Negative Russian Pronoun Что

Cover Page

Cite item


For the first time in linguistics, the article distinguishes negative pronouns of a pronoun-noun and pronoun-adjective. Their lexical meanings, grammatical features and syntactic functions are determined. A negative pronoun is a noun that means ‘nothing’ (in Russian both - ничто and ничего ), a negative Russian pronoun что meaning ‘whatever, none’. Both pronouns function as the principle sentence component, mainly in negative genitive sentences or as a predicate in a two-memberSubject-Predicate sentence. Subject of a pronoun-noun, which is expressed by the noun of any lexico-grammatical category or infinitive, with a negative pronoun-adjective, which is an infinitive. Both negative pronouns function in rhetorical questions expressing negation in the affirmative form. Subject combined with a pronoun-noun could be expressed by a noun of any lexico-grammatical category or infinitive, with a negative pronoun-adjective что , which could also be formed by an infinitive. Both negative pronouns function in rhetorical questions expressing negation in the affirmative form. The meanings of both negative pronouns are syntactically limited (by the function of the predicate or the principle component of the negative genitive sentence) and structurally determined (be found in the construction with the dative of the authorizer). The meaning of a negative pronoun-adjective is also phraseologically confined, a negative pronoun is an adjective that is always used with the Russian words like проку, толку, выгоды, пользы, прибыли, добра . Three meanings stand out for a negative pronoun ничто : 1) ontological vacuum, nonexistence, absence of an object; 2) something insignificant, insignificant, not worthy of attention; 3) denial of the significance of a person, insignificance. A negative pronoun что is a noun that means ‘something insignificant, insignificant, not worthy of attention’ (or ‘(as it were) the absence of something/someone (for the authorizer)’), or ‘absence (of benefit)’. A negative pronoun что is an adjective that has one of the meanings of a negative pronoun-adjective никакой meaning ‘none of the available or possible’. Despite the indeclinability, a negative pronoun что expresses the noun-meanings of the nominative and genitive cases, while being a negative pronoun-adjective to denote the genitive case, either masculine or feminine. The data collected is retrieved from the National Corps of the Russian Language (NCRL). As the main methodological technique, the substitution method was applied. The theoretical basis of the article was the work on homocomplexes, functional homonyms, poly-functional words, the differentiation of homonymy and polysemy. The theoretical significance of the study lies in the fact that the results allow us expand the linguistic understanding of the semantic and grammatical nature of the pronoun as well as the issue of pronoun syncretism in general, the differentiation of homonymy and polysemy of the classes of pronouns, as well as the varieties of genitive sentences. The data collected can be useful for lexicographic practice: compiling dictionaries of homonyms, grammatical homonyms, explanatory dictionaries, as well as to clarify the typology of one-member sentences. The relevance of the topic is determined by the necessity to establish the full list of pronouns in the Russian language, as well as the importance of studying the phenomena of functional homonymy, transition and syncretism and the importance of solving the problem of distinguishing homonymy and polysemy.

About the authors

Irina V. Trufanova

State Budgetary Educational Institution of the Moscow city “School No. 224”

Author for correspondence.

Doctor of Philology, Associate Professor, associate professor, teacher of additional education

