Those foreign words in Russian


During the history of interaction with other nations, constant wars, and strong technological dependence on other European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries, Russian people adopted a huge amount of foreign words. Unlike other European languages that mainly interacted with each other, Russian language had been significantly influenced both by European powers and barbaric tribes of Mongols, and even China.

The variety of foreign words is tremendous. However today it would be very interesting to talk about the “sweetest” influence on Russian language. The discourse is about the influence of French on Russian. French words in Russian are very polite, mild, and romantic. However sometimes the meanings of those words seem to go in slightly different or completely different directions.

To demonstrate the difference of lexical – historical development, I would like to consider 1) a French word “Chanson” (direct: song) as a genre of music originated on the eve of the French romanticism, and 2) a current discourse connected to the word in Russia.

To remind you, “Chanson” was developed as a French solo song in the late 16th century. During the 17th century, the “air de cour”, “chanson pour boire”, and other like genres, generally accompanied by lute or keyboard, flourished, with contributions by such composers as Antoine Boesset and Michel-Richard de Lalande. During the later period of time, “Chanson” often refers to the work of singers like Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, Édith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, and Serge Gainsbourg. Chanson is distinguished from the rest of French “pop” music by following the rhythm of the French language and, consequently, is identifiable as specifically French.

Unlike the romantic and lyrical “Chanson,” sometime during the middle of the 20th century, Russia witnessed the development of “Shanson,” as a genre of music. The discourse of the word is totally the same, it states for lyrical songs. However, unlike romantic love stories, Russian “Shanson” is usually referred as a rare lyrical confessions of criminals, people connected to illegal world, and lower class citizens that once had bad experience with the system of justice, and police in particular.

That’s how a very nice word can mean totally different things in two languages, or to be exact, that’s how they can change their meanings over time!

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