Innovative lexicographic discourse: educational representation of phraseology

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The article presents an innovative authors’ approach to representing Russian phraseology in a dictionary for schoolchildren. The relevance of the research is determined by the need to improve educational lexicographic technologies in connection with the increasing role of the dictionary as a means of teaching languages and a motivation for language learning. The purpose of the study is to reveal the linguodidactic potential of innovative educational lexicographic discourse in the detective genre. The topic is revealed on the material of the author’s phraseological dictionaries developed in this genre by experimental laboratory of educational lexicography at Pskov University, which have no analogues in the domestic phraseographic practice. The dictionary materials are based on the method of parametric lexicographic modeling. Special attention is paid to developing the etymological parameter by the method of parametric etymological paraphrasing. The method is based on the chosen model of etymologization depending in the method of phraseme formation. The linguodidactic potential of innovative lexicographic discourse is revealed by the descriptive method (techniques of systematization and interpretation). Fragments of dictionary entries illustrating the main provisions of the concept are given. The revealed possibilities and mechanisms of combining the parametres of educational and artistic discourse in the entries of phraseological dictionary for the junior school student are shown. The new models of etymologization, linguoculturological commenting and representating functional and pragmatic features of Russian phraseological units within the educational lexicographic discourse of the detective genre are presented. It is proved that the innovative lexicographic discourse organized in this way allows to effectively solve the problem of multidimensional educational representation of phraseology, and also supports the process of teaching schoolchildren genres of speech. The authors outline the possibilities of using the presented lexicographic technology of designing interactive educational dictionaries on paremiological and lexical material.

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Until recently, the concepts of lexicographical text and lexicographical discourse were not clearly distinguished in the linguistic literature. Lexicographic discourse was qualified as a variant of a scientific text, its unit being a dictionary entry as an informational text (Rezunova, 2008: 47–48). Analysis of modern dictionaries allowed researchers to consider lexicographical discourse as a type of communicative interaction, where the word meanings are displayed as “quanta of knowledge” about the world in order to maximize the explanatory effect (Plotnikova, 2014: 22). Modern dictionary entries contain semantic and pragmatic information, have cognitive potential (Peredrienko, Balandina, 2020: 51), and in addition reflect the subjective, authorial understanding of the object of description. When implementing the interactivity principle, which is especially significant both for teaching a foreign language (Bagramova, Vasileva, 2020) and for educational lexicography (Markevich, Rostova, 2016), the author’s position is not only explicated, but also realized in a dialogue with the reader.

This format of educational lexicographic discourse is especially useful when presenting Russian phraseology to the reader, including foreign-language readers, because it opens a wider use of strategies of contextual semantization, various models of etymological paraphrasing, illustrative multicodality of linguocultural commentary, which makes it possible to remove numerous difficulties in mastering phraseological units, which are pointed out by Russian and foreign authors of articles on phraseodidactics (Fedulenkova, 2005; Gonzalez Rey, 2007; Sułkowska, 2016; Karolczuk, 2021). Among the parameters of phraseological units which are difficult to comprehend there are the specificity of their motivation (Dobrovolskij, Piirainen, 2018; Křivancová, 2020), lexico-syntactic features, variation (Cserép, 2017a; 2017b), the ethnocultural component revealed at other languages background (Kuznetsova, 2018; Bilyalova et al., 2019; Mokienko, 2019). However, with this understanding of the problem by phraseologists and methodologists, foreign lexicographers very rarely address theoretical issues of academic phraseography (Nuccorini, 2003) and do not include academic phraseological dictionaries in the classification schemes of lexicographic sources (Swanepoel, 2003), which is quite understandable: practical developments in this sphere are quantitatively incomparable with the richest European resource of academic phraseography (Dobrovolskij, 2013).

In contrast, Russian schoolchildren and foreigners studying Russian can use dozens of educational phraseographic sources, among which we can put the dictionaries of V.P. and A.V. Zhukov,1 D.E. Rosenthal,2 N.V. Basko,3 etc. as classical, and one of the tasks of lexicographers is to improve the methods of phraseology representation in dictionaries of new types.

