Synesthesia in the minds of bilingual


The article deals with one of the varieties of metaphor – synaesthesia which is used by the Kazakhstani Russianspeaking bilingual writer in creating literary images. The most frequent types of synaesthesia combinations are singled out here. On the basis of the analysis of images of language consciousness of A.Zhaksylykov attempt to define is made, whether the law of a generality of the big paradigms and identity of small paradigms of art-poetic images operates in various cultures. The images created by synthetic means are the result of cognitive processing of socially significant information and the author's intention, as well as the phenomenon, fixing the dynamics of change and consciousness of society imposes special imprint on the linguistic picture of the world of the people in accordance with the changing features of his world view and outlook. Synesthesia of Kazakh bilingual - artistic means to create a holistic psychological portrait of the hero, for an understanding of the depth of the content of the novel.

Keywords: Metaphorsynaesthesiainter-sensitive transfertactileaudorative


In linguistics, synaesthesia is considered to be a linguistic universal, with the help of which

communication of feelings and emotions is expressed in words (Belyaeva, 1989); “in literary criticism,

synaesthesia represents specific figures of speech and stylistic figures relating to inter-sensitive

transfers and comparisons” (Galeyev, 1998). We agree with A. N. Smolina (2009) who says that

synaesthesia is “a kind of stylistic marker that opens to the reader the specifics of the world perception

and attitudes of the writer and the poet, his vision of reality” . At the same time it should be noted that

the phenomenon of the synaesthetic perception is that the impression corresponding to one sense organ

(hearing, sight, etc.) is followed by another, additional feeling characteristic of another modality.

Scientists distinguish between various types of synaesthesia, first of all, by the nature of arising

additional senses: optical or visual, acoustic or auditory, tactile or haptic, olfactory or audorative and


In science there has been a particular interest in this phenomenon – the “confusion of senses.” It is

obvious that to a greater extent, this phenomenon is inherent in the literary verbal creativity – literature,

where literary and expressive aspects of the language not only dominate the purely pragmatic, the

rational, but perform a meaningful function in the long run. That is why literature, in the first place, is

not a display of events, not a story about something where the language is only an aid, but a creation of

new words and an aesthetic space of the language.

At the same time it should be noted that the word creation of a bilingual person, brought up in two

cultures, may be of particular interest. As “in the basis of the world view and outlook of each nation

there is its own system of substantive values, social stereotypes, cognitive schemes, human

consciousness is always conditioned ethnically” (Leontiev, 2000). The anthropocentric nature of

linguistic consciousness phenomenon is undeniable, as the mental structures do not exist

independently, and the arising picture of the world includes actions and behavior of the subject. “The

image of the world varies from one culture to another” (Leontiev,1994), and therefore, there are no two

absolutely identical ethnic-linguistic cultures and no two identical images of the world.

Problem statement

In the past two decades, a special interest of researchers has been attracted to the Russian language

works of bicultural authors from the perspective of cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics.

It is noteworthy that after the collapse of the Union and the formation on its basis of new states

bilingualism phenomenon has not disappeared, indicating its rather persistent vitality, and we must

accept this fact as an objective reality. In Soviet times, bilinguals were united by one ideology, which

they reflected in their writings. In the former Soviet space they all indulge in history, traditions and

mentality of their peoples which is objectively justified and requires scientific understanding. In the

creative mind of the same creative person, views of the world in which we live, on the one hand,

refract, on the other hand, exist in tandem.

Kazakh and Russian peoples are not just geographical neighbours, but are linked politically,

economically, and their community has been reflected in the language, mentality, culture of

communication. Natural bilinguals encounter a problem of “choosing their own shore”, involuntary

domestic opposition of the two (Kazakh and Russian) non-native, but close worlds. A bilingual person

organizes the content of their statements in accordance with their particular picture. “To live poetically

on the boundary of two cultures and bilingualism – is always fruitful for the writer – who as a rule

writes more often in one language, but has attitudes based on two layers – initially alien, but

connecting and merging into the poet’s soul – they become both overlapping and, of course same,

mutually enriching” (Kairbekov, 2008). This demonstrates the specificity of the human perception of

the world, documented in speech and text.

