Two notes on Three Sisters

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Last night, I saw an excellent performance of Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Vortex Theater in Albuquerque. I had never seen this play before, and based on descriptions of the plot, I didn't really expect to like it very much, but in fact I thought it was brilliant, in ways that are not captured by a plot summary. It's surprising that this suprised me, since I like Chekhov's short stories very much, and for the same reasons.

Two small linguistic footnotes follow, one intrinsic to the text, and the other related to last night's performance.

Ut consecutivum. The character Fyodor Ilyich Kulygin is described by the Wikipedia article as follows:

Masha's much older husband and a teacher at the high school. Kulygin is a jovial, kindly man, who truly loves his wife, although he is aware of her infidelity. His hobby is to go for rambles (long cross country walks) with the headmaster- Kulygin is the honorary secretary for the rambling society in the local town. At the end of the play, though knowing what his wife has been up to, he takes her back and accepts her failings.

Kulygin mainly provides comic relief, wandering in from time to time to look for his straying wife. But he has some important lines, for example this (from the translation by Julius West at Project Gutenberg — last night's production used a more recent translation by Paul Schmidt):

To-day the soldiers will be gone, and everything will go on as in the old days. Say what you will, Masha is a good, honest woman. I love her very much, and thank my fate for her. People have such different fates. There's a Kosirev who works in the excise department here. He was at school with me; he was expelled from the fifth class of the High School for being entirely unable to understand ut consecutivum. He's awfully hard up now and in very poor health, and when I meet him I say to him, "How do you do, ut consecutivum." "Yes," he says, "precisely consecutivum …" and coughs. But I've been successful all my life, I'm happy, and I even have a Stanislaus Cross, of the second class, and now I myself teach others that ut consecutivum. Of course, I'm a clever man, much cleverer than many, but happiness doesn't only lie in that.

I believe that the ut consecutivum is probably this part of Lewis & Short's entry for ut:

II.B. Introducing a temporal clause, the principal predicate being an immediate sequence.

L&S give examples of this temporal ut where "ut A, B" means "as soon as A, B", or "since A, B", or "whenever A, B". [Update: actually this guess was wrong -- this term is in fact tradictionally associated with <i>ut</i> introducing a subjunctive clause of result -- see the comments below for details.]  But ut is protean –  ut often has to be translated as "how", or "in what way or manner", or "as much as", or "howsoever", or "considering that", or "although", or just plain "that" … So it's hardly surprising that a student would find it hard to sort ut out, though it seems harsh to drop someone from school for failing to recall one piece of the puzzle.

These days, we use obscure features of the integral calculus or of organic chemistry as intellectual gatekeepers, in place of obscure features of Latin grammar. And we don't kick kids out of school for failing to make it through the gate, we just drop them to a lower track, or suggest that they try a different major.  Anyhow, the obscure features of Latin grammar did at least have some metaphorical value that methods of integration generally lack.  (For more discussion of the curricular role of calculus, see the end of this post.)

Provincial accents. The three sisters of the play's title are unhappy about being stranded in a provincial town, where their father, who died a year before the play begins, was commander of a local army detachment. They yearn to return to Moscow, where they grew up, and which has become a sort of mythic land of happiness for them, especially for Irina, who was only nine when they left, eleven years before the play begins.

As far as I can tell, Chekhov's describes the play's setting just as "a provincial town". And a provincial town in the Russia of 1900 — especially one far enough away from the capital that the three sisters would not have gone back for a visit in eleven years — would have had a distinctive regional accent, I think, one that everyone involved would have been quite aware of.

Although I don't know very much about Russian dialect history, I do have one piece of personal evidence that this is likely to have been true. My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Moscow, and his wife was not. To the end of her life, he teased her about her (certain features of her) accent, although (or perhaps because) she was better educated than he was, and later became the headmistress of a school at which he taught. (She came from somewhere to the south, but the school was in pre-revolutionary Latvia — they emigrated to the U.S. in 1921, after the newly-independent Latvian government closed Russian-language schools.)

I don't see anything in the English translations of the plays to indicate that Chekhov wrote his characters' parts in ways that indicated which variety of Russian they spoke, and my Russian is not nearly good enough to figure this out from reading the original. Perhaps someone with a better command of the language can tell us?

Last night's production didn't take up this potential opposition of accents in a systematic way. But one character — the woman who played Natalia Ivanovna (Natasha) — did present an identifiable provincial persona. Appropriately for Albuquerque, she came across as southwestern. She used -in' for -ing a fair fraction of the time — it was especially striking in the word "darlin'" — and a bit of monophthongization of rising diphthongs. And this impression was reinforced by aspects of her hair style, dress, and so on.

Wikipedia describes Natasha this way:

Andrei's love interest at the start of the play, later his wife. She begins the play as an insecure, awkward young woman who dresses poorly. Much fun is made of her ill-becoming green sash by the sisters, and she bursts into tears. She apparently has no family of her own and the reader never learns her maiden name. Act II finds a very different Natasha. She has grown bossy and uses her relationship with Andrei as a way of manipulating the sisters into doing what she wants. She has begun an affair with Protopopov, the head of the local council (who is never seen), and cuckolds Andrei almost flagrantly. In Act III, she has become even more controlling, confronting Olga head on about keeping on Anfisa, the elderly, loyal retainer, whom she orders to stand in her presence, and throwing temper tantrums when she doesn't get her way. Act IV finds that she has inherited control of the house from her weak, vacillating husband, leaving the sisters dependent on her, and planning to radically change the grounds to her liking. It is arguably Natasha, vicious and insensitive of anyone besides her children, on whom she dotes fatuously, who ends the play the happiest, having achieved everything she wants. Natasha's meanness could be traced, psychologically, to the way she is made fun of in Act One, but she may just be a bad lot. Her triumph can be taken to represent that of an intrinsically insensitive lower class over the refinement of aristocratic ideals (like Lopakin's triumph in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard) and so be interpreted politically.