Characterizing new trends in Russian lexicographic discourse, A.M. Plotnikova emphasizes that its features are actively exploited and imitated in fiction and journalism (Plotnikova, 2014: 22). Let us also note the opposite tendency: lexicographic discourse, first of all – educational, which implies entertainment and motivation for language learning, can be built using the genre schemes of mass media communication and fiction, which is realized in the phraseographic projects of the Experimental Laboratory of Educational Lexicography at Pskov State University: dictionary in stories, dictionary detective, dictionary travelogue, while individual dictionary entries which do not differ in such genre specialization, are built in the style of interview, reportage, and scientific discussion (Nikitina, Rogaleva, 2020, 2021).

The aim of the research is to reveal the linguodidactic potential of innovative educational lexicographic discourse in the detective genre, which represents Russian phraseological expressions to younger schoolchildren in the new projects of the Pskov Experimental Dictionary Laboratory.

Methods and materials

The theme is revealed on the material of educational phraseological dictionaries being prepared for printing, developed by Pskov lexicographers in the genre of children’s detective. Descriptive method (systematization and interpretation techniques) is used to reveal their linguodidactic potential. The method of parametric lexicographic modeling underlies the development of dictionary materials. Special attention is paid to the development of the etymological parameter taking into account the addressee factor (the method of etymological paraphrasing, involving the choice of a certain etymological model depending on the way of phrase-formation). The methods of linguocultural and contextual analysis, which preceded the dictionary development of phraseological units, allowed to identify the cultural background and clarify the meanings of phraseological units in modern situations of use, which became the subject of linguocultural and functional-pragmatic description of phrases within the innovative lexicographic discourse.


The study revealed the possibilities and mechanisms of combining the parameters of educational and literary-fiction (detective) discourse in the entries of the phraseological dictionary, addressed to younger students.

New models of etymologization, linguocultural commenting and representation of functional and pragmatic properties of Russian phraseological units within the framework of innovative educational lexicographic discourse of detective genre are developed.

It is proved that the innovative lexicographic discourse organized in this way, apart from the multidimensional educational representation of phraseology, allows solving new linguistic and methodological problems – it provides the reader’s participation in constructing educational and scientific discourse, supports the process of teaching schoolchildren the genres of speech.


Detective discourse, as G.V. Makovich points out, is an expression of a special mentality, a specific acquisition and processing of knowledge about the world (Makovich, 2020: 62). As we know, the genre-forming feature of the detective is the presence of intrigue, a fascinating task that the reader solves in parallel with the hero detective, including logical thinking and intuition. Searching and analyzing physical evidence, checking the emerging versions and correctly solving the problem – this model of the investigator’s work can be used to describe the process of etymologizing a phraseological phrase, the image of which raises a question (why do we say so?), and the search for the answer is the plot of the dictionary entry, written in the genre of “children’s detective,” which is characterized by entertainment, a game element (Voronchikhina, 2020: 360–361).

Detective and phraseological dictionary in stories

The working title of this forthcoming dictionary of the Experimental Lexicographic Laboratory of Pskov State University is “Phraseological Stories of Detective Grom.” The phraseological “investigations” that the dictionary entries tell about are realized by “employees” of the PIC – the Phraseological Investigation Committee. Detective Grom is a handsome poodle, a very intelligent dog, who together with his master, the famous St. Petersburg scientist Valery Mikhailovich Mokienko, has solved many phraseological mysteries. Grom’s partner – cat-analyst Murzik (he is sure that his nickname was formed from the abbreviation MUR – Moscow Criminal Investigation Department) on the side of his grandmother – cat China from Kostroma and her mistress – Professor Alina Mikhailovna Melerovich – is also connected with phraseological circles. Basing on the experience of their masters, the friends successfully conduct their own investigations. Grom and Murzik are assisted by a research intern, Khoma the parrot, who studies phraseology from the notes of student Nikolaev S., found on the Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya. “And what this merry company investigates,” it says in the preface, “you’ve probably already guessed: of course, the most confusing and mysterious stories of the origin of phraseological expressions.” Thus, the direct appeal of the authors to the reader immediately sets the interactive mode of using the dictionary, which will then be supported not only by similar lexical and grammatical methods of creating dialogicality, but also by communicative and creative tasks with feedback (to suggest detective phrases for new investigations, to illustrate etymological versions with drawings, to send staged videos and oral stories illustrating the use of phraseology, for new book-format dictionaries and their electronic versions).

