The Idiolect of Ernestine de Champourcin in Terms of Cultural Accommodation

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This article is devoted to the idiolect of Ernestina de Champourcin, a contemporary of the Generation-27, an iconic group of Spanish poets of the 20th century. The authors propose is to consider the poetess's idiolect in the aspect of cultural accommodation beyond the traditional translation discourse, through the analysis of two poetry collections - “Presencia a oscuras” and “Primer exilio” which stand at the turn of two stages of Ernestina de Champourcin's creative work. The authors analyse the aesthetic, cognitive and linguistic vectors of the poet's idiolect and systematise the reasons for its dynamics. On the basis of the comparative analysis of the elements of the poetic idiolect of her works of different periods, the authors note that the idiolect evolves in accordance with the conditions created by cultural accommodation, and therefore the consideration of cultural accommodation is possible not only in the context of translation adequacy and equivalence, but also chronologically, at the level of idiolect, as evidenced, in particular, by the use of regional variations of lexical units, syntax and the prevalence of this or that temporal plane. The analysis of idiolect makes it possible to narrow the perspective of the material under study, and thus represents the first link of the work on poetic translation. It is argued that the translation of a poetic text is impossible without considering the “internal” cultural accommodation of the idiolect, which takes place according to the cultural accommodation of the individual and independently of the translation. Based on their analysis, the authors emphasize the role of idiolect as a key factor in the studies devoted to the chronological description of the creative formation of any poet.

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In the poetic discourse studies the cultural accommodation is primarily discussed in the angle of poetic translation within which this phenomenon undoubtedly and most vividly demonstrates intercultural communication, and according to S.F. Goncharenko, proposes “comprehension of a target text as a part of the live literary process, as the cultural tradition and memory of the language it was realised in” [1].

At the same time, we may treat the cultural accommodation within the idiolect of the only one author without taking into account the experience of interpretation and philological hermeneutics. Examining an idiolect in absence of a translation and a translator, firstly, we narrow the perspective of the material under the study, and secondly, turn to the factors directly influencing the evolution of an idiolect.

It’s worth noting that in the article we don’t discriminate the terms “idiolect” and “idiostyle”. Such discrimination is proper to the home Russian linguistics, above all [2. Р. 100—108], understanding idiolect as “a tale of formal and stylistic peculiarities, typical of the speech of a single bearer of the language”, and idiostyle means “a system of relations concerning various means and methods of self-representation, individually set by a linguistic personality” [3. Р. 12—13]. So, further on speaking about the idiolect of a poet, we primarily discuss the specifics of a poetic text form the point of view of a private, individual worldview of the author himself, while the idiostyle analysis supposes to reveal the individual system through common means of self-representation.

A text of a literary work is a form of its existence, it enables the reconstruction of the content of a literary writing, it recreates the place in the culture of the time of its creation or within the cultures of changing epochs [4. P. 110]. The language of a text, being closely connected with the culture and simultaneously its product and requirement, contains in itself a number of individual characteristics forming an idiolect.

Despite the fact that the final judgement on a poet’s idiolect is given to a reader as a recipient, its analysis assumes the general perception about the evolution of creativity of that or this author and makes it possible to study his creations as a complex of various discourses.

As to the “Generation-27”, it was the political factor that made many Spanish poets leave their homeland. Poets who have found political asylum either in Europe or in Latin America are in turn united in the group called “Poets in exile” (in Spanish: “Poetas en exilio”) [5].

Since the appearance in Spain in 2014 the cross-media project “LAS SINSOMBRERO” aimed at the restitution, develoment and immortalization of the women’s heritage of the first half of the 20th century, the list of the “Generation-27”, and consequently, the writings dating to the period of “exile”, is appended by a number of women’s names: Maruja Mallo, Rosario de Velasco, Marga Gil Roësset, María Teresa León, Josefina de la Torre, Rosa Chacel, Ernestina de Champourcín, Concha Méndez, Margarita Manso, Delhy Tejero, Ángeles Santos, Concha de Albornoz.

Life and creative work of those women-writers as described in the book “Las Sinsombrero” (lit.: ‘Hatless’, “Wearing no hats’) by Tània Balló, speak for the active women’s participation in the Spanish art progress during the whole 20th century.

In this article we’d discuss life and art of Ernestina de Champourcín, whose works along with the works of Josefina de la Torre, were published in the antology of modern S-panish poetry by Gerardo Diego. Relying on this fact, it could be confirm that ialready in the start of her creative work Ernestina de Champourcín was partially attached to the “Generation-27” [6].

Despite the poetess’s involuntary emigration to Latin America, her writings are practically beyond any political discourse which we couldn’t say about other poets of her time (see: «Poesía y exilio: los poetas del exilio español en México»). In this sense, the texts of Ernestina de Champourcín’s poetic works are more noteworthy in emaninine her poetic idiolect in the angle of the cultural accommodation, which speaks for the relevance and novelty of the study submitted.

