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Time machines do not exist, but books are good substitutes. This book takes you two thousand years back in time and explains how the Russian language came to be the way it is by reviewing all major changes in the grammar and sound system. In addition to chapters on syntax, morphology, and phonology, the book offers brief introductions to Russian history, medieval writing and literature, the theory of historical linguistics, and the Old Novgorod dialect. Appendices with morphological tables and chronologies of sound laws make the book useful as a reference tool. How Russian Came to Be the Way It Is is written as a textbook for graduate students of Slavic and Russian linguistics, but it is also useful for specialists of Russian literature, Russian history, or general linguistics who would like to learn more about the history of the Russian language. No previous exposure to Old Rusian or Old Church Slavonic is required, but the book presupposes basic knowledge of Modern Russian.

"Tore Nesset’s book constitutes an unequivocally successful attempt to make the evolution of Russian as accessible as possible to students," Journal of Historical Linguistics (below).

Book Reviews

Review by Iván Igartua in Journal of Historical Linguistics, vol. 6, issue 1


Priscilla Hunt and Svitlana Kobets, eds.


This richly illustrated volume’s innovative intersciplinary approaches and engagement with the newest scholarly literature presents a new basis for exploration of holy foolishness in Russia as a unique expression of national identity. Its articles elucidate the genesis, nature, and development of the foolishness in the medival period and its on-going significance as a broadly cultural and religious paradigm. Sweeping in its scope, this volume is poineering in several respects: addressing holy foolishness from its Byzantine origins to postmodern, contemporary Russia, it offers innovative explorations of hagiographical, historical, poetic, and liturgical apsects of writings about such seeminal holy fools as Andrew of Constantinople, Isaakii of Kiev Caves Monastery and Kseniia of St. Petersburg; the first English translation of A. M.Panchenko’s classic study of holy foolish phenomenology, “Laughter as Spectacle”; and new discussions of miniatures accompanying the text of St. Andrew’s vita. Further, it addresses foundational moments in the institutionalization of holy foolishness: the Church calendar commemorations of holy fools inherited from Byzantium; the first Russian holy foolish narrative; the genesis of the Intercession cult in the vita of Andrew the fool; the first holy foolish vita with verifiable facts about the protagonist’s life; the first canonized Russian female holy fool, Kseniia of St. Petersburg; and comprehensive treatments of holy foolery’s culturological significance for Leningrad underground poets, Soviet and post-Soviet performance art, and postmodern thinkers. The volume’s innovative interdisciplinary approaches and engagement with the newest scholarly literature assure its broad appeal to students and teachers of Russian culture, and of comparative, and religious studies, and offer a new basis for exploration of this spiritually and culturally complex phenomenon. This book is recommended for library collections at community colleges, four-year colleges, and research universities.



Although there are over nine million Roma (plural of Rom, the correct name for those people who have been more often referred to as "Gypsies" in English) in Europe and North America (plus many more all over the world), no usable modern grammar of their language, Romani, exists in English. Of all the different kinds of Romani, the Vlax dialects have the most speakers and are spoken in the greatest number of countries around the world. It is an appropriate choice, therefore, as the type of Romani which will be most widely useful to the learner. It is also the variety for which most dictionaries, grammars (in languages other than English), and non-linguistic texts have been published. The Vlax dialects are very similar to each other, and having learned one, learning any of the others may be accomplished with little adjustment. As Victor Friedman points out in the preface: "This book is intended as a teaching grammar for students who are studying Romani in order to learn something about it, and/or to be able to use the language for academic and other pursuits. At the same time, the author is aware of the fact that this grammar can be used by Romani speakers seeking to learn about their native language as the object of study and standardization. It is thus also a contribution to the creation of an international Romani standard for use by speakers of the language themselves. This work is of the same use to general linguists and students of Romani dialectology as it is to student of other disciplines: it can prepare them to go out and do fieldwork in the investigation of those questions that interest them. By describing a supradialectal variety rather than a specific dialect, Hancock not only maximizes the potential practical applicability of his material, but serves a variety of academic and non-academic interests for both speakers of Romani and those who wish to learn it. Above all, this work is an introduction to the language of a unique and remarkable group that has survived centuries of persecution with its language and identity intact. The language and its speakers are well worthy of more positive attention than they have so far received from the world at large." Professor Hancock's book starts with a summary of current knowledge of the Indian origins and westward migration of the Roma, then proceeds to an illustrated summary of the dialects of Romani. A survey of the language itself, in the context of its socio-linguistic setting and current efforts to create a supradialectal standard for all Roma, follows. It contains material on spelling, the sound system, pronunciation, word formation and derivation, morphology (nouns, the article, pronouns, post- and prepositions, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, numerals) and much more. The book concludes with a bibliography and index. "...extremely interesting and useful work." (Diachronica) "This is a very informally written yet massively informative little volume..." (SEER) "...a sterling contribution..." (Language)

