Research article
Issue: № 2 (10), 2017


The article deals with the analysis of some aspects of the British conceptual world on the basis of contemporary imaginative literature examination. Concept is understood as the individual author’s vision of the reflected world, as a predication of the topic to its author’s interpretation. The work analyses concepts reflecting the collective unconscious of the nation which turns them into linguo-cultural ones. The article examines the concept of tolerance through cause-effect relations of crime and punishment. The problems of children-parents relations in the British Muslim culture are also touched upon. The work shows the differences of some basic linguo-cultural concepts in Britain and in Russia.

The concept theory in our home linguistics started to develop in the second half of the previous century and up to the present moment has achieved certain results. Yet this trend in the form it exists in our linguistics has practically failed to develop in foreign linguistics with the exception of some works on Slavonic studies (A. Vezhbitskaya). We can find serious reasons for this phenomenon the main of which is the coincidences of the terms ‘notion’(ponyatie) and ‘concept’ (kontzept) in many European languages.

 It is not likewise in our home linguistics. The difference between these two terms is underlined by almost all the investigators who are working in this field (N.D. Arutyunova, Yu.S. Stepanov, S.G. Proskurin,  V.A.Maslova and many others).  Thus S.G. Vorkachev admits that concept (kontzept) ‘in its most general meaning is a notion (ponyatie) understood as a whole set of its most essential features within the framework of culture’ (underlining is ours) [1.  P. 12]. However, as it was truly marked by Yu.S. Stepanov and S.G. Proskurin, notions (ponyatiya)  reflect only essential and necessary features while concepts (kontzepty)  may include unessential characteristics as well [2. P. 14-30].  The immersion into the national culture is very important for a concept.

We define concept as some view on, an idea about a subject or phenomenon. This view is nationally and individually determined and reflects the world picture of the nation and/or the person.

Concept is formed as a predication of a topic to its interpretation by the author. In works of fiction the reflected world is interpreted through its author’s perception and thus is conceptualized. Concepts represent author’s language world picture which is usually emotionally coloured and thus may be expressed not only as a rational, logically complete idea but very often as an image or series of images. Author’s interpretation of the reflected world is frequently imaginative, metaphoric. And though writers reflect their own ideas they can’t but represent the ideas which are characteristic for his or her culture, for his or her nation. In this case we see not only the individual author’s concept but the linguo-cultural concept of the whole nation.

A text may comprise several topics that are united into macro-topics which in their turn form the global topic of the whole creation. And consequently concepts can also be multiple. We can distinguish micro-concepts, macro-concepts, and the global concept of the whole work for the sake of which it is created.

This investigation will analyze linguo-cultural concept of tolerance in the contemporary British literature through cause-effect relations: crime and punishment.

In our national culture since the times of F.M. Dostoevsky crime always associates with punishment. And the long Gulag history of the country alongside with the contemporary exaggerated and not always fair system of punishment intensifies emotionality of the problem in the public consciousness.

That’s why when our higher educational establishments became able to get acquainted closer with the contemporary British literature some aspects of British life reflected in this literature caused moral perplexities for Russian readers.

Thus, in Hilary Mantel’s novel An Experiment in Love [3] during a fire in a hostel one student, Lynette, perishes because she didn’t manage to leave the burning building. Another student, Carmel, who is a narrator in this novel, sees a key fall from Karina’s pocket. It is the key to the room where Lynette and Karina lived. Carmel realizes that Karina had locked the door with Lynette in and the girl was unable to leave the room and burnt alive. Meanwhile Karina ‘had saved’ Lynette’s fox fur coat. However the following speculations of Carmel look at least strange for our reader: “She knew I would not give her away. After all, I said to myself, I don’t know that she is a murderer. Just because she has the key, it doesn’t mean she turned it in the lock.”  [3. P. 246]. And Carmel doesn’t make any attempts to clarify what has really happened. Such behavior could have been explained if Carmel and Karina were close friends but Carmel doesn’t like Karina and almost adores Lynette. The question if there had been a crime remains open, without any attempts to clarify the situation. A Russian reader is certain to ask, if it is tolerance or indifference.

