Ex. 2. Read the text “Russian family values” (see Appendix, Unit 8), find additional information and prepare the report about Russian family trends.

Ex. 3. Answer the questions.

1. What trends do we witness in the Russian family?

2. What is the size of an average Russian family?

3. What is common and different in Russian American and British families?

4. How can you explain the common features? Give reasons or examples.

5. How can you explain the difference? Give reasons or examples.

6. What is the average marriage age in the three countries? Explain the difference.

7. Are there many single-parent families in Great Britain, the USA and Russia? Why?

8. What is the average percentage of divorces in the three countries?

9. What are the main reasons for a divorce in the three countries?

10. Is there a difference in traditions?


Unit 1

Тести, Девери, Золовки...

Try to find the English equivalents of these words in the dictionary. Isn’t it a hard task?

The Russian language is really great and powerful. English is not so rich and affluent, especially with the names of family members.

We know of no accepted term in English for a relationship between the respective parents of a married couple. For example, what word is used to refer to somebody’s son’s mother-in-law. Shakespeare did once use brother-in-law in this way (in A Winter’s Tale, Act IV, scene 4), but the context is humorous and it was not a standard way of using the term.

A person who marries acquires a set of relations by marriage, but all such ‘in-law’ relationships relate directly to the couple, and no relationships between their wider families are recognized in the language. The phrase -in-law originally meant ‘according to canon (Church) law’, so that, for example, marriage between brother-in-law and sister-in-law is prohibited as if the two people were brother and sister. It was formerly used also for relatives now designated by step-, who also come within the prohibited ‘degrees of affinity’ for marriage. A person’s children’s parents-in-law do not in fact fall within the prohibited degrees (a woman may legally marry her son’s wife’s father), and so they are not strictly ‘in-law’ relations. This also accounts for the non-existence of terms such as nephew-in-law, since technically a woman may marry, say, the ex-husband of her niece.

It is usually necessary to refer to ‘my son’s parents-in-law’ or ‘my daughter-in-law’s parents’, or simply to use their names (though I have heard the term ‘co-in-laws’). Words for relations acquired through a second marriage of one’s parents are less rare, though few people bother to talk about half-uncles or step-aunts.

A more difficult task is to find a recognized term for a person that one lives with and is committed to without actually being married. There are of course several in use, but no one term that everyone feels comfortable with. Boy- or girl-friend are ambiguous and do not suit a committed middle-aged couple. Common law husbandor wife is sometimes used; although it sounds very formal, and some people feel that it implies that in some way they have neglected to marry, rather than making a conscious decision not to. Live-in lover seems to place the lover on a par with a domestic servant who lives in, and in any case ‘lover’ suggests an adulterous and possibly ephemeral relationship. The Scots bidie-in and the American POSSLQ (person of opposite sex sharing living quarters) and significant other have not been adopted elsewhere. Partneris probably the most generally accepted term, and is defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary as ‘either member of a married couple, or of an unmarried couple living together’; but some people consider it too formal and businesslike for such an intimate relationship.

Why not just say ‘the man (or woman) I live with’? Although it could imply that you simply shared accommodation with them, most people would understand it. Like ‘partner’, it suggests an equal and mutually beneficial relationship, and it is even shorter than some of the alternatives.

There may well be languages in which such words exist, just as there are some languages which distinguish between aunts as ‘mother’s older sister’, and ‘mother’s younger sister’, or ‘father’s older sister’, or ‘father’s younger sister’. Some languages may also have different words for ‘half-brothers sharing the same father’ and ‘half-brothers sharing the same mother’, but there are no such complexities in any well-known European language.

In the Modern English language it is difficult even to find a word one can use to refer to his (numerous) nieces and nephews collectively. As in former times cousin was used much more loosely than it is now to refer to a range of relatives outside the immediate family, including nieces and nephews. Relatives of an older generation were called uncle or aunt, as they are today, but their children and grandchildren, and one’s brother’s or sister’s children, could all be called cousins. This meaning died out in about the 18th century, and although the current restricted usage is unambiguous, it does leave us without a collective term for nieces and nephews.

Language is a product of the nation and of social development. Traditions of a nation also affect the development of national customs. The Russian language is so rich in different words denoting family members and even very distantly connected ones, probably because we are used to living collectively. Even a cousin several times removed seems very close to us a few minutes after meeting, just because we feel a small amount of our own blood in him. And we can not leave that person without giving him a name like Englishmen do, using one term cousin to denote all the distant relations. That word can be decorated with other definers, saying ‘a forty-second cousin’, ‘a faraway cousin’, ‘a shirtail cousin’. But it is always the same word.

I do not know why it happens – may be because its a lazy nation, not wishing to remember some extra words in their speech. Probably the reason is found in the un-revealed mystery of the Russian Spirit, which usually considers a more tender and milder attitude to its people in comparison with Germanic and Romanic coldness.

By Svetlana Zaskoka

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