Russian Constructions with Syntactic Reduplication of Colour Terms: A Corpus Study

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Abstract


Russian reduplicated constructions with colour terms have never previously been an object of a comprehensive corpus study. Nevertheless, they present considerable interest for a researcher because comparative ability of colour terms to be reduplicated reflects their semantic and pragmatic differences, whereas semantics and pragmatics of reduplication construction are revealed in the properties of colour terms that can fill its slots. Thus, the goal of the paper is to study semantic and pragmatic properties of Russian colour terms and Russian syntactic reduplication construction by analyzing their co-occurrence. We apply corpus methods to the data from the Russian National Corpus, RuTenTen Corpus on Sketch Engine and RuSkell corpus. We analyze absolute corpus frequencies and collocation patterns of Russian non-reduplicated colour terms, as well as their relative frequencies and collocation patterns in the construction of syntactic reduplication with a hyphen ( belyj-belyj ‘white-white, very white, spotlessly white’). Drawing on this data, we establish that absolute frequencies of non-reduplicated colour terms in Russian reflect both Anna Wierzbicka’s “universals of visual semantics”, as well as certain language and culture-specific tendencies, as evidenced by the prominence of goluboj ‘light blue’ and ryzhij ‘carroty-red’ in Russian. We also argue that the Russian reduplication construction with a hyphen ( belyj-belyj ‘white-white) is semantically and prosodically different from the construction of repetition with a comma ( belyj , belyj ‘white, white’). The former has the meaning of high degree, and thus attracts only gradable colour terms, such as belyj ‘white’, chernyj ‘black’, sinij ‘medium to dark blue’, and other basic colour terms. There are additional factors that influence colour term reduplication. Collocation patterns suggest that colour terms that co-occur with the names of culturally and cognitively salient objects, such as denotations of human appearance (face, hands, skin, eyes, hair) or landscape features (sea, sky, fire, grass) are more likely to be reduplicated. Moreover, aesthetic or emotional evaluation of such objects (‘blue-blue eyes’, ‘green-green grass’) is also a factor that is conducive to their occurrence in the construction of reduplication. Our findings establish the importance of corpus methods in the study of colour terms and reduplication, demonstrate that the use and interpretation of lexical and syntactic items hinges both on semantic and pragmatic factors, and add to the understanding of semantics and pragmatics of Russian colour terms and reduplication construction.

About the authors

Valentina Yur'evna Apresjan

National Research University Higher School of Economics; Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Email: vapresyan@hse.ru
20 Myasnitskaya st., Moscow, 101000, Russia; 18/2 Volkhonka st., Moscow, 119019, Russia
currently working as an Associate Professor at the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (School of Linguistics), as well as the leading researcher at Vinogradov Russian Language Institute (Sector for Theoretical Semantics). She received her Ph.D from the University of Southern California (Emotion conceptualization in Language, 1996), and her Dr. Habilitatus degree from Vinogradov Russian Language Institute (Formation and Interaction of Compex Meanings in Language, 2015). Valentina Apresjan taught at USC (1994-1996), AlpenAdria-Universität Klagenfurt (2000), Russian State University of Humanities (2008-2010), Dartmouth College (2010-2012, 2016-2018). Her research interests include semantics, pragmatics, semantic typology, lexicography, constructions.

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