Any analysis of the works created in different times by one and the same author forst of all demonstrates the evolution of his creative career, changes of his poetic perception. However, in the study we concern the task of the other type: to analyse poetic texts of various times so that to specify the author’s idiolect in his cultural environment. To fulfil the task, we’d use the studies devoted to different periods of Ernestina de Champourcín’s poetic work to define linguistic changes taking place in her idiolect under the influence of the cultural accommodation.

Idiolect and Cultural Accommodation

Before getting down to the analysis of the poet’s idiolect in the angle of the culturalo accommodation, it’s worth to denote the aspect of the cultural accommodation itself and also prove the significance and moreover, the possibility of such analysis. In this respect, it’s worth to discriminate the idiolect analysis from the analysis of any poetic text which is excellently represented in the study by Yu.M. Lotman [7].

As a matter of fact, this difference is quite obvious: in case of the poetic text analysis we have in mind analyzing the work as an organic whole, while analyzing the poet’s idiolect we are mostly interested in particular, individual linguistic properties, which reveal this very idiolect covering not just a single work, but the entire author’s creative work.

Multidimensional description of the idiolect of a single poet by means of the structural analysis of poetic texts supposes processing a great many of data (‘Big Data’). Fulfilling such task seems hardly possible without considering particular changes, at times taking place in the poet’s idiolect under te influence of various factors while their sampling determines any given interdisciplinary sphere of studies. In our case, it’s sociolinguistics as it is.

In sociology, according to the definition of “The Big Russian Encyclopedia”, accommodation is defined as “any acquired change of function, enabling the existence of active individuals, groups, organizations, communities and their joint activity without deleting any differences of those and losing their singularity or diversity” [8].

The translation serves to be most vivid example of such changes, however, it’s impossible without taking into account “interior, or inner” cultural accommodation of the idiolect occurring in a poetic text regardless of translation, and accordingly, the occurring individual cultural accommodation (in the case studied that of a poet).

Defining any of the crucial stages in the author’s creative work, we do thereby relate all his works to the “early” or “later” periods. So next we’re going to study and discuss one of those stages.

From Modernism to Religious Lyrics

In the evolution of the Ernestina de Champourcín’s artistic career one can observe the transition from the Romantic and Modernism poetry to the poetry spiritually close to the literary work of Juan Ramón Jiménez, to “the pure poetry” [9. P. 53]. There are known three stages of the Ernestina de Champourcín’s poetic creation: human love poetry (“Poesía del amor humano”) (1926—1936); divine love poetry (“Poesía del amor divino”) (1936—1974) and sensual love poetry (“Poesía del amor sentido”) (1974—1991) [10]. It’s worth mentioning that a few researches speak about four stages of the poetess’s creative work, thus in the first stage, specifying the so-called “First Poetic Exercises” (“Primeros ejercicios poéticos”) [11. P. 189].

The first stage encases four books published before the Civil War in Spain: starting from “En silencio” (‘In Silence’) (1926) up to “Cántico inútil” (‘Vain Song’) (1936). Within this stage Jose Ascunce-Arrieta also specify the initial period under the title of “First Poetic Exercises” (“Primeros ejercicios poéticos”) [12. P. 123], and one of the most significant collections of poems could be assumed “En silencio”, wherever the “poetic ego” exists in the situation of melancholic dream, in the atmosphere of decline and death, which emphasizes the poetess’s closeness to the Romanticism canon [13. P. 120]:

Era un silencio triste, un silencio lloroso,
un silencio muy puro de candor virginal,
un silencio sereno, vagamente amoroso,
que la bruma envolvía en su tenue cendal.

The second stahe is divided from the pecedent one by the long period of creative lull. During the time of emmigration to Mexico, Ernestina de Champourcín completely devotes herself to translation works [14. P. 189].

The new stage begins with the book “Presencia a oscuras” (‘Existing in Obscurity’) (1952). The central motive of love as a human feeling, typical for her precedent works, makes the counterpoint relating to the divine love motive. Religious feelings are clearly seen in the collections of poems of “El nombre que me diste” (‘The Name You gave to Me’) (1960), «Cárcel de los sentidos» (‘The Prison of Senses”) (1964), Hai-kais espirituales (‘Spiritual Hai-kais’) (1967), «Cartas cerradas» (‘Secret Letters’ (1968) and «Los versos del ser y estar» (‘Poems of Genesis’) (1972).

By the time of publishing the latest collection “Los versos del ser y estar” (‘Poems of Genesis’) the poetess had already came to live in Spain where she eventually returned to in 1972 only. The resonance of political reality we’d hardly find in the title of her first collection of poems “El primer exilio” (‘The First Exile’), published on the return to Spain and laying the foundation to the third and the last stage of her creative work — the poetry of sensual love stage [15].

