Linguistic and Cultural Analysis of the Dichotomy ‘Dicent-Indicent’ in English and Russian

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Living conditions, history and geography of any ethnos determine specifically nation-specific differences of the dichotomy “decent: indecent . The paper analyzes the conceptualization of this dichotomy by British and American versus Russian societies. The author studies the meaning of the words decent, decency, decently plus their synonyms and related words as compared with the Russian приличие, приличный, приличная, приличное and прилично . The result of this analysis reveals noticeable differences in understanding of these notions, esp. as far as their negative versions ( indecent, неприлично ) are concerned. Moreover, as further analysis shows, dictionaries are sometimes unable to express some shades of meaning which are exposed through the analysis of concrete word usage. It appears that often discrepancies make themselves evident when some formal society rules are violated, as they play an important role in the individual’s socialization. Some differences are determined by differences of Protestant and Russian Orthodox moral principles. We observe cases when principles which are strictly observed in Anglo-Saxon culture are not followed in Russian culture. Consequently, such concepts do not find expression in the Russian language (for example indecent assault and indecent exposure) . This fact may serve as another evidence of a greater attention paid by Western cultures with their cult of individualism to the problems of personal self-esteem. At the same time, the article demonstrates a significant difference between Western and Oriental linguistic weltanschauung. Finally, the analysis of some Russian synonyms allows us to conclude that the concept of (не) приличие is undergoing a serious crisis, which cannot be said about the English (in) decent.

About the authors

Vladimir I Zhelvis

Ushinsky Yaroslavl State Pedagogical University

Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Foreign Literature and Languages


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