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#83233 - 10/10/02 05:37 PM Chicken or Egg, continued  
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Sparteye Offline
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Here's another twig in our brushpile of discussion about the influence of social norms on the development of language, or the influence of linguistic norms on the development of society.

In Harry Turtledove's alternative history, Striking the Balance, he writes:

Dolger looked up when Bagnall came in. "Guten Tag," he said. "For a moment, I thought you might be one of the partisan brigadiers, but I know that was foolish of me. As well expect the sun to set in the east as a Russian to show up when he is scheduled."

"I think being late -- or at least not worrying about being on time -- is built into the Russian language," Bagnall answered in German. He'd done German in school, but had learned what Russian he had since coming to Pskov. He found it fascinating and frustrating in almost equal measure. "It has a verb form for doing something continuously and a verb form for doing something once, but pinning down the moment right now is anything but easy."

"This is true," Dolger said. "It makes matters more difficult. Even if Russian had the full complement of tenses of a civilized language, however, I am of the opinion that our comrades the partisan brigadiers would be late anyhow, simply because that is in their nature."


So, assuming that Turtledove's fiction is accurate in its portrayal of Russian and Russians, which caused what? Does Russian not have a verb form to reflect right now because Russian culture does not value the concept, or does Russian culture not focus on the concept because the language does not make it easy to express?





#83234 - 10/10/02 06:07 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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wwh Offline
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Dear Vika: where are you when we need you?


#83235 - 10/10/02 06:39 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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milum Offline
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The answer, I say, is elementary.

Culture dictates the creation and the usage of words which are, after all, only instruments of the perpetuation of the culture which is ,after all, only an instrument of the perpetuation of life.

Does not "Russian" have a present tense?

What is the "English" verb form of "right now"?




#83236 - 10/10/02 06:48 PM What is the "English" verb form of "right now"?  
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TEd Remington Offline
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Well, "right now" is an adverbial phrase. We've verbed a lot of nouns and nouned a lot of verbs, but I don;t rightly recall ever verbing an adverb (or adverbing a verb for that matter.)

I studied a bit of Russian back in the dark ages (Kennedy years) and I don't remember ever having a problem with expressing time in the present or past tenses.



TEd
#83237 - 10/10/02 07:01 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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Spart:

I remember that passage when I read the book, and at the time I took it as hyperbole.

English has no verb form that pins down the time. I attack, I do attack, I am attacking. I attacked, I have attacked.

If I want you to attack now, I say, "Attack now." I don't say, "Oh, whenever you get around to it, and when you thing all the omens are right, move forward and shoot a few of the enemy over there on the right flank." Actually, strategic orders generally do not supply specifics such as "attack now" though they do at the tactical level.

I took both Russian and German, many years ago, and I don't remember any verb forms along the lines Turtledove was implying. I think most languages would use adverbial formations to get across the point of timeliness. Latin definitely uses adverbs (nunc (now) comes immediately to mind.) And notice how "immediately" works in the last sentence.

In looking back at your quote I'm coming to the conclusion that Turtledove was just prattling on to get a few more words on paper. He's really good at that. (though i still enjoy his stories!)

Ted



TEd
#83238 - 10/11/02 07:59 AM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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vika Offline
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I need to think about it carefully but when I did my thinking I will write immediately


#83239 - 10/11/02 02:11 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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vika Offline
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As far as I can judge there are several questions:

1. Does Russian have a verb form that points to “this is being done”.?
No. There is nothing like Continuos Tenses and to discern between “I do it regularly” and “I am doing it right now” one adds “right now” to a verb, that is the same for the Present Simple and Present Continuos.

In fact, if I estimate difficulties of studying English for a Russian speaker tenses are the second the first are articles but this was discussed elsewhere . You can notice that in my previous message. I've been told (thank you, Dr.Bill) that I should have used “when I have done” instead of “when I did”.


2. Does Russian culture value the concept of being on time for an appointment?
It does. In fact, I find that trains are more reliable in Russia than in UK - most of them stick to their schedule. So I think that Mr. Turtledove is wrong, there are Russians and Russians, some come earlier and some are always late.

Am I correct thinking that the story itself is not something like memoirs but rather something completely fictious where the author invents whatever he likes ?




#83240 - 10/11/02 02:31 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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the author invents whatever he likes ?

To a certain extent, yes. The stories (it's one of a series) are about WWII (The Great Patriotic War) proceeding merrily along its way when the aliens land thinking they're going to walk all over us in a couple of months based on observations they made 500 years ago. The author was perfectly free to make the aliens think and act any way he wanted, but he should be limited to known reality with respect to the humans.


#83241 - 10/11/02 02:41 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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That's why it's called alternative history [helpful look]


#83242 - 10/11/02 02:49 PM Re: Chicken or Egg, continued  
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why it's called alternative history

Not to pick a nit or anything but alternative histories don't necessarily involve totally unknown actors. The author in question wrote a series based on the notion that Lee's list of troops didn't get lost into Union hands and the Confederacy won the War of Southron Independence. Everyone in that series had to act as we would expect people to act.


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