Linguocultural Basis Of Comparative Studies Of Phraseology Of Unrelated Languages


The article discusses the most important provisions of comparative linguocultural studies which are the basis of the phraseology of unrelated languages: 1) identification of the universal and idioethnic features of the figurative semantics of phraseological units; 2) the study of the phraseological picture of the world, including its structure and constituent elements; 3) identification of the degree of semantic equivalence of phraseological units denoting similar realities (full and partial equivalents, equivalent units); 4) the study of the laws of transfer of figurative meanings of phraseological units into a foreign language / foreign cultural environment, etc. These provisions are studied on the Russian and Chinese collocations containing numeric components, in particular три – 三 ( san ), which demonstrate features of the figurative interpretation of the numerical code of culture by speakers of unrelated languages. The authors classify these units, paying attention to the general and specific components of their figurative meanings. Russian and Chinese phraseological units with numeral components represent unique national characteristics and similarity of different cultures, which indicates the coincidence of certain fragments of the world picture in the languages under study. In addition, it was revealed that Chinese numerative phraseological units containing a component三 ( san ) reflect ethnocultural features of numerical symbolism, including those related to religious, philosophical, everyday, and other spheres and indicate that “3” is one of the most common numbers after “5” and “9” used for classification purposes.

Keywords: Phraseologyunrelated languageslinguoculturologysemanticsnumerical symbols


Currently, the study of the relationship between language and culture is one of the most relevant areas of extralinguistics, since its results are important for solving many controversial issues in linguoculturology, the theory of intercultural communication, translation studies, etc. (Álvarez de la Granja, 2008; Kramsch, 2004; Naciscione, 2010). An in-depth study of the issues allowed for identification of a number of independent areas within which the issue of relationship between language and culture was solved using methodological principles (Burger et al., 2007; Samata, 2014). They are ethnolinguistics and linguoculturology whose object is culturally marked language units reflecting the perception of the world by representatives of ethnic groups.

Problem Statement

It can be assumed that comparative linguistic and cultural studies on phraseology of genetically unrelated languages are crucial, since they allow us to determine patterns of figurative interpretation of the world by their native speakers, establish the degree of similarity and differences in the encyclopedic knowledge behind the phraseological units. One of the promising areas of comparative linguoculturology is the study of ethnocultural originality of phraseological units which involves a number of issues:

1. Identification of universal and idioethnic features of the figurative semantics of phraseological units (FU), similarities and differences in their internal forms. The figurativeness is the most obvious basis for comparing phraseological systems of different languages, since it is inherent in most phraseological units. The study of the figurative basis of phraseological units of two or more languages involves the identification of patterns of reflection of cultural codes (anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, subject, numerical, etc.) in the internal form of FUs.

2. The study of the phraseological world picture (FWP), including its structure and constituent elements, is closely connected with this issue. One of the most important characteristics of FWP is the dominance of figurative-expressive components, which determines the nomination of realities by referring to life situations, attitudes, stereotypes, etc., which are of particular importance for representatives of ethnic groups. Therefore, studies of basic phraseological concepts that reflect the specifics of the ethnic worldview, its axiological priorities, psychological features, etc. are crucial.

3. Identification of the degree of semantic equivalence of phraseological units denoting similar realities, identification of full and partial equivalents and nonequivalent units. This issue has been studied within traditional linguistics, however, in terms of comparative linguoculturology, the equivalence of phraseological units is studied at the level of denotative meanings and figurative and connotative semantics. Special attention is paid to the coincidence of the internal form of phraseological units in different languages, primarily unrelated ones.

4. The study of the laws of transfer of figurative semantics of phraseological units into a foreign / foreign cultural environment. Researchers deal with translation. It is important to study the mechanisms of correlation of cultural codes and realities of different ethnic groups reflected in the internal form of phraseological units; identification of a “matrix” through which universal, typical cultural images and symbols can be explained. It is necessary to study this problem within linguodidactics and translation studies, find appropriate ways to translate figurative meanings of phraseological units.

