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I hope someone would kindly answer the following questions.

  1. In this song, there are the words "нижины (=низины)" and "ужины (=узины)" that are not found in ordinary dictionaries. Why is -жи- used instead of -зи-?

  2. The last phrase is "Каравай, каравай, кого хочешь выбирай." I understand кого is a relative pronoun. If so, "который" seems much more appropriate than "кого". Why is "кого" used?

  3. This song is used in the movie "Чебурашка", where children sing the first phrase as "А на Чебурашкины именины..." Is "Чебурашкины" an adjective of "Чебурашка"? If so, why is the word-end form not adjective-like?

A newly added question related to item 3:

I wonder what the difference between possessive and genitive cases is. For example, what is the difference between Чебурашкин друг and друг Чебурашки?

  • I put question 2 because I thought кого was a relative pronoun whose antecedent was каравай (an inanimate thing). However, thanks to some answers sent here, I realize кого is not a relative pronoun but, practically, the same as кого-нибудь. So, it looks like that the phase Кого хочешь выбирай is used to select a “key child” in next turn when children dance by singing this song. Is my understanding correct? – okazatsky Jan 11 '15 at 14:48
  • Though "низины" exists in the dictionary, it has different stress and is a plural form of "низИна" (lowland). So it's not "-жи-" instead of "-зи-" - it is a completely different word with completely different meaning. – Artemix Jan 12 '15 at 8:18
  • Thanks to respondents’ help, most of my above questions are now cleared. I really appreciate it. But, I still wonder what is the difference between possessive and genitive cases. For example, what is the difference between Чебурашкин друг and друг Чебурашки? – okazatsky Jan 13 '15 at 14:41
  • It's better to add new question by editing the original post, or by posting a new question. People usually begin to answer the questions before reading comments. – Artemix Jan 13 '15 at 14:56
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  1. For comic effect, the song authors use “childish” words, that is create new words as if a child wrote the song. They create the word вышина́ (highness) instead of высота́ akin to глубина́ and ширина́. Then they create non-existing words нижина́ (lowness) and ужина́ (narrowness). The words низи́на (low place) and узи́на (narrow place) (the stress in both is at the second syllable) are completely unrelated to the song.

  2. Кого хочешь выбирай = select who(ever) you want, literally who you want select (they changed the order of words in order to keep a meter, which is common in Russian). Who = кто in nominative, but here we need accusative, which is кого.

  3. Cheburashka = Чебурашка. Cheburashka's = Чебурашкин (for names which end by -a, the suffix ин is used: Natashka's = Наташкин, Alyoshka's = Алёшкин, Vasya's = Васин.) Since the word именины is in plural (it is one of the nouns which have no singular. In English there are also such nouns, i. e. skissors), we need plural of Чебурашкин, which is Чебурашкины.

In Russian, if a noun or adjective ends by , it always means it is in plural. (The opposite is not true.)

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    1. "вышина" is not a neologism, it is synonymous to "высота", although less frequently used. – J-mster Jan 10 '15 at 22:31
  • Thank you for your answer. If the non-existing words нижина and ужина are compared with the existing words вышина and ширина, the former group's words seem to have been created in the same way as the latter groups are; adjective (высокий) --> its comparative (выше) --> the last letter is replaced by ~ина --> abstract noun (вышина). I don't know, however, whether such a grammatical rule really exists or not. – okazatsky Jan 14 '15 at 7:33
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  1. "Каравай" is a circle dance. "Каравай-каравай" sang towards the end of the song is a mere refrain. You could put a full stop after that line. The final line "Кого хочешь (любишь), выбирай!" is the call for the birthday boy (girl) in the center of the circle to point at anyone in the circle as their favorite person and has nothing to do with the previous line. Why should it say anything else but "кого"?
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  • Never thought of it this way, but it can make sense. – AlexVB Oct 5 '17 at 10:36
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  1. It is perhaps an older non-standard forms, or forms better fit for this particular poetic piece. However, they are readily understandable by a native speaker.

Child songs often contain some weird-ish words. I assume they kind of help children to learn the norm by highlighting the issue. Same way in Lewis Carroll's Alice, "curiouser and curiouser".

  1. "Который хочешь выбирай" does not sound right - slightly off-norm. "Какой хочешь выбирай" would mean you are choosing an inanimate thing. "Какого хочешь выбирай" means that you are choosing something animate (a person perhaps or an animal) but you are choosing based on their properties. "Кого хочешь выбирай" means you are choosing a person, and you are choosing exactly this person that you [now] know. And that's what the song seems to imply.

Old answer: Который (какой) applies to inanimate beings, кто applies to animate things. Obviously you are expected to choose a person (not a каравай as you might expect), not an object. Otherwise it would be "какой хочешь выбирай".

  1. Чебурашкины is Cheburashka's in English. Cheburashka's birthday (именины might also mean patron saint day, but this won't apply to Cheburashka I dearly hope).
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    Voting down. "Который (какой) applies to inanimate beings" is wrong. Например, "Человек, которого я выбрала в мужья". – Avi Gordon Jan 10 '15 at 22:56
  • Yes Avi you are obviously right, but I fail to describe the difference now that you mentioned it. – alamar Jan 12 '15 at 8:00
  • 7: frankly, item 2 addresses a problem which I don't think exists. The confusion may grow from a misunderstanding of the context. "Каравай" is a circle dance. "Каравай-каравай" sang towards the end of the song is a mere refrain. You could put a full stop after that line. The final line "Кого хочешь (любишь), выбирай!" is the call for the birthday boy (girl) in the center of the circle to point at anyone in the circle as their favorite person and has nothing to do with the previous line. Why should it say anything else but "кого"? – Avi Gordon Jan 12 '15 at 15:32
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I can answer questions 2 and 3.

  1. кто can be used as a relative pronoun, just like который. Obviously, it is only used for animate antecedents.

  2. The suffix ~ин is a possessive suffix in modern Russian (only attaches to "feminine" nouns, i.e. nominative ending in or , such as мама, папа, земля and дядя). These possessives decline very much like наш and ваш, so the nominative and fem. accusative have noun-like endings, and the rest have adjective-like endings.

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    What you’ve tried to describe as ‘“feminine” nouns’ in quotes, actually might be called ‘nouns of first declension’. They perfectly can be masculine and Чебурашка is an example. (First of traditional three, I mean, not first of eight.) – Dmitry Alexandrov Jan 11 '15 at 3:40
  • `"feminine" nouns' -- in Russian this is called "1-е склонение" as far as I remember from school. There's also 2-е and 3-е. – alamar Jan 12 '15 at 8:02
  • The scare-quotes were intentional. The OP's level of knowledge did not seem to be at the level that a numbered declension class would be meaningful. Furthermore, there are different schools that assign different numbers to the classes, so referring to them by number is still ambiguous. – reynoldsnlp Jan 13 '15 at 8:37
  • As bebop pointed out, a numbered declension class of nouns in Russian is not familiar to me and also most of Russian-learning people in our country (Japan) because few textbooks for Russian study published here classify declension of nouns by number. But I can imagine which numbered class corresponds to which one among some declension classes from some additional explanation ("ending in ~а or ~я", etc.) given in answers and/or comments. Anyway, thank you, bebop and other respondents. – okazatsky Jan 13 '15 at 14:16

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