The next part of the preface, introducing the reader to the structure of the reference zone of the dictionary entry, is given as an example of educational discourse, focused on the interaction with the recipient – a junior high school student, taking into account his level of lexicographical and phraseological competence:

You won’t just be reading a selection of entertaining detective stories. Our book is the most real dictionary. It consists of dictionary entries. Each entry, as it should be in the dictionary, begins with a title (it is written in large font in the center) – this is the phraseological unit, which will be discussed in the entry. The next line gives the meaning of the unit. Then we indicate the sphere where it is used (usually it is colloquial speech). Then – what emotions and feelings the phraseology conveys, what purpose it is used for: to make a joke about someone or to warn about something, to express distrust, regret, confidence or approval:

 TO PIGGYBACK on someone

To discreetly interfere with, secretly harm someone.

It is used in colloquial speech.

It is said with disapproval.

Then a “detective” plot unfolds. The multidimensional linguodidactic potential of this component of the innovative educational lexicographic discourse is presented by fragments of dictionary entries.

“TO PIGGYBACK ON SOMEONE” – even in the plot of this detective story the reader observes the use of the phraseological unit in a specific situation, where the heroes see an attempt of competitors to harm them (this is how the demonstrative function of the educational discourse is realized):

Detectives Grom and Murzik are browsing a phraseological news site:

Poodle Grom: Aye-aye! Colleague Murzik, look at what they wrote about you and me: WAS IT A CAT I SAW? GOD SAW I WAS DOG (lit. ‘The cat is clever, but he is not empathetic. And the dog is barefoot’).

Cat Murzik: And who has piggybacked on us?

Poodle Grom: I think the competitors. They want to spoil our image. But we will not pay attention to it, because no one better than us conducts phraseological investigations. (Let us note the educational prophylactic moment, an example of an adequate reaction of a self-confident subject to an attempt of bullying.)

And then – “phraseological prevention” – prevention of incorrect interpretation of the internal form of the phraseological unit (which the reader should notice), as well as expanding the linguistic outlook of the schoolchild with the concept of palindrome:

Parrot Khoma: Gentlemen detectives, I do not understand what pig you are talking about? I didn’t give you any pig: we didn’t have pork for breakfast, we had oatmeal. And WAS IT A CAT I SAW... I was in a palindrome contest. Palindromes are words or phrases that read the same from left to right and right to left. So I made one about you. And I even won first place among the crows and geese! Try reading it again.

Poodle Grom: Indeed, it works. Congratulations, Khoma! In addition, we have an excellent topic for a new investigation – the story of the origin of the phrase “piggybacking,” which means “to discreetly interfere, secretly harm someone.”

Parrot Khoma: To do harm? Interfere? What does this have to do with a pig? Could it be some other pig, not a real pig?

The search for “another pig” leads the detectives to the city of Pskov, where university students are reviving the folk movement games, one of them – the game “in pigs,” reminiscent of the game gorodki, when a thick stick (it used to be called “pig” in some regions of Russia) knocked down figures made of stones or small sticks (implemented the cultural and historical aspect of the etymology of phraseology).

Poodle Grom: Sounds interesting, interesting... What do you say, colleagues?

Parrot Khoma: And I think I understand what this pig is. This is the stick – a pig, which knocked down the figures. Suppose someone wants to hurt your opponent and put him a cracked pig, which breaks when you hit. So he put the pig, piggybacked. Yeah, that’s not good. It’s not sportsmanlike.

Another game “in pigs,” a table game, is told about by students who have been to Pushkinogorsk reserve (the etymologization of the phraseology includes local history information). There, in the museum “Water Mill” in the village of Bugrovo, you can play folk games, including “pigs.” Pigs are small wooden chips. By clicking your fingers you need to push pigs, lying on the table with the same side up, and take them for yourself. Or you can click on a pig so that it turns over and becomes uncomfortable to hit – so you’ve piggybacked on your opponent.

