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Does the Russian language have more innovations and divergent development from other languages in the Slavic branch?

I am asking, because I always had the feeling, that the tense and pronunciation in Russian is very distinct from its other Slavic counterparts. I also notice, that unlike other Slavic languages, Russian has a lot of vowels, whereas ones like Polish or Serbo-Croatian are defined by heavy consonant clusters. Moloko versus mleko, golova versus glava, etc.

Comparing verbs and nouns between Slavic tongues:

Czech - Slovak - Polish - Slovenian - Serbo-Croatian - Bulgarian - Ukrainan/Belarusian - Russian

Think:

misliet - misliet - misliec - misliti - misliti - mislityi - mislyati - dumat

Do:

robit - robit - zrobriti - robiti - raditi - naprati - rabit - rabitsi - delat

I have:

mam - mam - mam - ja imam - ja imam - az imam - ja imayu - u menya est

Forty:

chitrideset - chitredest - chitrydisy - chetridesit - chetrdeset - chetryadeset - chitredesyat - sorok

Question:

pitanie - pitanie - pytanie - pitani - pitanje - pitanja - zapytanie - vopros

Happen:

stati - stati - zdarit - zdariti - desiti - slachiti - statisti - proisyodoti

Thank You:

dekuji - dakujem - diekuje - hvala - hvala - diekuya - dyakuyu - spasibo

Eyes:

oci - oci - oci - oci - oci - oci - oci - glaza

Tie:

kravata - kravata - krawata - kravati - kravata - kravata - kravaty - galstuk

World:

svet - svet - swiat - svet - svet - svet - swiet - mir

Good:

dobry - dobry - dobry - dobre - dobro - dobre - dobri - dobru - horosho

Maybe it's just my bias, but I'm noticing countless examples whereas the Russian term is completely different whereas in other Slavic languages the terms are intelligible.

Oftentimes, when I read Russian, a lot more words stick out to me as unusual compared to other Slavic scripts, such as the word "something" which in the other languages is either "nesto" or "c/shos" but in Russian it's "chto-nibud". This is just a random instance of the completely alien inventory of Russian vocabulary.

The features of Russian seem very divergent from other Slavic tongues. When I compare Polish to South Slavic tongues, as well as to Ukrainian and Belarusian, they all seem to share more overlap with each particularly in the intonation, verb conjugation, and nouns whereas Russian has been very isolated in this regard. The anomalies that I find in Russian texts are unlike anything Slavic and they stick out to me as very diverged and weird.

If I even take a random sentence like "what is going on in the world":

Slovenian: ka se degava po svetu

Bulgarian: kako desvata na svetu

Ukrainian: sho se diyetsava po svietu

Russian: chto proiskhodit v mire

If I just type a random sentence on translate, and compare many Slavic languages to how they say it, the Russian sentence is evidently unique in its construction and features compared to the others. There is something about the Russian phrasing that is off compared to the others.

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  • 3
    @Tristan Given the later comments, I think the underlying issue (apart from the number of forms being wrong) is that a lot of the data given are quite simply wrong. Commented May 26, 2023 at 20:11
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    Your Bulgarian word for "thanks" looks very iffy - the most common word is благодаря followed by мерси (obvious French borrowing). I've never heard what you wrote used in Bulgaria, it may exist but it's probably not common. Note that Russian has благодарю as a formal variant of спасибо. Commented May 27, 2023 at 8:37
  • 4
    As a native Czech speaker, I can say that your Czech is quite bad. For example, we do not say “robit” in normal speech, we say “dělat” instead (compare with Russian!).
    – jiwopene
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 12:14
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is based on false data, without which the question is meaningless. Commented May 27, 2023 at 18:03
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    I’m voting to close this question because fellow users who are fluent in the languages in question identified some of the data cited as dubious or inaccurate. Commented May 28, 2023 at 16:25

3 Answers 3

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Your question shows that you are unfamiliar with both Russian and other slavic languages. To add to Anixx's answer:

Think:
misliet - misliet - misliec - misliti - misliti - mislityi - mislyati - dumat

