How is “Glokaya Kuzdra” Made

2023. № 6, 116-128

Natalia D. Svetozarova, Saint Petersburg State University (Russia, Saint Petersburg),


The famous phrase of Lev Vladimirovich Shcherba “Glokaya kuzdra shteko budlanula bokra i kurdyachit bokrenka” is usually cited as an example illustrating the role of grammar, and in particular, endings, in understanding the meaning of a seemingly meaningless sequence of words. According to the publications of L. V. Uspensky, this is exactly how Shcherba himself interpreted it at his lecture on the Introduction to Linguistics. However, the amazing unanimity that Russian speakers, adults and children, show in understanding the phrase about kuzdra indicates that they react not only to endings, but also to word order, frequency of syntactic structures, phonetic and phonosemantic features of roots, that are based on some typical models of sentences and their constituent words in the Russian language. This little masterpiece of a great scientist is made in such a way that one simple sentence becomes a brilliant example of “negative linguistic material” and an illustration of a number of the most important linguistic patterns. The article discusses two variants of the famous pseudo-sentence, the potential possibilities of grammatical structures other than the most frequent, its semantic and phonetic structure and reception features.

For citation:

Svetozarova N. D. How is “Glokaya Kuzdra” Made. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2023. No. 6. Pp. 116–128. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170029360-5.