The detectives go off to play these folk games, which the reader is invited to play as well (physical exercises are included in many dictionary entries), and the “Case of Piggybacking” is declared closed: the pig is found in folk games to be a “pig,” a stick or chip, not suitable for hitting.

The conclusion about the origin of the phraseological unit – as a rule, a formalized part of the traditional dictionary entry – in the conditions of a hybrid educational literary-fiction (detective) lexicographic discourse receives the most different, built into the plot forms of implementation. In the entry “To Talk Nonsense,” the parrot Khoma, wasting his time in traffic (one should not use a cell phone while driving!) briefly presents the etymological version of the phraseological unit to his friend, the Brazilian parrot Jordi, who is also studying Russian phraseology. In the case of the squirrel spinning the wheel (the entry “To Spin Like a Squirrel in a Wheel”), the etymological conclusion is made by the “main witness” – Ivan Andreevich Krylov, who presents the text of his fable – “material proof” of the literary origin of the phraseological unit. And in the entry “To Eat Much Henbane ‘to Go Crazy’,” the etymological version is presented in the frank confession of henbane – the “accused,” a poisonous plant (a method of personification), which warns the reader of its harmful properties. The corresponding text fragments are highlighted, as is the reference header zone of the dictionary entry, thus all the main parameters of the description of the phraseological unit – semantic, functional-pragmatic, etymological – are combined in a concise version of the representation of the unit, which is convenient for promptly obtaining basic information about it.

Those readers who closely follow all the peripetias of the plot, from the problem posed by the “detectives” to its successful solution, reflected in the etymological summary, will see all the stages of the investigators’ work and types of investigative actions, leading to the disclosure of the origin of the phraseological unit, which are usually presented in detective genre.

The main method of work – “investigative experiment” – helps detectives to reveal the internal form of phraseological expressions, to clarify the sphere of their origin. Thus, in the article “Jump Over the Head” the detectives themselves take part in the investigative experiment: the cat Murzik and the poodle Grom without difficulty jump higher than their heads, which allows to exclude the connection of the origin of the phraseological unit, denoting an almost impossible achievement, with the animal world. In the article “To Bring Thing into the Open” the investigative experiment involves a fisherman leading a bitten fish out into the clear in a lake, where there is a lot of algae and sunken driftwood. An experiment on making ropes from linen fiber (the entry “To Twist Ropes”) is conducted in the club “Russian Folk Crafts,” where it turns out that the properties of a rope are determined by the desire and actions of the master, hence the meaning of the phraseological unit.

The conduct of “investigative experiments” is not limited in time either. For example, in the article “To Measure with Your Own Arshin,” the detectives move to a market square far in the past with the wooden measuring instrument mentioned in the unit – the arshin.

Detective Grom: Colleague Murzik, turn on the video recording on your smartphone. Here’s the cloth salesman. He’s measuring the cloth with the arshin, a wooden ruler. Its length is 71 centimeters. This is the old length measure, the arshin. A buyer is standing nearby and is holding his own arshin. I wonder what for? It’s the same with the ribbon merchant: everyone has his own length measure – both the seller and the buyers. Now take my picture. The main stage of the experiment. I take a tape measure and measure the arshin of the cloth merchant. Look: it is only 70 centimeters! Well, how do they measure ribbons? This arshine is even shorter – 69 centimeters. So, the investigation established: all sellers have different arshins.

Cat Murzik: Now it is clear why customers have their own arshins: they just do not want to be deceived!

An effective “investigative action” – the questioning of witnesses allows to clarify the meaning and the cultural background of the components of the phraseological unit (for example, in the article “To Travel Seven Versts to Drink Kisel,” the mathematician Zadachkin tells about versta – an ancient unit of distance and reveals the symbolism of the number 7, and the cook Kotletkin presents the recipe of the traditional Russian thick kisel, which people drank with spoons). If there are several etymological versions, as, for example, in the article “Ends in Water,” the “witnesses” – brother Ivanushka (from the fairy tale “Sister Alyonushka and Brother Ivanushka”), the long voyage captain Korablev and Balda from “The Tale of the Priest and His Workman Balda” by A.S. Pushkin evaluate versions of the origin of the phraseological unit, linking it: 1) with the ancient punishment of criminals (drowning) or the actions of robbers, who drowned their victims; 2) with the maritime business (when sending a ship into the water, ropes (“ends”) connecting the ship to the pier – fall); 3) with superstitious ideas about the evil force – devils, who, after doing harm to a man, hide in the water.

