Cleaning up Russian

According to an article I found today, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science plans to ‘clean up’ Russian by removing foreign loanwords and replacing them with native words. They plan to revise dictionaries, school textbooks, and to set up a website to explain the changes. The website will give Russian speakers a chance to check Russian usage with experts. Examples of foreign words give in the article are policymakeri and trendsetteri

This is the kind of thing that organisations like L’Académie française have been trying to do for years, without much success. While the new words might be adopted in formal usage, the chances of this happening in everyday speech and writing don’t seem very high. People tend to stick with the words they’re used to, unless new words become trendy.

Have there been efforts to ‘clean up’ other languages that you know of and that have succeeded?

This entry was posted in Language, Russian.

6 Responses to Cleaning up Russian

  1. Tom says:

    Icelandic is quite successful. Sure, there is slang in the language from English, but many people, esp older, educated adults, use the native Icelandic words, and the slang is usually only generational (it was Danish before).

    The general mindset of Icelanders is also to favour Icelandic words and has been for some time. Many speakers delight in coming up with a good Icelandic term, both seriously and ironically, for a word they have encountered in other languages. The most common way of doing this is with compounds which, like in German, are productive and can be coined on the fly. A rare exception is the word “tölva” (computer), which is a portmantau of “tala” (number, accusative/dative/genitive sg tölu) and völva (seeress).

  2. The Antipodean says:

    There are varying reports of how successful this was in Turkey. The TDK apparently wanted to remove Arabic and Persian loan words, but of course now have to contend with English and French as well.

    I believe they tried resurrecting some old words, an idea I like – some of the work on Anglish is quite interesting, if not always practical.

  3. Luda says:

    Reminds me of the efforts of the Hebrew language academy. I find it funny that the ‘experts’ are prescribing language use for native speakers, who apparently aren’t ‘experts’.

    The case of Turkish is quite interesting. Ataturk was very eager to get rid of Arabic and Persian words, yet replaced many of them with French words, since he loved French so much. Seems a tad ironic..

  4. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori have been auiye successful in getting their words used in the media and at school to surplant English words borrowed into New Zealad Māori however older native speakers favour the borrowed words from English than the newly coined “indigenous” vocabulary.

  5. Ingus M. says:

    Latvia is one of the countries where purism is strong and foreign loanwords are frowned upon but success has various degrees because some newly coined words gain popularity while others don’t. Furthermore, purism in Latvia is strong for historical and political reasons, and I believe it is important for relatively small languages to remain purist, however descriptivists may frown upon us.
    On a relatively off-topic: I also find it interesting that most (or even all) of the descriptivists I’ve encountered so far are English-speakers. And, as we all know, English is a linguistic putain (pardon my French) when it comes to borrowing new words from other languages. In other words, I don’t expect English speakers to understand purism as I don’t expect them to understand the necessity to decline nouns :)
    No offence.

  6. Nick says:

    Croatian is probably a good example of this – there is a very strong effort by the country since the break up of Yugoslavia to use words which are Slavic in origin. Much of this of course is to differentiate standard Croatian from the former standard of Serbo-Croatian, and the use of words in standard Serbian. Some example of this are ‘zemljopis’ (lit. World Writing) instead of ‘geografia’, ‘zrakoplov’ instead of ‘avion’ (airplane). As well there is a consistent effort to use the old Croatian names for months, which have Slavic routes such as ‘rujan’ instead of ‘septembar’ for September.

    This is clearly a political piece of work, and I can remember one instance here in Canada where the local school board posted in advertisement/notice to the Croatian community in Croatian, and then was rebuked by said community for using words which represent the domination of Croatian culture, language etc. by non Croats. I am also unsure of how far it’s used today as I really only have interactions in BCS with those who came directly after the breakup.