Dumat' == think casually, Myslit' == think deeply. It's the same in other Slavic languages, e.g. in Polish, the equivalent is dumać. So in Russian, you can myslit' or dumat', and in Polish you can mysliech or dumach(changed spellings to match phonetics in English)

Do:

robit - robit - zrobriti - robiti - raditi - naprati - rabit - rabitsi - delat

Doesn't actually mean "do" as an English, but more like to "do something useful/do work". So in Russian rаbota is work and in Polish it's robota

I have:

mam - mam - mam - ja imam - ja imam - az imam - ja imayu - u menya est

In Russian, imet' == to have(ownership of). Saying imet' about something you don't own is vulgar, because of it's slang meaning of "to fuck" when applied to another person. Kinda like the English "owned" in "I owned Bob in tennis", but in English it's not sexual.

Forty:

chitrideset - chitredest - chitrydisy - chetridesit - chetrdeset - chetryadeset - chitredesyat - sorok

In Russian chetyredesyat' == four-ten. A sorok in Old Slavic is a short fur coat, which takes about 40 marten skins to make. So a sorok was a bundle of 40 marten skins, used a standard package size in the fur trade. The fur trade was waaaay more important in Russia due to geography, so the slang sorok for 40 stuck in Russian. The other numbers follow the normal pattern, so e.g 30 is tritsat' three-ten, 50 is pyat'desyat' five-ten, etc

Happen:

stati - stati - zdarit - zdariti - desiti - slachiti - statisti - proisyodoti

stat' == to finish happening, for a long-duration event. E.g. "if I complete 4 years of uni, I can stat' a graduate", or "A cattapillar can stat' a butterfly, in its cocoon". Proizoyti(no idea where you got proisyodoti from) referes to the happening of a short duration/instantaneous event.

Thank You:

dekuji - dakujem - diekuje - hvala - hvala - diekuya - dyakuyu - spasibo

Spasibo is an abbreviation of Spasi tebya Bog == Preserve you God == May God Preserve you. In the languages where it's hvala(praise), it's an abbreviation of "Praise be to God". Dziekuje and all of it's variants comes from Polish, where it's a contraction of the Latin(because Poles were very Catholic) "Deo gratias facere" = "thanks be to god"(so for thank you, the variants of Dziekuje, are the diverged ones, since it's from another language) The English equivalent is goodbye == "God be with ye".

Eyes:

oci - oci - oci - oci - oci - oci - oci - glaza

Nothing to add, it's ochi in Russian.

Tie:

kravata - kravata - krawata - kravati - kravata - kravata - kravaty - galstuk

Where each nation enecountered it first. Russians first encountered it in Holland, with Peter the Great's trade mission, so they borrowed the Dutch halsdoek. The rest encountered French cravats first.

World:

svet - svet - swiat - svet - svet - svet - swiet - mir

In Russian, originally, svet == God's world, mir == secular world. Used interchangeably now.

Good:

dobry - dobry - dobry - dobre - dobro - dobre - dobri - dobru - horosho

Dobro == big Good, as in Good and Evil, horosho == small good, as in I'm feeling good after a tasty meal.

And as Anixx pointed out in a comment(not the answer), kako desvata na svetu == chto delayetsa na svete. Kak delayetsa na svete is valid Russian, but Kak means how, instead of what in Russian.

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  • "stat' == to finish happening" - hmm, stat' is "to become"
    – Anixx
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:07
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    "Kak means why, instead of how in Russian." - wrong, kak means "how" in Russian. Never means "why"
    – Anixx
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:13
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    @Anixx chetyre == 4, desyat` == 10, so chetyredesyat' == fourten, what's the problem? I'm not saying it's a real word, just that's how it would be constructed if needed. Also, "to become" == to finish happening, literally. Again, not how it would be used, but I'm providing an answer about "Happen".
    – Eugene
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:15
  • No, fourteen in Russian is chetyrnadtsat', the same as in other Slavic languages
    – Anixx
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:16
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    Hmmm. fourten? Well, I suggest to change it to four-ten so to empathise you did not meen fourteen.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:20
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You have just picked Russian synonyms that are not related to the words in the other Slavic languages that you picked. You can pick other synonyms.

