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Mikhailova M.Y. REPRESENTATION OF SEMANTICS OF INEXPRESSIBLE IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES / M.Y. Mikhailova // Russian Linguistic Bulletin. — 2015. — № 3 (3). — С. 19—21. — URL: (дата обращения: 22.10.2021. ). doi:10.18454/RULB.3.10
Mikhailova M.Y. REPRESENTATION OF SEMANTICS OF INEXPRESSIBLE IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES / M.Y. Mikhailova // Russian Linguistic Bulletin. — 2015. — № 3 (3). — С. 19—21. doi:10.18454/RULB.3.10


Михайлова М.Ю.1
1Доцент кафедры иностранных языков, Поволжская государственная социально-гуманитарная академия
Показано кластерное бытование семантики невыразимого в прозопографии и шире, - в художественном тексте. К специфике средств прозопографии отнесены: план выражения семантики невыразимого, лексемы-интернационализмы. Выявлена значительная частотность сопряженного сосуществования семантики невыразимого, средств прозопографии с языковыми единицами теистической семантики. Предложен термин «калейдоскоп номинаций, различных по грамматической категории рода» как методологическая основа анализа прозопографии, показана верифицирующая сила этого термина.
Ключевые слова: функционально-семантическая категория, невыразимое, сопоставительный анализ, план выражения, стилистический приём, прозопография, дескрипция вымышленного существа, дескриптивная лексика, отрицательные определения, анализ художественного текста, номинативная цепочка, бурлеск, теистическая семантика.
Страницы: 19 - 21

Mikhailova M.Y.1
1Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages, Samara State Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities
The cluster existing of semantics of inexpressible in prosoprography and more widely, - in the literary text is shown in the article. The plan of inexpressible semantics expression, international words are referred to specific features of prosoprography means. The immense frequency of the adjacent coexistence of semantics of inexpressible, prosoprography means with the language units of theistic semantics is revealed. The term "kaleidoscope of nominations, various on grammatical gender category" as a methodological basis of the prosoprography analysis is offered, the verifying force of this term is shown.
Keywords: functional and semantic category, inexpressible, comparative analysis, plan of expression, stylistic device, prosoprography, description of a fictional being, descriptive lexicon, negative attributes, analysis of the text, nominative chain, burlesque, theistic semantics.
Pages: 19 - 21
Почта авторов / Author Email:

The Semantics of Inexpressible (SI) is actively studied in different countries on material of various languages. So, Ia. Derrida describes the alogism of a combination to express the inexpressible. In the form of "I haven't enough words" the speaker actually expresses his or her gratitude: "But after all I said this recognition. Using the language of recognitions, I addressed to you, having told already more, than one word. Going beyond the adopted convention and without any rhetorical figure, I admitted that I not only can not get words, but also at the same time expressed this shortcoming as fault for which asked you about forgiveness" (Derrida, 1997, s. 450). SN is also studied by the Polish researcher M. Keith, she notes that in Poland "inexpressibleness is entered into literary criticism as new research category" (Kita, 2002, s. 102).

In Russia semantics of inexpressible is investigated from the second half of the XX century, most intensively – in the last quarter of the XX century – the beginning of the XXI century in literary studies and a linguopoetics (Zaika, 2006; Gavrilova, 2009; Syritsa, 2014, etc.). However as the functional and semantic category of Russian, having an invariant of meaning and system of expressive means presented at different levels of the language (indescribable, inexpressible, inexpressible; couldn't tell in a tale or write with a pen; it's too beautiful for words, etc.), SN hasn’t been an independent subject of studying yet.

The purpose of the article is to make a study of representation of SN in different languages, revealing of general and special features. G. S. Syrits designated an actual problem of SN representation in different languages in her article of (Syritsa, 2009).

The general features in SN representation is, in particular, existence in different languages the adjectives with semantics of inexpressible, inexpressible with a negative prefix, unspeakable – in English, unsagbar, unsäglich – in German, neizsakgms, naprakstgms – in Latvian (Syritsa, 2009, page 294).

The word inexpressibles — in the meaning 'lower men's drawers' became an international word with the dead semantics of inexpressible. The euphemistic designation of drawers, underpants which appeared in the Russian literary language of the second quarter of XIX century, corresponds to English inexpressibles, (cf. also loan-translated pictures in Fr. inexpressibles, Germ. die Unaussprechlichen; see B. Unbegaun. Le calque dans les langues slaves//Revue des études slaves, t. XII, fasc. 1 et. 2, 1932, river 10) (Vinogradov, 1999). The euphemistic character of the called nomination is obvious.

The ban on pronouncing not only the tabooed parts of a human body, but also subjects (names of underwear), "adjacent" to them, was strictly observed in the Christian countries. Thus, the designation of the lower drawers by the lexeme from the dead SN isn't a direct illustration of representation of inexpressible, and only outlines borders of the meaning coverage of inexpressible during different eras, in different countries. We believe that the euphemistic nomination inexpressibles is a manifestation of an euphemia and inexpressible semantic fields crossing.

