Press release №2339
28.05.2021
RUSSIAN LANGUAGE: EVOLUTION, ENRICHMENT, AND EXPANSION

IN BRIEF

  • 67% of Russians believe that foreign words do not enrich the Russian language
  • 45% of Russians use loanwords in their speech, to a certain degree
  • 48% of Russians consider that the number of those who learn the Russian language has increased over the past decade.

April 13, 2021. VCIOM presents the results of a survey about loanwords in the Russian speech, the attitudes of Russians towards them and the promotion of the Russian language abroad.

Do loanwords enrich language?

More than two-thirds of Russians (67%) consider that it is important to use the Russians words and introduce native counterparts instead of loanwords. Twenty-three percent disagree with them: they say that it is necessary to use the borrowed words which are actively used worldwide (23%).

The latter opinion is largely shared by men (27%) and young persons aged 18-24 (41%). As age increases, the share of respondents supporting the former opinion goes up: 64% of those aged 25-44; 69% of those aged 45-59 and 74% and persons aged over 60. This clash of opinion is not only typical of young persons and older respondents. Residents of large cities are more likely to support borrowings than those living in small localities and rural area. In the metropolitan area, both opinions are equally shared (43%, respectively).

Fifty-four percent of Russians believe that using loanwords in everyday and business communication can threaten development and preservation of the Russian language. This stance is often popular with rural area residents (61%). On the contrary, 30% of Russians (basically those living in Moscow and St Petersburg (47%) and residents of million-plus cities and cities with 500-950 thousand inhabitants (36-35%)) view borrowings as opportunities to enrich speech.

Despite a possible threat to the Russian language purity, more than half of Russians perceive the misuse of loanwords easily (54%). They are often women (56%), the 18-24-year-olds (72%) and the 25-34-olds (65%). Almost every fifth respondent does not notice loanwords at all (18%). Twenty-seven percent of respondents get irritated; 17% of them do not hide their discontent. Russians aged 45 and older show the highest degree of irritation.

As to the personal use of loanwords, half of respondents say they do not use them at all (50%; often Russians aged 60 and older — 64%). Even though 67% of Russians state that foreign words should be replaced with the Russian ones, 45% of Russians use borrowed words to varying degree. Twenty-one percent of respondents use loanwords on a daily basis - often young Russians (39% of the 18-24-year-olds). Men are more likely to use foreign words in their everyday vocabulary than women (27% vs 17% of women). Seventeen percent of Russians use foreign words once to four times a week; 7%, once every few months.

Return of the archaic words into the language

A living language, unlike a dead language, is a dynamic, flexible, and constantly evolving system. Loanwords enter the Russian language, however originally Russian words also come into general use again. A quarter of Russians (24%) say they are using different words and word combinations which have long been abandoned. The most popular ones are: sudarynya, sudarushka (9%), dokole (3%), sudar (3%), and baryshnya (2%). Sixty-four percent of Russians never use old-fashioned words.

Expansion of the Russian language abroad

Borrowing is not a one-way process. Thirty-three percent of respondents believe that people living in the European countries use certain Russian words in their life. This opinion is common among young respondents (48% of the 18-24-year-olds); 55% disagree with them.

Over the past decade the number of those who know and /or learn the Russian language is likely to have increased: 48% of Russians think so - mainly Russians aged 18-24 (67%). Seventeen percent of respondents consider that this share has not changed; 25% say this share is likely to have declined.

Russian nationwide VCIOM-Sputnik survey was conducted on March 31, 2021. A total of 1,600 of Russians aged 18 and older took part in the survey. Results are based on telephone interviews. Stratified dual-frame random sample based on a complete list of Russian landline and mobile phone numbers was used. The data were weighted according to selection probability and social and demographic characteristics. The margin of error at a 95% confidence level does not exceed 2.5%. In addition to sampling error, minor changes to the wording of questions and different circumstances arising during the fieldwork can introduce bias into the survey.

In your opinion, should the foreign words which are actively used worldwide be adopted into the Russian language, or is it better to use native words, introduce native counterparts? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Men Women Ages 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-59 60 +
Borrowing foreign words 23 27 20 41 28 23 21 16
Using Russian words 67 63 69 49 64 64 69 74
Don’t know 10 10 11 10 8 13 10 10
In your opinion, should the foreign words which are actively used worldwide be adopted into the Russian language, or is it better to use native words, introduce native counterparts? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Moscow and St Petersburg Million-plus cities 500-950 thousand inhabitants 100—500 thousand inhabitants Less than 100 thousand Rural area
Borrowing foreign words 23 43 32 24 27 17 11
Using Russian words 67 43 56 60 63 75 82
Don’t know 10 14 12 16 10 8 7
Do you use loanwords in your daily routine? If so, how often? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Men Women Ages 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-59 60 +
Every day 21 27 17 39 32 24 19 9
3-4 times a week 7 8 6 8 7 9 8 5
1-2 times a week 10 10 11 13 9 9 10 11
Once every few months 7 5 8 9 4 9 8 5
I do not use them at all 50 47 53 29 44 46 51 64
Don’t know 5 3 5 2 4 3 4 6
How do you react to someone misusing loanwords? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Men Women Ages 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-59 60 +
I get irritated but I do not hide it   10 13 8 2 5 5 15 17
I get irritated but I do not show that 17 16 17 3 10 12 18 27
I take it easy 54 50 56 72 65 58 53 38
I do not notice it 18 20 17 23 20 22 13 18
Don’t know 1 1 2 0 0 3 1 0

 

Loanwords are increasingly used in business and online communication. In your opinion, does it enrich the Russian language, make it more colorful and diverse, or does it threaten the Russian language? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Moscow and St Petersburg Million-plus cities 500-950 thousand inhabitants 100—500 thousand inhabitants Less than 100 thousand Rural area
It definitely enriches it 7 17 9 6 6 6 4
It is more likely to enrich the language 23 30 27 29 24 21 18
It is more likely to threaten the language 33 28 31 32 31 31 39
It is definitely a threat 21 16 20 17 23 24 22
Don’t know 16 9 13 16 16 18 17

Certain words and phrases which have not been used for a long time (“sudarynya”, “dokole”, “bradobrey”, etc.) have lately returned into general use. Do you use such words while communicating, if so, can you cite examples of such words? (open-ended question, up to 3  answers, % of total respondents, answers of at least 1% of respondents)
  Total respondents
Sudarynya / sudarushka (madam) 9
Dokole (how long) 3
Sudar  (sir) 3
Baryshnya (madam) 2
Gospodin (sir) 1
Madam 1
Gospoda (gentlemen) 1
Barin (master) 1
Tsiryulnik / tsiryulnya (barber/ barber's shop) 1
Bradobrey (barber surgeon) 1
Davecha (the other day) 1
Nonche / nynche (nowadays) 1
Gospozha (madam) 1
I do not use them 64
Other 15
Don’t know 12

 

In your opinion, do people in the European countries use certain Russians words in their everyday life (similar to the way we use the English words, for example)? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Men Women Ages 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-59 60 +
Rather yes 33 34 31 48 33 34 34 25
Rather no 55 54 57 47 60 58 53 54
Don’t know 12 12 12 5 7 8 13 21

 

In your opinion, has the number of people who know and study the Russian language increased or decreased in the world over the past decade? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  Total respondents Men Women Ages 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-59 60 +
Likely to have increased 48 47 50 67 50 46 46 46
No change 17 14 18 15 22 16 18 12
Likely to have decreased 25 28 22 16 21 28 25 27
Don’t know 10 11 10 2 7 10 11 15

 

  Results of our study
  Ratings
  In focus
  News