Thus for Natasha to have local characteristics of accent and dress is a nice touch, although perhaps it's slightly disconcerting in a production that doesn't otherwise adapt the Russian setting. Perhaps her regionalisms would have worked even better if the other locals in the play had shared them to some extent, or if the the Muscovites had occasionally mocked them by imitation.

Alas, the actress who played Natasha was criticized for regionalism in a review by Erin Adair-Hodges in the Albuquerque Alibi:

One character … seemed to have wandered over from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, played in a broad slapstick.

But Adair-Hodges didn't like the other characters' accents much either:

To be fair, actors in a Chekhov play are tasked with incredible challenges, such as using realism to approach dialogue translated from the Russian written a century ago. In this version, that task resulted in many of the actors speaking in their normal, modern American voices, which clashed harshly with the content. The default flat nasality of American speech, especially that of anyone who grew up after Valley Girl, is simply unable to treat the dialogue—and the Russian names—with the proper weight and pathos. No one's asking for a Russian accent, but an attempt to open vowels could have made a huge difference.

Surely Russian accents would have been beyond weird, suggesting a production to be featured on The Onion TV. And I'm not exactly sure what "an attempt to open vowels" means, so I can't judge whether it would indeed have made a "huge difference", and if so, in which direction.

But this raises the whole question of how to use varieties of English in plays translated from other languages, or adapted from other places and times. This is especially important for plays in which regional or class differences in speech are featured, whether explicitly or implicitly.  I know nothing about this, except that there are people like Amy Stoller (an occasional LL commenter) who do — this would fall under the heading of what her web site calls "creating a consistent vocal world", I guess.

[Full disclosure: my oldest son played Kulygin in this production.]

[A more sympathetic local review can be found here.]

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48 Comments »

  1. Edward M. "Ted" McClure said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    I do remember a translation of Lysistrata where the emissary from Sparta was directed by the translator to speak with a southern accent, because she was from southern Greece.

  2. NW said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

    But Aristophanes lays the Spartan accent on with a trowel, and makes jokes related to accents, and the translator is practically compelled to render it in a strongly distinctive regional accent such as Scots or Southern US.

  3. sarang said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    I think a contemporary Chekhov could have done something useful with "integration by parts" and the like.

    [(myl) You're right, of course.]

  4. language hat said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

    At last, a Log post where I can provide useful information!

    And a provincial town in the Russia of 1900 — especially one far enough away from the capital that the three sisters would not have gone back for a visit in eleven years — would have had a distinctive regional accent, I think, one that everyone involved would have been quite aware of.

    This is both true and irrelevant. Russian does have regional accents — broadly, northern (in which unstressed o's are clearly pronounced, among other features), southern (in which unstressed o's are pronounced as /a/ or schwa, and g is frequently a pharyngeal fricative, as in Ukrainian), and central (Moscow), which blends the two (basically, southern vowels and northern consonants) — but these accents are not culturally significant. What is significant, in fact essential, is that the speech be "educated": accents in the right places, "correct" grammatical forms, etc. If your speech is educated, you will be accepted as a member of cultured society, and any provincial accent will simply be a clue to one's origin (unless, of course, it is so strong as to seem peasant/uneducated, as with Khrushchev and Gorbachev, among others).

    What this means for Chekhov (and Russian literature in general) is that regional accent is pretty much not an issue. There are only three kinds of speech: educated, peasant, and foreign (Germans and people from the Caucasus are frequent targets of mockery in this regard). All of the main characters in this play are educated, even if Natasha is just hanging on by her fingernails, and to give any of them a noticeable accent would (I believe) misrepresent the situation. I've seen a couple of productions in Russian, and I don't remember any such thing.

    There's an excellent discussion of "the provinces" in Russian literature here (Anne Lounsbery, "'To Moscow, I Beg You!': Chekhov's Vision of the Russian Provinces," Toronto Slavic Quarterly 9 [Summer 2004]); I excerpt the most immediately relevant paragraph:

    Thus we might begin an analysis of Three Sisters with a very basic question — where exactly does the action take place? Chekhov's stage directions state only that that the play is set "in a provincial town" (v gubernskom gorode); in one of his letters Chekhov elaborates on this very slightly by describing the setting as "a provincial town, like Perm'." [22] But as the sisters' endless invocations of the capital city suggest, the setting might best be described simply as not-Moscow. Beyond that, it is hard to say — and it is probably not very important to say, either. Nothing suggests that in the world of this play the differences between one provincial town and another provincial town are particularly significant. "In Russia" — or at least in Three Sisters — "all towns are the same": Chekhov has taken as his setting a version of the anonymous, could-be-anywhere a provincial city, a setting made available to him by a whole series of literary predecessors.

    Aristophanes is a different kettle of fish: Ancient Greece had very distinct accents which were a frequent basis of mockery, especially in Aristophanes, and the Spartan accent is almost a character in itself in Lysistrata. I have seen it rendered as American Southern and as Scottish; both were interesting, though I'm not sure either was fully convincing as an equivalent.

