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«GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DISSERTATION Nouns with figurative predicative characteristic meaning possess a complex semantic structure because of ...»

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Eremina Olga Sergeyevna

Figurative predicative characteristic meaning of a noun in Modern

Russian: lexical and syntactical aspect


of a dissertation submitted for a scientific degree of a candidate of




Nouns with figurative predicative characteristic meaning possess a complex semantic structure because of their characteristic function and syntactic position. Such “syntactically conditioned” semantics of these words (term of V. Vinogradov) caused considering such words as a bear ‘a clumsy or rude person’ or a fox ‘a cunning person’ as having a specific type of lexical meaning. Semantics of a noun with figurative predicative characteristic meaning (PHM) like the one of any word with secondary meaning consists of a definite set of components of the first (producing, literal) meaning of the word (which strictly speaking is a lexical component of its semantics) and – on the other hand – of the structural component ‘characteristics, feature of a person or a thing’, with is conditioned by a specific function of the word in speech and its syntactical position in a sentence/phrase (N. Arutiunova, T. Semenova).

Thus a specific lexically-syntactically-functional semantics of the nouns with figurative predicative characteristic meaning is obvious.

However mechanisms of interaction and mutual influence of different language levels as well as their role in development of a new meaning have not been studied yet. Meanwhile this issue is interesting not only for studying a definite type of word meanings but also as a part of a theory of interaction of structural levels of language in general. This causes topicality of the paper.

Object of investigation is a noun with figurative meaning which is studied from the point of view of its semantic structure conditioned by its characteristic function and syntactic position and mechanisms of its development.

Aim of the study is to define a role of lexical and syntactical factors in developing figurative predicative characteristic meaning of a noun and to determine mechanisms of their interaction. To reach the aim one must

solve the following problems:

1. To find out pre-requisites and conditions of developing figurative metaphorical PCM as a specific type of a word meaning.

2. To fix mechanisms of interaction of different language factors in the process of developing figurative predicative characteristic meaning.

3. To study changes in semantic structure of a noun taking place in the process of development of its figurative PCM.

4. To reveal dependence of syntactical properties of a noun on a degree of development of its figurative PCM and the meaning’s type.

Scientific novelty of the study is presented by investigating the nature of figurative predicative characteristic meaning of a noun as the result of interaction of different structural levels of language.

Theoretical significance of the study lies in developing and enriching the theory of figurative predicative characteristic meaning of a word which can be applied to analysis of language levels’ interaction in the processes of a word’s speech actualization in general.

Practical value of the study is conditioned by possibility of using its results in lexicographical practice and in teaching course of lexicology at school.

Sources of language material for the study are prosaic and dramatic works of Russian writers of XIX-XX centuries. Material under study includes 980 nouns with figurative predicative characteristic meaning used in more than 2500 contexts. To analyze whether their figurative meanings are occasional or regular these nouns’ definitions were compared in five main explanatory dictionaries of the Russian language.

Methodological base of the dissertation are philosophical categories of general and unique and the law of transition of quantity changes to quality ones as well as general linguistic principles: of systematic and structured organization of language (including categories of interaction and functional dependence of elements); of isomorphism of different structural levels and elements of language system; of dynamic nature of language and asymmetric dualism of a language character. Besides all these methodology of the paper is based on modern theoretical conceptions of connections between word’s semantics and functions (N. Arutiunova, O. Kondrashova, S. Mezhzherina) and it’s syntax (V. Vinogradov, N. Arutiunova, T. Semenova), as well as of similarity and difference in the nature of occasional (speech) and regular (language) metaphorical names (V. Telia, V. Kharchenko, A. Aznaurova, G. Skliarevskaja).

To solve the above mentioned problems the author uses the following methods and modes: 1) descriptive method, including modes of linguistic observation, one-language comparison, systematization and interpretation of language phenomena; 2) method of component analysis, enabling to determine special features of semantics of nouns with figurative predicative characteristic meaning at different stages of its formation; 3) modes of analysis of definitions and mode of quantitative calculation.

Dissertation contents the following statements to be defended:

1. Semantic and syntactic transformation of a noun with figurative predicative characteristic meaning is a result of changing communicative pragmatic function of noun in speech: the noun passes from the class of subject words to the class of characteristic words. The category transition “subject → characteristics” consists of several stages: a) singular (unique) usage of the word in characteristic function; b) regular usage of the word in characteristic function when this function is recognized as a secondary one and every application of the word towards a real referent needs mental addressing to the image of the initial denotate; c) functioning of the noun with characteristic function as an independent element of language.

2. Choice of a noun for using it in the function of characterizing

predicate is stipulated by a range of general language and lexical factors:

the law of analogy, interaction of semantic and word-formative derivation, influence of phraseological level of language and impact of word’s phonetics.

3. Nouns with figural PCM being at different stages of the category transition “subject → characteristics” have different semantic structure.

Gradual changing word’s semantics goes on under impact of its communicative pragmatic function due to actualization of category regularities of syntactical and lexical levels of the Modern Russian language (characteristic nature of predicate and mechanisms of semantic derivation). Meaning of noun develops from poly-characteristic denotation in speech to mono-characteristic signification in the system of language.

4. Caused by category transition, gradual change of semantics of a word developing figurative predicative characteristic meaning results in changing its syntactical features. Stage of development of figurative predicative characteristic meaning of noun stipulates higher or lower degree of its syntactic stability (when a noun can be used only in a definite syntactic position). Thus as a result of inter-level connections in the language system all the three aspects of developing figurative PCM of a noun correlate to each other (stage of the category transition – semantic structure of the word in figurative PCM – degree of syntactic stability of the noun).