The problem of representation of inexpressible in different languages is also that fact, that not all transmission media of SN are caught by translators and respectively translated without loss of sense. The researcher from Latvia G. S. Syrits notes: "as the analysis of the translations of these contexts into German and the Latvian language showed, the considerable part of meanings is transformed or at all lost" (Syritsa, 2009, page 295).

The object of this research are SN transmission means. The material for the analysis was the story of E. Zoe "The angel of the odd". As auxiliary material episodes were taken from M. Ancharov's novel "Probability theory" and M. Lermontov's stories of "Shtoss". The general feature in these works is the description of a fictional being. The descriptions consisting of the description of a fictional being (the devil, the wood spirit, etc.), are called prosoprography (Moskvin, 2007, page 590). As the recipient of information has no empirical experience of perception of a fictional being, the sender of information is compelled to meet this lack somehow: to give necessary definitions, at the end of a prosoprography to give a proper name.

In a prosoprography the writer often addresses to SN. As G. S. Syritsa notes: "inherently, the transcendental world is inexpressible, and inexplicable appears both the world Divine, and demonic manifestations" (Syritsa, 2009, page 294).

Our analysis of the language material showed that there are three types of SN interaction and a prosoprography: 1) SN precedes or follows prosoprography; 2) SN is in the introduction of a prosoprography (we mark three parts of prosoprography: introduction, the main part and the conclusion); 3) combination of the first two: SN is both in prosoprography, and beyond its limits.

As the research showed, the precedence of SN transmission means of prosoprography gives the text philosophical sounding and generality (the uses of SN in M. Lermontov's story "Shtoss", A. Poe "The angel of the odd"). The example of the third type of SN means of introduction to prosoprography is M. Ancharov's novel "Probability theory".

Before starting to characterize SN representation in A. Poe’s story we will make the remark on the narrow and broad understanding of this functional and semantic category. Inexpressible in its narrow sense is an invariant meaning of impossibility to verbalize some fact or the phenomenon of reality. The impossibility to verbalize can be certainly caused by the most various reasons: collision with the otherness, feeling sick of the sender, his low language ability, etc. All this reveals by the meaning 'it is impossible to express'. At the level of ordinary consciousness the word inexpressible, an oxymoron to express the inexpressible has narrower meaning 'it is impossible to express something because of his extraordinary qualities', as a rule, it and there is otherness, a world of the transcendental. In the research we concentrated attention mainly on such understanding of the inexpressible.

There is also a broader point of view on SN including not only inability to express verbally, but also all range of impossibility to comprehend (unimaginable, incomprehensible, incognizable, etc). Such point of view is in some way justified as at collision with the world of transcendental the person isn't only incapable to express verbally that extraordinary which he faces, but also refuses to comprehend, imagine how it is possible. To the broad point of view on SN, as well as on means of its expression, adheres in the researches of G. S. Syrits (Syritsa, 2009, 2014, 2015).

We adhere to a narrow understanding of SN as at broad approach the object of research is washed away. At the same time the zone of crossing of inexpressible, incomprehensible, inexplicable meanings at collision with the world of the transcendental is too wide not to consider this crossing. In many cases it is possible even to speak about a cluster existing of these meanings in the literary discourse. In particular, E. Poe,s story "The angel of the odd"  is an illustration of SN cluster existing, semantics of inexplicable, semantics of incomprehensible, etc.

We only then accept to consideration SN cluster existing in literary discourse when we meet at least one fact of SN means transmission in its narrow sense in this text. Such is a workable criterion of SN differentiation in narrow and broad understanding in our research.

In a case with E. Poe,s story "The angel of the odd"  SN transmission mean is a combination of a personage nondescript, although not altogether indescribable (трудно описуемый – in translation into Russian). The game on double denial actualizes SN which is also a prosoprography transmission mean. Besides, the theistic subject though given in a burlesque style of a narration confirms that before us is the plan of the contents and expression of SN: characters discuss angels’ wings, before going to bed the main character reads the book "God's Omnipresence", at the end of the story the Angel of the odd strictly asks: Whether you believe in me?".

The humorous story of the American literature classic is marked by the writer as "extravaganza", that is a form of the burlesque theatrical performance including comedy and circus numbers. Really, the story is full of unexpected episodes, hyperbolic, extravagant (something gets to the main character’s eye, and he can't greet the bride, the bird steals his trousers, the main character flies, having grasped a balloon rope). Unexpected episodes (in I.R. Galperin's understanding) explain the factual plan of the story by the main character’s
alcohol abuse; on conceptual it is a parody and reflections of E. Poe on a philosophical problem of possibility of other life, its manifestation in the form of strange, inexplicable events. 

As material for the analysis we chose the episodes containing SN means of expression. These episodes were a subject of comparison of the original of the E. Poe,s story and the translation of this story into Russian which is carried out by the talented Russian and Soviet translator I.M. Bernstein.

