Occasional Collocations As A Carrier Of Implicit Information


The problem of understanding fiction texts, phenomenon of which is in variety of senses expressed, is directly related to revealing the information presented implicitly, to description of its types, mechanisms of text implication, ways of its extraction and subsequent interpretation. The article deals with occasional collocations as carriers of implicit information, unexpressed meaning, as a way and a mean of expression the implicational semantics of a fiction text. Componential and contextual analysis of occasional words, used in the novel by A.I. Solzhenitsyn “Red wheel”, provides an option for interpretation of implicit information, essential for proper understanding of the fiction text. In occasional collocations principle of economy is realized. Content plan in occasionalisms of this type is significantly broader than expression plan. In case of uncommon semantic conditions notional word structure gets enriched, implicitly built-in options for semantic and stylistic develop affecting expression of the context on the whole. Occasionalisms and occasional word collocations do not presume literal or the only possible explication. In this connection, semantic interpretation of occasional word collocations is implemented within any cognitive based (conceptual system, background knowledge, thesaurus of author’s personality, etc.) context (limited, broad or extralinguistic) supported by cognitive environment.

Keywords: Implicitity actualizersimplicit informationimplicitnessinterpretationoccasional word collocationsunderstanding of fiction text


Recent linguistic researches are focused on the problem of understanding a fiction text sense (I.V. Arnold, N.D. Arutyunova, G.I. Bogin, A.V. Bondarko, O.V. Vasilieva, I.R. Galperin, V.I. Karasik, G.V. Kolshanskii, V.G. Kostomarov, E.V. Paducheva, G.Ya. Solganik, N.I. Formanovskaia, etc.).

Lotman (1996) states that any fiction text is perceived as independent stylistic harmony, and in the process of its analysis one can determine intratextual links, contextual interaction of instruments of different linguistic levels, meaning and esthetic importance of text elements and their interaction.

Understanding includes using cognitive information for interpretation and comprehension of meaning. According to Sternin (2011), it is possible to define three basic levels in understanding of the text meaning - superficial level (perceiving of explicit linguistic information of the text), underlying level (comprehension of inner meaning of the text), and interpretation (formation and identifying of the text concept).

Critical analysis method, widespread in foreign linguistics (Crystal, 2003), presumes contextualized interpretation, enabling to find hidden meanings and actualize their importance for understanding the general sense (Lunkova, 2016).

Interpretation is a cognitive process by means of which human conscience constructs subjective conceptualization of an object of reality represented in any way of interpretational semantics. This semantics is naturally subjective and aimed to subjective understanding (explanation) of an object of interpretation, including the language and knowledge of it, of the world and a man. The mental basis of interpretation, as well its reflection, are the processes of conceptualization and categorization, various aspects of which are communicatively significant and demanded for communication, perception and understanding of the world in its definite form of existence (Sharandin, 2016).

“Text is a product, originated by one linguistic identity and addressed to another linguistic identity” (Stepanov, 2001, p. 159). Multiple readings constitute the main text quality to which the author deliberately rejects unambiguity (Rogova, 2002). Interpretation is related to intellectual base of a reader and his mental abilities. Pathway of any reader in the process of text perception may be outlined in the following form: physical perception of the text → understanding of the direct “superficial” meaning → correlation with the context (in a broad sense of the word) → comprehension of “underlying” level → correlation with background knowledge → intellectual and emotional perceiving of the text → perception of the text sense (Krasnykh, 1998; Gorovaya, 2015).

Thus, a reader finds in the text interconnections with components and the compound whole, which provides him an opportunity of understanding the text. Here profundity of understanding depends on personal thesaurus of the reader. And therefore we can speak of multiple options of interpretation а fiction text sense.

Implicit information in a fiction text

There is a number of linguistic and speech facts due to which we use to talk about duplicity, subtext or hidden meaning (Ermakova, 2009). Each text contains similar formations, and they sometimes make it difficult to understand the text or its part, since they have implicit content.

Phenomenon of implicitness is studied from various points: linguistic, psycholinguistic, ethnolinguistic, cultural and methodical aspects, at different levels of linguistic system: lexico-semantic, grammatical, word-formational, syntactical and others (Bondarko, 2006). In the field of cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics the phenomenon of implicitness was elaborated by Russian linguists (I.A. Zimnyaya, V.Z. Demiankov, L.V. Lisotchenko and others) as well as by foreign researchers (B.D. Homer, J.T Ramsy, A. Begg and others). Issues, related to definition of implicit information and its interpretation are considered in studies of methods of teaching Russian as foreign language (Gorovaya & Akasheva, 2018).

Implicitness is a feature of linguistic units to keep information expressed in a special way which the addressee due to his knowledge and experience should define in the text taking in account assigned context.

