Russian language facts for kids
|Русский язык (Russkiy yazik)|
|Native to||Russia, and some of the Commonwealth of Independent States|
|Native speakers||primary language: about 147 million
secondary language: 113 million (1999 WA, 2000 WCD) (date missing)
|Writing system||Cyrillic alphabet|
|Official language in||Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria (Moldova) and Gagauzia (Moldova).|
Russian (Russian: русский язык, transliteration: russkiy yaz'ik) is the main language of Russia. It is also spoken in other parts of the former Soviet Union. It is spoken by many people in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkmenistan and Estonia. Russian is one of the Slavic languages. The Slavic languages belong to the family of Indo-European languages. Russian is one of the three East Slavic languages. The other two are Ukrainian and Belarusian. More people speak Russian than any other Slavic language.
Written Russian does not use the Latin alphabet like English and the West Slavic languages do. It uses a script called Cyrillic, whose letters, like that of Latin, came from Greek, but look different from them. The other East Slavic languages, as well as some of the South Slavic languages, use the same script.
Russian is an official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, along with English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Chinese.
Standard Russian is also called modern literary Russian (Современный русский литературный язык). It first appeared at the beginning of the 18th century. At that time Peter the Great was working to make the Russian state more modern. Standard Russian grew out of the dialect of Russian spoken by people in Moscow and the area around Moscow. (A dialect is a local form of a language.) In some ways, Standard Russian was also like the Russian used in government offices in earlier centuries.
Lomonosov put together the first book on Russian grammar in 1755. The Russian Academy of Sciences published the first full dictionary of Russian in 1783. The grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of Russian became stable and were standardized at the end of the 18th and in the 19th century. This was the "Golden Age" of Russian literature. Russian literature became famous throughout the world.
All of Russia began to use Russian as its language of literature, education, and official communication. Until the 20th century, only the upper classes and people in cities spoke the literary language. Russians from the countryside continued to speak their local dialects. Starting in the 20th century, all children were required to go to school. Many people had radios and televisions. This helped spread Standard Russian. In the 20th century the dialects of Russian mostly disappeared. They were gone by the middle of the century. Standard Russian replaced them almost completely.
In Russian, a person's name has three parts. These are the first name, the second name and the family name.
Parents choose the first name for their child. Some common Russian names for boys are Ivan, Vladimir, Mikhail, and Nikolai. Some common Russian names for girls are Anna, Anastasia, Svetlana and Yekaterina.
The second name is called the patronymic. It comes from the first name of one's father. The Russian word for this is otchestvo. Take, for example, a boy whose father is named Ivan. The boy's patronymic is Ivanovich. Another example: a boy's father is named Nikolai. The boy's patronymic is Nikolaevich. If a girl's father is named Ivan, her patronymic is Ivanovna. If her father is named Nikolai, her patronymic is Nikolaevna. The patronymic of a boy ends with ovich or evich. The patronymic of a girl ends with ovna or evna.
Boys have the same family name as their fathers. Girls also use their father's family name, but with one difference. An a is put on the end of the name. Take, for example, a man with the family name Romanov. His son's family name is Romanov. His daughter's family name is Romanova.
Another example: A man's name is Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov. He has a son named Aleksei and a daughter named Anastasia. The son's full name is Aleksei Nikolaevich Romanov. The daughter's full name is Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova.
There are also many people in Russia with family names that are not Russian. Some of these names have only one form. That means the family name is the same for sons and daughters. Some examples are Glushko (a Ukrainian name), Rubinstein (a German/Hebrew name) or Shevardnadze (a Georgian name).
Like Latin, Greek, and German, Russian has a case system. In Russian the case system applies to nouns, pronouns, adjectives, numerals and participles. The case system is a set of word endings (sounds/letters attached to the ends of words) that show the grammatical roles of words in a sentence. Because the grammatical roles are shown by the endings, the order of words in a sentence is more free in Russian than, for example, in English. There are six cases in Russian. The nominative case, which is the form listed in the dictionary, is used for the subject of the sentence. The genitive case often shows ownership. The accusative case is used for a direct object, the dative case for an indirect object. The instrumental case is used for the tool or instrument with which something is done. The prepositional case is used after certain prepositions, such as "in" and "on", but other prepositions may require the use of other cases. Each of the cases has other uses besides the basic ones just listed.
Gender and Number
In Russian, nouns have one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. Masculine nouns usually end in consonants, neuter nouns usually end in -o or -e, and feminine nouns usually end in -a or -я. There is also the plural, which acts much like a fourth gender - when a word is made into the plural, its gender does not matter as far as the case system is concerned.
In Russian, an adjective (a describing word) must agree with the word it describes in gender and number. In the nominative case, adjectives that describe feminine words usually end in -ая or -яя. Ones that describe masculine words usually end in -ый, -ий or -ой. Ones that describe neuter words usually end in -ое or -ее. Ones that describe plural words usually end in -ые or -ие. These endings change depending on the case.
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Russian language Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.