Presenting of the paper. Basic statements of the dissertation were presented and discussed at 6 international, 2 regional and 1 university conference. Nine reports were published in scientific collections of articles and conference proceedings.

Structure of the dissertation. The dissertation consists of introduction, three chapters, conclusion, list of abbreviations, references, list of sources of language materials and supplement.


I n t r o d u c t i o n shows topicality of the paper, defines its aim and problems, reveals the dissertation’s scientific novelty, theoretical significance and practical value, determines main methods and modes of studying, presents the statements to be defended.

The first c h a p t e r “Figurative predicative characteristic meaning of a noun as a linguistic problem” deals with connections of nouns having figurative PCM with other lexical elements, it reveals the reasons to study figurative PCM as a specific structure.

In modern Russian lexicology nature and essence of figurative predicative characteristic meanings are interpreted inconsistently and sometimes contradictory. On the one hand the classification by V. Vinogradov is generally accepted and authors of recognized works in semantics note its impact on the lexical typology in general (N. Arutiunova, A. Ufimtseva, O. Yermakova, N. Alefirenko etc.).

On the other hand figurative predicative characteristic meaning of word is still a very poor studied phenomenon, mainly because of its heterogeneous nature.

As a heterogeneous phenomenon figurative PCM becomes an object of investigation for many lexicologists solving different researching tasks.

For example, nouns with figurative PCM are studied in the papers devoted to expressive lexics (N. Lukianova, E. Shereshevskaja, T. Tripolskaja etc.).

They observe some particular points such as a place of the nouns with figurative PCM in the system of language (their synonymous and antonymous relations etc.) or some features of their semantic structure (distinct differentiation of core and peripheral semes).

Nouns with figurative PCM are observed while studying figurative meanings in general, particularly while studying metaphor (V. Telia, A. Aznaurova, G. Skliarevskaja, M. Nikitin, V. Kharchenko, V. Gak, Z. Petrova, N. Arutiunova). These works contain some conclusions important for understanding the nature of figurative PCM: that metaphorical comparison is often based not on a definite feature, which can be selected and defined, but on some general similar impression caused by the two objects (G. Skliarevskaja), that predicative usage of nouns in figurative meanings can be explained by characterizing function of metaphor and that the main distinctive feature of a metaphor as an element of language comparing to metaphor as an element of speech is its “turning into a mono-seme structure” (N. Arutiunova), that transition of a noun from nominative to characterizing class results in “reduction of features” (V. Kharchenko).

Semantics of nouns with figurative PCM is also important for those who study adjectives meaning ‘quality’ (Z. Kharitonchik, G. Shipitsina, E. Kotliarova), because analyses of semantic structure of underlying words aids in understanding meanings of their derivatives.

However all the above mentioned works do not address the topic of figurative predicative characteristic meanings of nouns directly and do not allow to build a conception of their essence and specifics.

Investigating nouns with figurative PCM as a separate lexical group makes researchers address their specific semantic and syntactic characteristics (T. Semenova). This task is complicated by the necessity to consider complicated nature of this phenomenon in unity of semantic and syntactic aspects that sometimes results in giving preferences to only one of them. Thus the issue of a degree of syntactic stability of a noun with figurative PCM is studied only from the syntactic point of view.

Actually analysis of syntactic functions of such nouns allows dividing them into two groups: nouns with relatively limited meanings and nouns with absolutely limited figurative PCM meanings. F i r s t group includes nouns able to function in a sentence as its predicate, allocution, dangling apposition, attribute, object and subject under some conditions: presence of a deictic pronoun, presupposition etc.: This dragon earns 10 thousand a month (A. Malyshkin) – dragon is the subject of the sentence; He enjoyed the view of these happy and self-content doves and their comfortable nest /about a wife and a husband / (L. Tolstoy) – doves is an object; Here is where a feeling is hidden – in this oak-tree! /about a man / (I. Goncharov) – oak-tree is an adverbial modifier.

Nouns of the s e c o n d group may be used in a sentence only as its predicate or a predicative dangling apposition: молодец (good boy), загляденье (a picture – ‘about a person’), мечта (dream), клад (treasure), смерть (death) (T. Semenova).

Although dividing predicative lexics into nouns with relatively limited and absolutely limited figurative PCM meanings causes a range of new questions. Why can some words with figurative PCM meanings take (though under definite conditions) non-predicative syntactic positions while some can not? What’s the difference between these words? What determines this difference? What kind of semantics do nouns of these opposing groups possess? Are these groups strictly delimited from each other or do they have any ‘zone of crossing’? These questions can not be answered if nouns with figurative PCM are studied only from syntactical point of view.

One more consequence of taking into account only syntactic aspect is absence of opposition ‘d i r e c t ( p r o p e r ) – f i g u r a t i v e predicative characteristic meaning’. As a result nouns like трус (coward), дурак (fool) and like орел (eagle – ‘about a brave and handsome man’), огонь (flame – ‘about a quick tempered or vivid person’), индюк (turkey – ‘about an arrogant and insolent person’), золото (gold – ‘about a handy or helpful or true-hearted person’) are studied as having similar meanings (E. Emelianenko, O. Kondrashova).

However comparative analysis of nouns with direct and figurative predicative characteristic meanings enables revealing a range of differences between them.

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