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Handbook of Russian Affixes

This is a concise dictionary of Russian affixes, classified into Prefixes (total 60) and Suffixes (Nouns -- 219, Adjectives -- 100, Verbs -- 20) -- a grand total of some 390 affixes, which is a virtually exhaustive list of all Russian affixes. It is a much fuller list than is found in either Townsend's Russian Word Formation or Gribble's Russian Root List (both also from Slavica). Affixes are subdivided by morphological category (noun, verb, adjective, and other). The following data are given for each affix: 1) one or more descriptive names or English meanings; 2) its formal derivation (what sort of base is used), including foreign vs. native status, and -- for the suffixes -- comments on the foreign origin; 3) morphonological information (sound/letter alternations); 4) associated stress rules; 5) usually two examples with English translation; 6) for suffixes: references to the relevant section of the 1980 Academy Grammar for further examples and information (several of the affixes included in Cubberley's book do not in fact occur in the Academy Grammar). There is a general introduction on Russian word-formation, and specific introductions explaining the format of each section. There are two cross-referencing sections: one classifies all affixes according to the morphological category to which they can be attached, and the second does the same for suffixes in relation to eleven high-frequency semantic categories. There is an index allowing all affix entries to be traced easily. Finally, there is a section of exercises for either private use or in a classroom, and a Bibliography. The Handbook is aimed mainly at the intermediate Russian learner, who needs to increase vocabulary as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The principle is that formal word-formation in the form of affix study is one of the best ways of doing this.

"Therefore, this Handbook surely belongs on the bookshelf of every serious student of the Russian language... (SEEJ).

"...well-organized and well-documented ... a major contribution to the field of language teaching and applied linguistics." (MLJ)

"...mozhet stat' nastol'noi knigoi dlia kazhdogo, kto uglubleno izuchaet russkii iazyk..." (SE)

"As a reference took Cubberley's book represents a notable achievement,..." (SEER)

"...a thoroughly professional job..." (MLR)

Think of life as a constructor from which you can create anything. Decompose your life into its many parts and aspects-spiritual, material and otherwise. Then make a portrait of your ideal life and also break it down into its parts. Analyze what you lack in order to live the life of your dreams. How do you attract this into your life, what is worth learning? Answering these questions is just the right way to start moving in the right direction.



After an introduction which addresses the problem of humor in Dostoevsky's works and discusses previous approaches to it -- especially those of M. M. Baxtin and R. Hingley -- this study devotes a separate chapter to each of Dostoevsky's five major novels: Crime and Punishment(1866), The Idiot (1868), The Demons (1871-72), The Adolescent (1875), and The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). The thematic and characterological functions of Dostoevsky's plethora of humorous elements are examined within structures that are treated as eminently serious, indeed, sometimes, as darkly neo-gothic. Consequently, the study points up the sharply contrastive, polyphonic, tonal environment for Dostoevsky's humor which is complexly nuanced by offsetting elements. While this book draws on Bakhtin's notion of polyphony and analyzes Dostoevsky's use of parodic satellites for his central characters, its examination of humor overall and satirical function in particular function calls into question Bakhtin's concept of voice equality in Dostoevsky's novels. "There are many suggestive insights in this work... All in all, this is a worthy and conscientious contribution..." (MLR)

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UCLA Slavic Studies, Volume 15 Ever since the first decades of the sixteenth century a Christian variant (as advocated by Erasmus and Melanchthon) gradually replaced the Greco-Roman orientation of the traditional Italian Renaissance humanism in Central Europe. This new direction took a peculiar and fascinating form in Hungary and Croatia. It developed amidst conflicts between townships and the new aristocracy, against the backdrop of a malfunctioning split kingdom, and in a region devasted by the Turkish occupiers. The country torn into three parts, the spreading of the Reformation, and the destruction of the great renaissance courts of Hungary and Croatia polarized the humanities after the Mohacs disaster (1526). The confusing political situation and permanent armed conflicts notwithstanding, there was great mobility in this area. Humanists moved to the West, in order to escape the Turks, or to the courts of the simultaneously elected, competing monarchs, Ferdinand and Zapolya, often switching their loyalties, serving first one and then the other. Many, engaged by the above rulers, or in the service of the Church, traveled as envoys to the Porte. Here the author investigates a group of sixteenth-century Hungarian and Croatian humanists, their vicissitudinous lives and remarkable contributions to every facet of European culture. "This book's objectivity, scholarship, and novelty place it above others treating the same area and period. ... The depth of her erudition is astonishing." (SR)