It is common practice to define the following types of implicit information: extralinguistic, textual, discursive; communicative; general cultural and ethnospecific (Belyakova, 2011). Implicit information occurs by means of universal mechanism of reduction of verbal content of the text, this compression leads to optimization of linguistic system means, and at the speech level it corresponds to compression of verbal content of statement (Shaludko, 2016).

At the lexico-semantic level implicitness is manifested as a result of combination of meanings of polysemantic words, different connotations of these meanings, “categorical shifts” (metaphoric expressions, metonymy), euphemisms, periphrastic replacement, phraseological units (Barysheva, 2015). Implicit meaning of a word is revealed only in the plan of syntagmatics, within collocation. Sub-textual implicitness is created due to the mechanism of intratextual semantic actualization, i.e. potential of a fiction text to establish intratextual (paradigmatic) interconnections between elements within its structure.

Traditionally there are the following types of verbal context: resolving context, supporting context, extinction context, compensating context, intensifying context. To express implicit information in the text extinction and intensifying contexts are most commonly used. Extinction context creates occasional meaning, which does not exist in language system. Intensifying context ensures increment of sense in process of text perceiving. These two context types facilitate creation of semantic occasionalisms including occasional collocations.

Besides verbal context formation of semantic content of fiction text is influenced by extralinguistic context, which includes knowledge and mental representations of the author and text addressee, cultural traditions, life situations, individual and collective experience, intellectual abilities and so on.

Identification of built-in the text information (especially fiction text) may be implemented through various approaches: from the author to text (studying and understanding the author, his biography, psychological peculiarities, etc.), and from text to the author (identification of specifics of structural-semantic properties of the text, “sense increment”, defining intratextual relations of linguistic units at different levels, etc.). These two approaches actually complement one another and allow perceiving and interpretation of information embedded in the text (Aketina, 2017).

In this regard it is possible to distinguish the following means of creating hidden meanings in a fiction text aimed to activate mental processes essential for a reader to understand a text: archetypal representations; tropes and stylistic figures of speech; contextual environment of a particular speech element; extralinguistic context; intertextual references and literary allusions; verbal visualization of the image, etc. (Bitokova, 2014). Markers of implicit information may refer to any language level. In one respect, context serves for coding the author’s idea, and at the same time it is used as essential condition for distinguishing hidden meaning from the text, i.e. decoding (Bitokova, 2014).

Because the meaning of the text represents the result of author’s reflection and associative reader’s activity, there are various options and models for interpretation of implicit information due to intellectual background of the author and readers, and their mental representations.

The specifics of the interpretation of implicit information in occasional collocations

Since the end of the last century linguistics is characterized by increasing interest to various types of innovations. Among their definitions the most frequent are “neologism”, “potential word”, “occasionalism”:

…under neologisms we admit some stable innovative elements which entered communication of some groups of people; potential words are words that are created (but not yet fixed by the tradition of word usage) or can be modelled via productive rules and the meaning of which is derived entirely from the sum of the meanings of their constituents; while occasionalisms are understood as words or meanings of words, invented to meet the needs of a particular occasion in order to catch the reader’s attention, shock or provoke, create hidden meanings (semantic condensation) and express the author’s evaluation. (Nykytchenko, 2015, р. 186)

The authors of the article «The study of occasional words: theoretical aspect», speaking about semantic occasionalisms admit, that words of this type are related to tropes and represent a result of occurring of new senses modifying semantics of original lexical item within context (Smirnova, Sadykova, & Davletbaeva, 2014, р. 534). Occasional collocations are defined as follows: “The occasional (unusual) combination of words presents a confluence of lexemes and compatibility of these lexemes is impossible in customary usage since it contradicts the law of semantic agreement in consequence of the absence of common semes in their lexical meanings” (Smirnova, Sadykova, & Davletbaeva, 2014, р. 534).

Thereby, the most vivid example of writer’s reflection is occasionalism. Some of them act as idioglosses (variation of key word). In other words, these occasionalisms are frequently used in works of different genres of one and the same author; they serve as producing base for new words, which form word-forming units, and also establish new valence links within occasional combinations of words. For instance, obshchechelovek / common human being of F.M. Dostoevskiy (as cited in Korobova, 2017), kislota / acid of A.P. Chekhov (as cited in Gorovaya, 2004) and others.

