Russian Nationalists Say ‘Nyet’ to Foreign Words
23/02/2013 1 comentario
Nationalist Russian legislators have introduced a bill to hold back a tide of foreign words, specifically English ones, which they claim is swamping Russian language. A bill submitted by minority Liberal Democratic Party would impose fines of up to $1,700 on officials, advertisers and journalists who use foreign words rather than their Russian equivalents. Their main gripe appears to be with English words that have crept into Russian since collapse of Soviet Union, according to broadcaster Russia Today. “They specifically mention the Russian words that ended up as ‘dealer,’ ’boutique,’ ‘manager,’ ‘single,’ ‘O.K.’ and ‘wow,’ ” RT said on its Web site. The legislators were said to have taken their inspiration from France and Poland, which have laws to protect their national languages from the foreign incursions, and from Quebec, where local officials zealously guard the Canadian province’s French-language tradition. Given onward march of English as the dominant world language, the efforts of the language purists may ultimately be doomed. Tendency of languages to adopt foreign words is a scarcely modern phenomenon. Russian itself has a multitude of borrowings from languages as diverse as Mongolian and Latin. Borrowings often reflect concepts or linguistic nuances do not exist in native language. English borrowed “mammoth” and “sable” from Russians as well as the more recent “agitprop” and “gulag.” Alina Sabitova, writing for the Russkiy Mir Foundation, which promotes Russian language and culture, acknowledged that proscriptive laws in countries such as Poland and France were rarely observed in the practice. That cast doubt on the claim of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Liberal Democratic Party leader, that “all major countries have purged foreign loan words from their national languages.” The bill appeared to be the latest in a patriotic wave of perceived anti-foreign measures to go before Duma, lower house of parliament. My colleague Ellen Barry wrote from Moscow last month many of the proposals sounded eccentric and were unlikely to advance and become law. Russia Today got itself in hot water on Thursday with headline “Grammar Nazi Style” on its report of proposed ban. One anonymous commenter suggested that those responsible should be sent to the gulags, while another declared: “Russia needs to protect own language for a million parasite words have infiltrated the country from the West. Russian language is a very rich language and stupid replacement of Russian words with English is bad for country and culture.” Language debate in Russia, as elsewhere, has obvious political overtones, with purists frequently railing against American cultural hegemony and English-language imperialism. (A colleague recalls one Communist-era Polish language activist took particular exception to the phrase “whiskey on the rocks.”) Language watchdogs can also fall into the trap of overzealousness. Quebec’s French language office backed down this week after it provoked a furor by warning the owner of an Italian restaurant that there were too many Italian words on his menu.