    [(myl) Thanks! ]

  5. Sili said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    "Begging the question" might have resonated better with more people, but I liked The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, so what do I know.

  6. language hat said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    Oh, and:

    To be fair, actors in a Chekhov play are tasked with incredible challenges, such as using realism to approach dialogue translated from the Russian written a century ago. In this version, that task resulted in many of the actors speaking in their normal, modern American voices, which clashed harshly with the content. The default flat nasality of American speech, especially that of anyone who grew up after Valley Girl, is simply unable to treat the dialogue—and the Russian names—with the proper weight and pathos.

    That's incredibly stupid; it would be bad enough coming from a foreign reviewer, but for an American to write such a thing shows a pathetic level of self-abasement I thought had gone out of fashion over half a century ago. (If there's one thing I hate, it's American actors putting on British accents in movies about, say, Ancient Rome to show how posh the goings-on are!)

    [(myl) I agree about the stupidity and the pathetic self-abasement, but not (entirely) about the out-of-fashion part: see here for some relatively recent examples of criticism of American actors' "flat" accents.]

  7. Carl said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    All of the good video games are made in Japan, and Japanese writers like to differentiate characters by giving them regional accents, usually just some weird way to say the copula ("ya" or "ja" instead of "da"). Professional translators usually just ignore this, but fan translations love to give people from Osaka a Southern US accent.

    One recent game where the pros did put in regional accents (to a certain amount of fan debate) was the recent remake of Dragon Quest 4 for DS. I recall one fan in particular feeling very put off by the strong Scottish accent of some characters.

  8. Coby Lubliner said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

    Just a little nitpick: in 1900 Moscow was not "the capital"; St. Petersburg was.

  9. Amy Stoller said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    @ language hat: "That's incredibly stupid; it would be bad enough coming from a foreign reviewer, but for an American to write such a thing shows a pathetic level of self-abasement I thought had gone out of fashion over half a century ago."

    I agree with you, but alas, it is not as out of fashion as one would hope. "Open vowels" is probably the reviewer's attempt at describing Edith Skinner Stage Standard (good examples of the type include William Powell and Claudette Colbert).

    There is an argument to be made for using this outmoded form of speech in an American production if one is saddled with an American translation of a certain vintage, or with an English translation if one does not wish to adopt RP (which would be an oddity in an American production, but, as you have seen, American linguistic self-abasement is still with us to some extent). I'm not saying this approach would necessarily be my choice, but I can see reasons for adopting it.

    Acting Chekhov in English is difficult. I have no first-hand knowledge of Russian, but every Russian I have discussed this with says Chekhov is untranslatable into English, if only because of the tenses, or perhaps I mean the conjugations – as I said, I don't know the language, but I do know there are special challenges in translating from Russian to English.

    With the exception of Michael Frayn's, none of the translations I have read or seen has been both good and actable – at least not in my opinion. (I don't happen to like David Mamet's translations, but like Frayn, Mamet is at least a playwright. Academic transations are simply impossible.) Frayn makes no bones about sacrificing accuracy for actability in his versions, and on the whole I think he has made the best of a difficult choice. But for an American company to do Frayn requires (in my opinion) either adopting RP to suit the language, or walking a very fine line with some version of American approaching Skinner Standard, and a sensitive ear for the intonation patterns of RP. Once upon a time most American actors were trained to do this. That is no longer the case. I don't mourn the passing of Skinner Standard as an absolute standard for American actors, but it is a useful sort of speech to acquire (as part of a wider toolkit) for scripts of this sort, and American plays of a certain vintage (such as those of Philip Barry, and of George S. Kaufman et al.).

    I don't remember ever seeing a translation that made much, if any, attempt at distinguishing modes of speech, among Chekhov's characters. I gather it would be wrong to do so, and as a dialect coach I don't consider it necessary unless one is resorting to RP, in which case a regional accent of some kind, but not necessarily a broad one, would seem to be a useful choice for servants and peasantry, if not for the self-made types (such as Lopakhin). American class distinctions cannot be so easily expressed in terms of accent, as the American class system is very different from the English one, to say nothing of other countries. It's a minefield. I would prefer to see these distinctions taken care of by acting choices that fulfill the characters, suitably supported by costuming. Imposing accent choices upon the actors when none is required by the play is to paint the lily, and smacks of hubris – to say nothing of a fundamental misunderstanding or mistrust of the material.

    That said, I still think the reviewer told her readers more about herself than about the production. But that's nothing new. Welcome to my world.

  10. David Eddyshaw said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

    @Carl:

    The (dangerously addictive) TV Tropes site has a lot on the Japanese Kansai dialects, their stereotypical associations, and their rendering in dubbed anime:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KansaiRegionalAccent

  11. language hat said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    Amy: Thanks, that's very enlightening. I did not know about Skinner Standard, and now I suspect I will be using the phrase annoyingly often!

    [(myl) There's what seems to be a well-informed wikipedia page -- I'm somewhat abashed not to have known this term, myself.]

    every Russian I have discussed this with says Chekhov is untranslatable into English

    Nonsense, of course, except in the sense that everything is untranslatable. I can think of a half-dozen Russian authors off the top of my head who are harder to render into English than Chekhov. It's true that Russian dialog in general is very hard to translate successfully into English — the registers just don't match up — but that's not peculiar to Chekhov.

