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Was Kriukova from Kostroma?

May 26, 2014

The confusing extra что strikes again, this time in Chernsyshevskii’s What Is to Be Done? (Что делать?, 1863).

From part 3, chapter 14, “Kriukova’s Story”:

А вам все-таки скажу, чтобы вы знали, что какой он добрый.

But to you I will tell all in order that you may know how good he is. (trans. Benjamin Tucker, 1886)

If you took out the word “что” here, you’d have an indirect question just the way I was taught it and the way I’m used to seeing it. We get the “normal” version of the sentence a couple times right after:

Я вам хочу сказать, какой он добрый; мне хочется, чтобы кто-нибудь знал, как я ему обязана, а кому сказать кроме вас?

I wish to tell you how good he is; I should like someone to know how much I owe to him, and whom shall I tell if not you? (trans. Tucker)

Я только хотела сказать, какой Сашенька добрый.

I only wanted to tell you how good Sashennka is. (trans. Tucker)

As far as I’ve noticed, the extra что occurs only in the speech of Nastas’ia Borisovna Kriukova, not when the narrator or one of the main “new men” or Vera Pavlovna is speaking.

A year ago I posted about this construction in Pisemskii’s Men of the Forties (Люди сороковых годов, 1869), often with что before a ли clause, but here with что before a какой question:

Ему всего приятнее было подумать, что в каких дураках останется теперь г-н доктор.

He found it pleasantest of all to think what a foolish position the doctor would now be put in.

Alexander Anichkin of Тетрадки explained the что as introducing an indirect clause, with the question after the что treated as direct speech. A few others weighed in at Languagehat, where Alexei K. of The Dilettante’s Winterings suggested it might be Pisemskii’s Kostroma dialect. In the last year I don’t remember seeing the construction outside of Pisemskii, except this Chernyshevskii example. I don’t think we know where Kriukova is supposed to be from, but so far I like the explanation that the double-marking (что plus the word used to introduce the indirect question proper) was a syntactic regionalism. Apart from this sentence, do you hear anything regional or nonstandard in Kriukova’s speech?

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