“Graphological Examination” conducted by the detectives in “Like with a Chicken’s Paw” leads them to conclude that the schoolboy’s handwriting resembles chicken’s footprints at the feeder.

“Confrontation” (the historian Starovekov and Khan Mamai in the article “As if Mamai Have Passed,” Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and the guide Cruizov in the article “Kolomenskaya Versta,” Yemelya and the Pike – “As by the Will of Pike,” old man and old woman – “To Stay at the Broken Trough” and others) helps clarify the social, historical and literary context of the origin of phraseological expressions. In the dialogues and polylogues of the participants of the “confrontation” the phrases are contextually semantized and etymologized, correcting possible cases of their literalization and other typical mistakes in their perception and use:

Detective Grom: Mashenka, do you confirm that you left Bear a note?

Mashenka: Yes, I wrote: “Dear Bear, don’t be offended, I talked you nineteen to dozen, and you believed me. Goodbye.”

Bear: Yes, yes – nineteen. But I have only one box in which I carried her. Where are the other boxes?

Detective Grom: Read the note carefully: she talked a lot, she cheated. What did she tell you?

Bear: Lots of things.

Detective Grom: That’s right – a lot. Probably so much, that could fit in nineteen boxes. It’s a figure of speech.

Bear: Okay, I’m not offended. Thank you for the new phraseological unit. Now let’s go to my place. I cooked there porridge from nineteen to dozen.

Mashenka: Thank you, Bear! But you can’t cook porridge nineteen to dozen, you can only talk, promise or lie nineteen to dozen. And I’ll never do it again.

Thus, the dictionary authors – discourse initiators – convey the main communicative strategy of educational discourse – informing about something for the purpose of learning (Golev, Grigorieva, 2017: 66) (in this case – information about the origin of phraseological unit) – to the characters, who act in the framework of the authors’ concept of etymological paraphrase. Each type of phraseological trope or method of phrase formation has its own model of etymological paraphrase, representing the scientific version of the phraseological unit origin to the reader, taking into account his level of linguistic training and his age.

Thus, for pun phraseological phrases built on the violation of the semantic links of the components (when the crayfish on the hill whistles ‘never;’ to come dry out of the water ‘to avoid a deserved punishment,’ etc.) a step-by-step reconstruction of internal negation is chosen.

The first step is to answer the question: is it possible to come dry out of the water?

The detective characters, from their life and professional experience, give
a negative answer:

Cat-analytic Murzik: Let’s start with me. I’ve never been able to come dry out of the water. I remember once sitting in an ambush all day in a bucket of water in the vegetable garden. I wanted to catch mice at the scene of the crime when they were gnawing on cucumbers. I even breathed through a straw! As soon as the mice appeared, I jumped out of the bucket. But while I was shaking off the water, of course, they got away.

Detective Grom: I will always remember how I got wet paws on the crime scene and almost destroyed all the evidence.

The second step is to relate the results of self-observation to the sphere of law and order, where a crime must always be followed by punishment. It is impossible to avoid it, as it is impossible to come dry out of the water. And then there is the reconstruction of negation itself: parrot Khoma recalls the goose, who nevertheless comes dry out of the water thanks to the fatty grease of its feathers. The final brainstorming reveals the logic of the phrase-formation, and the context of the use of the phrase confirms the speakers’ correct understanding of the meaning of the phrase and its etymological version:

Detective Grom: And now, colleague Murzik, let’s try to summarize it all. What do we have?

Cat-analytic Murzik: What we get is that you can’t come dry out of the water. Boss, in your words, this is a paradox – something that doesn’t happen. But every rule has exceptions.

Parrot Khoma: And what does this have to do with our phraseological unit?

