looked before. Mine has four different Asian scripts plus Roman, but no Cyrillic. Stupid out-of-date computer.

Posted by: Curt at October 30, 2004 05:55 AM

Stupid out-of-date computer.

Time to upgrade your OS, then.

Posted by: shonk at October 30, 2004 12:25 PM

I live in Paris. You think I have any spare cash?

Posted by: Curt at October 31, 2004 06:22 AM