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Importance of Prefixes and Suffixes in Russian


Improved understanding of the role of prefixes and suffixes in the Russian language can be extremely helpful. This can be illustrated by the following basic example.

Everyone would claim to know what a sputnik is: a space satellite, of course. Not everyone, however, would be aware of the original meaning. Our dictionary enables the user to see that the word is based on the root путь, meaning “way”, with both a prefix, с- (with the English sense of “co-“, together) and a suffix -ник (meaning an agent, one who does what the root says). Thus the user of our dictionary can see clearly how с-пут-ник comes to mean “co-wayfarer” or a traveling companion, a satellite – especially those put into space by the USSR beginning in October 1957.

Building a reference framework faster makes learning Russian easier for English speaking beginners

Russian belongs to the Slav family of languages, including Polish, Ukrainian, Czech and Slovak. People speaking any of these languages will recognise many words in the other Slav languages. They have a reference framework, which makes learning of the other 'familiar' languages relatively easy. Unfortunately, people with English as their mother tongue lack this framework. Our dictionary can help them to build up such a framework faster and, consequently, make learning Russian easier for them.

Loanwords play an important part in any language, of course. People with English as their mother tongue are fortunate, because almost all languages in the world borrow so many words from their vocabulary. Often, however, the English loanwords coexist with original words in other languages. Consequently, native speakers of the English language can try to use as many of the English loanwords as possible, when they speak or write in Russian. When they read or listen to Russian, however, they cannot avoid the Slav words when these are used.

Russian words often consist of a prefix, a root and a suffix. Our dictionary will help people with English as their mother tongue to grasp the intricacies of the way Russian words are built and – consequently – to acquire a reference framework faster. This way, learning Russian becomes easier, more efficient and more effective.

Our dictionary makes studying Russian easier for students at intermediate levels

In Russian many compound words often share the same root. At intermediate levels of the learning curve it is often difficult to keep these words apart or choose the one conveying exactly what one wants to say.

There is a great variety of words sharing the root бить (to beat), for instance. Because many of these words have different prefixes, they are spread over many pages in ordinary dictionaries. As our dictionary groups all words with the same root together, this makes improving one's Russian easier for students at intermediate levels in particular.

The importance of prefixes and suffixes for professionals with excellent knowledge of the Russian language

The crucial importance of correct prefix usage in Russian is demonstrated by the following infamous moment in international relations. After being elected, President Obama started his widely advertised “reset” policy with Russia (generally a very good idea, of course). To much fanfare, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Russia with a specially constructed reset button display: she was symbolically to press the button together with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. The button was proudly displayed to the cameras as the two dignitaries were about to press it. At that moment, Lavrov’s eyes fell on the word written on the display in Russian: “peregruzka”. Lavrov raised his eyebrows, but being a quintessential diplomat he pressed the button and accepted the display as a memento without flinching.

However, he added that the word should not have been “peregruzka” but “perezagruzka”. These two words sound pretty similar to an untrained foreign ear, but they have a distinctly different meaning in Russian. The root is the same: “gruz”, meaning “load”. However, as always, the devil is in the detail: the Russian for “reset” or “reload” is “pere-za-gruz-ka”, while “pere-gruz-ka” means “overload” – a somewhat less auspicious message in the context. No doubt Mrs. Clinton had consulted the best Russian language experts in the State Department – some of whose heads must have rolled on account of this two-letter prefix.