Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hrihoriy

Григорій Савич Сковорода - Hrihoriy Savych Skovoroda - was born today in Chornukhy, near Poltava, in the Hetamanate of Ukraine which at the time (1722) belonged to Russia. He spent the last thirty years of his life wandering Ukraine with a flute, teaching and philosophizing; he wasn't published till after he died. His epitaph - which he composed - reads: Світ ловив мене, але не піймав (The world tried to catch me, but did not succeed / Svit lovyv mene, ale ne pijmav).

On a linguistic note, this epitaph is interesting as it contains an aspectual pair of verbs which come from different roots, a rare but not unheard of situation. The verbs - ловити and піймати (lovyty, pijmaty) - mean "to catch" but the imperfective means "to be trying to catch" (success not implied); "ловити рибу (lovyty rybu)" is thus "to go fishing". Hence, the compact "ловив мене" becomes "tried to catch me", and "не піймав" is "did not catch".


(Find some Skovoroda in Ukrainian here.)

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