Detective Grom: It is elementary, Khoma! We have a law: who committed a crime – will be punished. It is impossible to avoid punishment, just as it is impossible come dry out of the water. But if suddenly someone is not punished, then he come dry out of the water – is that logical? Yes!

Parrot Khoma: That’s me! I came dry out of the water! One day my friend Crow and I dared to see who could copy people’s voices better. We flew in through a window at a radio station. When the announcer went out for coffee during a commercial, we turned off the commercial and started copying the announcer. We wanted to ask the radio listeners who they liked better, but we didn’t have time. Well, then the Crow got in trouble, and I came dry out of the water. There were someone’s clothes on the chair, so I pretended to be a glove.

The “detective-etymological” part of the entry in some cases also contains the author’s remarks, where they are noted with a special icon and given in small print. These are emerging in the course of the plot remarks, tasks, advice to the reader, allowing to activate his knowledge and useful skills in a variety of areas (for example, in the article “To Talk Nonsense” (“Nesti okolesitsu” – from okolesit ‘go round’ “talk rubbish” – the reader is invited to trace on a map the travel on the Moscow Ring Road from Leninskii Prospekt to Shosse Entuziastov; in the article “Be Very Old, Torn Up” (“Kashi prosit” – lit. ‘ask for kasha’ “be very old”) the reader is proposed to set aside for a minute a dictionary and check the state of his shoes, clean them, grease the cream). But the main task of the authors involved in the process of “investigation” is to orient the reader in the sources, the materials used by the detectives, to prepare him for a competent assessment of the hypotheses put forward, for example, in the article “Kolomenskaya Versta” ‘jokingly – about a very tall person:’ In the case of the Kolomenskaya versta the witness is an interesting historical person – Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. What do you know about him? Check the information in the history book – it will be useful for the detectives. Or in the article “The Horse Has Not Wallowed There Yet” ‘the work has not started yet:’ What do you know about the habits of horses? When do horses like to wallow on the ground? If you know this, or have found out now on the Internet, you’ll figure out the secret of the phraseological unit origin yourself, and then compare your version with the opinion of our detectives.

Detective-phraseological dictionary-practice

“Detective and Phraseological Dictionary-Handbook” is an innovative educational and cognitive project of the Experimental Lexicographic Laboratory of Pskov University. The project is aimed at presenting the main linguistic properties and etymology of phraseological expressions to schoolchildren during their direct involvement in the process of “investigating” and constructing educational lexicographic discourse in the detective genre.

The dictionary includes ten chapters (dictionary entries), developed through the methods of text creolization in the format of a workbook, whose reader is in constant interaction with “famous detectives” – literary and cartoon characters – and takes the discursive role of their assistant – a young detective-phraseologist. The format of the interaction is defined in first chapter “Detective Cognitive Investigations Begin. The Case of Ivans.”

Sherlock Holmes (portrait of the hero): Hello, young detective-phraseologist. My name is Sherlock Holmes, and this is my partner, Dr. Watson. Our detective phraseology agency has a lot of cases, and Watson and I can’t cope. We need an assistant.

Dr. Watson (hero’s portrait): I think you fit our profile. I hope you’re ready for work! You’ll need a Diary of a Young Phrasebook Detective (diary drawing). Don’t forget to fill it out so you don't forget anything.

Dog Droopy (character portrait): Hi! And I’ll be your assistant. My name is Droopy. When you have any difficulties, you can always ask me.

The first clue from Droopy (Detective is a genre of literature or film – from the Latin word ‘datego’ – “to reveal, expose;” in a detective a mysterious incident is investigated, its mystery is revealed) helps the reader formulate and write down in the diary the definition of detective and deduce one of its main features – the presence of a riddle. Later there will appear other characteristic features of the detective genre – the presence of several versions of the incident disclosure, the types of detective characters, as well as the characteristics of the material to work with – the definition of phraseology, its main features, examples of phraseological units.

The detective friends offer their young assistant a variety of work, for example, verification of etymological versions. In the article “The Case of Ivans,” these are three versions of the origin of the phraseological unit vo vsyu ivanovskuyu ‘at the top of one’ s voice’ presented in the dictionaries.4 They are given for consideration after the interpreting the headword.

