Neology As A Means Of Cross-Cultural Interaction In The Xix Century


This research makes an attempt to study the realization of the verbal cultural potential in cross-cultural communication against the Russian home and foreign policy in the mid-XIX century. The selected material is the periodical scientific edition of the Russian Geographical society. The choice was made due to the peculiarities of the RGS activity, founded within the Ministry of home affairs, with its expeditions aimed at both scientific and political solutions and that was greatly reflected on the edition's pages. The empiric unit of the research is the neologism with the definition prescribed by the author of the article. The analysis considers lexical units and definitions. The research proved the correlation between the home and foreign state policy and the character of word usage, peculiarities of definition and the degree of realizing the cultural and historical component of the word meaning. Neologisms are less frequent in the texts about regions which are of near foreign interest for the Russian empire, their selection is of practical necessity, their notes are brief, mostly single-word ones. The texts about those regions with planned foreign connection and pre-study as the primary task contain more neologisms, their thematic variety is wider, the cultural component is actualized by the author, definitions are detailed and complex. The new word (dialect in our case) is meaningful in the texts about home regions; there are word lists with authors' definitions, containing culturological, ethnographic, etymological and other observations of the author on the people life and its manifestation in the word.

Keywords: Neologismscultural componentcross-cultural interactionhome and foreign policyXIX centurytravelling


The XIX century is a special period of the Russian lexical system existence. On the one hand, this is the time when its “general character… with all its complex synonymic, phraseological and stylistic relations» was completely formed” (Sorokin, 1965, p. 542). On the other hand, this period is characterized with the whole complex of various dynamic changes which makes it flexible and sensitive to the influence of various extra linguistic factors. It is not accidental that «The Russian dictionary of the XIX century», being prepared in the Institute of linguistic studies RAS (Saint Petersburg) is meant as the lexicographic edition of a special type – a historical differentiating dictionary, designed to reflect the acute processes in the lexical system (Kalinovskaya, 2018).

Besides, the main source of accumulation and changes in the Russian literary language is changed in the XIX century: this position was initially occupied by literature, but then it is journalism that took in charge (Sorokin, 1965; Vinogradov, 1982). But so far the language of mass media of the given period has not been well described (Dyagileva, 2016), although the value of this source was mentioned constantly. Even in classic study books on journalism history we do not see any mentioning of scientific editions, although difference between various types of editions is the research topic in itself (Malyshev, 2019), and the audience of scientific, popular scientific and political editions was not different, being the educated part of the society.

Problem Statement

The research is meant to partially cover the above-mentioned blank space. As a source we have chosen the periodic scientific edition of the Russian Geographical society – «Notes of the Imperial Russian geographical society» (NIRGS – from here and on), published since 1846. The material for the magazine included various materials of expeditions (geographical, ethnographical, topographical, geological etc), closely connected with the RGS activity. The society was established with the highest order of Nicolas I in 1845 within the Ministry of home affairs with a special state status. The tasks it solved were not exclusively scientific: RGS took an active part in investigation following the foreign interests of Russia (Pavlov, 2010). So, the materials, appearing on the pages of the RGS edition, also reflected the main interests of the Russian Empire in home and foreign policy. So, the main problem of our research is the possibility of revealing the signs of the home and foreign political influence on word usage.

We consider it especially acute for the XIX century which pays a lot of attention to the word, and it is testified with the dynamic development of lexicographic theory and practice in that period (Sorokoletov, 2001). The word becomes the means of self-identification, learning others and bordering one from another (the topicality of the search for linguistic identity borders is also proved with the idea to create the world language of culture and science (Vetchinova, 2019). The national word («alive», «Russian») and the foreign word are in the sphere of direct interest of the educated society (about the accumulation of the Russian vocabulary due to cross-ethnic contacts (Starovoitova, 2017). Here comes the genuine interest for various descriptions of travelling, travel and geographic reviews, published in mass media of that time (about the entertaining component of travelling (Gromova & Balashova, 2017, p. 251).

Research Questions

The main questions of the research are: In what degree does the state policy influence the peculiarities of word usage? What are the signs of such influence? How can the word become the means of cross-cultural dialogue within the home and foreign policy? What components of the word meaning are actualized, what peculiarities of lexical unit usage and functioning are manifested? What can such a research add to the existing knowledge on the Russian language history?

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study is to reveal peculiarities of neologism functioning in the cross-cultural dialogue with the materials of NIRGS in the context of the basic directions of the Russian policy.