Research Questions

The article focuses on a comparative analysis of Russian and Chinese phraseological units, including numerals, in particular три – 三 ( san ); Researchers deal with numerative phraseological units because they demonstrate the specifics of the figurative and symbolic interpretation of the fundamental categories of being, including quantity (Di & Kiseleva, 2016; Juan, 2010). The importance of numerical representations determines the diversity of phraseological units, which include numerals.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose is to identify possibilities of a comparative linguocultural study of phraseological systems of unrelated languages based on Russian and Chinese phraseological units, identify the universal and specific components of the cultural semantics of these units.

Research Methods

Linguistic methods aimed at identifying the ethnocultural specifics of Russian and Chinese phraseological units with a numerical component were used: the methods of comparative linguistics were used to identify interlanguage correspondences and formal and semantic similarities and differences: the methods of linguoculturology were used to analyze the internal form of phraseological units and describe cultural components of figurative semantics. The methods of systemic semantics were used to analyze definitions of linguistic units, the components of their meanings, etc.


The analysis identified general and specific linguocultural features of FUs. In Russian culture, the number is of particular importance: pre-Christian and Christian symbols and concepts are penetrated with trinity. The following religious ideas are the basis of the image “3”: 1) The Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit; 2) three magicians brought gifts to the born Jesus in Nazareth; 3) Jesus Christ rose on the third day; 4) Apostle Peter denied Jesus three times; 5) The Three-Handed – the miraculous icon of the mother of God, etc. In Chinese culture, the number "3" is considered mysterious and sacred, because it is associated with the most important religious beliefs, such as 1)三教(san jiao) – three teachings: Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism (Fedorov, 2008; Telia, 2006); 2) 三藏 (san jiao) – the totality of all three sections of Buddhist canonical books: sutras, vinaya, sastra; 3) 三宝 (san bao) – three treasures: Buddha, his teaching – dharma, monastic community – sangha; 4) 三清 (san qing) – three supreme deities in Taoism: 元始天尊 (yuan shi tian zun), 太上老君 (tai shang lao jun), 灵宝天尊 (ling bao tian zun). In addition, the number "3" plays an exceptional role in the formation of ideas about the etiquette, natural forces, territorial-administrative units (provinces), etc.:礼让三分 (li rang san fen) be more polite than others three times, 三才者,天地人 “There are three forces in space: heaven, earth and humanity”, 三光者,日月星 “Three lights: the sun, moon and stars”,三纲者,君臣义,父子亲,夫妇顺 "Three principles of life" 三湘 (san xiang) Hunan Province 三晋 (san jin) "Shanxi Province" and others.

The analysis of Russian and Chinese phraseological units with the components три – 三 ( san ) revealed the following integral meanings:

1. "Much." In Russian, this meaning is represented by such phraseological units as видеть на три аршина в землю, гнуть в три дуги, с три короба . Among 68 Chinese idiomatic expressions containing the numeral san , 29 expressions have this meaning: san chao yuan lao "Famous subjects who served to three dynasties", jiaotu san ku “The cunning hare has three exits from the hole”, san rencheng hu “The words of three people make one believe in the appearance of a tiger” (when the same thing is repeated many times, it is taken for the truth), san tui liu wen “Three times pushed out, six times interrogated” (a person is subjected to numerous interrogations), san wu cheng qun “Three or five is already a crowd”, san zhi wu ly “In three papers there is no word about the donkey” (there are many papers, but there is no confirmation of the necessary). According to Chinese cultural beliefs, the number “3” generates ten thousand things, it becomes clear why 3 means a lot .

2. "A little." In Russian, this meaning is represented by such phraseological units as заблудиться в трёх соснах, в трёх шагах . In Chinese, the numeral san is rarely used in this meaning: we found only 6 such examples. This meaning is expressed in combination with lexemes denoting smaller numbers (for example, san yan hang yu “in two or three words”), as well as in contrast to the meaning “many”: san sip b and Ian she – “about the diplomacy conquering the military force”) or in the meaning “often”: san ju hua and li ben hang – “mumbles about the same thing”. There is one case when the meaning “a little” corresponds to the position of the number “3” in the number series. An example is the phraseology san fen xiang ren, qi , which goes back to the second chapter of the ancient Chinese monument "Plans of the fighting kingdoms." This book contains a dialogue between Pan Tsun and the Wei Wan. To Pan Tsun’s question: “If one person says that there are tigers in the city, will you believe this?” – the van replies: “No.” Pan Tsun asks: “And if two people will say this?” – the van answers: “I will be in doubt.” Pan Tsun asks: “And if three people talk about this?” – the van answers: “Then I will believe.” Pan Tsun concludes: "Although it is obvious that there are no tigers in the city, the words of three people already make a tiger out of nothing".