  12. Helma said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

    Small classical nitpick: Ut consecutivum is not the temporal ut 'as soon as' but the ut + subj clause typically preceded by ita 'so', tantus 'so great' and the like. They are more likely to be called 'result clauses' in English grammars of Latin, but they are also called consecutive clauses.
    Ut consecutivum can be confused with the more frequent (I think) ut introducing purpose clauses, which may be what the poor student supposedly did.
    (See A&G §537, http://tinyurl.com/2er7aws)

    [(myl) Gee, I guess I would also have flunked high school in provincial Russia in 1900. But I couldn't find any listing of Latin grammatical terms that included this one -- Allen & Greenough doesn't seem contain such a thing, for example, and in fact the whole perseus web site doesn't seem to have anything relevant -- can you point us to a good source?]

  13. D.O. said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

    Re: Skinner Standard. Interestingly, Russian theater also have had (or maybe still has) a special stage manner of speech, highest exponent of which had been (or maybe still is) practiced by the Moscow Maly Theater. Chekov's plays were written for the Art Theater which broke with a lot of old conventions, but I don't know whether it included the "stage speech". Of course, it would be absurd to reproduce such distinction relevant to the foreign theater's history (if it really existed).

  14. language hat said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

    Bastian Dahl, Die Lateinische Partikel Ut (reviewed here), covers the topic if you can find it, and Victor Bers gave a talk called "Ut consecutivum in Russia under the Czars and under the Bolsheviks." For what it's worth, Karl Barth wrote "The only valid ut is the radiant ut consecutivum." In general, I must say it's very odd how little material turns up online apart from Chekhov.

  15. ShadowFox said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

    @Coby–Just a little nitpick: in 1900 Moscow was not "the capital"; St. Petersburg was.

    This is a pick without a nit–Moscow has always been considered a capital city, even during the years when St. Petersburg was the administrative capital. In a sense, Russian Empire had always had two cultural capitals. It's close to the sense that New York is often considered by foreigners the cultural capital of the United States–to identify Washington by such a descriptor, until recently, would have been preposterous.

    At issue is what we consider to be a capital. Nominally, an administrative capital is the seat of the government, but the word has multiple meanings in Russian. Whichever way you slice it, Moscow is a capital in its own right and has always been referred to as such by Russians.

  16. Richard Bell said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    I will refrain from commenting on the unbelievably stupid review of this Three Sisters; I have suffered from reviewers of her ilk for as long as I have been in theatre (about 70 years) and I–well I meant to refrain. I have directed Three Sisters–and Sea Gull, and Cherry Orchard (twice) and I have acted in Boor and Marriage Proposal. In every case I have used Constance Garnett's translations. (This will horrify some, but I have used them because they were the only ones I could find that were roughly contemporary with Chekhov.) All the others were simply too modern. No one talked that way then.
    Of course, they had to be fixed: a verst is not a mile and a ruble is not a pound, but the tone, the euphemisms, was right.
    But the regionalisms can not be fixed. I did Cyrano once, when I was a mellow and callow fellow, and in my brilliance I had the Gascon cadets speak Texican. I thought that would make them sound like the rough and ready frontier pioneers Rostand meant them to be. Well, it made them sound like Texans, not Gascons, and, worse, like Best Little Whorehouse Texans, which didn’t really place them anywhere in Louis XIV’s France.
    So, what to do with Three Sisters and the regionalism there. That should be easy. I direct for a regional theatre in America. It is not quite in the boondocks, but I can see the boondocks from my house. Boulder, Colorado: about two thousand miles from the capitol of my country and about the same distance from its cultural capitol. Just about where Three Sisters would take place if it took place in America. So, the provincials, everyone but the sisters, will speak in the flat, nasal speech of Boulder (which will show my audience what bumpkins they are) while the sisters will speak in the elite, cultured, open-vowelled speech of New York City; of Brooklyn especially, which is where most New Yorkers live. Or Harlem. Why wouldn’t that work?
    In American plays we do use regional dialects. We did Streetcar in the best New Orleans dialect we could muster,
    and Salesman in the best Manhattan Yidish-English we could do, and True West in a masculine version of Vally speak–and we do Irish plays in something like Dublin English because you can’t help it, but when we do plays in translation we do them in translation. When we did Marat/Sade we made no attempt to distinguish Marat’s Parisian Engish from Charlotte Cordays Norman English. How could we. It’s a German play. So we should use German dialects?
    Of course the dialect the reviewer wants is what is best called Mid-Atlantic. (I had not run into “Skinner Standard” before, and I hope it is not really what rats in boxes speak.) Mid-Atlantic is the speech of those born and raised halfway between Baltimore and Cardiff. It is the native tongue of Margaret Dumont. It is American English with all the r’s excised and all the [æ]s turned into [å]s. It is not human speech.
    Do not let me start on how Shakespeare should be spoken.

  17. Bobbie said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

    According to the Wikipedia article, Skinner Standard "codifies the Mid-Atlantic dialect of English widely used in Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s, associated with figures such as Cary Grant and Franklin Roosevelt." I understand why some modern-day American speech patterns might seem a bit grating on the stage. Since I did not see this production I wonder whether the actors spoke clearly and slowly and with clear articulation, rather than with hurried mumbling. But I see absolutely no reason to hold up Franklin Roosevelt's speech patterns as the American standard 65 years later! Very few Mid-Atlantic speakers from the 1930s or 1940s spoke like Franklin Roosevelt OR like Cary Grant!