Unique character of occasional words is immanent and referrers to the specifics of their nature: they represent natural composition of language tradition and individual author’s speech, something stereotypical and creative, precedent and unexpected features; their understanding requires certain linguistic and extralinguistic background knowledge; they may cause both predictable and spontaneous associations. (Nesterova, Nagalnykh, & Pozdeeva, 2016, p. 46)

The issue of the status of occasional word combinations was considered in the works of G. Shperber, V.B. Shklovskiy, V.V. Vinogradov, V.K. Telia, I.R. Galperin, E.G. Kovalevskaya and others. Scientists have common understanding regarding compatibility context, which is considered as a sphere where transformations of the semantics of the word are made and discovered. Occasional combinations of words mean uncodified, uncommon combinations of lexical items, comprising two or more words and characterized by a number of differential features, among them, together with main features of occasional word, there is also capability to serve as microcontext for semantic modification of the word.

Problem of compatibility is studied in the article of Vlavatskaya (2014) «Combinatory Linguistics: An area of theoretical and applied language study», it presents definition of combinatorial linguistics, describes the history of the formation of this field of knowledge in foreign linguistics (syntagmatics, valence theory, meaning and context theory, etc.) as well as in the Russian tradition (valency theory, compatibility theory, contextual theory, etc.), also the terminological base is substantiated, aspects of studying the compatibility of linguistic units are indicated, etc. According to Vlavatskaya (2014) compatibility being a linguistic phenomenon performs a number of important functions: renewal of lexical meaning of the word, distinction of polysemantic words and homonyms meanings, creation of occasional combinations of words, and others. Creation of occasional (author’s) collocations (occasional metaphoric expressions), according to the researcher, correlates with author’s individual view of the world, from micro- yomacrocontext.

It is only correct to analyze occasionalism in its contextual position, because the author’s word appears in context and is formed by context, very often being a text formation unit (Dal & Namer, 2016).

In the theory of occasionality it is common to distinguish the following context types: zero context (explication of semantics through inner form); mini context (combination of words, sentence or paragraph); macro context (all the text of the work or its major part); creative context (in order to study the evolution of neologisms used by the author); historical and cultural one, vertical context (consideration of social and cultural conditions of occasionalism creation); word formation context (authors comment to the new word, containing direct information on mechanism of creation or word semantics) (Zinc, 2015).

Occasional combinations of words are important in individual style of many writers   (M.E. Saltykov-Schedrin, F.M. Dostoevskiy, A.I. Kuprin, A.P. Chekhov, Yu. Nagibin, L. Leonov, V. Kataev, A.I. Solzhenitsyn, and others). In case of uncommon semantic conditions notional word structure gets enriched, implicitly built-in options for semantic and stylistic use gain traction, which affects expression of a context in the whole.

Analysis of occasional combinations in stylistic system of one writer draws some light on certain common patterns, peculiar for literary speech in the whole. Usually, in order to understand the sense of statement the reader is required to implement the most simple mental activities, to know meaning of the words, used by author in definite context, have some understanding regarding word formation rules and constructing the syntactical structures in a given language. But situation is different with text which contains occasional elements, where information about object of speech is presented implicitly. In this case the reader takes part in process of creation, acts as co-author, because to understand the text he has to pass the way, as author has done in the process of creation of this code, textual gaps, which require from the reader certain interpretation talent. Thus, the sense of text is a result of author’s reflection and associative activity of reader. Possibility for the word to reach out the limits of its meaning lies in the fact that the word begins to mean a notion, connected by dimensional, time and causal connections with its usual meaning, moreover, the new meaning either coexists with the old, or completely supplants it.

To illustrate the foresaid we suggest the following examples:

Solzhenitsyn (1993) in his novel “The Red Wheel” creates a lot of occasional collocations which require intellectual efforts to be understood: wildish hair of beard-to-be; pinky-grey panther; whitely-glowing bill for balls and cards, moustache-and-beard face underside, incense-gray spirit and others.

For instance, in one chapter we come across a word combination mustache-and-beard face underside which describes General Samsonov. This collocation is clear without context (“face with beard and moustache”). But involving extended context enables us to reveal implicit information supported by actualisators and to make more precise definition of the word combination mustache-and-beard face underside : “one-third of face covered with beard and moustache, like Nicolay the II’s one”.

Interesting is the transformation of the occasional combination of words an incense-grayspirit which is a combination of features that characterize the word being defined from different angles: attribution to the object and its colour. The unusual combination of a complex adjective with a noun spirit (the adjective gray is a definition of the adjective incense that defines the noun spirit ), and also the fact that each of the components can be combined with different meanings of the noun spirit allows us to conclude about the semantic duality of the occasional combination. The dictionaries provide the following definition of the semantics of the noun spirit with the mark “archaic and colloquial”: ‘air’, ‘smell, aroma’ . In the analyzed context, the noun spirit , in our opinion, is used in the first sense (‘air saturated with the smell of incense’ ). Thus, the incense-gray spirit is ‘ the air, saturated with the smell of incense, gray-bluish as a result of the burning of an aromatic substance during worship’ . However, in the broad context, there are actualizers of implicit semantics: the definition of conciliating , i.e. "promoting tolerance towards someone ", as well as the archaic noun condescension , which is absent in the dictionaries of the modern Russian language, but included in the dictionary entry to the word condescending (i.e., ‘ go down from above /about God or the Holy Spirit/ ’) in the "Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language" (Dahl, 2006). In this case, the relation to the divine principle comes to the fore.

