There's a famous conjecture in math that is called the abc conjecture. When I was preparing a lecture on this for a summer school in Russia a few months ago I was initially going to call it abc гипотеза, but a search of the literature suggested that the correct translation is гипотеза abc (in the same style as гипотеза Римана), so I used that instead. However, after a mathematician announced in September that he proved the conjecture (the status of that is not something for this website :)) I have noticed that the label abc-гипотеза (same format as Континуум-гипотеза), rather than гипотеза abc, is being used a lot more often when writing about the problem.

Can a native speaker comment on whether one form (гипотеза abc or abc-гипотеза) sounds better than another, or do they both sound reasonable?

  • a tip - you can use Wikipedia. Step 1. Find this term in English. Step 2. Navigate to Russian Wiki. Voilá - bit.ly/VI6Iao – shabunc Dec 6 '12 at 12:39
  • @shabunc: I'm not sure what you have in mind by your tip. Sure, I of course have used Wikipedia in this way, but that won't clarify why one term is better than another in my question. For example, if you start on the Wikipedia page for "counting measure" and click on the Russian version, you get a page with the title счётная мера, which is wrong: the correct term for "counting measure" in Russian is считающая мера. – KCd Dec 6 '12 at 19:15

First of all, I would like to say that I do not think that the proving of conjecture had direct influence to the fact that it started to be written in a different manner. :-) Something like: for uncertain things we use гипотеза х, but for known things x-гипотеза.

Regarding to the question of what sounds better to Russian ear, the answer is as usual: it depends.

Traditionally Russian has two types of constructions:

1. теорема/гипотеза/теория/уравнение + <сущ. в родительном падеже> (Noun + noun in Genetive)

F.e. уравнения Максвелла, теория чисел, теория струн

2. <прилагательное> + теорема/гипотеза/теория/уравнение (adjective + noun)

F.e. Евклидова геометрия, флуктуационная гипотеза.

In Russian the first way is the most commonly used for names of theories.

In English the first way corresponds to theory of + noun and is quite rarely used. Example: theory of relativity. But the most common construction in English is attributive noun + noun. All my examples of Russian way 1. will be translated using attributive noun in English: Maxwell equation, number theory, string theory.

The third way in Russian like Континуум-гипотеза, abc-гипотеза is calque from English. It became more fashionable now in the days of globalization when researches read a lot of material in English and translate their works into English, so why bother doing full adoption into language - it may be more practical to keep it closer to English, less re-wording when translate. So while гипотеза континуума sounds more Russian Континуум-гипотеза sounds cooler and is shorter. Compare with older adoption: теорема вириала, was not taken as вириал-теорема.

Abc-гипотеза is even more obvious candidate to the use of English way with attributive noun in front because it is anyway written in Latin alphabet and "abc" does not decline. So it does not sounds Russian even if you put "abc" after the "гипотеза".

  • In reference to the last paragraph of your answer, does гипотеза Пуанкаре not sound Russian because Пуанкаре is indeclinable? – KCd Dec 8 '12 at 4:46
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    @KCd: Гипотеза Иванова would sound more Russian :-). My point was that it is easier to agree (less dissonance) to the inversion of word order with an indeclinable word than with declinable. But it mostly pertains to non-proper names because for proper names the tradition is very strong to put them after the word гипотеза/теория. – farfareast Dec 8 '12 at 5:07

Maria had a right answer, but I just want to contribute about the "general rule" of usage of such constructions. When you can place "of", "about", "by" in the English version, then it's гипотеза Чего-То, otherwise it's usually Что-то-гипотеза.

It's not universal, but helps a lot (for example, теорема Ферма = Fermat theorem (= theorem OF Fermat, or BY Fermat), but RGB-кодирование (RGB coding in graphics, because RGB is a "type" of coding, not smth like "coding of RGB"). However, both variants will be easily understood by any native speaker, even if one of them isn't quite right.


I like that you have this question. It is very correct.

In my opinion, abc-гипотеза sounds better than гипотеза abc. It is really in same format as Континуум-гипотеза. If you want to use the same style as гипотеза Римана, you may use the term гипотеза Эстерле — Массера.

This is also confirmed by Wikipedia.

  • If you would be interested, I recently found one more article about the abc conjecture in English - bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/11/03/…. Now I dream to translate it into Russian. – Clever Masha Dec 6 '12 at 3:32
  • That Wikipedia has it one way is not a clear mark in its favor to me. I am quite sure I saw it the other way up until Mochizuki made his announcement, and it looks to me like the Wikipedia page was created only quite recently (in early Sept., after Mochizuki's news). For comparison, the page mindspring.narod.ru/math/ega/Lang/HypotABC.htm is a copy of an official translation into Russian of a book in English in 2000, and there the term is гипотеза abc. – KCd Dec 6 '12 at 7:00
  • A nice article in Russian on this story is science.compulenta.ru/707226. Unlike almost anything I saw in English in the media, that article explains in a basic way what the conjecture is really about. – KCd Dec 6 '12 at 7:01
  • I agree with the second answer. Thank you. It's a nice article. I am a linguist but I also like math. Now I become to read Hilbert's biography, math is very interesting for me) – Clever Masha Dec 6 '12 at 7:40
  • @Maria If you're a linguist, you might be interested in Linguistics too! :P – Alenanno Dec 6 '12 at 11:58

I think that abc-гипотеза is more convenient because the cases (падежи) influence the very end of collocation. That makes it easier to understand the relations inside the sentence because we jump to the next word right after the case marker (the ending)

  • Welcome to Russian.SE. Your answer does not seem to provide any additional information to that already present in other answers. Please refrain from repeating existing answers unless you expand or elaborate on them. – Aleks G Dec 13 '12 at 19:49

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