Useful Basic Russian Vocabulary: People

Learn Some Basic Russian Words For People

basic russian vocabulary, words for people in russian

Ex. 1. ОН or ОНА?

There is a wide range of nouns in basic Russian vocabulary that categorize individuals based on their membership in groups, determined by their origin, occupation, beliefs, or other attributes.

In the lesson on genders in Russian, several examples of words denoting nationalities were provided. For instance, Испания (Spain) is associated with испанец (Spanish man) using the suffix -ЕЦ, while испанка (Spanish woman) is formed with the suffix -КА. Similarly, Япония (Japan) is linked to японец (Japanese man) and японка (Japanese woman).

These examples illustrate the process of linguistical feminization, which involves reclassifying words that typically refer to males as feminine. This is commonly achieved by adding inflectional suffixes that indicate a female gender. A gender-specific occupational title refers to a job name or occupation that explicitly or implicitly indicates the gender of the person performing that job. For instance, in English, the job title actress implies that the individual is female.

Similar to words for nationalities, many nouns for occupation are derived with native Russian suffixes: строитель (build-er), лыжник (ski-er), продавец (sell-er), бегун (runner). Some nouns don’t derive with any suffixes (врач). Some nouns identifying group membership are loanwords (президент, менеджер, редактор, профессор).

Nouns that possess certain biological characteristics (female or male) do not differentiate between females and males in terms of their morphology. These nouns cannot undergo feminization, unlike basic Russian vocabulary that is marked for general sex reference.

брат (brother) – сестра (sister) – NOT: братка
муж (husband) – жена (wife) – NOT: мужка

студент – студентка
турист – туристка

This distinction arises because words like “студент” and “турист” have both female and male sex reference, whereas “брат” and “муж” are specifically marked for male sex reference.

Ex. 2. Do the task. How are words in part 5 different from those in parts 1-4?

The rule of feminization for basic Russian vocabulary

Most of these masculine nouns belonging to the first declension can form corresponding feminine derivatives of the second declension by adding a suffix, which can be a modified or expanded form of the masculine suffix. The majority of feminine occupational titles in the Russian language are created through the process of suffixation with -КА, -ИЦА, -НИЦА, -ЩИЦА, -ША.

официант (waiter) – официантка (waitress)
учитель (teacher) – учительница (female teacher)
продавец (salesman) – продавщица (saleswoman)
лифтёр – лифтёрша

Russian noun declension exhibits asymmetry, though. While women can be referred to using nouns with suffixes from either the first or second declension, men can only be referred to using words with first declension suffixes. This implies that a man can only be named with a masculine noun, whereas a woman can potentially be identified by either type of noun. Interestingly, the masculine forms “учитель” (teacher) or “преподаватель” (instructor) are used to refer to female teachers, despite teaching being predominantly a female occupation in Russia.

The exact criteria for choosing between the corresponding masculine and feminine nouns when referring to a woman remains somewhat unclear. One possible explanation could be the societal status of women in Russia, which often involves lower-paid and assisting roles. The non-utilization of existing feminine forms may reflect the traditional social stratification between men and women in both the workplace and society as a whole. In instances where women hold highly-paid or prestigious positions typically occupied by men, masculine forms tend to prevail. Conversely, feminine forms are consistently used for women in traditional female-dominated occupations, such as “уборщица” (cleaner).

Some researchers say that the reason of non-use feminine derivatives that differ from their masculine counterparts is that they are endowed with additional pejorative connotations, or are stylistically marked as “colloquial”. In the Russian language, the use of suffixes such as -КА (and especially -ША, or -ХА) is one of the ways of indicating informality, endearment, or diminutiveness.

However, the use of feminizations in professions is currently being debated by Russian feminists. While some argue that it sounds artificial and blunt, others believe it brings fairness to a gendered linguistic situation. Regardless, it is important to note that the use of these suffixes does not diminish the seriousness of the profession performed by women.

Russian Words For Beginners: How To Build Plural Forms

In upcoming lessons, we will provide comprehensive guidelines on constructing plural forms. However, when studying basic Russian vocabulary, it is crucial to understand that many masculine nouns end with -Ы. While feminine nouns may also end with -Ы, those related to women’s occupations and nationalities formed with the -КА suffix typically end with -И in the plural form.

Он кана́дец. Он официа́нт. – Они́ кана́дцы. Они́ официа́нты.
Она́ кана́дка. Она́ официа́нтка. – Они́ кана́дки. Они́ официа́нтки.

Ex. 3. Drag the correct sentences to the boxes. Pay attention to the gender of the nouns.

Ex. 4. Click on the odd one out.

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