  18. fev said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    "Mid-Atlantic is the speech of those born and raised halfway between Baltimore and Cardiff. It is the native tongue of Margaret Dumont."

    Discovering the native tongue of Margaret Dumont is the high point of the evening for me. I just thought you guys should know that.

  19. exackerly said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

    Reminds me of a BBC production years ago of Sartre's Nausea, in which of course all the characters are French. Hollywood (absurdly) would have had them all speaking English with French accents, but the BBC did something a lot more clever: they had them speak with English accents from the class the character belonged to. Thus the lead character, who's a prole, spoke with a Cockney accent. A society woman spoke with a posh accent, and so forth.

    Along the same lines as The Magic Flute, where Papageno traditionally uses a very broad Viennese accent, even though the whole thing is supposed to take place in ancient Egypt.

    Would that work in an American production of a Russian play? Probably not, but once upon a time it might have. We used to have distinctive class accents, or at any rate Hollywood thought we did. Marjorie Main didn't talk like Irene Dunne, even though they both came from Indiana. But those days are over I guess.

  20. Danny Bloom said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

    A news article about French loan words used in Vietnam
    today as leftovers from colonial French period there:

    http://taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2010/05/29/2003474148

    headlined: "What's That Pho?"

    [or ]

    IN REMEMBRANCE OF LOAN WORDS PAST

    French 'loan words' in Vietnam hark back to old colonial days

    * Ben Zimmer of Language Log and NYTimes was directly responsible
    for leading this amateur word gumshoe to the motherlode: Milton Barber's 1963 paper titled "The Phonological Adaptation of French Loan Words in Vietnamese"

    QUOTE from article (and thanks, Ben!):

    Ben Zimmer, a noted US-based word maven who writes the weekly “On Language” column for the New York Times, pointed this reporter to the work of Milton Barber, whose 1963 paper, The Phonological Adaptation of French Loan Words in Vietnamese, was eye-opening, to say the least.

  21. Graham said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    A comment on the setting for Three Sisters that I posted on Language Hat but probably belongs here too:

    I recently saw a production (in English), and one of the actors later told me that the suggestions in the text as to the location put the setting at roughly 100km from Moscow proper. The sisters' persistent yearning for Moscow takes on a different meaning if this is the case…

    Disclaimer: I didn't catch the references to location, and anyway don't know the Moscow area geography well enough to notice. But I have no reason to doubt my source (an old friend and current MFA acting student, who played Andrei).

  22. D.O. said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

    Here's another appearance of ut consecutivum in Chekov's work. This time it is a short (might be even short-short) story Who's to blame? Russian original is here.

    Surprisingly, Russian internet has a number of school grammars with ut consecutivum in them. You can search for 'латинская грамматика "ut consecutivum" '.

  23. Helma said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 1:57 am

    [(myl) Gee, I guess I would also have flunked high school in provincial Russia in 1900. But I couldn't find any listing of Latin grammatical terms that included this one — Allen & Greenough doesn't seem contain such a thing, for example, and in fact the whole perseus web site doesn't seem to have anything relevant — can you point us to a good source?]

    I was sufficiently indoctrinated at an early age with 'consecutive' as one use of the subjunctive in subordinate clauses, I guess. The only similar thing I find online is a Latin-German dictionary that includes ut finale and ut consecutivum: http://tinyurl.com/2bukxyo. These days you normally label the clause not the conjunction, which probably explains the lack of ut names in A&G, etc. It remains true that Latin instructors will ask their students about any and all subjunctives, of course, and that's why the shorthand is there.

    [(myl) Well, Allen and Greenough do have a section (p. 346 in this edition) on "Clauses of Result (Consecutive Clauses)", which features

    537. Clauses of Result take the Subjunctive introduced by ut, so that (Negative, ut non), or by a relative pronoun or relative adverb.

    I learned this as "result clauses" rather than "consecutive clauses". But I should have guessed: a construction involving actions and their consequences, rather than one involving mere temporal sequence, is needed for the little joke between Kulygin and Kosirev: "'Yes,' he says, 'precisely consecutivum …' and coughs."

    If the cultural hurdle for doctors in his day had been calculus instead of Latin, Chekhov might have told us that Kosirev failed due to his inability to master improper integrals. But then he would have needed to change the joke. ]

  24. Stefan said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 2:27 am

    The difference between ut consecutivum and ut finale corresponds to that of the German conjunctions ‘so daß’ and ‘damit / um zu,’ so it was not too difficult to pick up learning Latin in the German Gymnasium. A somewhat corresponding English distinction would seem to be ‘so (that)’ vs. ‘(in order) to,’ but it does feel less clear‐cut. How about Russian? Is чтобы final only or does it cover both meanings?

  25. Charly said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 4:25 am

    I saw one of my favorite Shakespeare stagings ever at BYU, of As You Like It. They wore modern dress, and it was set in the present day. The shepherds had spot-on "hick" accents, what to Provo, UT ears would sound like how people from Gillette, Wyoming or Hurricane ("hurrken"), Utah would speak. Not only did it aid in comprehending the Bard's point (about how uncomfortable the court dwellers feel in the forest of Arden), it was leave-you-in-stitches hilarious. Not just the accent, per se, but the whole "cowboy" way of speaking: pauses, slowness, matter-of-fact-ness. I think it was vastly more effectively than another "rural" accent might be, because (a) everyone out here can do a Western cowboy accent reasonably well; most of us have grandparents or great-grandparents who worked the land, and (b) a Texas or West Virginian accent wouldn't have suited the "localization" the director was going for.