Any analysis of a literary text fixes the representation of the content of cognitive processes of its

creator and reflects the state of their dynamic cognitive system in a given period of time. Verbal-

cogitative activities, specifics of the structure of a bilingual consciousness can be seen in the works of

the Kazakhstan Russian-speaking writer-bilingual, bright bicultural person A. Zhaksylykov. The

subject of this article appears to be synaesthetic metaphors that create images of the linguistic


Research methods

The methodological basis of research are philosophical provisions of phenomenon and essence,

language and thought, consciousness and underconsciousness; provisions of culture and semiotics on

projectivity of mental structures in the socio-cultural activities of the individual, stage system of the

cultural development and distant community of associative thinking.

Research questions

Synaesthesia is one of the most vivid colors in the literary palette of the poet, the writer, but,

surprisingly, the artist himself “does not notice” that fact, as we see it, – A. Zhaksylykov as well as M.

Gorky, B. M. Galeyev wrote about. Apparently, they see, think and feel that way, it is their way of

perceiving the world.

How, why, what for – are these synaesthesias in Zhaksylykov’s works? What is their point? What is

the place they occupy in the system of his figurative means? What is the difference between a

bilingual’s figurative means and synaesthesias of other monolinguals, in particular, Russian artists of

the word? Of course, the issues raised cannot be resolved in a single article. Synaesthetic phenomena in

A. Zhaksylykov’s texts sparked our interest, above all, as a magnificent natural “laboratory material”

that helps to clarify the nature of synaesthesia and identify “what goes with what” in the audio-visual,

tactile-audorative and other comparisons.

Purpose of the study

As part of the cultural paradigm of XX century, during the seventy years of the “cultural

community united on the basis of the Russian language”, there began a “rapprochement of Russian and

national cultures”, which contributed to the “unusual”, newly created written literature. “Belles-letters

texts of writers-bilinguals in Russian were conveyed to the Russian culture ... filling the missing link in

its development, namely, the portrayal of the literary image” from the point of view of the

representative of a particular nationality (Bahtikireeva, 2009).

The study of synaesthesia which is characteristic of the language of a specific spatial and temporal

level provides rich material for the study of the mentality of the respective writers and poets, and

through them of the whole society at a given period of time. Disclosure of the psychological state of

the character, his experiences and reflections by creating synaesthetic metaphors is based on the

specifics of the linguistic consciousness of the author.


Synaesthetic associations can be quite bizarre, unpredictable and fantastic, even supernatural.

However, the mechanism of the formation of all these “equivalents” has not yet been fully identified.

Undoubtedly, speech synaesthetic metaphors, being unique and authored, are more expressive and

create more brilliant and original images. Depending on what kind of inter-sensitive transfer underlies

the synaesthetic figure we can distinguish its different types.

The most frequent in Zhaksylykov’s works is the visual type of synaesthesia, “I laughed by white

quick words ...”, but we should also note the visual-tactile type, “They (the meadows) told me by white

fluffy lingering words ...”, “When the moon rises from the dark as red painful gaping I forgive...”

(Zhaksylykov, 2005).

Within one sentence the author paradoxically combines several experiences, and they are so

recognizable, they plunge the reader directly into the environment of the character. These are visually-

audorative combinations, “It (the cow) is offended but its eyesshine and smell of milk”, “ Redsmelly

disgusting words of Munky caught up with me a moment before the stone Your mother is a whore...” ,

and sometimes even visually-audorative-auditory, “... we love sometimes... to be satisfied, like a

character of a fairy tale, only by the contemplationof smellandringing ” (Zhaksylykov, 2005).

In some cases, the visual type of synaesthesia becomes a means of creating a bright image,

performing not only the representational function, but creating a psychological portrait of the character,

“Your horse ... is out, caresses flowers with its wet gray wise lips ”,“ With black impenetrable

sparkling sadness rain the eyes of the cow Maya...”. Gray lips – the horse is old, but wise who is loved

and appreciated by the father. The positive image of the horse shows the author’s attitude to its owner.

Pets feel the state of the host and that is why the cow is sad with black impenetrable sadness .

