Semantics of Social Self-Identification and Self-Presentation in Russian Language Structures

Boris Norman, Anna Plotnikova

Abstract


Referring to Russian language materials, the authors discuss the linguistic aspects behind the construction of a social portrait of the speaker. The article provides a general overview of the speech forms and genres which prompt the speakers to construct their self-image by identifying their profession, age, and social status. The analysis thus focuses on syntactic structures with the meaning of taxonomic or evaluative characterisation which fit the model ‘Я – N’ (‘I am N’), where N is a noun or a personal pronoun. The relevant linguistic units found in the utterances in question were selected on the basis of data provided by ideographic dictionaries. Special attention is paid to pragmatic limitations in the usage of certain structures such as Я чиновник, Я гений, Я интеллигент, Я поэт (‘I am a public official’, ‘I am a man of genius’, ‘I am an intellectual’, ‘I am a poet’). The function of the predicate in the given model is performed not only by words denoting positive characteristics but also by words referring to negative characteristics used for self-criticism, self-deprecation, self-disclosure, or for other pragmatic purposes. Each of the six models of social self-identification and self-presentation described in this article is connected to the strategies of speech behaviour targeted at creating the speaker’s self-portrait through various speech masks and metaphorical and other figurative images. The article also systematises idiomatic means used to express the speaker’s social identity such as paroemiae or syntactic idiomatic units. Special emphasis is placed on the structures in which self-identification is used to create a speech mask or construct a figurative image. Another interesting linguistic aspect analysed in this article is the usage of metaphoric expressions and utterances with an oppositional presentation of the speaker’s social status, which enable them to create unique characteristics of their identity. The authors maintain that self-presentation (meaning that the speaker addresses his or her utterance to other people) should be distinguished from self-identification, which implies that the speaker would like to communicate personally significant information about themselves, expressing their inner views and attitudes.


Keywords


semantics; pragmatics; evaluation; syntactic structures; identity; speaker’s social status.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.4.194

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