Different approaches to codification and their impact on the writing system

2013. № 2 (26), 166-180

Elena V. Beshenkova, Vinogradov Institute of Russian Language, Russian Academy of Sciences


Although Russian spelling is a self-actualising system, it may be influenced to some extent by codification and authorial dictionaries. The paper shows that the two possible approaches to spelling codification, i.e., prescriptive and descriptive, lead to two different models of writing. The first approach maintains the systematic character of spelling, as well as the dichotomies, leading to fluctuations in the system. The other approach destroys the system as such, though unstable self-organization may occur in some cases. In any self-developing system, resting on a balance of chaos and order, chaos can be partially organized, but only for a while. The degree of organization, time and its duration depend on internal factors and external conditions of the system. The external conditions for the latter are: social stability or instability, the degree of codification and the attitude of society towards codification. Orthographic policy today is largely determined by these external conditions and in many cases works against systemic character of Russian spelling.