Towards a Semantic Analysis of Russian Discourse Markers: pozhaluj, nikak, vsjo-taki

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Investigation of discourse markers has been an actively developing trend of linguistic research in the recent decades. The paper presents an analysis of three Russian discourse markers ( pozhaluj , nikak and vsjo-taki , all untranslatable into English). It applies an approach which integrates the experience of explicating meaning of a lexical unit of different frameworks of semantic analysis. The research is based on the National Corpus of Russian ( It demonstrates that the discourse marker pozhaluj introduces the opinion formed by the speaker as the result of a personal choice between two or several alternatives: the opinion is accompanied by doubts that do not lose relevance even after the decision is made. In the speech register the speaker is the subject of evaluation; in the narrative pozhaluj , as well as vsjo-taki , may undergo hypotactic or narrative projection. The discourse marker nikak expresses an assumption made on the basis of a directly perceivable situation accompanied by astonishment; it is used mainly in interrogative sentences, in particular in those that do not necessarily require an answer; it can also be used in affirmative sentences. Nikak is primarily egocentrical: it can only have the speaker as its assumed subject and it allows neither hypotactic nor narrative projection. The semantics of vsjo-taki includes five components: opinion W; opinion not-W; an argument in favor of the opinion W; an argument in favor of the opinion not-W; the fact confirming opinion W. In an affirmative sentence three classes of uses are distinguished depending on which of the components is prominent: opinion W, the fact substantiating opinion W or the argument in favor of W. In interrogative and imperative sentences vsjo-taki acts upon the illocutionary constituent of the utterance. Such discourse markers as skoree vsego , navernoe , neuzheli , nebos’ , chto , chto li , taki are taken into consideration because under certain conditions they are quasi-synonymous to pozhaluj , nikak and vsjo-taki . Our study offers the prospect of an integral research of discourse words that allows the researcher to combine methods of classical semantic analysis, contextual-semantic method, conceptual analysis and narratology. The obtained results contribute to further development of the semantic theory; they can be used in lexicography and in practice of teaching the Russian language.

About the authors

Anna A Zalizniak

Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
1 B. Kislovskij Ln., Moscow, 125009, Russia Doctor of Philology, a Chief Researcher at the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a Leading Researcher at the Federal Research Centre of Computer Science and Control of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She has taught Russian linguistics at the universities of Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Florence and Munich. The sphere of her scientific interests includes general and Russian semantics, semantic typology, aspectology, word formation, conceptualization, pragmatics, intercultural communication. The main results of her research are reflected in more than 200 publications. She is the author of the conception of semantic typology as the typology of semantic shifts; this conception gave rise to “Database of semantic shifts in languages of the world” (

Elena V Paducheva

Institute of Informatics Problems of the Federal Research Center ‘Computer Science and Control’ of the Russian Academy of Sciences

44-2 Vavilova St., Mosсow, 119333, Russia Doctor of Philology, Professor, a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a member of the Academia Europaea; a Chief Researcher at the Federal Research Centre of Computer Science and Control of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the author of a series of publications. The book “On the semantics of syntax” (1974) concerns the problem of contribution of the syntactic structure to the semantics of a sentence. The book “Utterance and its reference to reality” (1985) deals with the theory of reference and pragmatic aspects of language. The book “Semantic explorations” (1996) develops the approach to semantics of narrative within the traditions of Moscow-Tartu semiotic school and pioneer ideas of R. Jakobson and E. Benvenist on the narrative register of interpretation of discourse.


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