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1

Aleksandrs Berdicevskis
1

Predictors of pluricentricity:
lexical divergences between Latvian Russian and Russian Russian

1. Background
1.1. Introduction
When I moved into a room in a university dormitory in Moscow, I was given an inventory — a list of all the objects in the room for which I was responsible. To my surprise, the inventory contained the word карниз, which tome meant exterior windowsill at least that was how people in Riga, where I grew up, used it. The window did, of course, have an exterior sill, but it seemed very strange to include it in the inventory. It transpired that in mainland Russian
карниз
can mean curtain rod something that Ia native speaker of Russian, never knew. This was not the last unexpected discrepancy between my lexicon and that of the standard Russian. The word мусорник in Riga is the most common name fora waste container of any type. In mainland Russian it simply does not exist. Moreover, it is not present in the dictionaries, whereas in Latvia it is used by everybody, including well-educated speakers. The divergences turned out not to be limited to everyday speech. Working as a translator, I discovered that the insurance term самориск (lit. ‘self-risk’, US deductible, UK excess) exists almost exclusively in Latvian Russian. It is a relatively official term, used by insurance companies, banks and business journalists, but hardly known in Russia, where the same notion is called франшиза. The more examples I encountered, the more I became sure that these phenomena deserve a linguistic description. It might be useful both for practical purposes — should the need to codify the regional norm arise — and theoretical purposes — to estimate how far Russian has moved on the scale of pluricentricity.


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