Orthographic Precedent — How It Works

2019. № 3, 29-41

Olga E. Ivanova, Vinogradov Institute of Russian Language (Russian Academy of Sciences) (Russia, Moscow), olliva95@yandex.ru


Reliance on analogy and precedential codifi cation is used in asystemic writing — the area where one cannot rely on the established orthographic norm and rules — as a means to exercise control over the orthographic chaos. The method of orthographic precedent is employed here as a modern codifi cation tool that speaks in favor of one spelling variant or another. However, the precedent-based approach has some limitations related to words’ functioning conditions. Among the later are: time-separated borrowings of etymologically related words from different languages (kotton [cotton] from English and demikoton [demicoton] from French), codifi cation of a mainstream spelling variant under pressure of usual preferences (bol-boy [ball boy] vs. kovboy [cowboy]), limited scope of use of a precedent word (e.g. narrow terms). Words that belong to little-known lexical fi elds are diffi cult to identify and the signifi cance of such orthographic analogy for codifi cation purposes seems questionable (kol-tsentr [call center] and onkol’ [call loan]). The orthographic precedent is examined in this article from two perspectives: for word spellings with no written analogies (singular words), and for
words for which the principle of morphemic equivalence can be applied. As to the latter, it is asserted that occasional differences in morpheme spellings in newly borrowed words (
stepper [step machine] vs. step [step dance], tustep [two-step]) is a natural stage of their incorporation into language, the written language in particular. Such differences cannot undermine the systemic orthographic principle of written Russian despite the uncertain duration of coexistence of differently spelled morphemes.