Friday, February 17, 2012

Hard Worker

Morphemes are the parts that form words. For example, in the word “disagreeable” there are three morphemes: the prefix dis-, the root -agree-, and the suffix -able. Each morpheme has its meaning and contributes it to the entire meaning of the word on the whole. In Russian, it works more or less the same way. However Russian also has a special morpheme, the ending (flexia), that adds the specific grammatical meaning to a word and links words together. These ever-changing endings cause many troubles to students, yet it is amazing what a beautiful system endings form and what a great job these small particles do.

An ending carries grammatical information about a word. If it is a noun, ending shows:
  • whether it is a single object or represents many similar objects (singular or plural);
  • 2) if it is a subject of the sentence (Nominative case);
  • 3) the relations the noun to other words, where it is not the main subject of the sentence.
Sometimes, a noun's ending indicates its gender, but you always should double check it with your dictionary.

For adjectives, ending links an adjective to a corresponding noun by putting an adjective into the same number, case and gender.

A verb's ending shows if the action described in the sentence takes place in the past or present/future, if a speaker is talking about himself/herself, you, or another person, and also if the action is real or the speaker just expresses his or her will or wish. All these things are shown with just two or three letters!

Endings link words together into one sentence, helping you to understand the relations between those words. Because endings bind words unambiguously, Russian has flexible (almost free) word order. In English, you have to put words in a proper order to form an intelligible sentence. In Russian, the word order is not that strict because endings allow you to understand how words are interconnected.

The ending is normally the last morpheme in a word, but it is the very heart of the Russian grammar system. Most morphemes carry only verbal meaning (like dis- for negation or -able for capability), while endings ensure narration and code grammatical information about words.

You might think “Well, that's nice. But how am I supposed to memorize all these endings and start speaking Russian?”. Well, my answer is, do just like all Russians do – use Russian in your everyday life. There's no way to learn the complicated (yet logical) system of Russian flexias other than just speaking.

Photo by Ruby Gold