Research Methods

In the center of our research we see not a new word, but the word with the inner-text definition (the term Malyshev, 2017). Such an approach to distinguishing the empiric unit of analysis is necessary because the definition itself is a sign of the dialogue with a reader. As we speak about travelling and the object of description is the territory, then definition is a form of cross-cultural speech interaction, realized with outer towards the described culture speech subject – traveler and text author (Hamans, 2018; Kislova & Erther, 2019). In such circumstances neologism becomes a cultural code, forming the unity of the author and reader's dictionary (compare «cultural semantics» (Leonard, Ufimtseva, & Markovina, 2019). As the main material of the research we selected one issue of the magazine – Book IV of 1850. This selection cannot be called accidental. NIRGS did not have any timing as well as textual and thematic format, i.e. the content of each issue was formed due to the current situation. Issues could be mono or polythematic, with some text being a headliner or with a collection of similar in volume and content materials. The selected issue is very convenient to find the character features of neologism functioning in cross-cultural dialogue in the brief research. The issue topics project the variety of political directions in the Russian Empire of the XIX century – it contains the texts about the Caspian, Africa, China and the Russian North, which reflects the foreign political interests exactly near the state border with the nearest prospect of development, far from borders with the long-term prospect and inside the state.

With the method of continuous sampling we selected neologisms with definitions. The selected lexical units were thematically classified and then we made the lexical analysis. Also we analyzed the definitions – we defined their formal and content features. As the main hypothesis of the research is the correlation of the Russian home and foreign political interests with the character of neologism functioning in the cross-cultural dialogue, we suggest the geographical grouping of the lexical material. The validity of the received results was proved through comparison with other NERGS issues.


On the territories, far from the Russian Empire borders (Africa)

Africa is a traditional zone of foreign interest for Russia (Abramova & Fituni, 2016). In the XIX century with England becoming the world trade leader there is a rising interest of the Russian Empire to this region. The Russian knowledge about Africa grows with the travels of V.M. Golovin (1808), V.P. Botkin. E.P. Kovalevsky, A.I. Butakov and G.K. Blok (1840s), E.V. Putyatin (1852-1855) (Antoshin, 2012, pp. 12-15). Thus, we may notice that Africa in the mid-XIX century is a far, exotic, with long-term but real prospect of development of foreign connections.

Such a historical and cultural context embraces the firstly published in NERGS «Ethnographic notes about the inhabitants of Low Nubia (from the letters to V.V. Grigoryev)» by the famous doctor and traveler A.A. Rafalovich, conducting epidemiological research in the countries of Near East and Africa. 56 pages of the text contain about 40 neologisms with definitions; most of them are detailed (sometimes longer than a sentence). The thematic variety also impresses, reflecting the systematic detailed description of the Barabra people, being completely unusual for the addressee and the author: clothes, traditional body jewelry, food, house, household utensils, management, activities, traditions, musical instruments.

It is interesting that lexical units of the same thematic group are not spread around the text, but rest in one context, with their continuous explanation. Such is, for example, the description of the traditional dress. Sometimes explanation of a word becomes a long ethnographic review, the variety of such reviews construct the complete national portrait: In villages they cook dukhna from flour, mixed with hot water and left to fret, a special drink (mriso), which fizzes up like beer, thick, with yellowish color, sour taste, and with various herbs become an alcoholic drink. The Barabras love it a lot…; in Cairo there are some pubs, where they cook mriso especially for the Nubians, they pour it into the flasks made of dry and cleaned pumpkins; the taste was always bitter to me. We shall pay attention to the expression of author's evaluation in own sensor reactions (manifestation of testimony (Redkina, 2017), which is not common for definitions in NERGS, but in this case it demonstrates the genuine interest of the author to the subject of description, common human curiosity (Shcheglova, 2017).

In such conditions the word as the means of cross-cultural interaction possesses a special communicative status: historical and cultural connotations of exotism are actualized and they obtain own value. This is testified with the following feature of word usage: with the next entrance of the same neologisms in different text fragments A. A. Rafalovich puts them in italics but does not repeat the definition. Such an entrance of new lexical unit produces the following cognitive line for an addressee: «learn – remember – recall». The author, on the one hand, demonstrates the trust (the reader is as interested as the author), on the other hand, the word status as a unit in the cultural dialogue.

On the territories, close to the Russian borders

The Caspian. The first half of the XIX century occupies the key position in building the relations between Russia and the Middle East. One of the prior directions of the foreign policy in the mid-century is the establishment of the superior imperial position in the south-east part of the Caspian (Nikonov, 2009). The NIRGS issue under analysis has two texts by I.F. Blaramberg devoted to the Caspian – “The diary during the Expedition to observe the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea in 1836” and “Topographical and statistic description of the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea from the Astrabad Bay to the Tyuk-Karagan cape”. The description is focused on the practical application of the information: this is the message for future expeditions, for example, about the moorage in certain places (On the south shore ships may accost closely, as it is 2 fathoms deep near the shore). We may find general considerations about the prospects of the region conquering: The whole region is of no value, the nature is dead and fruitless.

