Comparison Of The Concept Of Time In English, Russian And Chechen Languages


The paper covers the comparison of the concept of time. Time and space are two categories that a human uses to understand the event and phenomena around them. The concept of time is culturally conditioned. The relation of a man to time is one of the main categories in culture classification developed by different culturologists. The category of time and space has always been the subject of study for philosophers, psychologists, metaphysics, mathematicians and linguists. The paper compares the verbalization of the concept of time in English, Russian and Chechen languages. The work analyses the phenomena connected with the concept of time on the basis of earlier investigations. The present work is aimed at describing and revealing ethnospecific peculiarities of the concept of time in English, Russian and Chechen languages. To reach the goal we have compared the three languages. To solve the stated tasks we used the method of conceptual analysis, descriptive and comparative methods. As a result, we established the implementation of specific metaphoric model in the languages of different cultures. The study has demonstrated different division of days in different cultures, different scope of time between these periods, the presence of additional temporal lexicon for the description of days that follow the days of “tomorrow”, and “day after tomorrow”, literally five additional terms in Chechen language. Moreover, the specific fact if the presence in the Russian language of an adjective to specify the duration of time and absence of an analogue in the two other languages.

Keywords: Timeconceptmetaphorical modelsmetaphorical structuring


In linguistics, the middle of the twentieth century was characterized by the shift of the focus of linguistic studies from grammar to semantics. As a result of fruitful development of this direction, cognitive linguistics occurred, which main unit is concept. The subject of our study is parametric concept “time”.

The category of time is of fundamental importance for each culture and has ontological characteristics. These are the concepts of time and space which are parts of the human existence through which all other phenomena are perceived. Time is more abstract as compared to space and understood through spatial and movement metaphores. Besides, to describe time, space prepositions are used.

For instance, in Russian:

В доме – в том году

До подъезда – до 7 часов

К городу – к 10 часам

In Chechen language:

Ц1а чохь – цу шера чохь

Ваша волчуьра дуьйна г1аш схьавеара - селхана дуьйна могуш вара

Шен дена т1аьхьа – пхиъ даьллачул т1аьхьа

Шен йишина хьалха – Хенал хьалха

In English language:

In the house – in 1988

It’s a long way to the house – From 5 to 7 o’clock

At school – at noon, at 5 o’clock

In the languages, one can identify linear and cyclic models of time. The cyclic character of time occurred in the conscience of ancient man on the basis of repeating natural phenomena (change of seasons, day and night). In ancient times, people correlated events with such phenomena as drought, war, water flood, birth or death, because the linear model was not developed. The examples of cyclic nature in the language are names of seasons, days of week, time of day. The idea of time cyclic nature existed in theories of many ancient peoples. For instance, in the ancient texts of Vedas, the Egyptians and Mayan Indians used cycles to count time. One should recall twelve-year Chinese calendar, in which every year has the name of an animal.

Linear time is a directed segment that has a beginning and an end. This time model was propagated with adoption of monotheism: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Linear time has the beginning (time of creation of the world), duration (development of the world) and the end (Judgement day). This time permanently passes away; all the events within this time model are unique. An enormous flow of unique events of current time and possibility to enlighten and deliver them form and implants the linear model in the consciousness of modern people. Unlike the regular cyclic time, the cyclic time is rapid.

Noteworthily, today’s languages are not limited by the usage of one of the model; both cyclic and linear models are intrinsic for languages. However, in traditional cultures, usually eastern ones, cyclic time prevails; at the same time, the representatives of western cultures use the linear model as dominating.

The abstractedness of the concept of time, absence of some organ of senses for its perception makes the humanity to use metaphors to reflect this phenomena and describe its nature.

Let us consider the time metaphors described above.

For example, Lakoff described two main types of spatial metaphorical time models: ego-moving metaphors, when a man moves along the time axis from the past and present into the future, and time-moving metaphors, when time is represented as a moving river, while a man remains at place. Also: Time is a resource, time is a container (as cited in Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)

Boroditsky (2000) and others (Fuhrman et al., 2011) in their work have described the implementation of horizontal and vertical metaphorical models in English and Standard Chinese languages.

Another work of Boroditsky (2001) on the basis of an experiment has demonstrated that for the Chinese, it is typical to express temporal values by vertical metaphors. However, Chen (2007) as a results of his experiment has concluded that for the Chinese it is typical to use both vertical and however spatial time metaphors, while the latter are used much more frequently by them.

