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Take the three chunks of text below:

One time.

Speak.

A conversation.

They can be translated as

Один раз.

Говорить.

Разговор.

So I can't help but notice that pазговор- looks and sounds like a composition of раз and говор-, so I imagine that's not a coincidence because maybe раз, since it means "time" in the sense of one occurrence of some event that can happen multiple times, ended up, somewhere in the past, attached to говор- to give it a sense of repetitive nature, which is what makes up a conversation.

These are lucubrations after reading The Unfolding of Language.

2 Answers 2

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The pаз- in разговор and the раз in один раз have different etymologies.


Раз- as a prefix originates from Proto-Slavic *orz-, thought to have originated from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "part, divide". It's a Church Slavonic borrowing, mostly (but not completely) replacing the native Russian роз-.

Semantically (although not etymologically), this prefix is close to the Latin prefix dis-. One of the meanings of both prefixes is "around, in all directions": рассеять "dissipate", распространить "distribute", разогнать "disperse" etc. Розговорити and розъказати in Old Russian both meant "to make known by telling", literally "to tell around". Later, the two diverged in meaning: разговор and its derivatives came to mean "two-sided communication", while рассказ means "speech, story", i.e. "one-sided communication".

The etymology of the English word "discourse" (whose Latin ancestor literally meant "to run in all directions"), which also means "conversation", is not unlike that of the Russian word.


Pаз in the sense of "occurrence, instance" literally means "a strike, a blow". It's cognate to разить "to strike, to smite" and резать "to cut".

Across the languages of the world, the words for "time, occurrence" are usually not a part of the stable vocabulary. They are frequently formed as metonymies and change quite often, by linguistic standards.

Within the Slavic family, the words for "occurrence" come from roots literally meaning "smite" (Russian, Polish); "cut" (Serbian, Slovene); "way" (Bulgarian, Macedonian).

Germanic: "time" (English); "meal" (German, Dutch); "step" (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian).

Romance: "turn" (Italian), "change" (Spanish, Portuguese, French), "give" (Romanian).

The fact that the current Russian word for "occurrence" comes from a root literally meaning "to smite" and happens to sound like one of the versions of the prefix meaning "apart", is hardly anything more than a coincidence.

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  • How does a prefix meaning "part, divide" transform a verb that means "speak" in a word that means "conversation"?
    – Enlico
    May 26, 2023 at 19:42
  • @Enlico presumably a calque from διά=λογος following the same model.
    – Viridianus
    May 27, 2023 at 11:07
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maybe раз [...] attached to говор- to give it a sense of repetitive nature

Please note that "разговор" is semantically more close to "разговаривать" than to "разговорить". The latter means "to make someone start talking" and doesn't imply any repetition/iteration/continuity, nor any dialog.

Verbs like "разговаривать", "рассказывать", "рассматривать", "расспрашивать", "разнюхивать" do imply repetition, but that sense of repetition comes from suffix "-ива" rather than from a prefix. To prove that, consider archaic verbs like "говаривать", "слыхивать", "видывать"; none of them has any prefix, but the sense of repetition is still there.

So I would venture an opinion that the prefix "раз" shouldn't be construed as giving any word the sense of repetition.

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