Print Story Après moi le déluge.
By Bartleby (Sun Feb 11, 2007 at 07:22:19 AM EST) (all tags)
Hurray for Sundays. Watch me waste it in a nerdy fashion. Engage lecturing mode, and full steam ahead.

Prompted by the thread starting here, a tiebreak of sorts:

dopotopnyj - vorsintflutlich - antediluvian
dopotopnost' - Vorsintflutlichkeit - blank?

The more I think about this whole thing, the more my mind jumps, as they say in my home region, von Hölzken auf Stöcksken, from little twig to little stick. I'll try to stay the course...

I. Dictionaries, Kuzmin and Dzhordzh Oruehll

One of the examples Kellnerin gives for the usage of antediluvian are the paintings in Lascaux. Therefore I take it antediluvian can not only mean "totally outdated", but also "really old"? Funny, this never occured to me, the German vorsintflutlich having only the first meaning, and always implying disapproval. So I went and checked two dictionaries on Russian "dopotopnyj"*, too. My, i.e. the reference, the monolingual Tolkovyj slovar' russkogo jazyka by Ožegov/Švedova, has only the first definition ("(colloquial) outdated, old-fashioned, grown weak [lit.: having existed before the worldwide flood described in the Bible]"). This online dictionary entry says "1. Having existed very long ago and having gone extinct (of animals) 2. fig. coll. Very old [NOTE: "davnyj", "old" applies to events that happened long ago or things that no longer exist]//Having gone out of use, old-fashioned.//Not up to current views, demands, norms; outdated."

Judging by the mighty google, both the adjective and the noun are rarely used: 1023 hits for dopotopnyj, 23 for dopotopnost('). I had a glance and found a couple antediluvian cars and lifts and computers this way, some Russian literature and, interestingly, some translations from the English.**

I'm fairly certain I first encountered the noun "dopotopnost'" in a volume of prose by "Silver Age" writer Michail Kuzmin (Wikipedia stub, essay). Too bad paper books don't have full text search. I think what initially caught my attention was that, although I had never heard the word before, I could immediately understand it because it seemed to have the same structure as its German counterpart down to the morpheme level. Which, as I understood after a while, is only almost correct. But that belongs under II b).



Do you know that passage in Nabokov's Lolita that describes the sensual qualities of the name alone? In a more metaphorically culinary than sexual vein, one could say something similar about dopotopnost'. Also, it's a crash course on an important rule of Russian orthoepics, or correct pronunciation.

Russian has a phenomenon called "redukcija glasnych", or "vowel reduction". /a/, /e/ and /o/ are pronounced as the writing suggests only if they're stressed, otherwise they have one or two stages of reduction. /o/, specifically, is pronounced somewhere between the o's in "rot" and "road" when stressed, but as a short and open a-like sound ("uh?") in the syllable immediately preceding the stressed syllable, and as a shwa in all other places. The stressed syllable in "dopotopnost'" is the third one, so you have the vowel sequence shwa - "uh" - 'o - shwa — all possible alternatives in one word.

And then there's the sequence of plosives (consonants produced by interrupting the flow of air through the mouth for a moment) intertwined with the vowels in the first three syllables (or three and half, because the second "p" is actually the first consonant of the last syllable, as far as pronunciation is concerned). Imagine "e" as a placeholder for shwa here: de-puh-TOP. de-puh-TOP de-puh-TOP de-puh-TOP



II. b) Building blocks

I like languages whose morphology allows you to build words out of morphemes for yourself or at least see how it's done. Maybe a bit like an engineer. Let's pick this thing apart, see how it works and whether we can put it together again. Works pretty well for Finnish, for example, to a somewhat lesser degree for Russian or German, not so well for Chinese, I'm told. As mentioned above, Vorsintflutlichkeit and dopotopnost' are structurally very similar.

In the middle of that monster you have Flut, the German cognate of flood. Lower case-f flood, the Flood has its own word, Sintflut. I boldly claim that Sint- is a variant of Sünde, sin. Makes sense, doesn't it? Let's glue on an adjective suffix next, -lich, cognate of -ly. sintflutlich is not a word, but it could be one, just like truthiness. The next addition is the prefix vor-, which, as you know or guessed correctly, is related to your fore- and before. Or ante-. -keit, ultimately, creates an abstract noun, essentially like -ness or -(i)ty. Et voilà.

Now, let's look for the root of the Russian noun. We dig until we reach the verbs tonut' and topit'. Both mean to drown, tonut' is intransitive ("John drowned"), topit' is transitive ("John drowned Jane"). There are some details that I'll have to sweep under the carpet until, by the help of all-purpose prefix po-, we arrive at the Flood, potop.

Next we need an adjective suffix and ending. The difference, for all practical purposes, is that the suffix stays with the adjective in all its variations, while the ending changes with case, gender and number. Thus, the suffix is -n-, the ending needed to form the adjective form that you'll find in dictionaries, i.e. the nominative masculine singular ending, in this case is -yj.

Actually, to the best of my knowledge, you won't find potopnyj in dictionaries. Another word that could exist, but doesn't. Now, just like in German, one suffix gets glued to the front end of the word. do, like vor, can serve both as prefix and as preposition. (The meaning is slightly different, both words mean before, but do implies that the point of reference is being reached ("up to"), whereas vor without context is vague in this regard.)

At last, we remove the ending again, add a suffix for abstract nouns instead, and we're done.