This focus on conquering the region in the nearest future is revealed in the character of words and definitions. Firstly, we may speak about relatively little amount – about 60 units on 120 pages. Secondly, the bigger part of the defined vocabulary are toponyms with various names in local languages and in Russian (about 20). Frequently this is the literal translation of the local geographic name. Very often the definition is prepositional to the local toponym (“inverse definition” after A.A. Malyshev): up the Black river (Kara-Su); the White Hill, or Ak-Tene. Such toponymic usage is common for travel descriptions in the XIX century but in this case they appear in a great number which is needed for the accuracy of geographical description for future expedition routes. Thirdly, brief (one-word or two-word) definitions appear when the author doubts that he will be understood correctly: in this spring they build Turkmen kirgims (flat boats); sheep for peshkesh (present). The practical character of definitions is manifested in explanations of money, measures of weight, length etc: the average depth of wells is 12-15 kulaches (70-90 feet); 3-6 reals in money (real, or sabibkiran, equals to 120 kopeks).

In spite of briefness and even poorness of these definitions they become the media between two cultures. We may notice that the author in his care about the reader (or the participant of future expedition) chooses various ways of definition: direct translation (peshkesh – present), search for the equivalent in the home culture (bakhchi – garden), definition of scientific character with genus-species relations (kirgim – flat boat), correlation with known, clear analogues (measures, money). The only detailed definition is about petrol type: Petrol is not the same quality from different wells; the Turkmens divide it into 4 sorts: 1) Pyrdgom – clear, light green petrol; it burns well mixed with water, 2) Yashi-Tyufya – the quality is a bit worse, 3) Karaguny, or “black petrol” – green and black petrol, very watery, 4) Dakhil – it has all the features of petrol but not liquid; it is produced in a solid form, of black color and serves as a lighter; candles made of it burn for a long time. In this case again the selection of vocabulary and the way of definition are connected with the principle of focus on the practical application of the information: petrol is the strategic product of the region, its sorts with different qualities are a valuable information for the future conquering of the region (we shall pay attention to the domination of hedonist and practical evaluations in the definition).

China. The Russian-Chinese relations cover over 400 years with periods of friendship and alienation, but building the relations with China as the neighboring country was always one of the tasks of the Russian foreign policy (Akhmadeev & Gayazov, 2017). First of all, we speak about the trade relations (Tagarov, 2015), which actively started with the Kyahtin agreement in 1727 (Kalvina & Kuras, 2019) and newly developed in the XIX century with the Kuljin agreement (1851), which lay the foundation of regular trade in the region of the Middle Asian border. Special strategic meaning of the trade development with China appeared due to the competition with England, which signed a treaty with China, opening its borders. It is obvious that the appearance of the material “On the trade ways in China and its governed territories” by the famous hieromonach Palladius Kafarov (who may be called one of the first Russian Orientalists) is logical.

As the text, different from the previous ones, is devoted to quite a narrow and certain subject, it seems having no opportunity for the cultural interaction through the word. If we compare the number of words with definitions, we will meet only a few – about 0.25 words per one page. But these rare words demonstrate the same tendencies which happened in the previous case. We may notice a greater domination of geographical names over the other cases of definition: Dolon-Kor (Seven lakes), Kaman (Gate), Kuku-Khoton (Green city) etc.

With a greater degree of accuracy (which is probably due to the very subject of the text) the author offers definitions for measures and money: Tin (exactly Tin or Zin, catty in Western Europe) equals 1 pound 36 golds. 39 21/20 shares; Lana (exactly Lyan, tael, tale in Western Euiope) the 16th part of gin = 2r. 15 15/20k. in silver. The subject of trade explains the attention to goods: Salangana (swallow) nests, for a gin. Definitions of other thematic lexical groups are single and depend upon the necessity to help the addressee’s understanding: This way is quite possible: in ancient times a governor from the Khap dynasty wanted to go this way against the Dakhs (people living west from Kasgir). Such definitions do not possess the cultural own value and become the auxiliary means of the informational flow.