30, Leningradskoye Shosse, Moscow, 125212, Russian Federation


  1. Otkupshchikova, M.I. (1984). The pronouns of the modern Russian language in the structural-semantic aspect. Leningrad: Publishing House of the Leningrad University. (In Russ.).
  2. Akhmanova, O.S. (1957). Essays on general and Russian lexicology. Moscow: Uchpedgiz. (In Russ.).
  3. Malakhovsky L.V. (2009). The theory of lexical and grammatical homonymy. Moscow: LIBROCOM. (In Russ.).
  4. Kim, O.M. (1978). Transposition at the level of parts of speech and the phenomenon of homonymy in modern Russian. Tashkent: Fan. (In Russ.).
  5. Kachurin, D.V. (2014). The problem of distinguishing homonymy and polysemy in relation to the practice of compiling explanatory dictionaries [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  6. Novikov, L.A. (1982). Semantics of the Russian language. Moscow: Vysshaja shkola. (In Russ.).
  7. Vysotskaya, I.V. (2006). Syncretism in the system of speech parts of the modern Russian language [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  8. Babaitseva, V.V. (2016). The pronoun IT and its functional homonyms. Moscow: Flinta: Nauka. (In Russ.).
  9. Bogdanova, M.A. (2014). The form, semantics, and functions of a token are good [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  10. Emtseva, O.V. (2010). Words more and less in modern Russian [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  11. Zhukova, T.A. (2003). The multifunctional lexical unit "by the word" and its context-functional synonyms [dissertation]. Vladivostok. (In Russ.).
  12. Ilyina, A.B. (2005). “Hybrid” words with degree semantics in modern Russian (adverbs-particles) [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  13. Kirichenko, I.V. (2002). Semantic and functional features of the word SIMPLY in modern Russian language [dissertation]. Stavropol. (In Russ.).
  14. Lyulina, E.A. (2006). The word as in Russian (semantics, morphological and syntactic characteristics, functioning in the style varieties of the language) [dissertation]. Nizhny Novgorod. (In Russ.).
  15. Milovanova, M.S. (2004). Functional homonyms of sound complexes against / opposite and their grammatical status [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  16. Morgunova, A.N. (2016). The existence of the omocomplex is in the Russian discourse [dissertation]. Samara. (In Russ.).
  17. Nikitina, O.V. (2008). Semantic and functional features of the word “directly” in modern Russian [dissertation]. Maykop. (In Russ.).
  18. Semenova, O.V. (2000). Morphological status and syntactic functions of words like [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  19. Sorokina, M.A. (2002). Functioning of the Homocomplex is True in modern Russian: [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  20. Shamshin, Yu.N. (2007). The functioning of homocomplexes is many and few in modern Russian [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  21. Babaitseva, V.V. (2000). The phenomena of transition in the grammar of the Russian language. Moscow: Drofa. (In Russ.).
  22. Sidorenko, E.N. (1990). Essays on the theory of pronouns of the modern Russian language. Kiev, Odessa: Swan.
  23. Sidorenko, E.N. (2017). Morphology of the modern Russian language. Parts of speech and contaminants: a training manual. Moscow: Flinta; Nauka. (In Russ.).
  24. Sternina, M.A. (2000). Lexico-grammatical polysemy in the language system (experience in developing the integral theory of polysemy) [dissertation]. Voronezh. (In Russ.).
  25. Arsenyeva, M.G., Stroeva, T.V. & Khazanovich, A.P. (1966). Ambiguity and homonymy. Leningrad: Leningrad State University. (In Russ.).
  26. Abdurakhmanova, F.K. (1992). Functional transposition and homonymy in modern Russian (based on the material of nouns and adverbs) [dissertation]. Tver. (In Russ.).
  27. Ardentov, В.P. (1973). “What” in modern Russian. Chisinau: Shtiintsa. (In Russ.).
  28. Zhirikova, O.A. (1957). About transitive pronouns. Russian language at school, 2, 27—29. (In Russ.).
  29. Kim, O.M. & Ostrovskaya, I.E. (2004). Dictionary of grammatical homonyms of the Russian language. Moscow: Astrel, AST, Ermak. (In Russ.).
  30. Morkovkin, V.V., Lutskaya, N.M., Bogacheva, G.F. & al. (2003). Explanatory dictionary of the Russian language: structural words: prepositions, conjunctions, particles, pronouns, numerals, connected verbs: about 1200 units, V.V. Morkovkin (ed.). Moscow: Astrel; AST. (In Russ.).
  31. Stepanova, O.Yu. (2008). Is there an adverb in modern Russian? Russian language at school, 9, 78—81. (In Russ.).
  32. Shelyakin, M.A. (1986). Russian pronouns (meaning, grammatical forms, use) In Materials for the special course “Functional grammar of the Russian language.” Tartu. (In Russ.).
  33. Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language, D.N. Ushakov (Ed.): In 4 vols. Moscow: OGIZ, 1935—1940. [Electronic resource]. URL: (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  34. Efremova, T.F. (2009). Explanatory dictionary of the Russian language. Moscow: Gorodets. [Electronic resource]. URL: (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  35. Eremin, A.N. (1997). Colloquial pronouns (semantics and formal features). Kaluga: Kaluga State Pedagogical University named after K.E. Tsiolkovsky. (In Russ.).
  36. Syromyatnikov, N.A. (2014). Classic Japanese. Moscow: LENAND. (In Russ.).