In English language: there are examples of usage of vertical time metaphors, for example: to hand down knowledge from generation to generation (Boroditsky, 2001). In Chechen language, it is specific to use horizontal metaphors; nevertheless, in dialectic language one can find phrase: “Исс сахьт хьала даьлла вайна!”, where “исс сахьт” means “nine hours”, and “хьала дала” means “rise”.

Perez Hernández (2001) has described the metaphorical time midels and divided them into four groups under the following four types of main generic metaphors ( time is space, time is an object, time is a container, time is a force ).

Arutyunova (1997) has divided the time models into two types: in the first one, the leading role is payed by a man (“Ways of a man”), while the second one is directed towards itself (“Flows of time”).

As a result of the research of time metaphors in Chechen language, Abueva (2010) has described the following metaphoric models: time is a moving object; time is a moving object and we are moving with in; time is immovable and we are moving trough it; time is a gift of god and a man lives until it comes to an end; to make something in time means to do something in right time; someone’s time is the best time (for them); time is a resource; time is spacel time is a container; time is a judge, time is burden .

It is well known that the ethnospecific peculiarities of any language are easier to identify after comparative analysis with attraction of other languages. The present analysis allows revealing the peculiarities of verbalization of the concept of time, compare some metaphoric time models in the studied languages.

Problem Statement

Regardless of the culture, the information on the value of time can be traced in every language. In English language: “There is no time like present; “Time and tide wait for no man”; “A stitch in time saves nine”. In Russian language “Куй железо пока горячо”; “Время не ждет”. In Chechen language: “Аьхка мало — 1ай хало. (Lazyness in summer is flour in winter)”; “Аьхка т1арга lалаш цабинчуьнан, 1ай когаш бахьийна (Who did not save wool in summer, in winter will have cold feet)”; “Аьхкенан цхьа де 1аьнан к1иранал ду (One summer day equals one winter week)”; “Аьхка де дайинарг — lай шийтта дийнахь меца лела. (Who lost one summer day, will starve in winter for twelve days)”.

Despite its versatility, the concept of time has its similar and different features depending on the culture. It relates to the range of ethnospecific concepts. Thus, the concept of time can serve as a tool for comparing different and similar features and characteristics of a culture. The relation to time in different cultures reflects their systems of values and consciousness. Indeed, the categorization of cultures is based on their relation to time. According to Hall (1989), the perception of time in different cultures is the indicator of its appurtenance to monochronous of polychronous cultures.

According to the theory of Hall (1989), the representatives of monochronous cultures and punctual, they plan and organize their activities in such a way, so at a certain moment of time they execute only one activity. On polychronous cultures, the achievement of a result and a goal are higher than the interpersonal relations. The English people are the representatives of monochronous cultures.

Polychronoous cultures are specific for the execution of several activities at the same time. In such cultures, a considerable attention is paid to interpersonal and family relations. Kluckhohn (1950) and Strodbeck (Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck, 1961) also accepted time as one of the properties of cultural classification.

According to a dutch scientist Fons Trompenaars, one the three criteria of cultural categorization is the attitude to time, the rest two are relations with peopls and relation to the environment (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1997).

Physical time is similar to everyone, but the perception of this time by different people and cultures can be vastly different. Indeed, the key to time perception in any culture is in the verbalization of this concept in the language of this culture.

The work is aimed at intercultural analysis of the concept of time and identification of cultural features of the concept in English, Russian and Chechen languages.

At the first sight, similar division of the time of day can have appreciable discrepancies. Indeed, Terminasova (2008) noted that English morning begins after the midnights and lasts until noon. In Russian and Chechen languages, morning is the tie from the dawn to lunch (noon) (Terminasova, 2008).

In Chechen language, a day is divided into more periods than morning, lunch, noon, evening and night. Day begins with 1уьйкъа хан, pre-dawn time; then morning, 1уьйре, comes; day is делкъа хан; the time before dusk is малхбуза хан; twilight time is маьрк1ажа хан; пхьуьйра хан is time for supper. Such division of day coincides with the time for prayers.

Talking on further noncompliances or peculiarities, we should note that English week begins with Sunday, unlike week in Chechen or Russian languages.

