[MANUAL ON HOW TO DETERMINE ANY LANGUAGE] Opredelitel’ iazykov [i.e. Languages Identification Guide]
Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1941. Item #1467
44 pp. 22x15 cm. In original printed wrappers. Slightly rubbed, with some creases, otherwise very good.
First and only edition. One of 3000 copies.
The earliest Soviet identification guide of world’s languages written by eminent Russian linguist, Semitics scholar Nikolai Iushmanov (1896-1946). He graduated from Petrograd University as an Arabist, then taught in a range of universities. Among them was the Institute of Language and Thinking named after N. Marr. In the 1920-1950s, Marr’s pseudo-scientific Japhetic theory applying the class struggle to linguistics was highly accepted by the Stalinist government. Under Marr’s influence, Iushmanov developed some of his studies as well.
Iushmanov is considered the founder of the Russian studies of the Arabic language, in particular, he is the author of three grammars of the Arabic language. For the first time in Russia, he studied the Amharic language and the Hausa language, and proposed an original concept for the development of the Semitic root. Besides, Iushmanov was concerned with international artificial languages and in particular with the problem of global language.
This ‘Languages Identification Guide’ lists 170 languages actively used at that time and defines indicators for almost every language, similarities and differences within a language family. Particularly interesting that Iushmanov gathered information about those Soviet alphabets that changed writing systems during the 1920-1930s. For example, the definitely endangered Buryat language used Mongolian script until 1929, Latin script until 1938 and then was switched to Cyrillic one.
The edition includes ten tables systematizing the use of certain letters and common combinations - or the absence of some characters in a language. In particular, he emphasized what Yiddish letters weren’t used by Soviet Jewry and what extra letters differ Kurdish, Pashto, etc. from other languages using Arabic script. The table ‘Catchy features of some languages’ shows which alphabets lack certain Latin letters; which scripts didn’t use uppercase at all, etc.
Overall, a valuable source on changes in languages under Soviet rule, the development of Soviet linguistics and the world’s writing systems in general.
Worldcat shows copies located in Columbia, Harvard, California (NRLF), Cornell Universities and NYPL.