The reader writes the results of his or her reasoning about the credibility of the versions into the table. Such a communicative procedure as the use of tables, graphs, charts is recognized as a very effective technique of implementing the informative strategy of educational discourse (Golev, Grigorieva, 2017: 77). In our case, filling in the table, the pupil also develops the skills of information transformation, text reduction, masters the techniques of logical argumentation on the material of etymological versions of the phrases. The reader receives a sample of these actions (this is how the reference function of the training discourse is realized) from the assistant, Droopy, who fills in the first line of the table, and then, using the sample, the young phraseologist-detective builds his table fragment of the training discourse.

Let us present the completed table:

Versions of the origin of phraseological unit

Vo vsyu ivanovskuyu (literally: at the top of one’ s voice) – about high intensity of the action: 1) shout at the top of one’s lungs ⟨voice⟩; 2) go full tilt ⟨steam⟩, step on it.[5]

What/who is the origin
of the phraseological
unit related to

How does the meaning
of a phraseological unit develop



1. Ivan the Great Bell
Tower in Moscow

The loud ringing of all the bells of the bell tower of Ivan the Great → the meaning of the phraseological unit is “very loud”


The original meaning of the phraseological unit is “very fast,” not “very loud”

2. Ivanovskaya Square
in the Moscow Kremlin

Here the tsar’s decrees on corporal punishment were loudly announced, the guilty were punished, who loudly shouted → the meaning of the phraseological unit is “very loudly”


The original meaning of the phraseological unit is “very fast,” not “very loud”

3. Man’s name Ivan

Ivan is the hero of Russian folk tales – brave, strong, dexterous; he defeats enemies, shouts loudly, rides a horse fast → the meaning of the phraseological unit is “very fast”[6]


The original meaning of the phraseological unit is “very fast,” which does not contradict logic: to ride a horse quickly → the meaning of a phraseological unit is “very fast”

Working on the history of the origin of phraseological expressions, the reader also gets skills of organizing “investigation,” i.e. gets acquainted with the technology of etymological analysis, for example, in third chapter “Expert Derevyanko and the Unusual Petiole.”

First of all, following the advice of Holmes and Watson, the reader determines the sphere of origin of the phraseological unit to shiver like an aspen leaf and reflects in the “Diary of a Detective Phraseologist” the connection of its prototype with the Russian nature. Aspen becomes the main object of observation, and the young detective writes in the diary the collected information about it. An opportunity is determined to observe aspen directly in the area and in the place where the “investigation” is being conducted. If there is no possibility, the observation is carried out remotely, by reference to the video material7, and in the “Diary” there is a record confirming the fact of trembling and rustling of aspen leaves even in windless weather.

“Well done, you are right,” – Sherlock Holmes’ praise is accompanied by additional information: the scientific name of aspen is trembling poplar, but people call it shaky and whispering tree. It should be determined why aspen leaves shake more than the leaves of other trees. And here it is impossible to figure it out without an expert.

From a number of experts, the reader chooses the biologist, Professor Derevyanko, and having familiarized himself with his expert opinion (an aspen leaf hangs on a thin, long, twisted petiole, which easily bends, in addition, the leaves grow in bunches, and at the slightest movement of one leaf the whole bunch begins to tremble), performs the final task, closing the investigation on the “Case of the Unusual Petiole” with a conclusion about the origin of the phraseological unit, which he constructs by the etymological paraphrase that we developed earlier: So, the origin of the phraseological unit ……… is connected with the structure of ……… leaf, whose long petiole makes the leaf ……… This is because the leaf is compared the person who ………8

However, here the work with the phraseological unit does not end, it is put under constant observation, the results of which (also a fragment of the educational lexicographic discourse formed by the reader) are recorded in the “Diary of the Phraseologist Detective” (who, where, when, in what context, in what situation uses the phraseology: examples are given from living speech, from fiction, folklore, movies, etc.). For example (Droopy prompts the first reference context): Sherlock Holmes told us about his childhood: he used to shiver like a leaf before the recital at the music school.

