Corpus Perspectives on Russian Discursive Units: Semantics, Pragmatics, and Contrastive Analysis

  • Dmitrij Dobrovol’skij
  • Ludmila Pöppel
Part of the Yearbook of Corpus Linguistics and Pragmatics book series (YCLP, volume 3)


The present study analyzes a group of Russian discursive units with focus-sensitive semantics such as imenno (just/precisely), kak raz (just/precisely), to-to i ono (that’s just it/the point/problem), to-to i est’ (that’s just it/the point/problem) and to-to i delo (that’s just it/the point/problem). They are important elements of communication but have not yet been adequately described. Some of the analyzed lexical units – for example, imenno and kak raz or to-to i ono, to-to i est’ and to-to i delo – are near synonyms. Others, such as kak raz and to-to i ono, are not near synonyms, but they nevertheless belong to the semantic class of focus-sensitive elements. Thus they can all be put into a single group according to the principle of family resemblance. The material itself suggests the logic of the analysis – on the basis of pairs or groups of the semantically closest near synonyms: (1) imenno vs. kak raz; (2) imenno vs. to-to i ono, (3) to-to i ono vs. to-to i est’ vs. to-to i delo.

Near-synonyms within these groups can be distinguished from each other on the basis of semantics, pragmatics, and usage preferences. Identifying differences of various types requires a good corpus with numerous examples, for they can be present simultaneously on several levels: semantic and pragmatic, pragmatic and usual, etc. Often, although not always, pragmatic and/or usual differences are semantically motivated. Syntactic distinctions among near-synonyms, including those in certain syntactic patterns, are also generally motivated by differences in their semantics. In a number of cases the problem is solved through the use of translational equivalents, that is, not on the level of individual lexical units (words and phrasemes) but on that of the entire utterance. Using relevant lexicographic information, text corpora, including parallel corpora, and works of fiction, we shall:
  1. (a)

    clarify semantic and pragmatic properties as well as usage peculiarities of the focus sensitive discursive units imenno, kak raz, to-to i ono, to-to i est’ and to-to i delo;

  2. (b)

    analyze their systemic and translational equivalents in English and Swedish.



Discursive units Focus sensitive items Synonymy Cross-linguistic equivalence Systemic equivalents Translational equivalents 



This paper is based on work supported by the RFFI under Grant 13-06-00403. Thanks also go to Pierre-Yves Modicom (Université Paris-Sorbonne), who read a draft version of the present article, for an interesting discussion of theoretical issues raised by us, and to the anonymous reviewers for a number of valuable comments that we have attempted to take into account.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Russian Language InstituteRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Department of Slavic and Baltic Studies, Finnish, Dutch and GermanStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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