In Julia Darling’s novel The Taxi Driver’s Daughter [4] a fifteen year old girl, Caris, together with her boyfriend George go into other people’s empty houses and enjoy themselves as they like. And not until Caris realizes that George is able to commit a murder does she come to her senses. George is arrested by the police. Yet Caris having surrendered him to the police doesn’t feel any remorse because of their deeds in other people’s houses.

The protagonist of Sebastian Falks’ novel A Week in December [4] Hassan al-Rashid, the son of one of the richest British people, becomes a terrorist. He goes to France to fetch constituents of a bomb, brings them to London and is preparing to blast a bomb at one of the city’s hospitals. The bombs should be brought to the hospital by other terrorists, Hassan is to fetch detonators. And though he is to some extend embarrassed by the fact that the explosion should take place at a hospital it is not this that stops him.  A bicycle with no lights on shot past him on the bridge of a gloomy, evening London, making him leap: “Hassan stood back against the parapet of the bridge, with his heart hammering his ribs in a huge lumping rhythm. Shit. He had thought for a second he was going to die” [4.  P. 380]. It was that horror at the edge of death that brought him back to reality. He throws the detonators into the Thames. But again we see that they were not moral considerations that prevented Hassan from the crime but an elementary animal fear.

It looks as if concepts of ‘crime’ and ‘punishment’ in the British culture are not so closely connected with each other as in the Russian one.

There is one more aspect in the British Muslim culture we’d like to pay attention to. It is the difference between Islam of parents and children.

Hassan’s family has very successfully integrated into the British life: his parents are invited into the most famous houses of London and even to Buckingham Palace. Hassan’s father considers that faith, Islam, is a way of living, a deeply private matter, and he is not willing to impose his beliefs on other people. Hassan is another matter. Being born in Britain he doesn’t associate himself with the British society but under the influence of radical islamites is preparing himself for jihad. For him any person who doesn’t share his ideas is kafir which means for him enemy. Whole nations become enemies. Even his father who doesn’t share radical islamites’ views is considered by him stupid: “He had been on the verge of saying things he would have regretted. Thank God the old fool had gone to bed.” [4, c. 261]. Such an attitude towards the father looks strange for Muslim culture where one can observe very reverent attitude to senior people especially to parents. It is sufficient to recall the words of the Chechen leader R. Kadyrov who said that if his father had told him to jump from a high-rise building he would have done that immediately.

We may doubt if the narrator in the S. Faulks’ novel is reliable taking into consideration the fact that the author doesn’t belong to the Muslim culture himself and thus may be not quite correct in creating his character. However a story of another British writer, Hanif Kureishi, who has Eastern roots, depicts a similar picture. The narrator’s son Ali in the story My Son the Fanatic is also contemptuous and pitiless towards his father: “Ali had a horrible look, full of disgust and censure. It was as if he hated his father. … In a low, monotonous voice, the boy explained that Parvez had not, in fact, lived а good life. He had broken countless rules of the Koran.” [6. P. 102].

Thus, we can see that young people who were born in Britain are much more inclined to radicalism than their parents. At the same time a family with its values as the basis of moral criteria moves to the background. It is obvious wherein that somebody has very seriously worked with these young people. The concept of radical Islam in the contemporary British literature is certain to include such (a) tutor/s.

The concept of tolerance isn’t a global one in either of the cited works. And as it can be seen neither is it an individual author’s concept because all the authors mentioned above reflect a certain tolerance to some moral misdeeds and even to criminal ones. Such an attitude doesn’t coincide with the Russian concept of crime which is closely connected with the idea of punishment. Thus, we may treat this concept of tolerance in the British literature which reflects the British society and its life as a linguo-cultural one.


  • Vorkachov S. G. Lingvokul’turnaya kontzeptologiya i eyo terminosistema [Linuocultural Theory of Concept and its Terminological System] / S. G. Vorkachov // Politicheskaya lingvistica [Political Linguistics]. - № 3. - 2014. – Ekaterenburg. – P. 12–20 [In Russian]

  • Stepanov Yu. S., Proskurin S. G. Konstanty morovoy cul’tury [Konstants of World Culture] / Yu. S. Stepanov, S. G. Proskurnin. – M.: Nauka. – 1993. – 158 p. [In Russian]