*Some of the Russian texts I came across in writing this diary use Latin rather than Cyrillic characters (see next footnote for an example), and so do I. Transcriptions have the disadvantage that different ones are used in different countries (adopting orthographic conventions of the local languages), sometimes more than one transcription is used in one area, people get mixed up or creative, and transcriptions tend to be unambiguous in one direction (Cyrillic to Latin) at best. Also, my knowledge of the English transcription rules is shaky :) Therefore, if you don't mind, I'll stick to the scientific transliteration which doesn't have these problems and happens to be the system I'm used to (and don't you ask me if it's the only one in existence). Keep in mind a few points that won't go without saying if your native tongue isn't any of a number of Central European languages: j = y in "yes"; š = sh; ž = zh; ch = the sound in good old Scottish "loch" (yeah, I know, basically). I hope preview doesn't fool and fail me and everybody can see those fancy diacritics.

**Notably of George Orwell's "A clergyman's daughter" (Russian, in a Latin transcription that doesn't look familiar to me, English) and W. B. Yeats/ Lady Gregory's "The Unicorn from the stars" (I don't know the piece, but I do wonder if the unicorn's pink, or invisible, or both). The Orwell is not very literal ("The whole atmosphere of the place was so curiously antiquated [...]"), as for the other text, I don't know. If anybody has a copy, the expression translated as dopotopnost' must be right in the second sentence.

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Après moi le déluge. | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
old, really old, by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #1 Sun Feb 11, 2007 at 03:54:17 PM EST
or so-damn-old-we-can't-even-relate.

Three dictionaries I consulted (Webster's 11th Collegiate, New Oxford American Dictionary 2nd Ed. [via the Mac dashboard dictionary], and American Heritage 3rd Ed) list the literal meaning "dating before the Biblical Flood" along with both the more straightforward derivative meaning, "really old," and the figurative "outdated" -- although in different order.

What I realized/noted during this whole discussion is that "antique" just means "really old" while "antiquated" means "outdated." I've nothing really to add to that.

Anyway, thanks for this long digression, which I feel justifies my previous diary. I enjoyed the decontruction of the Lo-li-ta-ness (-keit, -nost') of dopotopnost'. Like a locomotive.

"If a tree is impetuous in the woods, does it make a sound?" -- aethucyn

If any diary needs any justification,... by Bartleby (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 06:50:27 AM EST
it's this one.

Glad you liked it.

[ Parent ]
My name is BlueOregon ... by BlueOregon (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Feb 11, 2007 at 05:20:45 PM EST

... and I approve of this language-oriented diary entry.

Regarding antediluvian matters ...

SÜNDFLUT, f., diluvium, cataclysmus. h e r k u n f t  u n d  f o r m .

ahd. sinvluot, aus germ. sin- 'immer, überall' und vluot (zu sin- s. teil 10, 1064 und sinwel teil 10, 1218; aus kompositen wie got. sinteins 'täglich', as. sinnahti, ags. sinniht 'ewige nacht', germ. singrōni- 'immergrün', wgerm. sinhīwun 'gatten' entwickelt sich die verstärkende bedeutung von sin- in ags. sinhere 'groszes heer', ahd. sinvluot; germ. sin- aus idg. sem- 'eins' s. FICK III3 432; WALDE-POKORNY 2, 488): sinuluoth (10. jh.), sinulvoth (10. jh.), sinvluoth (ca. 1070) ahd. gl. 1, 581, 21 St.-S.; sinfluot NOTKER 1, 102, 21, (dat.) sinfluôte 2, 378, 3 (gl.), in dero sinfluoti 3, 181, 30; 189, 10 P.; sinvlût (12. jh.) ahd. gl. 3, 234, 16 St.-S. schon früh auch mit gleitlaut sintvluot: in sintfluote bei NOTKER (gl.) 2, 426, 19 P.; sintflůt (12. jh.), sintflut (12. u. 13. jh.) ahd. gl. 3, 205, 58; 234, 16; 360, 59 St.-S. seit dem 13. jh. erobert diese -t-form als mhd. sintvluot, nd. sintvlôt rasch den ganzen sprachbereich, während sin-formen nur lexikalisch und in handschriftlichen varianten noch gelegentlich begegnen, vgl. z. b. sinflut (15. jh.) bei DIEFENBACH gl. 182b; erste dtsche bibel 1, 94 (druck Z, S). mhd. auch in der nebenform sin(t)flüete, f. Reinfrid v. Braunschweig 19778 Bartsch; HUGO V. TRIMBERG renner 18173 Ehrism.

seit dem 15. jh. setzt eine teils auf miszverständnis, teils auf willkürlicher bildung oder ausweichung beruhende allgemeine verwirrung der formen ein, die sich auf beide kompositionsglieder des wortes erstreckt. vor allem treten heraus die umdeutung des sin-, sint- in sünd- und das nebeneinander von -flut und -flusz.

seit die bedeutung von sin- nicht mehr verstanden wurde, lag eine formal durch sint- vorbereitete u m d e u t u n g  i n  s ü n d - um so näher, als die auffassung der biblischen sinflut als eines sündengerichtes schon früh in wortspielen oder doch in typischer wortnähe zum ausdruck kam (s. auch unten 3 a)

For those who do not want to read the text, Sintflut as Sündflut or "sin-flood" is a reinterpretation and shift in meaning, the sin[t]- being from a Germanic root for "everywhere" or "always."

See: Grimm.

Heh. Serves me right. by Bartleby (2.00 / 0) #4 Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 06:52:46 AM EST
As you'll have guessed from the handwaving attitude of that passage, I smelled something fishy there, but I was lazy and rather than checking I went with the Volksetymogelei.

Thank you for your approval, though.

[ Parent ]
Après moi le déluge. | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback