For my last blog entry I just want to reflect aloud on something I have noticed many times in contact with other languages, and which little Maxim has reminded me of as we continue our 'dialogue' in Russian at our own happy level.


 Russian has a wealth of ways of expressing diminutives or 'softeners', so that when he hurts his finger, he's likely to respond to it being called palchik rather than the dictionary equivalent palyets.  Similarly, his toy car is a mashinka rather than a mashina, and the birds he sees out of the window are ptichki rather than ptitsi.  I've learned that I can add this kind of diminutive ending to almost any noun, especially when talking to a child.

A German waiter will ask you if you want another Bierchen rather than a Bier, probably to soften the idea of another one, or (as the Germans say to verharmlosigen, to make it sound harmless).  Similar conventions exist in Portuguese (e.g. cafesinho), Spanish and many other languages.  English, on the other hand, has just a few examples of this phenomenon - doggie, birdie, for instance, and a Scottish barman may ask you if you'd like another wee dram, but there is nothing consistent or patterned  for a foreign learner to latch on to as there is in so many of these other languages.  So I will end the year with Maxim, happily offering him a bananchik when he's hungry or another stakanchik of juice when he is thirsty, and will ponder on this apparent gap in our own langage, which is widely believed to be so rich.

Happy New Year to you all and thanks to everyone who has contributed this month.