I've heard that in Russian the words are generally constructed with a root and have specific prefixes or suffixes added to them (I think the proper linguistics term for this is derivational morphology)...

I'm trying to work out the construction of "подтвержда́ть " (imperf). From wikipedia I see that the etymology of the word is as such:

подтверди́ть +‎ -а́ть

And the etymology of подтверди́ть is

под- +‎ твёрдый +‎ -ить

под- (takes adjectives, produces adverbs) and means: completely твёрдый means: hard or solid? ить: to

So the meaning is like "to be completely solid/to be completely firm"?

I'm interested to know how a native Russian speaker would break down this word into the seperate parts and explain it.

  • 2
    Closer to “to make solid”.
    – Ainar-G
    Jul 1, 2019 at 16:01
  • 1
    The root for 'hard, solid' is present in Russian in the form of two etymological doublets: -тверд- / -твёрд- / -твёрж- is of the East Slavic origin, and -твержд- is borrowed from the (Old) Church Slavonic language. The change of the old *dj > žd is typical of the South Slavic languages, to which (Old) Church Slavonic belongs.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 1, 2019 at 16:21

2 Answers 2

  • под is a prefix with the general meaning of "sub", "under", however its meaning can vary greatly.

  • твержд is a root, loaned from Church Slavonic (you can tell by the жд as the reflex of the original Proto-Slavic *-dj-, a native Russian word would have had ж).

  • -ать is an inflexional ending, meaning this form is an infinitive

This word seems like a calque from Greek ἐπιβεβαιῶ "I confirm", from ἐπί "at" and βέβαιος "firm, steady".

Note that the English words "confirm" and "affirm" are Latin loanwords with the same structure.

  • подпольная организация: an underground organization. "Pod" is very interesting. The answer above really hit the nail on the head.
    – user12210
    Jul 3, 2019 at 12:11

Indeed, the root morpheme of подтверждать is твёрд ('solid') (which has твер(ж)д(ь) as allomorphs).

The prefix под- can be loosely interpreted as 'to add':

  • мешать (mix) - подмешать (to mix in)
  • нести (bring) - поднести (to bring in), etc

So the whole word подтверждать can be read as 'to add solidity/weight' (to a statement).

One other word with the same root is утверждать which has two meanings: 'to make a statement' and 'to approve / sign off'.

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