    I love Chekov. Like all Russian authors/playwrights of 150-100 years ago, his plays delve deeply into issues of social class. I'd be interested to see what the text itself has to say about dialects.

  26. Richard said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 6:21 am

    BTW your dictionary link is in fact to Lewis and Short, who are the 'other' L & S. Liddell & Scott (and later also Jones) were responsible for the Greek lexicon.

    [(myl) Oops. I really do flunk Latin this week, or maybe I flunk Attention 101, since there are dozens of references in past posts to both L&S dictionaries in which I manage to keep them separate.]

  27. language hat said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 8:40 am

    I'd be interested to see what the text itself has to say about dialects.

    Nothing whatever, because "dialects" in this sense are irrelevant to Russian (culturally speaking; of course dialects exist, though the differences are very slight compared with other European languages). See my LH post on the subject; the Russians who respond agree with my take on the situation.

  28. language hat said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 8:41 am

    So, what to do with Three Sisters and the regionalism there.

    Again, there are no regionalisms in the play.

  29. vanya said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 9:08 am

    Europeans familiar with Germany, Italy, England, etc. seem to want to generalize a similar linguistic landscape to Russia, forgetting that Russia is very, very different. First of all the Russian population was always geographically more mobile than the population in Western Europe simply given the landscape. Then remember that all lands in Russia belonged to the Tsar and no one else, and he/she could, and did, move the nobility from estate to estate. The Russian aristocracy thus had no deep roots in the countryside anywhere but was always and everywhere deeply connected to the (bi polar) center of Moscow/Petersburg. Finally, the expansion of the Muscovite State was very rapid – in many ways "Russia" is hardly older than the US. All of Russia East of the Urals was basically settled by Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries. It may also be the case that the presence of so many non-Russians in the Empire put pressure on Russian speakers to adhere to a standard so as not to sound in any way "foreign". And what LH calls "foreign" would still have been in 1900 the accents of Imperial, but not Russian ethnic, subjects – Poles, Baltic Germans, Jews, Swedes, Tatars, etc. Even educated Russians in Ukraine spoke bog standard Russian – for example I believe Mikhail Bulgakov's speech was fairly undifferentiated from the way a doctor in 1900's Kazan or Nizhnii would have spoken.

  30. Jerry Friedman said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    Can somebody translate ut consecutivum into English, please?

    [(myl) "Consecutive(-clause) ut?" "ut of result"? " "Result-clause ut?"]

    @myl: I hope you're enjoying New Mexico! As you're with your son, I don't need to suggest things to do, but your presence here made me wonder about language or dialect tourism. Is there such a thing?

    [(myl) I've often wondered. You could organize one of those intellectually-themed cruise-ship excursions, where instead of hearing lectures between ports from eminent neo-conservatives (or whatever), there would be discussions of the phonology, morphology, syntax, sociolinguistics, etc., of the language(s) and language varieties spoken in the next place to be visited. And then guided tours, and ...

    This would work well in the Caribbean, or in the Mediterranean, or the Baltic, or various regions of southeast Asia. You could also do it by bus, almost anywhere, which would be cheaper but not as elegant.

    I suggested this a few years ago as a fund-raising technique for the Linguist List, but they chose to regard it as an attempt at humor. That's the trouble with linguists, not enough grandiose thinking.]

    This made me think about what I would tell someone who wanted to hear New Mexican Spanish (hyperbolically called el español de Cervantes), or the Spanish-influenced dialect of many native speakers of English ("They put you the do?" = "You got your hair styled?"), or indigenous languages or the accents of Native speakers of English, which are not always the well-known "res accent". I don't necessarily have good answers, but I could talk about such things here or if people ask me at jerry_friedman@yahoo.com.

    [(myl) My only significant exposure to local ways of talking, so far, has been listening to occasional local radio shows in Spanish or in English. Late Friday night, for example, there was an interview on an AM station (one that normally features sports talk shows) with these young women, who call themselves "the Thrash Metal Queens of New Mexico", and who originally got together at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, though the drummer is originally from Laguna.

    Please do send me something more general, and I'll post it. More generally, maybe there should be a series of popular tourist guides to the way people talk in different places. But to be really effective, they should be in multimedia format.]

    I am utterly free of New Mexico–Texas rivalry (though you know that Texas unsuccessfully invaded New Mexico three, three, three times in the 19th century?), but a Texas accent is not appropriate for this part of the Southwest. :-) I'm surprised to see that you consider -in' a regionalism, as I've heard it from people from all parts of the country and at all educational levels, but maybe it's more common in Texas or some region including Texas than elsewhere.

    [(myl) The actress who played Natasha didn't sound Texan to me -- that was the reviewer's trope. Her general self-presentation seemed somewhat Southwestern, though. I noticed the -in' especially in the vocative "darlin'", which she used a couple of times, and which I associate with the South and Southwest. It's certainly true that "g-dropping" is a world-wide phenomenon, a residue of the time before Londoners decided on "g-adding", but I can't really imagine a New Yorker calling me "darlin'".

    Speaking of dialects and regional rivalries, Richard Bell wrote:

    the sisters will speak in the elite, cultured, open-vowelled speech of New York City; of Brooklyn especially, which is where most New Yorkers live. Or Harlem. Why wouldn’t that work?

