Happiness as grabbing

Professor Tatyana Mironova, Ph.D. in philology, senior researcher at the Russian National Library, talked about her vision of the relation between language and mentality in an interview with Zavtra newspaper on 14 January 2016.

To improve the perception of the Russian language, we should elucidate our mentality, the view of the world through the optics of our language. There are stunning ideals intrinsic to our view of the world: unselfishness, truth, conscience… In the Russian language, there is a formula of acquisition, a formula of possession, that has no counterparts in any other language: there is to me… In other languages… Let’s take our beloved and well-known English: ‘I have.’ This ‘have’, or ‘haben’ in German, is related to Russian ya hapnul [I grabbed], this root means acquisitiveness, possessive­ness. In Russian, this root is pushed aside to the margins of the language: hapat’, havat’ (sorry for the lingo).
Or let’s take the word ‘happiness’. It literally means ‘something we have grabbed’ [to, chto my nahapali]. And what is Russian for ‘happiness’? Schastye, a part of us, [chast], a share. The lot God has given you… And look at the roots of dobycha [trophy] and nazhiva [profit]. Nothing but ‘to be’ [byt’] and ‘to live’ [zhit’], there is no grabbing.

From Spring 2016 issue