In the description of the appearance, condition and behavior of the character the author often uses

different types of synaesthetic combinations: visual, “I lie, slander ... spy, snitch, hold on occasion on

the throat, suck like a tick – and in all that my bottomless black hatred is seeking to escape”, visual-

tactile, “... Your eyes are black springs, boiling, tarred, nightly ...”(boiling, i.e. hot), audio-visual-

tactile: “... I see screamingeyes of a grinning face seized by the flames of the evil blood...”, “... I

touch your cheeks wet with rain and wonder at the moonshiny warmth and transparency of the

women’s skin ...”, “The blackcries of the crow pour, whip, thrill ...”,“... that night flies out of the

night as feathery, deep-eyed, fluffy-noisy ” (Zhaksylykov, 2005).

The image of the space can also be characterized by the visual type of synaesthesia, “The morning

has fallen upon me like a sparklingbluewaterfall ...”, “ Blue sleepy wind is raging underground”

(Zhaksylykov, 2005).

The audorative-tactile type is used by the author when displaying various experiences related to the

reality around the character, “I embrace the crumbling walls, I kiss the old thresholdovergrownwith

smellsofthepast , “ Smells wound, torment the soul”, “The smell of the barn came densely over me,

the harsh sheep dungy stench like a cloud overwhelmed the lungs and became heavy with sadness”

(Zhaksylykov, 2005).

The collected factual material gives reason to believe that combinations with tactile metaphors are

used for simultaneous creation of the surrounding and a harmonious inner state of the character, for

example, audio-tactile type, “I distinctly hear their (of my wife’s steps) dry knock ...” or audio-tactile-

visual, “This deadmeasured knock removes outside the hearing and shimmers somewhere in the

distance when you are completely satisfied and pleased with leaving the room”. Very unexpected, at

first glance, seems to be the combination of the audio-tactile type, “The dog barks in an ice-cold way

(Zhaksylykov, 2005); however, we see that the author emphasizes the empathy, co-involvement,

harmony of living beings, various phenomena of reality and states of the nature.

Thus, the “paradigm of the image – is an invariant of a number of similar images which consists of

two stable meanings which are connected by identification or comparison ratios.” The left member of

the paradigm – is something that can be identified, and the right member of the paradigm – is

something with which there is a comparison (Pavlovich, 2004).

The more there are members of a paradigm, as the collected factual material shows, the deeper is

the understanding of the image. And this understanding is not so much the basis for comparison (which

can be absent), but is its paradigm. There are different types of paradigms (of names, actions, situations

and mixed).

Data obtained in the analysis of A. Zhaksylykov’s novel allow us to agree with N.V. Pavlovich’s

statement, that the most productive paradigms are name paradigms. Name paradigms of images creted

by Russian classics of the past three centuries have much in common with the images created by the

Kazakh author. The minds of the Russian writers words actively created images: light – body, light –

being, plant – body, light – instrument, plant – being, light – precious, plant – tissue, light – tissue,

water – substance, water – being.

It was interesting to observe that in fact the same images are created by the Kazakh writer, only in

a particular frame, with a kind of specific lexis. And, of course, there is a significant difference in the

productivity of the created images. Obviously, the images created by A. Zhaksylykov (2005) are now

more relevant, specific to this stage of history, for a given ethnic group, but it should be noted that they

are clear to Russian readers, since such paradigms are found in their native literature.

Let us dwell a little more on the verbal images of the “mental” nominee. Thus, according to our

collected data base, the most productive are the next big visual (optical) and acoustic or audio

paradigms. The left member of the visual paradigm is lexical series: memories, jealousy, suspicion,

hell condition, sorrow , and the right of the acoustic paradigm is lexical series: blaze, mist, cloudy,

darkness, dark oblivion, purple. Such as: But the lives of these people can be arranged differently,

without sneering at them, without driving them into the darkness of hell ... (Zhaksylykov, 2005; 309),

...cherish my grief and sunset happiness, spill enjoyment, dark oblivion , And you experienced an attack

of the blackest despair in your live... (Zhaksylykov, 2005: 97).

