The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century

The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century

The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century

The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century


Comrie's and Stone's The Russian Language since the Revolution (OUP 1978) provided a comprehensive account of the way Russian changed in the period between 1917 and the 1970s. In this new volume the authors, joined by Maria Polinsky, extend the time frame back to 1900 and forward to glasnost in the mid 1980s. They first consider changes in the pronunciation, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary of the language and then examine the effects of social change on the language in chapters on the changing status of women, modes of address and speech etiquette, and orthography. They show that changes in all these areas have been very substantial, and explore the extent to which the standard language, as portrayed in dictionaries and grammars, coincides with the actual usage--both spoken and written--of educated Russians.


The first edition of this book appeared in 1978, under the title The Russian Language since the Revolution. The general plan of the book has remained unchanged but the authors felt the need to expand the temporal limits of the period, first, by adding data on the Russian language in the 1900-17 period, secondly, by discussing the 1970s and 1980s. This explains the change in the title of the book; the new title also reflects, if indirectly, the recent political changes in the then Soviet Union, which are probably no less significant than the 1917 Revolution.

The general plan of the book and the Introduction are the result of our joint efforts; Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 6 were written for the first edition by Bernard Comrie, Chapters 3, 5, 7, and 8 were written for that edition by Gerald Stone; all the chapters were revised and expanded by Maria Polinsky, who also wrote the Conclusion.

In the vast majority of cases we have given Russian words in the Cyrillic alphabet; in particular, we have used Cyrillic for the titles of bibliographical references, both in the body of the text and in the References. Transliterations have been made according to the International System. Readers unfamiliar with this system may at first be surprised by the transliterated form of well-known Russian writers or politicians, such as Puškin (Pushkin), Čexov (Chekhov), SolŽenicyn (Solzhenitsyn), Xruščev (Khrushchev), and Gorbačev (Gorbachev). The phonetic transcriptions follow the system of the International Phonetic Association.

We hope our book will be read not only by students of Russian, and we have therefore given English translations of all the examples where this could possibly be of use to the reader. Though some of the literary works cited in this book are available in established English translations, we have tried to present our own literal -- not necessarily literary -- translations of cited Russian examples. Word-stress is not shown except where it is, or might be thought to be, relevant to the argument. Dates preceding 1 (14) February 1918 are given in the Old Style, and from then on, in the New Style. Where works have appeared in several editions, we have tried to use the latest edition (excluding photographic . . .

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