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Development of the Semantics of Speed in Verbs with the Meaning of Physical Impact (Based on Russian Folk Dialects). P. 33–45

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Section: Philology




Elizaveta O. Borisova
Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin; prosp. Lenina 51, Yekaterinburg, 620000, Russian Federation;


This article dwells on some denotations of low and high speed motivated by verbs of physical impact, which an object is subjected to. Thematic groups of verbs are identified that are the most productive in indicating speed. Speed semantics is consistently developing in verbs denoting punching and beating (udaryat’, bit’, zhvarit’, and so on). In the traditional worldview, working fast with consistent, intensive, single-type movements corresponds to the image of high speed, which includes an active subject, an object of impact and a phase action. Within this model we can identify a group of verbs with the initial meaning ‘to flog, to whip’; in this case, sound symbolism acts as an additional motivation. The second source of naming high speed incudes verbs with the meaning of partition (‘to tear, to rend, to cut’). The semantics of slowness is developed in verbs with the meaning of minimal impact (shlyopat’ ‘to slap’, kovyryat’ ‘to pick’, tsarapat’ ‘to scratch’). Moreover, low-speed actions can be indicated by verbs with the meaning of deformation or change of form (mazat’ ‘to smear’, myat’ ‘to rumple’, komkat’ ‘to crumple’) and their derivatives. Words of this semantic type have the motif of concentrating an object in a restricted space due to the impact produced and the motif of its inability to keep its form. It is worth notice that derivatives with the meaning ‘to scratch (oneself)’ can have contrary speed denotations. The semantics of high speed is based on such characteristics of an action as reiteration and intensity and supported by the idea of an itching person’s behaviour. At the same time, scratching can be seen as a substitute for useful activity and, as such, be associated with procrastination. The analysis showed that verbs of destructive physical impact are productive in terms of speed denotation and embody conceptual ideas about speed reflected in the Russian language.


ethnolinguistics, linguistic worldview, Russian dialect vocabulary, Russian folk dialects, semantic derivation, verbs with the meaning of physical impact
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