Introduction

‘Almost all the inhabitants of the town of Baku and its environs are of diverse races having nothing in common with the Russians, and in their own households they speak their native languages, but for outer mutual relations they are compelled to use Russian.

‘During my visits there I came in contact with all kinds of people, and, having to speak with them for various personal needs, I decided to learn this language.

‘I had had to learn so many languages in my lifetime that the learning of Russian did not present any great difficulty for me. Before very long I was able to speak it quite fluently but of course, like all the local inhabitants, with an accent, and only after a fashion.

‘As one who has now become to some degree a “linguist”, I consider it necessary to remark here, by the way, that it is never possible to think in a foreign language, even though knowing it to perfection, if one continues to speak one’s native language or some other language in which one is accustomed to thinking.

‘And therefore when I began to speak Russian, continuing all the while to think in Persian, I was searching mentally for words in the Russian language to correspond to my Persian thoughts.
‘And it was then that I became aware of various incongruities— at first quite inexplicable to me—in this contemporary civilized language, on account of which it was sometimes impossible to transmit exactly the simplest and most ordinary expressions of our thoughts.

‘Becoming interested in this, and being free of all life obligations, I began to study Russian grammar, and later the grammars of several other modern languages. I then understood that the cause of the incongruities I had noticed lay precisely in these artificially composed grammars of theirs, and there began to be formed in me the firm conviction which I have just expressed to you: that the grammars of the languages in which contemporary literature is written are invented by people who, in respect of true knowledge, are on a lower level than ordinary simple people.

‘As a concrete illustration of what I have just said, I shall point out, among the many incongruities in the Russian language which I noticed at the very beginning, the one that led me to make a detailed study of this question.

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