01 September 2007


The extent to which my mood improved when I stumbled into this seedy-looking little internet cafe and saw their beautiful, fast, Windows XP-running computers makes me a little uneasy.

I've had internet for the past few days, but for some reason my connection at the institute, which loads Gmail quickly and without problems, categorically refuses to load Blogger or Facebook (which are the bread and butter of my internet addiction - or would be, if that metaphor made any sense at all).

So, here I am with Blogger and Facebook again! And the world is as it should be. Anyway, here is a post I wrote two days ago, on August 30th.

I’m in Taganrog!

First impressions: small, cute, green, quiet. Doesn’t appear to be much of a tourist destination, if you know what I mean, but since I grew up in one of the most boring towns on the planet (Norwalk represent!), I don’t anticipate that that will be a problem for me.

My institute already seems to be great – it’s tiny (four buildings, three departments) and all the people have been really nice, including my advisor, who has been bending over backwards to make sure I’m comfortable and getting all the first-days stuff done that I need to get done. Right now I’m staying in the university’s guest house, but thanks to her hard work, I should have an apartment pretty soon. Also, the institute’s driver, Vasilii, has promised to find me a Russian husband. Yippee! Sweet of him, though.

And the most exciting thing to my inner dorky linguist (she’s not buried all that deep, to be honest): people here have southern accents! So far the only feature I’ve noticed is the tendency to pronounce what in the standard variety would be a voiced velar stop (that is, hard /g/) as a voiceless velar fricative (that is, /x/, like the consonant in “ach!” - or just kind of like an /h/, if that explanation confuses you). This is not a groundbreaking discovery, but it’s fun to come and find out that it’s actually true.

Teacher, directing a group of small children to watch a documentary about wartime Taganrog in the local history museum:
Смотрите, ребята! Вот это Таханрох!
(Look, it’s Tahanroh!)

Me: У вас есть ключ от гостиницы?
(Do you have the key to the guest house?)
The guard at the university: Хостиница? Анна Петровна в хостинице, у нее ключ.
(Hest house? Anna Petrovna is in the hest house, she has the key.)

I haven’t figured out exactly what environments it occurs in, but I’m sure I’ll be hearing a lot more of it soon. Who knows, maybe I’ll even pick it up while I’m here. Relatedly, I haven’t yet shaken the habit of saying “ага” (aga), the Far Eastern way of saying “uh-huh” (most Russians say “axa” (aha)). It would be really funny if I ended up with a mix of the two – turning my /g/s into /h/s in most words, but turning the /h/ in that particular word into a /g/!

Finally: Happy День освобождения Таганрога (Day of the Freeing of Taganrog)! On this date in 1944 (I believe), the Nazis were kicked out of the city, which they had occupied for nearly a year and a half.


Anonymous said...

Yay! Oh, how nostalgic I am for the /x/ of Krasnodar and Sacramento-Ukranians! And do they speak slower there than in Vlad?

Leslie said...

No! I think people in Vlad were totally making up the thing about speaking faster than other Russians. I have discerned no difference.

So, my host's son (age six) has a friend named Gleb. I have to wonder... does he get called Hleb a lot? Hlebushka? Kusochik hleba?

(If anyone else is reading this comment: Hleb means 'bread.')