3. "Specific amount." The numeral san is often used as a component of Chinese phraseological units, for example: 孟母三迁 (meng mu san qian) – “Mother Mencius moves three times” (away from the cemetery and market, but closer to school, it means taking care of raising children), 三平二满 (san ping er man) – “Three ordinary, two happy” (three – clothes, food and a house, two – fame and profit), "Be satisfied with your life".

Phraseologisms with the san component express only one differential meaning – the “limit of targeted actions”: when this numeral is used to denote actions that have a specific purpose, it develops a connotation of the limit. The numeral san has this meaning in the following examples: san guo qi men er bu ru – “I walked past the gates of my house three times, but I didn’t enter” (about the sense of responsibility guided by Yui conquering the waters), san nian bu kui yuan – “I didn’t look into the garden for three years” (about the concentration of the famous scientist Dong Zhongshu), etc. In addition, “3” is one of the most common numbers after “5” and “9” used for classification purposes: san jiao jiu hi “three teachings , nine currents ”, san gang wu chang “ three foundations and five principles ”, san cong si de “ three obedience and four virtues (about female behavior)”, san sheng you xing “luck in all three life cycles”, san zai ba nan "three natural disasters and eight misfortunes".

In addition, the numeral san “three” can be combined with numerals from one to ten, expressing a variety of meanings correlated with certain semantic areas, for example, “for a long time”, “coverage of the subject, the whole phenomenon , completely", "something that stands out from the ordinary", etc.:

1. Collocations with the numeral yi "one":一日三秋 (yi ri san qiu» – “One day of separation as three years”, 一时三刻 (yi shi san ke) – "An hour is forty-five minutes" – "A short period of time, a few minutes", 举一反三 (ju yi fan san) – “Judging the whole subject by one part, knowing the whole by the part” – “Judge by analogy, generalize, extrapolate, draw conclusions”, 一波三折 (yi bo san zhe) – “On each wave, there are three kinks” ( “the path is studded with thorns, at every step there are all kinds of difficulties”); b) “Three turns on each stroke” (the artsy calligraphy style); c) artsy language (works); 三位一体 (san wei yi ti) «1) Trinity; 2) the triune.

2. Collocations with the numeral er «two»: 三心二意 (san xin er yi) –Three hearts, "Indecisive, fickle,"二三其德(er san qi de) = 二三其意 (er san qi yi) “his/her qualities are changeable; his (her) feelings are inconsistent ”, 三番两次 (san fan liang ci) – Two and three times “repeatedly”,三言两语 (san yan liang yu) –In a nutshell " laconic", 三拳二脚 (san quan er jiao) –ʻA) by hands and legs, pokes and kicks; b) with three pokes and two kicksʼ “Easy, effortless”接二连三 (jie er lian san) "continuously, one after another, in a row, in a succession."

3. Collocations with the numeral san "three":三熏三沐 (san xun san mu) – letters. “swim three times, use eau de toilette three times” “Respect much”三战三北 (san zhan san bei) – Three battles – three defeats "Fail constantly"

4. Collocations with the numeral si “four”: 1) 重三叠四 (chong san die si) – Repeat three, four times. “Repeat many times” 语四言三 (yu si yan san) – "Talk about three and four” – "Talk in vain "推三阻四 (tui san zu si) – “Move three, hold four” “to evade”, 三三四四 (san san si si)– Three, three, four, four "a few people", 三老四少 (san lao si shao) – Three old and four young “Old and young (in the family)”, 三从四德 (san cong si de) – “Triform submissiveness and four virtues” (women: virtue, modesty in speech, femininity, hard work – the traditional formula of requirements for a woman in old China), etc.