It was the recurring experience to get back to the places of her adolescence to give the start to the new stage/ The last books to begin with “Huyeron todas las islas” (1988), are a kind of the epilogue of her creative career bearing the imprint of both private and at the same time, deeply transcendent poetry.

Her own words give the vivid evidence of the fact: “I have never thought about poetry as of something specifically masculine or feminine. Just the same way, I feel to abrupt any other definitions of poetry. In my opinion, poetry is just the poetry, and nothing else. Labels like social”, “gallant or erotic”, “feminine and so on aren’t proper. I think that everything in poetry — the genuine4 poetry is God. It must be God. If He isn’t mentioned yet, we often meet Him in it exactly” [see: 16. P. 10].

The third stage starts on the return from the exile from that moment when Ernestina de Champourcín has to adapt herself to the new situation to meet again the places both well-known and unknown at the same time.

So then among the stages enumerated, we’d choose to analyse the two collections of her poems which are mostly examplary in the angle of the cultural accommodation, namely, “Presencia a oscuras” and “Primer exilio”

In our view and according to the opinion of a number of researchers (Calvo, Ascunce Arrieta, García Mendoza and others), those collections are consequently opening the second and the third stages of the poetess creative work.

Presencia a Oscuras

In the opinion of Maria Calvo, Ernestina de Champourcín’s compellation to religion could have emerge under the influence of both — a positive and negative intence impression (despite the poetess’s determination to reflect exactly the first one) of her compeled emigration. This experience leads to the will to renounce her own self and construct a new “ego” turning to superforces [16. P. 8]. Quite a number of repeated aesthetic components and stylistic characteristics speak in favor to assume it. First of all, it’s deixis, a great many of interrogative sentences and imperatives that emphasize a vertain similarity to Pslams: «bórrame esta pasión de sentirme y de verme», «llévame donde quieras», «hazme morir a todo para nacer en ti», «Soy un agua sin cauce. Deténme en tu pozo», «Arráncame de esta duda», «Borra ya la desmedida / codicia de mis pasiones», «Dómame Tú los leones / que me desgarran el pecho» [17] (compare: «Lávame más y más de mi maldad / Y límpiame de mi pecado», «Purifícame con hisopo, y seré limpio; / Lávame, y seré más blanco que la nieve»)1.

Once in a while, appeals of a poetic subject are emanated by the first person plural. Pronoun “we” denotes the whole mankind, and the poetess adds herself to this “we”, and at the same time disdowns herself, hointing to the inferiority of her work: «sumérgenos en tus ondas», «desgaja, rompe, azota... Seremos leño dócil / si quieres inflamarnos para prender tu hoguera», «quémanos las entrañas / con ese fuego oculto que corroe y devora», «sólo seamos unos huesos ardientes».

In the letter addressed to Maria Calvo, Ernestina de Champourcín wrote: “I have kept almost complete silence during thise ten years, but now I possess a new voice, classical and mystical one, which sings independent of myself, and I can’t satnd against it” [18].

Physical exile is supervened with a certain self-imposed creative exile, at the beginning expressed through the sixteen-tear silence (up to publishing the collection of poems “Presencia a Oscuras”), and then submerged into the religious feeling, permeated with spiritual asceticism. Besides, there’s clearly seen the presence of deep personal experience, not connected just with the emigration experience. The inner appeal, which pushed her on the new way, the religious one, but at the same time, different from any other religious poetry, vividly of didactic or propagandistic types.

¿Pues que valen todos los martirios si el corazón se escuda y esquiva?
Que el primer martillazo nos caiga en mitad del pecho
derribándonos sin piedad, totalmente.

Poet’s idiolect which goes to a redaer in the collection of works “Presencia a Oscuras’ by means of the stylistic features named above, belongs to the author who having had the wish to be obliterated, couldn’t but continue his existence and therefore he identifies himself though the pain and struggle.

It’s worth noting, in the collection of poems, there’s no denial of self-individuality which we can see in the works by such Spanish mystical authors like Juan de la Cruz, but the resistance of the “poetic ego”;

Todos los yugos que he roto me han sujetado más
estrechamente a mí misma haciéndome mi propia esclava,
subordinándome a mis más íntimos desórdenes, a mis más
ocultas contradicciones.

These motives could be observed in her following collections of poems «El nombre que me diste» (1960), «Cárcel de los sentidos» (1953—1963), «Cartas cerradas» (1968) and «Hai-kais espirituales» (1968).

Primer Exilio

The collection of poems “First Exile” (“Primer Exilio”) presents a kind of poetess’s experience to come back to Spain in 1972, and contains 21 poem. As to the verse form, the poems are short heptasyllabic verses mainly blank, free verse (vers libre).

