Closing the season

I can’t believe it, but it’s over! I came back from my last group of villages on Friday. Now I have to synthesise part of my work and deal with some admin before flying back to the UK.

I was planing to go on an expedition with two professors, but it was cancelled three days before its start, so I had to quickly reschedule all my plans (as I have already had to do many times during my time in Belarus). And I ended up in a small village, called Tolkovo (cnt Drahičyn), not very far from Tatar’ja, but included in a different (southern) dialectal subgroup in the existing dialect maps. According to my list of ‘unexplored’ sel’sovets in Western Polesie, nobody had ever undetaken linguistic fieldwork in the sel’sovet of Haloutsytsy (part of Zakozel, since 2016). So this was an interesting challenge, and my ‘host-mum’, tjotja Vjera has made it even a greater experience!

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[Berry season is here! Many people go to the forest to pick berries and sell the at the central markets. In our case, we just ate most of them and stored some for winter]!

Once again, I have been able to borrow a bike, which has been great for travelling to other villages. But this time, the bike was a traditional Belarusian ‘Aist’, which means that it does not have breaks, on the handles (as you would expect). Instead, you have to pedal backwards if you want to slow down, so it took me a while to get used to it (hopefully, no accidents caused).

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I got to Antopal’ a couple of times, as I was willing to visit it long ago. Apart from being the only place in a radium of 15km with a banja (which is not just good for your health, but it’s even greater for socializing and meeting more speakers) it is historically meaningful. Antopal’ used to be one of the Jewish centres in Belarus, before the Nazis’ invasion. According to Paškow et al (20061), before WWII there were 6 synagoges or Jewish prayer houses in Atopal’ (just as much as in Pinsk, which is a far way larger than Antopal’).

[Here is the memorial of the Jewish people killed in Antopal’]

On my last day of interviews, I got to travel to Halowtsytsy, where I was very warmly greeted (with cold drinks and food, as it was 34 Cº outside). One of the oldest dwellers (Anna, 86) showed me the local Protestant wooden church. It’s one of the oldest in Belarus, and a lot older than any other kind of church in the area, as it miraculously survived Stalin’s anti-Church crusade.

I also got to interview a very interesting lady, Vera. In spite of being taken to a concentration camp of forced-labour during by the Nazi, she is a person full of joy! Here is a video of her sharing with her friend Manja and us, about the horrible living conditions in the camp, and about the dream she had on her first night at the camp.

Getting already into more technical questions, I must admit, that the dialect maps that I have been able to find are almost entirely based on Phonology (which is also, one of the most obvious parameters that speakers can intuitively identify when presented a speaker from another place). However, when it comes to Morphology (and the little bit of Syntax, I am studying), I find those classifications to be unsatisfactory. Mostly, because Morphology and Syntax are the areas that have been mostly forsaken. So, when it comes to the ‘big’ discoveries in Morphology, I have not been able to identify any completely new phenomena, although gathering more texts, from other people has helped clarifying some of them.

One of the interesting things is that, so far the presence of the suffix -a for the adnumerative of masculine and neuter nouns, could have been explained by the influence of Russian (as the alternating, often, optional and older adnumerative form is -ɪ/e). In the case of the idiolects of people from Tolokovo and Halowtsytsy, they all have the adnumerative of masculine in -a (at least in all the occurrences analysed so far), regardless of their age (the oldest speaker interviewed this time was 92) or knowledge of Russian (most of the people interviewed had a passive competence of Russian).

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1PAŠKOǓ, H., LAKOTKA, A., & KALJENDA, L. (2006). Harady i vjoski Bjelarusi: Brestskaja voblasts (vol I-II). Minsk: Bjelaruskaja Entsyklapjedyja.

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Author: Kristian Roncero

I am a PhD student at the Surrey Morphology Group. I am currently doing fieldwork in the region of Brest (Belarus), as I am researching West Polesian morphology and phonology. You can follow short updates about my experiences on the field on Twitter, with the hashtag #westpolesian You will see that some post have the tags as # *thing, as I am also following a course on increasing the impact of your research at the University of Surrey called '23 Things'.

3 thoughts on “Closing the season”

  1. Yes, I remember that ‘leaving the field’ was a challenging time, akin to grieving……:( You feel on the one hand, excited about all the new things you’ve found out, and sorry that it’s over and you don’t know when/if you’ll be going back.

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