In Chechen and Russian languages, this is indicated by the days of weeks that have numerals in their name. The numerals are contained in native Chechen days of week: шинара, кхаара, еара.

Оршот is Monday.

Шинаре is Tuesday (from numeral шиъ meaning two, the second day of week)

Кхаара is Wednesday (from numeral кхоъ meaning three, the third day of week)

Еара is Thursday (from numeral йиъ/диъ/виъ meaning four, the fourth day of week)

П1ераска is Friday

Шота is Saturday

К1ира is Sunday

К1ира is Sunday and also means the name of the week itself. Similar is the situation in Russian language.. Воскресенье is the seventh day of week, which in Slavic language before meant week itself. The day of rest when there is nothing to do (ne delat), gave the name of week (nedelya).


Вторник (the second day of week)

Среда (is the middle of week)

Четверг (from numeral four, the fourth day of week)

Пятница (from numeral five, the fifth day of week)



While in English and Russian languages, the temporal lexicon coincides, in Chechen language along with the temporal meaning of yesterday, the day before yesterday and today one can identify seven days, including tomorrow, representing future time. This gives the whole week (Table 01 ).

Table 1 -
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One can assume that the present linguistic phenomenon speaks for high degree of planning and organization used by ancient Chechens.

Casasanto (Casasanto & Boroditsky, 2003), in the study of language influence on mentality has found that when talking about big or small period of time, English and Indonesian people out of two metaphorical models “time is distance” and “time is quantity” use the linear model (e.g. for a short period of time), while the Greeks and Spanish usually use metaphorical model of quantity.

In Russian language, the amount of time is specified by a special adjective, which does not belong to any of the metaphoric models above, which means the longevity of time (Он долгое время смотрел на облака). However, one should note the parallel usage of the metaphoric model of quantity in Russian language (Много времени он провел в заточении).

In Chechen language, the model of quantity is also used, for instance: к1еззиг хан means little time, дукха хан means a lot of time. Besides, for Chechen language the metaphor of time meaning age is specific. Indeed, “йоккха хан” means big, mature time which is used to denote a lot of time. “Жимма хан” means little time and is used for small periods of time.

Research Questions

The research object is the sphere of concepts of English, Russian and Chechen languages. The subject of the study is the parametric ethnospecific concept of time.

Purpose of the Study

To identify ethnospecific peculiarities of the concept of time on the basis of comparative analysis of English, Russian and Chechen languages.

Research Methods

To solve the stated tasks we used the method of conceptual analysis, descriptive and comparative methods.


After the research we found out the following ethnospecific peculiarities of the concept of time.

The division of day in English, Russian and Chechen language is different. For instanct, in Russian and Chechen languages, this is the time from dawn to lunch, while in English language is begins after the midnight.

A day in Chechen language: has more periods: 1уьйкъа хан (pre-dawn time), 1уьйре, делкъа хан, малхбуза хан, маьрк1ажа хан, пхьуьйра хан. Such division of day coincides with the time for prayers.

Week in Russian and Chechen languages begins with Monday, while in English language, from Sunday.

The temporal lexicon in Chechen language does not conicide with the temporal lexicon of English and Russian languages. Indeed, in Chechen language (as in Russian and English ones), there are forms for past time of yesterday and day before yesterday, for present today and 5 terms for future days in addition to tomorrow and day after tomorrow:

Тахана (today) > Кхана (tomorrow) > Лама (day after tomorrow) > Ула (in two days) >Ц1ула (in three days) > Ц1умока (in four days) >Ц1аста (in five days) > Ц1ака (in six days)

Our research has unveiled that Russian language does not require metaphors “time is distance” and “time is quantity” to identify big time, since in Russian, there is a special adjective which communicates the longevity of time.

One of the specificities of Chechen language is the use of metaphorical model “time is age” to define little/big time together with the metaphor “time is quantity”.


During the investigation, some of ethnospecific characteristics of the concept of time were discovered in English, Russian and Chechen languages. Also, some metaphorical models specific to the studied languages were identified.


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28 December 2019

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Dzhambetov, A., Sultahanova, I., Gatsaeva, A., & Abueva*, M. (2019). Comparison Of The Concept Of Time In English, Russian And Chechen Languages. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 3478-3484). Future Academy.