On the Typology of Orthographic Variance in the Russian Language

2022. № 3, 47-59

Iya V. Nechaeva

Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Moscow)



Variance as a phenomenon of writing is an insufficiently studied phenomenon since it is rejected by normative orthography. Meanwhile, there are different points of view on the role and status of written fluctuations from in terms of the orthographic norm. This article discusses some types of spelling variance, distinguished in accordance with various criteria: a) synchronous and diachronic, b) conventional and codified, c) related to letter transmission, non-letter characters and to letter case, d) categorical and local, e) lexical and morphological, f) dictionary- and context-related, g) interpretative.

Diachronic spelling variance is a consequence of linguistic evolution. With the passage of time, outdated orthograms go out of orthographic use to give way to others. The usage variability is mainly related to neological processes in the language and, unlike a common mistake, it is based on internal linguistic contradictions. Codified variability is extremely rare, since there is a directive for monovariance of codification. Variance related to letter transmission is the least acceptable type of deviation in the view of some linguists. Non-letter variance (fused-hyphenated and fused-separated spellings, as well as variants involving the choice of uppercase/lowercase grapheme) are more related to semantic differences. Categorical variance affects an entire category of spelling phenomena, and local variance affects a separate lexeme or nest. Lexical variance concerns the word in its entire morphological paradigm, while morphological variance refers to individual word forms. With contextual variance, the choice of spelling is determined by context or discourse; variants of this type are especially common in the field of using capital graphemes, as well as in those cases when the affiliation of words with parts of speech is revealed by the context. With interpretative variance, the orthographic choice is based on a semantic criterion and depends on how the writer interprets the situation.

For citation:

Nechaeva I. V. On the Typology of Orthographic Variance in the Russian Language. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2022. No. 3. Pp. 47–59. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170020744-7