Simply María: Russian speech etiquette - ProBa Russian Language School
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Simply María: Russian speech etiquette

There are several myths about Russian, and one of them consists that we have no addressing words. It’s not true. For example, in the Russian colloquial etiquette (which is going back to old rural culture) the address to the stranger by means of the term of relationship is allowed, for example: mother, father, sonny, daughter, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, uncle, aunt, brother and some other. Such address is quite traditional and combines in itself familiarity together with special warmth.

Nevertheless the choice of a word at the beginning of communication remains the main problem for foreigners. The majority of the Russian addresses are emotionally charged and can’t be used in a neutral situation. Alas, there is no really neutral address in Russian. And on the street it is necessary to begin communication with polite formulas like «Excuse me!»

But special roles in communication in Russian have personal names. It is possible even to formulate the basic rule of the Russian speech etiquette: “If you know a name of the interlocutor, use him”. During the conversation we repeat names of each other several times, doing our speech more address and contact.

Russian people have huge number of names with all combinations of a name (Иван), a middle name (Иванович) and a surname (Иванов) and also various diminutive names. There is no such abundance of options usually in other languages.

By means of a name it is possible to express many various feelings, but the address by name will be as well the most neutral. For this reason, entering communication, we first of all seek to learn names of interlocutors


The speech etiquette changes here and now and it concerns the most neutral addresses. For the last two decades the sphere of use of names of middle names was considerably narrowed. The middle name has practically disappeared from those spheres of communication which are most subject to foreign influence, especially business. The new speech etiquette means the address only by name including to the chief, and to the business partner, that is in those situations where the address on a name middle name was earlier neutral.

Also we will tell about the use of full and short names at the address. In those situations where it was accepted to call the interlocutor by name to a middle name earlier, and now only by name, such short names as Masha or Volodya, are perceived as excessively contact (intimate, familiar, etc.), and instead of them Maria and Vladimir are used that wasn’t accepted earlier. Today quite so are even more often presented also to strangers. So Maria Mikhailovna in Russian has turned into simply Maria.

According to the book: M. Krongauz “Russian language on the verge of a nervous breakdown”

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