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Unbearable Russian Grammar: takes the Turing test, no kidding Options
askmaxim
Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009 3:17:06 PM

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Joined: 9/29/2009
Posts: 12
Location: Montenegro
Thank you all interested in my previous post, Unbearable Russian Grammar: pluralization!

Here is another find in the 'Great and Mighty Russian': animate vs inanimate.

The grammar cases of animate and inanimate objects differ in Russian, as you may know.
In particular, the accusative case distinguishes between those, being identical to the original form for inanimate words ending with a consonant, but flexing the animate creatures. There are a few soul-less things named after animals, such as 'ram', and they are the showcase candidates. Such words would require different spelling in the same case, depending on whether the word refers to the animate thing or its inanimate counterpart. Unbearable enough yet?

Well, the real trouble began with the technology outburst.
As a robot can appear more and more sophisticated these days, hey, we Russians are now in the gray area of Turing-testing nouns if we are up to accurate grammar. No kidding. So, is 'robot' animate or inanimate? I don't know.

It does not even take a hardware robot. There are nowadays plenty of software 'managers' in your computer. Yep, fine for anyone but a Russian. What goes on in a Russian's head is probably a frantic weighing of pros and contras as to whether a manager is animate or not. Maybe this release it is not yet, but the next time around who knows?

Finally, let me mix in some suspense to the matter and take you to a real twilight zone. Do you think ghosts exist? If you do, or if they do for that matter, we are in trouble with the Russian grammar once again. I just watched a Russian cartoon after Oscar Wilde's 'The Canterville Ghost'. And here was the moment of truth! The ghost was adressed as an inanimate thing at one point, but soon thereafter it was flexed quite as a live human. Passed the Turing from a second trial, perhaps?

Original article: Unbearable Russian Grammar: the Turing test, no kidding

Maxim Buyakov
SandraM
Posted: Monday, October 12, 2009 5:03:45 AM
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Joined: 3/11/2009
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Hi Maxim,
I always rather fancied this animate/inanimate thing in Russian grammar. But what a great idea to combine it with the principle of Turing tests!
Thank you for your article, it made me smile.
Elephant
Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:17:43 AM
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Location: Russian Federation
Animacy in Russian is purely grammatic category; and to find out if a noun is animate or not - you don't have to ponder whether it has a soul, but to put it in Accusative case and see what happens.

If you're native speaker, of course.

Robot is thus animate, an insect is not.

It's no more unbearable than nouns' genders :)
Sparrow
Posted: Monday, November 8, 2010 6:28:43 PM

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Joined: 10/9/2010
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Location: United States
Elephant wrote:
Animacy in Russian is purely grammatic category; and to find out if a noun is animate or not - you don't have to ponder whether it has a soul, but to put it in Accusative case and see what happens.

If you're native speaker, of course.

Robot is thus animate, an insect is not.

It's no more unbearable than nouns' genders
:)

Well, a language changes, of course, but I would rather think that insect/насекомое is still an animate noun whilst robot/робот is not, no matter what happens to them in the accusative case. Besides, they act identically anyway. See: I say "Я прихлопнул комара" and "Мы купили робота для детей." In both cases we have a question "кого?" Right?

All who joy would win must share it. Happiness was born a Twin. Lord Byron
GeorgeV
Posted: Monday, November 8, 2010 6:42:42 PM

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If are in the slave-trade, you would ask: Kogo ya kupil/prikhlopnul?

Brain-washing starts in the cradle. - Arthur Koestler
Sparrow
Posted: Monday, November 8, 2010 9:02:13 PM

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*chuckles toward GeorgeV*
Back to an Elephant's post. On the second thought, the question to робот may rather be что?... Just sounds nicer...
Darn, I've never gotten a single thought to this animate/inanimate matter, and it seems like fun...

All who joy would win must share it. Happiness was born a Twin. Lord Byron
Elephant
Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 7:41:39 AM
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Location: Russian Federation
Hello Sparrow,

"Комар" and "Робот" are both animalic. "Насекомое" is not animalic ("прихлопнуть насекомое"), but Комар is. So you need to abstract from the object and concentrated on words, because this is grammatical category, not philosophical :)
Sparrow
Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:14:02 AM

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Elephant wrote:
Hello Sparrow,

"Комар" and "Робот" are both animalic. "Насекомое" is not animalic ("прихлопнуть насекомое"), but Комар is. So you need to abstract from the object and concentrated on words, because this is grammatical category, not philosophical :)

Hello, Elephant.
Understood. With "насекомое" - a very good example. Доходчиво. Thanks. Angel

All who joy would win must share it. Happiness was born a Twin. Lord Byron
Kolan
Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010 12:16:24 PM
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Location: Canada
Well, насекомое got neutral gender, that's why the above rule doesn't apply.

C. привидение.
Elephant
Posted: Monday, November 29, 2010 10:56:29 AM
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Joined: 11/2/2010
Posts: 5
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Location: Russian Federation
Kolan wrote:
Well, насекомое got neutral gender, that's why the above rule doesn't apply.

C. привидение.


Sorry, sorry, sorry, the difference between them is actually in Accusative of PLURAL forms:

Здесь насекомые - Я вижу насекомых (the same as genitive case - means that they are animalic)
Здесь книги - Я вижу книги (the same as nominative - means that they are not animalic).

But for non native speakers I don't see any way to figure out how to decline them; the only possible way is indeed to weigh up if it is a living creature or not. Робот is animalic - no doubt - it is one of just few exceptions.

Здесь привидения (neutral gender) - Я вижу привидений. - Я вижу привидения. According to Google, both seem to be equally used.
Kolan
Posted: Monday, November 29, 2010 3:52:13 PM
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I wouldn't consider Google or any other Internet stats in this regard. The correct form is Я вижу привидения.

Living creature or not - refers to the school grammar only which was made simple on purpose.
Sparrow
Posted: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 5:23:49 PM

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Elephant wrote:Я вижу привидений (I see ghosts.)
*под столом от смеха* Elephant! А я не вижу привидений. Sucks to be me...

Guys, I think I get it why we keep loosing each other in this discussion: Because we try to speak about Russian grammar in English which makes Russian a whole new language, barely recognizible, to me anyway (and I am a native Russian-speaker). Perhaps, the language spoken by natives and the one that foreigners speak are the two different languages - because of the two different mentalities.
So... My point is we all mean the same, it's just Elephant seems to speak from the viewpoint of a non-native Russian-speaker. Do you teach Russian to foreigners, Elephant?

All who joy would win must share it. Happiness was born a Twin. Lord Byron
Kolan
Posted: Friday, December 3, 2010 12:49:21 AM
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Joined: 11/28/2010
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Location: Canada
I guess it's OK to explain Russian grammar in English, just as in any other language, making it more accessible to non-native speakers.
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