Think: мыслить (myslit')

I have: я имею (ya imeyu)

Happen: статься (statsa), настать (nastat')

Eyes: очи (ochi)

World: свет (svet)

Good: добро (dobro).

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    Incorrect. In Russian when you say "I have" in the locative possession, it's "u menya est". If someone says "ya imayu" they are most likely Ukrainian/Belarusian.
    – Zlar Vixen
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 19:16
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    @ZlarVixen it is absolutely correct way to say "I have" in Russian. In formal style, the more preferred one. In Ukrainian and Belarusian you also can say "у мене є машина" / "у мяне ёсць машына", which is more common, like in Russian. No difference here. translate.google.com/… ;translate.google.com/…
    – Anixx
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 19:54
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    Even if there are cognates in Russian with a more or less similar meaning, if these are somehow not the default/least marked way to express something, the question still makes sense. This seems to be the case for at least думать, possession, хорошо, and perhaps глаза, but I really don’t know enough about it to weigh those factors—just wanted to point out that you can still make an argument that Russian diverged more, if, though there are cognates, they shifted in meaning and/or register.
    – Keelan
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 6:06
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    @Keelan the case with possession is absolutely common between all East Slavic at least. It is absolutely the same as in Russian, the default possession phrase is proximal, not what the OP gave as examples (although such expression is also correct and can be used as well). At most, here one can make conclusion that it is whole East Slavic branch that diverged, not Russian.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 6:54
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    @IMil I disagree that свет in any way archaic or poetic.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 8:17
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It's totally ok to compare and contrast different languages based on the factors other than their genetic affinity. Even though you'd hardly find a serious linguist questioning the status of Russian being a Slavic language, one could also compare the present-day Slavic languages, and that's what you are seemingly doing in your question (e.g. you included Russian glaz 'eye' and not oko).

Unfortunately, there are many inaccuracies in your question. Let me address one point only for now.

You claim the following,

"I also notice, that unlike other Slavic languages, Russian has a lot of vowels, whereas ones like Polish or Serbo-Croatian are defined by heavy consonant clusters. Moloko versus mleko, golova versus glava, etc."

You are confusing the number of vowel phonemes with syllable structure.

If we compare the number of vowel phonemes in the present-day Slavic languages, then we have the following list: e.g. Russian has 5, Bulgarian 6, Ukrainian 6, Czech 10, Slovene 13.

The data above is taken from one of the best reference books on the Slavic Languages, Iazyki mira: Slavianskie iazyki (2nd ed., 2017), where the individual chapters on the Slavic languages were written by a large group of linguists specializing in the Slavic languages.

also see table 3.5 from Sussex and Cubberley 2006:

enter image description here

As you can see, Russian has a very small number of vowel phonemes.

Now let's take a closer look at how these vowels are used in Slavic.

Irene Sawicka writes the following in the section on CV clusters (i.e. consonant-vowel clusters),

“Taking stock of the differences between Slavic languages, two polarized groups can be identified [emphasis mine - A.B.]. The north pole is characterized by a richer consonantal system, mostly thanks to … and a great number and frequency of the occurrence of consonant clusters. Of all Slavic languages, Polish has the greatest number of consonant clusters and the fewest restrictions on consonant combinations. The south-western pole has a more elaborate vowel system … and more restrictions on the structure of consonant combinations.”

“Differences between the two polarized types of Slavic are slightly more manifest in the frequencies of particular kinds of syllables” (p. 54)

e.g. Macedonian has the greatest frequency of vowel clusters (VV), vowel clusters being relatively rare in Slavic.

e.g.

enter image description here

e.g. Arakin 1989 writes that the most frequent syllable types in present-day Russian are CCVC, CVC, and CVCC (pp. 89-93).

So far, from the point of view of contrastive phonological typology, I don't see how Russian is particularly divergent from the rest of the Slavic group.

NB: I decided to use the quotes above in my answer (instead of paraphrasing them) because I wanted you and everyone else to take a look at what linguists trained in Slavic have to offer and decide for yourselves.

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