In contrast to the first dictionary presented in the article, with a delayed control (during testing the dictionary materials, including testing in Russian-language schools in Estonia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, receiving by e-mail the exercises done by students, the authors of the dictionary – professors of Pskov State University – and students – members of the Lexicographic Scientific Club – worked individually with readers), in the latter case, which involves the format of the workbook, the current control is performed by the teacher, student-practitioner (usually during extracurricular work) or parents reading the dictionaries by Pskov Lexicographic Laboratory.


Thus, Pskov phraseographers combined the parameters of educational and literary-fiction (detective) discourse in two genres of dictionaries: a dictionary in stories and a dictionary-workshop, gave a multidimensional and entertaining presentation of Russian phraseology to younger students – students of Russian schools and children of compatriots abroad, whose involvement in studying the Russian language and culture in modern socio-cultural conditions is particularly relevant (Drozdova, 2020).

The format of the hybrid educational literary-fiction (detective) lexicographic discourse provides the implementation of linguistically and linguodidactically based models of etymological paraphrasing, contextual semantization and explication of the cultural background of phraseological expressions, as well as their functional and pragmatic potential. The dictionary in stories genre allows to reflect these parameters of phraseology in the speech of fictional characters – detectives, conducting phraseological “investigations” with “investigative experiment,” “interviewing witnesses,” “collecting evidence” and performing other “investigative actions,” correlating with the stages of etymological and linguocultural analysis of phraseological expressions.

Working with the dictionary-workshop, schoolchildren participate in constructing lexicographical discourse together with the characters-detectives: by performing tasks at all stages of etymological “investigation” and reflecting the results in the diary, they create relevant fragments of the etymological part of the dictionary entry, using samples of scientific communication, and by observing the phraselogy functioning, they master its linguistic properties and speech meanings. Thus, the linguistic and methodological tasks of educational representation of Russian phraseology to schoolchildren are solved, the learning process of their speech genres is supported, imagination and logical thinking are developed.

The proposed innovative technology for building lexicographic discourse can be used in developing interactive learning dictionaries based on paremiological and lexical material for different age groups of Russian-speaking students and foreign children.


1 Zhukov, V.P., & Zhukov, A.V. (2009). School phraseological dictionary of the Russian language. Мoscow: Prosveshcheniye Publ. (In Russ.)

2 Krasnyansky, V.V., & Rosenthal, D.E. (2017). Phraseological dictionary of the Russian language. Мoscow: Mir i Obrazovanie Publ. (In Russ.)

3 Basko, N.V. (2009). Phraseological expressions in Russian speech: A reference dictionary. Мoscow: Flinta Publ. (In Russ.)

4 Zhukov, V.P., & Zhukov, A.V. (2009). School phraseological dictionary of the Russian language (p. 88). Мoscow: Prosveshcheniye Publ. (In Russ.); Rogalyova, E.I., & Nikitina, T. (2020). Sami s usami: Jolly phraseological dictionary (pp. 21–24). Мoscow: Izdatel'skii Dom Meshcheryakova Publ. (In Russ.)

5 Lubensky, S. (2013). Russian-English dictionary of idioms (p. 224). New Haven: Yale University Press.

6 Rogaleva, E.I., & Nikitina, T.G. (2017). A lot of brains: Children’s phraseological dictionary (p. 24). Moscow: Izdatel'skii Dom Meshcheryakova Publ. (In Russ.)

7 Shivering aspen leaves. (In Russ.) Retrieved October 12, 2021, from

8 Rogalyova, E.I., & Nikitina, T.G. (2017). A lot of brains: Children’s phraseological dictionary (p. 40). Мoscow: Izdatel'skii Dom Meshcheryakova Publ. (In Russ.)


About the authors

Tatyana G. Nikitina

Pskov State University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9006-9738

Doctor of Philology, Professor of the Department of Educational Technologies

2 Ploshchad’ Lenina, Pskov, 180000, Russian Federation

Elena I. Rogaleva

Pskov State University

ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9963-4203

Doctor of Philology, Professor of the Department of Educational Technologies

2 Ploshchad’ Lenina, Pskov, 180000, Russian Federation


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