In the article devoted to the collection of poems mentioned above, Iker Gonzalez-Allende consideres that it could be divided into two parts. The first part includes 12 poems and describes the consequences of the Civil War in Spain (1936—1939), defeat and escape to France. The second part includes the rest of the poems and speaks about the poetess’s dwelling in France and then in Mexico [19. P. 151].

The first part is rather describing due to the absence of an animate subject/ Poetic “ego” is hardly playing the role of an observer, and main personages are personified night, city and field:

La noche se desgarra
a golpes de culata.
Extrañeza de pasos irreales.
Ciudad en vela.
O tal vez es el campo
y un moscardón se obstina
contra vidrios herméticos.
Pero el campo no existe. (Madrid)

A great many of trhetoric questions and exlamations bear the evidence of poetess’s deep reflection, e.g.: “¡Un fusil asusta!”; “¿Llegaremos al fin?”; “¡Que nadie haga nada!”; “¡Una grieta de luz en la ya larga noche!”; “¡el mar más mar que nunca!”. In her work on the typology of rhetoric questions, Domnita Dumitrescu states that a single detached rhetoric question “call on a conversation partner to keep silent” while the repetition of rhetoric constructions supposes a kind of a dialogue [20. P. 146]. In contrast to oral speech, the poetic discourse, even having repeated rhetoric constructions, doesn’t contemplate similar aims as those of an oral dialogue thus offering a reader to ask the same question from his own.

Concerning this assumption, the great attention is to be paid to the gradual transformation from the plane of the grammatical Past Tense, mainly seen in the first part of the collection of poems, to the plane of the Present and Future Tenses, which is repeated in the poems starting from the lines devoted to France and Latin America.

The last poems contain a lot of epithets, A side motive occurs besides permanent philosophical questions, the description of realias comes in, e.g.: Mexican flora, smells, emotions:

El agua cicatriza
insomnios y memorias
y restaña el ardor
de la piel requemada.
En la noche del trópico
los cuerpos no respiran ()
del hibisco amarillo
y de los tabachines
con sus lenguas de fuego (Veracruz, primera noche).

Las piñas, los chayotes,
los mangos, los mameyes
enseñando un rubí
de pulpa azucarada
tantos sabores nuevos,
tanto color, trallazo
que nos hiere los ojos. (Mercado)

En medio del jardín
de colores hirientes la iguana nos contempla (Orizaba).

Further on, the idiolect’s cultural accommodation would be more clearly reflected in her other collections of poems, and the evidence of it, for example, is given in the use of diminutival and hypocoristic suffixes typical of Mexican national variation of the Spanish language: marchantita, calientito [21].


The studied material and works devoted to the creative work of Spanish poetess Ernestina de Champourcín clearly testify that in comparison with other “poets in exile” the poetry of Ernestina de Champourcín reveals much more personal character than theirs, and it evidently doesn’t correlate with the political orientation of her contemporary poets.

The poetess’s idiolect analysis concerning the collections of poems “Presencia a oscuras” и “Primer exilio”, project to us the evolution of her creative career as well as the reason why the researchers divide the formation of her “poetic ego” into the periods (stages) mentioned above. Thus, extrapolating the dynamics of the formation and development of the Ernestina de Champourcín’s idiolect on other personal poetucdiscourses, we came to the conclusion that it’s the poet’s idiolect which makes the key factor in the studies of chronological descriptions of the formation of this or that author or poet.

In its turn, any idiolect is evolving in accordance with teh conditions created by the cutltural accommodation, and due to the narrowing the perspective of the material under the study, with great ease, it undergoes any jkind of analysis being the first step of making poetic translations.

Finally, the cultural accommodation studiea are also contingent beyond translation discourse as the cultural accommodation could take place besides the context of translational adequacy and equivalence, but also it could involve chronology at the idiolect level which is proved by such linguistic markers as the use of regional variations of a language, its syntax and the dominance of some grammar tense planes.

Folowing the conclusions, we assume that the further on studies of idiolect changes might be of interest, and, as well, the idiolect studies of Spanish poets of verious time spans aiming to devfelop chronological typology of metaphors which by all means, envisages the much more deeper analysis of works revealing a certain idiolect. Neverthe less, even those specified distinguising features of works of different years, make it possible to assert the undeniable influence of the individual cultural accommodation on a poet’s idiolect.


1 Salmos 50 (51): 2; 7. Versión Reina-Valera 1960 © Sociedades Bíblicas en América Latina, 1960. Renovado © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 1988.


About the authors

Yakov M. Druzhkov

Рeoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6120-9850

PhD student at the Department of Foreign Languages, Faculty of Philology, Assistant at the Department of Foreign Languages of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

6, Miklukho-Maklaya Str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198

Olga S. Chesnokova

Рeoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1439-6267

Doctor of Philology, Professor, Department of Foreign Languages, Philological Faculty

6, Miklukho-Maklaya Str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198


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