On the territories, close to the Russian borders

For Russian in the XIX century knowledge of own borders was of the same importance as conquering the outlands. Since the early century in Europe the idea of national state has actively been developed and Russia faces the obvious need to form the own national ideology, to define the borders for “Russian”. The latter changed for all the century, including the bigger territory. It influenced the direction of social and scientific thought: the Russian intellectuals paid attention to the Russian peasant, living on the vast territories of the Russian Empire. For example, the material “Regional expressions of the Russian language in the Astrakhan region” by the traveler to outskirts of Russia A.I. Shrenk, published in the issue NERGS under consideration, says: The nearest purpose of the Russian Geographical society, as we all know, must be the study of our vast motherland, not only some certain regions, but also the men who live there, because this knowledge is as important for geography as the knowledge of fielding is important for farmers. This increases the interest to the Russian North, which becomes a sort of a cultural project (Shabaev, Sadokhin, & Kuznetsova, 2016), and the Siberia.

These processes are manifested in the idea of collecting special peculiarities of the Russian folk vocabulary. “The history of Russian lexicography” notes that “many actors of the Russian culture not only called to notice and record the folk words and expressions, but the made such recordings themselves. Publication of dialect materials in the first half of the XIX century were positively evaluated by the leaders of the Russian society” (Sorokoletov, 2001, pp. 276-277). The culmination of this social movement is the appearance of the “Russian dictionary of alive language” by V. I. Dal. Hus, we may say that there is a cultural interchange inside the country. This is testified by the processes, happening in the very lexical system: folk and regional words in greater degree are acknowledged as the necessary material to build the system of the Russian literary national language, especially valuable quality of such vocabulary is the vividness (Vinogradov, 1982). These processes may be considered the home borrowing, i.e. the dialect vocabulary moving from locally limits to the usage may be counted equal to neologisms.

The material by A.I. Shrenk bears a different character than those mentioned above. We see a small regional dictionary with definitions instead of intertext definitions. The vocabulary includes 374 words, spread with a meaning principle (in thematic groups: atmospheric and meteorological phenomena, winds, ice, sea, shore etc), in conclusion we find their alphabetic order with numbers which help to find the word in the main list. The thematic groups are not similar and differ in number of words (on average 15-20 lexical units). Inside the group there is a nest, each nest has 2-3 words, with 5 words in some nests. Definitions contain the indexes of word correlation inside the nest, for example: 86. Hollow – open, as a hole: example: river is hollow, i.e. not covered with ice; doors are hollow, i.e. open. 87. Ice-hole – open place in ice, covering the water; the word is used in many Russian countries, near Petersburg as well, can not be counted as regional.

The example shows that the given list of words with definitions is not the dictionary in its sense. Firstly, the margins of “article borders” are lost due to their connections, we see the text with fragments of life in the Astrakhan region. Secondly, there is no developed metalanguage, but there are a lot of traces of traveler’s (not a linguist) thinking about the cultural meanings of the word, which are collected mostly accidentally. Explaining the word “hollow”, the author cites the illustrative example of usage (the river is hollow), but there is no illustration for ice-hole, but there is a consideration on its place in the national language system (can not be counted as regional). In some case definitions contain the grammar information: 48. Raiser (pl. howlers) – high, heavy wave; comes from the verb raise. There is a huge difference in the amount of explanation: from one-word (107. Nyasha – dirt) to detailed and complex: 108. Inka – non-Russian woman; for example: Samoedovo inka, Zyryanovo inka; used in the Mezensk region; taken from in in the Zyransk, meaning the married woman.


Summing up, we may say that the word as the means of cross-cultural interaction is influenced by various extra linguistic factors, including the ones of political character. Analyzing the material we kept in mind the direction of political activity, which influenced the study of regions. We found that the peculiarities of word usage depend upon the political tasks of the state, connected with a certain territory. This becomes the determining context for formation of the cross-cultural dialogue.

To make the analysis convenient, we distinguished three directions of home and foreign policy, connected with the RGS expeditions: investigating far regions, conquering close territories, learning the far regions of the country. The first direction in our research is presented with the text about Africa, in which the word as the means of cross-cultural communication obtains self-value. The author sets the task to tell the reader about the details of exotic reality, so he actualizes the cultural and historic component through neologisms. The second direction is presented with the texts about the Caspian and China. The word selection follows the principle of practical necessity, the cultural understanding of the territory is secondary. Finally, the third direction is presented in the material, devoted to the regional expression of the Arkhangelsk region. The word comes affront, becomes the translator of everyday details in the life of the residents. This helps to choose the form of presentation – the word list with definitions, set in thematic groups.

The history of vocabulary means the search for the cultural code of the words in a certain epoch. That is mostly why the sphere of the research interest is the groups of words, which were thought peripheral in the lexical system (for example, exotisms, foreign inclusions, barbarisms – Shestakova & Kuleva, 2017).



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03 August 2020

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

Cite this article as:

Shcheglova, E. (2020). Neology As A Means Of Cross-Cultural Interaction In The Xix Century. In N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1554-1562). European Publisher.