Kasak (kasak) wrote in linguaphiles,

Russian nonce words follow-up / дополнительное сообщение о русских окказионализмах

Hello again, fellow, linguiphiles (with the русскоязычные among you in particular)! About a month ago, I posted a survey regarding nonce words in Russian, and 170 of you answered. Thank you so much! Many of you gave me very useful and insightful comments, and you were all a great help. I didn't respond to any comments in that post because I didn't want to influence anyone's decision, but I'd like to follow up and repeat the mini-experiment to see if it yields the same results. I ask that only Russian speakers take the survey, as people who are at the preliminary stages of learning Russian will not have the same judgments as a native speaker (or someone who speaks Russian at a level near or at their native language).

The survey is simple. If it says, "Это рынь. У меня три...", a Russian speaker would put either "рыни" or "рыня" or whatever they feel the right form of the word is in the blank.


I will post the results of the last survey in the comments of beneath a spoiler on this post (as it's your data, not mine!), so that everyone can see the results, and some initial thoughts about how Russian speakers handle new nouns whose gender is not clear from the context. If you are a Russian speaker who would like to take my follow-up survey above, I ask that you not click on the spoiler below until after you've taken the survey so you don't just assume my predictions are correct and let what I say influence any natural judgments you might have.

I will respond to any questions you might have about the previous survey in the comments, if you have them. Спасибо большое ещё раз!

The survey featured words that ended in softened (palatalized) consonants that aren't subject to any spelling rules (ie., I excluded к, г, х, ш, ж, ч, щ, ц). Of the 15 items, 14 were deemed to be feminine, while only one (бысарь) was deemed masculine by a majority of survey takers. Words that ended in oral coronal stops, /т д/, were feminine for on average ~84% of speakers, while the bilabial stops /п б/ were even more feminine with ~90% chosing that over masculine. The /м/ was solidly feminine (~79%), though slightly less so than any of the other consonants listed so far. The coronal fricatives /с з/ had a lower average rate of being chosen as feminine (~60%), and words ending in the coronal nasal /н/ were only ~64% feminine. The lateral /л/ was barely considered feminine (~55%), suggesting that liquids (ie., /р л/) have a lower confidence rate for being feminine.

Initially, I had thought that the place of articulation of the word-final palatalized consonant might correlate with whether or not a speaker decided that the word would be masculine or feminine, that the last consonant would be some kind of morpho-phonological cue to the speaker to say "this is a masculine word" or "this is a feminine word." This may still be true, and that the default gender of a word that ends in a soft consonant is feminine, given the fact that feminine was by and large the gender of choice for the 170 people who filled out the survey. There also could have been some confounding variables in the previous survey, as it contained no words that ended in non-soft consonants. Thus, if a speaker put feminine for the first blank, they might just make it feminine all the way down. This new survey attempts to remedy this potential confound.

This new survey aims to determine whether there is something else at play in gender selection, and that Russians are basing their choice for what gender to select on analogy, or a mix of rules and analogy. I'll share the results once I get them.

Tags: linguistics, russian
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