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it is john’s apple

27th December 2007 permanent link

Tim Ferriss’s keys to rapid language learning: Sentence Two in Russian. (Sentence One, Sentence Three, Sentence Four, Sentence Five, Sentence Six)

It is John’s apple
Зто яаблоко Ивана

“Eta yablaka Ivana”. This apple [is] John’s.

  1. In this sentence, unlike Sentence One, it is necessary to specify which apple. “Зто”, “this”, takes the place that the definite article would in English, although it isn’t one.
  2. “Зто”, a preposition, agrees with the nominative neuter noun яаблоко. Once again, the stress isn’t on the final “о”, so it’s transliterated/pronounced more like “eta”
  3. (“Translating” personal names isn’t normally good practice. In this case, however, it helps us to spot that …) The cyrillic letter “в” looks like a latin “B” but is transliterated as “v” and sounds like a softer version of an English “v”, somewhere between English “v” and “w”.
  4. The genitive “-’s” on the end of “John’s” is the only surviving noun declension in English. In the only other language in which I’m fluent, German, it is normally the article/preposition/adjective/whatever, and not the noun itself, that changes to indicate case, gender etc. As in English, German’s one surviving historical relic of noun declensions is a genitive “-s” ending. In Russian, since there are no articles, nouns always have declensions. The “-а” on the end of “Ivana”, is the masculine genitive (possessive) form of the noun.
  5. The lowercase handwritten form of cyrillic “т” is completely unlike the printed form and looks like a latin “m”. Oh joy. I have no chance of ever being able to read handwritten notes from my wife.

Equally acceptable alternative form:

Зто Иваново яаблоко Ивану

“Eta Ivanava yablaka”. This [is] John’s apple.

  1. Here “Иваново”, “Ivanava” is an adjectival form instead of a genitive noun.

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