How to Define Words with the Same Root??

2019. № 1, 109-115

Boris L. Iomdin, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences; National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (Russia, Moscow),


In elementary school, words with the same root are defi ned as having “a common part with a common meaning.” At the same time, what exactly is meant by this common meaning is not usually specified. In practice, whether words have the same root is most often determined in Russian schools by the so-called Vinokur criterion, which requires reconstructing a derivational chain. As a result of using this criterion, cognate words of the same origin, in contradiction to what the intuition of native speakers suggests, are not recognized as having the same root, like poezd and ezdit’ (‘train’ and ‘to ride’), prestol and stolitsa (‘throne’ and ‘capital’), zapasnoj and pripasy (‘spare’ and ‘supplies’). The article analyses information from dictionaries and also from survey findings with data gathered from native speakers. It suggests introducing a more flexible approach in elementary schools, which allows reasoning based not only on a strictly synchronic approach, but also on a diachronic approach, provided that semantic similarity between the words in question is evident. The fi rst approach shows the student’s ability to identify language structure, while the second one demonstrates their developed language intuition, which often makes it easier to learn the correct spelling of words.