Russian genitive vs feminine; or, is someone wrong on the Internet?
January 25, 2015 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Did Shostakovich really get credited as a woman for a film score he did, or does someone on Wikipedia just not understand Russian grammatical case?

On the chronological list of Shostakovich's works on Wikipedia, someone claims that his score for the film The Girlfriends was "credited with [sic] a feminized Dmitriya Shostakovicha." That's amusing if true, but the only source is a screengrab in this link, and I think what that actually shows is his name in the genitive case, indicating authorship ("Music by Dmitri Shostakovich"). However, my Russian is close to nonexistent, and I want to confirm that I'm right before I change it. Can anyone help?

(I realise this is a very basic question, and I apologise; however, no one else on Wikipedia seems to have picked up on it, so ....)
posted by Perodicticus potto to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are correct. Whoever wrote that does not understand the Russian genitive case. His name there is in the genitive case (of Dmitry Shostakovich), not a "feminized" form.

As for the annoying rules lawyering edit wars that await you if you try to edit that...well, no comment.
posted by pravit at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's not feminized. It just means *by* Dmitriy Shostakovich. The ending of the name changes to reflect that.
posted by nearandfar at 2:27 PM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks! I went to fix it, but someone beat me to it.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:34 PM on January 25, 2015

Correct me if I'm wrong, but a feminized version of Shostakovich would be Shostakovna. So this is an egregious mistake.
posted by phaedon at 3:20 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

That would definitely be the case if it were being used as a patronymic ("daughter of Shostak"), but I'm not sure if it also holds true for the surname. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen the composer's wives, daughter, etc., referred to as anything other than "Shostakovich," although of course that was in works for English-speaking audiences.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 11:23 PM on January 25, 2015

> Correct me if I'm wrong, but a feminized version of Shostakovich would be Shostakovna.

Nope, surnames in -ovich don't get feminine versions. (Also, surnames get the stress on the -o-, whereas in patronymics it's on the preceding syllable: RoMAN RoMANovich RomaNOvich.)

(Also, LOLWikipedia.)
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fair enough, but I think the question here is whether patronymic surnames have genitive cases in Russian. That is certainly the case in Greek. So for example a Greek man with the surname Papadapoulos, his sister's last name is Papadopoulou.

I stand corrected however that even in Greek, a surname that ends in "poulos," which means "son of," would not be substantially changed to "daughter of." It would simply have a different genitive case to indicate the gender of the possessor.

We seem to be in agreement that "Shostakovicha" to indicate the feminine is incorrect and is probably a misapplication of a Romantic language concept, i.e. señor/señora.
posted by phaedon at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2015

Since you don't know Russian, I'm not sure what you're doing in this thread. It really bothers me that people feel the need to try to answer questions they don't actually know anything about.
posted by languagehat at 1:45 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

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