Taking into consideration the dictionary definitions and the meanings of actualizers, the two-sided semantics of the phrase “ incense-gray spirit ” can be defined as ‘the air, saturated with incense smell, gray-bluish as a result of smoking during worship, envelops a person’ ; ‘ something having a pacifying effect on a person, associated with belief in a supernatural, divine principle’ .

Thus, the process of creating occasional combinations of words for Solzhenitsyn (1993) is a conscious creative process that generates the reader’s identification of associative links embedded in the text both explicitly and implicitly. The purpose of understanding is not only to interpret the meaning of the text, but also to activate the reader's thinking processes. The process of understanding implicit meanings can be defined as a dialogue between the author and the reader through interaction with the context.

Problem Statement

The interest of modern researchers to the problem of implicitness is associated with the study of implicitly expressed information which is pragmatically interpreted. The urgency of the problem is determined by considering occasional combinations of words as a carrier of implicit information in a fiction text.

Although the fact of the presence of the implicative properties of occasional combinations of words has been mentioned in the linguistic literature, this direction is not highlighted as a separate field of study.

The need for an in-depth analysis of the concept of implicativeness as one of the leading categories of text, as well as consideration of the implicative potential of occasional combinations of words functioning in fiction texts, is also determined by the ever-increasing interest to the problem of understanding text as an activity.

Research Questions

The main research issue can be formulated as follows: what is the implicit potential of occasional combinations of words functioning in a fiction text, and what is the mechanism for representing implicit information in occasional combinations of words?.

Purpose of the Study

This study is aimed at identifying the potential of occasional word combinations as a carrier of implicit information and presenting one of the options for understanding the meaning of a fiction text through the interpretation of the implicit possibilities of occasional word combinations.

Research Methods

The research material is the novel by Solzhenitsyn (1993) " The Red Wheel". The novel is a kind of creative laboratory in which new words, combinations of words and meanings are created being the hallmark of the individual style of the writer.

The main research methods used in the work are: descriptive, comparative, interpretive method, as well as the method of contextual analysis. The main method of describing the material is contextual one, it allows taking into consideration the contextual environment of a word to identify actualizers of implicitness. The scope of the context depends on the ability of occasionalism to serve the realization of occasional semantics.


This article defines the following concepts: “understanding”, “interpretation of a fiction text”, “implicit information”, “occasional combination of words”. The particularity of interpretation of implicit information in occasional combinations is considered. Occasional combinations of words at the same time clearly demonstrate the mechanism of formation of implicit meaning in fiction texts.

In occasional combinations of words the principle of economy is realized. The plan of content in occasionalisms of this type is much wider than the plan of expression. In this regard, the interpretation of the semantics of occasional combinations of words functioning in a fiction text is carried out in context (narrow, broad, extralinguistic), based on the cognitive environment (conceptual system, background knowledge, thesaurus of the writer's personality, etc.). The context acts, on the one hand, as a way of encoding the author's intention, and on the other, as a necessary condition for extracting the hidden meaning from the text, that is, decoding.


Thus the results of the study allow us to come to the following conclusions: first, any fiction text is conducted according to the laws of associative-figurative thinking, in which there is a subtext interpretative plan; second, the introduction into a fiction text of occasional combinations of words creates the opportunity to minimize unnecessary details of the description, to select features relevant to the image of a situation; third, the process of interpreting a fiction text includes decoding semantics, decoding perceived language codes, the deep meaning behind the perceived message, understanding the meaning, perception of the author's intention; fourth, the meaning of an occasional word combination is not equal to the sum of the component, but relies on the usual meanings of words, but is always enriched with various increments: connotative (stylistic, emotive-evaluative) and associative (associative links arise between two words with a wide context, and also with an extralinguistic context); fifth, an occasional combination of words may include a precedent name, refer a reader to a precedent situation, contain so-called semantic lacunae, without understanding of which it is impossible to understand the meaning of the text; sixth, occasional combinations of words are meaning-generating, style-forming, and sometimes text-forming units, reflecting the writer's concept-sphere, his vision of the world, and the carrier of implicit meaning.


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20 April 2020

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Discourse analysis, translation, linguistics, interpretation, cognition, cognitive psychology

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Gorovaya, I. G., & Egorova, N. V. (2020). Occasional Collocations As A Carrier Of Implicit Information. In & A. Pavlova (Ed.), Philological Readings, vol 83. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 386-395). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.04.02.43