    People not familiar with American stereotypes may not realize that's a joke. (Also, about 30% of New Yorkers live in Brooklyn.)

    @Charly: Those Shakespeare shepherds' "cowboy" accents may have been especially appropriate since, if I'm not mistaken, some of the people who speak that way in Utah and Wyoming are actually shepherds—though I think they're more likely to be called "sheepherders".

  31. Keith M Ellis said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

    Echoing Jerry Friedman, I, too, hope Mark is enjoying his visit to Albuquerque and the Land of Enchantment.

    Unlike Jerry, and as a native New Mexican and Albuquerqean, I am "infected" with the Texas rivarly—though "rivarly" doesn't seem the appropriate word. It's more the deep dislike of Texas typical in all the states which border it. Or everywhere, for that matter. I also had the misfortune of growing up in Eastern New Mexico, which is culturally West Texas and hardly like New Mexico at all.

    And to my ears, "darlin'" sounds Southern/Texan and decidedly *not* (Central/Northern) New Mexican or generally "southwestern".

    I tend to dislike modernized or localized elements of canonical plays because they interfere with my suspension of disbelief. And it seems to me to often be more about a director's desire to make the material his/her own than legitimate dramatic interpretation or arguable necessity. As a "standard", Skinner has the simple virtue of being conventional and therefore unremarkable, less likely to interefere with the suspension of disbelief.

    I've not been to the Vortex in years. Do they stage contemporary or even first run productions?

    Does your son live here? Otherwise, how did he come to be in this show? (The other linked review praises his performance. Also, to be fair to the Alibi reviewer, and taking her at her word, she does seem to be a genuine Chekov scholar.)

  32. John said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

    The work of Liddell, Scott and Jones is usually referred to in the business as LSJ, or, since there are three editions of various sizes: The Little Liddell, The Middle Liddell and the Big Liddell.

  33. CS Clark said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    There's a manga called Excel Saga which features a character called Sumiyoshi who has an Okayama accent – this is rendered in the US Viz translation as Geordie. In the anime it's Kansai which is rendered as Southern, as Carl says above something that's quite common.

    With The Hunt For Red October I want to believe that Sean Connery's Scottish accent wasn't just a result of his refusal/inability to do a vaguely Russian accent but represented his coming from Lithuania in (presumable) contrast to his crew. And not so much a regional accent thing, but I seem to remember in the Malkovich/Pfeiffer film Dangerous Liaisons, the lower-class servants speak with Scottish accents.

  34. Jerry Friedman said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

    Do those who know Russian have any thoughts on Nabokov's comments on "singsong" Moscow accents? I can't find it, but I feel sure he mentioned a Soviet film of Hamlet (Grigori Kozintsev's version?) that he couldn't watch because of the Moscow accents. Real phenomenon? St. Petersburg snobbery?

  35. D.O. said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

    Russian has regional variation in pronunciation, which can be recognized and occasionally mocked by the native speakers. It is however a non-issue compared to the distinction between educated/uneducated speech, just as language hat says.

  36. language hat said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

    Real phenomenon? St. Petersburg snobbery?

    While there are differences, the latter is certainly the overwhelming motivation here. Inhabitants of Petersburg have always been snobbish towards Muscovites, and Nabokov was very far from being an exception.

  37. Bob Ladd said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    For anyone who can read German, there's what appears to be an exhaustive catalogue of the uses of ut here.

  38. Richard said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

    @John:
    The Little Liddell, The Middle Liddell and the Big Liddell.

    The biggest, according to some wags, is also the 'Great Scott'.

  39. Amy Stoller said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

    @ Richard Bell: You've been working in the theatre for just about twice as long as I have, so I raise my hat to you, sir! Thanks for laugh about the rats. "Mid-Atlantic" is just one of the many names by which what I chose to call "Skinner Standard" is known. I don't know why people throw Cary Grant, who was English, into the mid-Atlantic bag; to my knowledge, only Americans were taught mid-Atlantic, not the other way around. In any case, Grant was sui generis.

    Margaret Dumont is an excellent example; somewhere I have a fairly long list that I repost fairly frequently on the Voice and Speech Trainers Association internet group, whenever the topic of examples comes up.

    For those with an interest in following this tangent further, I recommend these articles: http://www.fitzmauricevoice.com/writings/pdfs/standards.pdf and http://epress.anu.edu.au/tal/pdf/ch06.pdf .

  40. Jerry Friedman said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

    It was dense of me not to understand the earlier explanations of ut consecutivum, so thanks to myl. And thanks to D.O. and language hat for the answers on Moscow accents.

    On darlin', I agree with Keith Ellis that it's not New Mexican (west of the "Little Texas" region). I have trouble imagining it from a New Yorker, as myl does, but that may have as much to do with darling as with -in'. There are New Yorkers who use -in' and there must be some who say darling, but are there some in both categories. Anyway, as the actress was monophthongizing those rising diphthongs and saying -in', I don't think a non-expert (like me) would be too far off in mentioning Texas—unless you're about to tell me that Albuquerqueans partially monophthongize those diphthongs.

    I don't agree that Erin Adair-Hodges's desire for different pronunciation was necessarily stupidity or pathetic self-abasement. For her, and maybe for many other people, conventional actorly pronunciation for the classics is timeless and regionless. On the other hand, modern American pronunciations remind her of modern America, so they're incongruous for tsarist Russia. As for "self-abasing", the pronunciations she dislikes may well be different from hers, or from the ones she thinks she has, or from what she would use if she were to act in Chekhov.