SN is presented in the story by a chain of the nominations. At first a synonymic row of epithets is given (in translation into Russian is: удивительный, странный, немыслимый, невероятный, необъяснимый). Besides a synonymic row in translation into Russian the homonymous form of a predicative or a short adjective is presented — inexplicably. The fictional being is transferred in the introduction of prosopography by SN means of expression: confronting me at the table sat a personage nondescript. In translation into Russian SN it is transferred by an indefinite pronoun somebody and "negative epithets" unimaginable, difficult to describe. In final part of prosopography the stating nomination – a proper name is given: I am the Angel of the Odd.

As for the translation of the story into Russian, it is perfectly made. I.M. Bernstein uses the existence of grammatical category of gender in Russian, applies stylistic device of game on gender category. In relation to a prosoprography we will call such device "a kaleidoscope of the nominations, various on grammatical gender category". (We will notice that we took a scientific metaphor of V. V. Babaytseva as a basis of creation of the new term "a kaleidoscope of the evident and sensual images reflecting the situation" (Babaytseva, 2014) applied in other meaning). As the prosoprography describes a fictional being who comes to the world material from the otherness, it is convenient to the writer to apply a kaleidoscope of the nominations, on the one hand, to designate, what sex a fictional being is, on the other hand, to show on a "extra material" basis of this fictional being. For this reason in relation to a being the nominations with various grammatical gender of a noun are applied:

"My pizzness!" ejaculated the thing, "vy vot a low bred puppy you mos pe vor to ask a gentleman und an angel apout his pizzness!

In translation into Russian:

В переводе на русский язык:

—  Дело?  —  воскликнула  эта  комбинация предметов.  — Как же ты турно фоспитан, если спрашиваешь у тжентльмена, и к тому же ангела, о теле!

I.e. in Russian a fictional being the Angel of the Odd is called as nouns with different gender category: somebody (general); Angel of the Odd (masculine), combination (feminine) of subjects. The kaleidoscope of the nominations, various on grammatical gender category, does not only bring the comic effect in the text, but also indicates the extra material nature of a fictional being.

Cf. with an episode from M. Ancharov's novel "Probability theory":

I look — the person not the person, and it seems a figure. It lies on its side and it seems lies (…) I began to lift it (…).

In the introduction of a prosopography the chain of the nominations is given: (masculine) person → (feminine) figure → it (masculine). Further it appears that it is a maiden unclear fine. Exclusively unprecedented beauty the maiden that only in the fairy tale happen and to describe which is not in human forces (…). The nominative chain proceeds the nomination (in the feminine) maiden with SN. The kaleidoscope of the nominations, various on gender grammatical category, doesn't come to an end with it, and the nomination of a neutral gender drops out: Further I wiped eyes — No, sits, didn't disappear. And I thought, it’s in a drunken condition a phenomenon to me (neutral).

The use of a pro-nominative It is interesting: And so I’m sitting without breathing for some long time and I think: "My God, here it that looked for all life and at night called! (…)". This is a diffusive use of It, with unremoved homonymy. On the one hand, the combination here it is can be considered as the whole sentence, on the other hand, the word it keeps semantics of a neutral gender implicitly, and therefore implicitly participates in a kaleidoscope of the nominations. 

In the final part of prosopography the stating nomination ordinary beauty is given. We will repeat that M. Ancharov's example belongs to the third type of SN interaction and meaning transmission of prosopography: SN is contained in the introduction of fictional being description, and also outside prosopography in a right-hand context: (…) I bowed to her as could and I answered: "Forgive me, inexpressible (…)".

The kaleidoscope of the nominations, various on gender grammatical category, is observed and in prosopography from M. Lermontov's story of "Shtoss", in the scene of the ghost description of: (in the feminine) figure → (in the masculine) old manhe (in the masculine) → (in the neuter) ghost → (in the masculine) old manit (in the neuter) → (in the masculine) old man.

Finishing the characteristic of nominations chains in prosopography, we will notice that the mean of kaleidoscope of the nominations, various on gender grammatical category, in translation into Russian of the story E. Poe’s story  shows I.M. Bernstein’ s skill.

About E. Poe’s skill tells the mean of the use of international words in prosopography: (…) he said that he was the genius who presided over the contretemps of mankind, and whose business it was to bring about the odd accidents which are continually astonishing the skeptic. In one text segment characterizing a fictional being the descriptions-international words borrowed from different languages are presented: the genius (from Greek); the contretemps (from French). The use of international words Neobjjasnimogo emphasizes the "non-material" nature of the Angel of the Odd. We believe that the nomination of the German Kirschenwasser to which the Angel resorts for the authorized story-teller, finishes cumulative effect of international words.

Thus, SN representation in different languages has general and special features. The internal form of a number of the lexemes containing SN in different languages has similar features. The plan of SN expression finds the interfaced coexistence with prosopography transmission means, and also units of theistic semantics. While translation the part of SN meaning is lost. In talented translations SN finds means of expression, characteristic for this category in the target language. That, in particular, is the kaleidoscope of the nominations, various on grammatical gender category, peculiar to literary texts with prosopography in Russian. SN in prosopography is more widely, — in the literary text, finds a tendency to a cluster existing, together with semantics of incomprehensible, inexplicable, etc. Descriptions-international words in the story E. Poe’ s story are  a mean of prosopography realization with cumulative effect.

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