Pragmatic (In)appropriateness of Diminutives in Russian Language

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The article discusses the issue of pragmatic meanings of diminutive forms in the Russian language from the point of view of politeness and speech act theories. The impact of diminutives on the illocutionary force and perlocutionary effects of speech acts raises the question of their appropriateness in various communicative situations. Since there is a negative bias towards diminutives among lay native speakers, it was decided to analyse their opinions, beliefs and feelings in order to define 1) the speaker’s illocutionary intentions; 2) contexts of use and 3) perlocutionary effects. The online articles, forums, posts on social networks and comments of Internet users were collected, with a total amount of 23 sources and 714 user comments. The emic and bottom-up approach referred to speakers’ intuition reveal 1) negative attitude towards diminutives in hierarchical relationships, 2) perception of diminutives as a positive politeness tool in low distance relationships, 3) perception of diminutives as a manipulative tool in unequal relationships. Thus, the appropriate use of diminutives calls for pragmatic skills to assess a communicative situation in terms of social variables, such as social distance and power, mutual costs and benefits, rights and obligations of interlocutors.

About the authors

Victoriya Yu. Trubnikova

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3653-2167

works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of modern languages, intercultural communication and migration

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


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Copyright (c) 2021 Trubnikova V.Y.

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