    (I think Skinner Standard would be going too far, though. In modern America, non-rhoticism and a massed-mast split are definitely regional.)

  41. Amy Stoller said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    @ Bobbie: "I understand why some modern-day American speech patterns might seem a bit grating on the stage."

    Grating to whom? One of the tasks I face as a professional dialect coach is shaping the speech world of the production to the needs of the local audience. But since an audience is made up of individual people, it isn't possible to suit everyone's taste exactly.

    "Since I did not see this production I wonder whether the actors spoke clearly and slowly and with clear articulation, rather than with hurried mumbling."

    The reviewer's point seems to have been to disparage the actors' use of more or less local American accents, rather than their diction per se.

    "But I see absolutely no reason to hold up Franklin Roosevelt's speech patterns as the American standard 65 years later! Very few Mid-Atlantic speakers from the 1930s or 1940s spoke like Franklin Roosevelt OR like Cary Grant!"

    I agree about the lack of need to hold Roosevelt's speech as an absolute standard for actors in today's American theatre, film, and television. But MId-Atlantic/Skinner Standard did take some of its cues from patrician speech of the northeastern United States (FDR being a native example), and many, many American actors used to speak that way (after training, in most cases) during the 1930s and 40s and beyond. Some training programs still require it today, most notably Juilliard. As for Grant, see my comments above.

    @ language hat: "'every Russian I have discussed this with says Chekhov is untranslatable into English"

    "Nonsense, of course, except in the sense that everything is untranslatable. I can think of a half-dozen Russian authors off the top of my head who are harder to render into English than Chekhov. It's true that Russian dialog in general is very hard to translate successfully into English — the registers just don't match up — but that's not peculiar to Chekhov."

    I'm sure you're right, but Chekhov is the Russian playwright most often produced in the US, so perhaps it's an especially sore point with Russians here – at least, with the ones who spoke with me about his plays. And there is the additional problem of dialogue meant to be performed, as distinct from dialogue meant to be read to oneself.

  42. Altissima said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 12:06 am

    "But this raises the whole question of how to use varieties of English in plays translated from other languages, or adapted from other places and times. This is especially important for plays in which regional or class differences in speech are featured, whether explicitly or implicitly."

    And also how English accents are adapted into other languages: My sister while living in Germany reported watching "The Nanny" dubbed into German. Nanny Vine's grating Brookland accent was replaced with a Bavarian accent and dialect, which is apparently considered coarse and hicksville when used for comic effect in German culture. My sister also saw episodes of "Hogan's Heroes" dubbed into German – unfortunately she didn't say how they dealt with Sgt Schultz's "I know nuh-zink!" .

  43. Nanani said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 2:36 am

    RE: Kansai accents rendered as Southern -

    In Final Fantasy VII, one character's Kansai accent is rendered as Scottish, probably because it's name is Cait Sith.
    Interestingly, in the Japanese version, its Kansai accent is very fakey, clearly written by someone who doesn't actually speak in Kansai dialect.
    Those who have played the game can probably see why that would make sense. For fear of spoilers, I won't elaborate =]

  44. Bill Walderman said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    Aren't there a number of pueblo communities in the Albuquerque area that speak languages other than English and Spanish? And Navajo speakers aren't too far away, either.

    "Ut consecutivum" isn't part of the Anglophone terminology of Latin grammar. I wonder whether it wouldn't be better to substitute a term such as "ablative absolute" that might have a wider resonance with that dwindling number of Americans who have studied Latin? "How do you do, ablative absolute?" "Yes, precisely absolute." And coughs.

  45. Vanya said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 10:37 am

    Amy,

    In my experience Russians can be incredibly condescending toward Americans and they often don't know English half as well as they think they do. Chekhov is no more (or less) "untranslatable" into English than Pirandello, Ibsen or Brecht. For that matter you could claim Tennessee Williams is "untranslatable" into Russian. And I won't even mention Wallace Stevens or Shakespeare…

  46. Beth said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 11:08 am

    This puts me in mind of something that happened while I was living in Norway a few years back.

    A (new?) translation of "Beloved" by Toni Morrison came out, with the accent of the uneducated black people represented by some dense, thick Norwegian dialect. Naturally, everything else was more like standard Bokmal Norwegian.

    The Norwegians, of course, are incredibly proud of their infinite variety of local dialects, and a furor arose – why is OUR dialect being compared to this coarse language? And a counterfuror – what, you think stereotypically white English is better than the stereotypically black versions?

  47. Amy Stoller said,

    June 1, 2010 @ 9:27 am

    @ Vanya: I hadn't considered that; in this case, the Russians were friends, and less likely to adopt that attitude. But it's a valid point, all the same.

  48. Sili said,

    June 2, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    @ Vanya: I hadn't considered that; in this case, the Russians were friends, and less likely to adopt that attitude. But it's a valid point, all the same.

    Unless those friends had professional experience with and knowledge of translation, I wouldn't put too much faith in their claims.

    Language seems to be very prone to make people suffer from Dunning-Kruger. The mere fact that they speak their own language fluently, makes them think that they're experts on all aspects of it. As we see so often here at LL with authors writing guides on usage and 'grammar' without any idea of the actual structure of language.

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