  37. Fasmer, M. (2007). Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language: In 4 vols. Moscow: Astrel: AST. [Electronic resource]. URL: B0% D1% 87% D0% B5% D0% BD% DB8% D0% B5-% D1% 81% D0% BB% D0% BE% D0% B2% D0% B0-% D0% A7% D1% 82% D0% BE. (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  38. Shansky, N.M. & Bobrova, T.A. (2004). School etymological dictionary of the Russian language. The origin of the words. Moscow: Drofa. [Electronic resource] URL: (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  39. Kuzmina, S.M. (1989). Semantics and stylistics of indefinite pronouns In Grammatical studies. Functional and stylistic aspect. Super-Segmental Phonetics. Morphological semantics. Moscow: Nauka. (In Russ.).
  40. Peshkovsky, A.M. (1956). Russian syntax in scientific coverage. Moscow: Uchpedgiz. (In Russ.).
  41. Sidorenko, E.N. (1989). Semantic categories of pronouns of the modern Russian language In Russian pronouns: Semantics and grammar. Interuniversity collection of scientific papers. Vladimir: Vladimir State Pedagogical Institute named after P.I. Lebedev-Polyansky. (In Russ.).
  42. Tretyakova, O.D. (2009). Indefinite pronouns, lacking a marker of uncertainty, in a typological perspective [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  43. Trufanova, I.V. (2016). What indefinite pronoun In Ecology of language: collection of scientific works, E.N. Serdobintseva (ed.). Issue IX. Penza: PSU. pp. 18—23. (In Russ.).
  44. Trufanova, I.V. (2016). What lexico-grammatical categories does the pronoun belong to? In Philology and school: Dialogue and cooperation: a collection of works on the materials of the VIII International scientific and practical conference, L.V. Dudova (ed.). Moscow: Flinta: Nauka. pp. 18—28. (In Russ.).
  45. Trufanova, I.V. (2018). Definitive pronouns bypassed by grammars In Language and Thinking: Psychological and Linguistic Aspects: Materials of the XVIII International Scientific Conference (Orekhovo-Zuevo, May 16—18, 2018), A.V. Puzyryov (ed.). Moscow: Institute of Linguistics, RAS; Orekhovo-Zuyevo: GOU VO MO “State Humanitarian Technological University”, FGNU “Psychological Institute” of the Russian Academy of Education. pp. 66—76. (In Russ.).
  46. Ozhegov, S.I. & Shvedova, N.Yu. (1999). Explanatory dictionary of the Russian language. Moscow: Azbukovnik. [Electronic resource]. URL: D1%87%D1%82% D0% BE. (accessed: 10.03.2020).
  47. Dal, V.I. (1994). Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language: in 4 vols. Moscow: Progress. [Electronic resource] URL: D0%BE. (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  48. Kuznetsov, S.A. (1998). Large modern explanatory dictionary of the Russian language. St. Petersburg: Norint. [Electronic resource]. URL: (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  49. Dictionary of the Russian language (1985—1988). A.P. Evgenyeva (ed.): In 4 volumes. Moscow: Nauka. [Electronic resource]. URL: 82%D0%BE. (accessed: 10.03.2020). (In Russ.).
  50. The frequency dictionary of the Russian language (1977). L.N. Zasorina (ed.). Moscow: Russian language. (In Russ.).
  51. Zipf, K. (1945). The meaning-frequency relationship of words. Journal of General Psychology, 33(2), 251—256.
  52. Russian grammar: in 2 vols (1980). Vol. 2. Moscow: Nauka. (In Russ.).
  53. Kolesnikova, S.M. (2014). Russian particles: semantics, grammar, functions. Moscow: Flinta; Nauka. (In Russ.).
  54. Admoni,V.G. (1968). Typology of sentences In Studies in the general theory of grammar. Moscow: Nauka. pp. 232—292. (In Russ.).
  55. Zolotova, G.A. (1988). Syntax Dictionary. Repertoire of elementary units of Russian syntax, Yu.N. Karaulov (ed.). Moscow: Nauka. (In Russ.).
  56. Klobukov, E.G. (1986). The semantics of case forms in modern Russian literary language (Introduction to the methodology of positional analysis). Moscow: Moscow State University Publishing House. (In Russ.).
  57. Encyclopedic reference dictionary Expressive means of the Russian language and speech errors and shortcomings (2006). A.P. Skovordnikov (ed.). Moscow: Flinta; Nauka. (In Russ.).
  58. Lekant, P.A. (2004). Simple sentence syntax in modern Russian: a training manual. Moscow: Vysshaja shkola. (In Russ.).
  59. Markelova, T.V. (1982). The grammatical and semantic structure of one-part negative sentences with existential meaning [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  60. Zhukovskaya, G.A. (2005). Genitive constructions in modern Russian [dissertation]. Velikiy Novgorod. (In Russ.).
  61. Monina, T.S. (1997). The problem of identity sentences [dissertation]. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  62. Pronichev, V.P. (1991). Nominal single-compound sentences in the Russian literary language in comparison with the Serbo-Croatian [dissertation]. Leningrad. (In Russ.).
  63. Galkina-Fedoruk, E.M. (2012). Impersonal sentences in modern Russian. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  64. Babaitseva, V.V. (2004). Single-component sentences in modern Russian. Moscow: Drofa. (In Russ.).
  65. Valgina, N.S. (2003). Modern Russian: Syntax. Moscow. (In Russ.).
  66. Petrov, A.V. (2005). Impersonal-genitive sentences. Russian language in school, 6, 78—81. (In Russ.).
  67. Loktev, E.V. (2017). Impersonal-genitive sentences in modern Russian [dissertation]. Arkhangelsk. (In Russ.).
  68. Arutyunova, N.D. (2009). Offer and its meaning. Logical and semantic problems. Moscow: URSS. (In Russ.).

Copyright (c) 2020 Trufanova I.V.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies