Linguistic expeditions




Gottlob Frege


Logical and stylistic aspects of lexical semantics


Researchers: Elena Razlogova, Elina Lavoshnikova, Vera Khoruzhaya;

headed by Elena Razlogova


Linguistic phenomena can be approached and described from various perspectives.  This is particularly true of descriptions of lexis and its properties and functioning in texts.


The approach proposed here is distinctive in that it is based on logic and stylistics, which are usually considered marginal to the description of linguistic phenomena.


Descriptions of various linguistic phenomena are employed in the area of logic to demonstrate that natural languages function on the basis of not one but a multitude of different multivalent logics.  Thus one truth-value system is suitable for describing  modal words, while there is another for the description of performative verbs, a third for verbs with a propositional actant, and so on.  Underlying these systems are simple truth values that serve as the basis for forming complex truth values by combining simple ones into disjunctions and conjunctions, transposing them to the next level, etc.  Thus Frege's classical logic is considered to be the universal basis for the functioning of language, and it is proposed to employ its various extensions to describe different linguistic phenomena.


Stylistic aspects are treated first and foremost separately from literary thematics as an invariable feature of natural language that is fundamental to its functioning in, for example, the acquisition of new vocabulary, the formation of new meanings, diachronic changes in the stylistic status of lexical units, and so on.  It is demonstrated that "artistic" devices almost always have parallels in normal "non-artistic linguistic usage," including colloquial speech, and that in addition to studying the idiostyle of various writers it is important to identify and describe the basic "artistic" mechanism of language in general.


Besides the different types of figures of speech (morphological, syntactic, semantic, and logical) and their various manifestations in language as integrated figures (neologisms included in dictionaries, lexicalized metaphors, etc.), "clichés," creative figures (which pose special problems for comprehension), attention is devoted to the ability of a lexical unit to generate or contribute to the formation of figures of speech as well as to its connotations and stylistic nuance.  Figures of speech are also treated as a mechanism that can facilitate the comprehension or at least a possible interpretation of contexts not amenable to interpretation on the basis of dictionary meanings alone.


The combination of these two approaches—the logical and the stylistic—is especially effective for describing phenomena such as irony and other so called "logical" figures (figures of thought), where logical features are part of the definition of the phenomenon itself.


A special focus in the present approach on parallel texts is directly connected with translation.  First, it enables us to study the lexis of different languages (here, Russian and French) by constructing a synonymous series shared by both.  (Already Humboldt noted the possibility and usefulness of such descriptions.)


Furthermore, various criteria are presented for evaluating the degree of similarity/difference between parallel texts.  Thus the criterion of "figurativeness" permits a judgment as to the correlation between the occurrence and the quality of figures in both texts.  Applied to the works of certain French twentieth-century writers such as Raymond Queneau and Boris Vian and their Russian translations, for example, it leads to the conclusion that the translations display a lower degree of "figurativeness" than do the original texts, which is consistent with Berman's views on the tendency of prose translations toward simplification.


Translations, of course, also reflect the translational norms and the style of the period in which they are done.  This perspective is brought to bear on various translations into French of classical nineteenth-century Russian works.


The findings of the study are presented in two monographs and a series of articles.