The left member of the acoustic paradigm is lexical series: sleep, sleep, evil, happiness, laughter ,

and the right of the acoustic paradigm is lexical series: echo, whisper, sonorous, whispered, whistled,

snuffled, stridently. For example: Baksy is asleep and in their thick unlimited sleep they catch, knit,

Evil is truly a whisper of something alien which is present in a certain area as a syncretic being

(Zhaksylykov, 2005; 334), In the depth of the memory there were melting echoes ofdreams

(Zhaksylykov, 2005: 32)., Happiness od the ashy baby was large and piercing , it was bright as a day

river backwater, populated with graylings and cheerful lapwings (Zhaksylykov, 2005; 414), In the pot

of the wade there boiled time, faces flashed, gestures, and jealousyandsuspicion were moving

relentlessly like crimson ghosts, My drunken delirium was noisy in the straw, cuddled in corners,

whistled through the cracks, and scuttled with fast shadows (Zhaksylykov, 2005; 35).

There are sensitive and audorative paradigms much less in the novel: sticky fear, thick sleep, : I

have a feeling that there, beyond the last limit, I will be scared ; because here on earth, I did not win it,

it failed in open its tenacious sticky jaws (Zhaksylykov, 2005; 39), Delighted you got up from the

grass, plastered with strands and tissues of the luscious sounds (Zhaksylykov, 2005; 205), I am

afraid that the thread that connects my head and the earth will break off and memory will completely

break out of through blood and nausea (Zhaksylykov, 2005: 45).

Gustative: For many years, this poisonous label has been following me, and each time,

remembering that night, I feel devastating bitterness and impotent rage (Zhaksylykov, 2005: 35).

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The mental sphere of the author is marked very clearly in the text. For its verbal representation we

have chosen particular language tools specific to a bicultural creative personality.

N.V. Pavlovich (2004) in his analysis of the images created by the Russian classical authors of the

past three centuries, discovered the fact that in the literary-poetic images in addition to the unique there

is something wonderful, in their kaleidoscopic diversity there is something unifying, “each poetic

image does not exist by itself”. The scientist asks the question, “Really, why, despite all the uniqueness

of imagery texts, do we still understand them? And why, despite all the differences, a common cultural

space still exists”?

The associative organization of relations represents a model of storing knowledge in human

memory. It means that there is a kind of paradigm of semantic relationships, and it is always in the

conscience. The scientist makes the assumption that in a profound meaning of similar images there is

an implemented law, rule, or, as he calls it, a paradigm, due to which there is still a common cultural


“To find a paradigm, to determine the invariants of the left and right members of (describe the

relevant lexical groups), specify properties of the paradigm (how productive and sustainable it is), and

most important – to understand its role among other paradigms – which means to describe a small

semantic law in force in the language”, according to N.V. Pavlovich (2004).

In this article we intend to determine whether the law is valid in a different national literature.

Mental causes of many speech “violations”, “defections” that are not explained in the traditional

classification, can be associated with the specificity of the native language.


Synaesthesia in its broadest sense is necessarily present in the work of any poet and many prose

writers, with which they create their own unique aesthetic space. Images created by synaesthetic means

are the result of a cognitive processing of socially significant information and the author’s intention, as

well as a phenomenon that fixes the dynamics of changes in the consciousness of the society and

imposes a special imprint on the linguistic picture of the world of that people in accordance with the

changing features of their world view and outlook.

Thus, verbal synaesthesia is something much more than simple sensitive mismatching modal

equivalents, expressed in the language. Synaesthesic manifestations in a Kazakh bilingual represent a

literary means to create a holistic psychological portrait of the character that does not put up with the

bourgeois view of life, full of materialism, faced with the destruction of the dream of a great purity as

well as to understand the depth of the content of the novel.

It is possible that some of the phenomena observed today are short-lived, not fixed as a norm, but in

this case, it is interesting and important to fix them and study at a certain stage of the development of

the language, because each step in the transformation and change of the language deserves attention

and study. It would be quite interesting to learn whether synaesthetic combinations have an ethnic

character. Hopefully this will be the subject of further research.


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Cite this article as:

Yermekova, Z., & Nurtazina, M. (2016). Synesthesia in the minds of bilingual. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences - icCSBs 2016, May, vol 8. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 59-65). Future Academy.