5. Collocations with the numeral wu five: 1) 攒三聚五 (cuan san ju wu) – “Connect three and five” to “gather in groups, "三令五申 (san ling wu shen) – Three orders and five laws “Repeatedly order and explain”, 三贞五烈 (san zhen wu lie) – “Three innocences and five honesties” "High chastity and impeccable purity (women)",三山五岳 (san shan wu yue) – "Three sacred legendary mountains and five important famous sacred peaks".

6. Collocations with the numeral liu six: 三灾六难 (san za liu i nan) – “Three troubles and eight misfortunes” “About many misfortunes, for example soreness in childhood, "三头六证 (san tou liu zheng) – “Testimony; witness",三头六臂 (san tou liu bi) – “having three heads and six hands” "Strong, hefty, handyman",三宫六院 (san gong liu yuan) "The harem of the emperor" 三茶六饭 (san cha liu fan) – “Three varieties of tea and six varieties of rice” – “Rich welcome, generous treating”,三班六房 (san ban liu fang) "lower employees of the district (county) administration ”,六九等 (san liu jiu deng) "Various species; diverse; differ from each other”.

7. Collocations with the numeral qi seven: 不管三七二十一 (bu guan san qi er shi yi) “Without asking anything, without unnecessary words; without paying attention to anything, without much thought; (about those who make hasty decisions without thinking about consequences),七年之病,求三年之艾 (qi nian zhi bing, qiu san nian zhi ai) в знач. “Timely preparation is required in all matters; when the problem looms, it will be difficult to do something, "三江七泽 (san jiang qi ze) "Rivers, lakes and swamps",三魂七魄 (san hun qi po) "triple spiritual (rational) principle and seven unclean (animal) spirits (in the human body); spiritual”, etc.

8. Collocations with the numeral ba eight: 三灾八难 (san zai ba nan) – “Three troubles and eight misfortunes” (about many misfortunes, for example, diseases in childhood),三臡八菹 (san ni ba zu) “Tasty and good meals”,三台八座 (san tian ba zuo) “High position, big rank; dignitary, high-ranking official ",三头八臂 (san tou ba bi) – “having three heads and eight hands” “A) a monster, terrible, scary; b) strong, hefty)”, etc.

9. Collocations with the numeral jiu nine: 九烈三贞 (jiu lie san zhen) "chastity and impeccable purity (women)",三教九流 (san jiao jiu liu) “1) three teachings and nine schools; philosophical schools and movements; 2) all sciences, wisdom; all circles, a motley company, every creature in pairs; all sorts, of all kinds, ”三旬九食 (san xun jiu shi) poor family 三等九般 (san deng jiu ban) “a) three categories and nine grades; diverse, unequal, various; b) different ranks and titles (qualifications) ",三跪九叩 (san gui jiu kou) "a big ceremonial bow ",三槐九棘 (san huai jiu ji) “Three sophors and nine blackthorn bushes” (opposite three gunas公 and nine Qings 卿; the symbol of the highest ranks of the empire).

10. Collocations with the numeral shi ten: 1) 三风十愆 (san feng shi qian) "Bad weather".


As a result of the analysis, we can conclude that the symbolic semantics of the numerical code as a universal phenomenon is represented in Russian and Chinese linguocultures in a specific way. Numerative phraseological units express idioethnic properties of the national culture and similarities of different cultures; while the specificity is associated with the uniqueness of their meanings, the similarity indicates the coincidence of certain fragments of the world picture of unrelated languages. The Chinese numeral san (“three”) has a greater phrase-forming potential than its Russian equivalent; the corresponding Chinese phraseological units differ in semantics, indicating the most diverse realities. Chinese numerative phraseological units reflect ethnocultural features of the numerical code wider, including its symbolic meanings related to philosophical, religious, everyday and other areas.


Copyright information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this article

Publication Date

31 October 2020

eBook ISBN



European Publisher



Print ISBN (optional)


Edition Number

1st Edition




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

Cite this article as:

Kiseleva, L. A., & Di, Y. (2020). Linguocultural Basis Of Comparative Studies Of Phraseology Of Unrelated Languages. In & D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism» Dedicated to the 80th Anniversary of Turkayev Hassan Vakhitovich, vol 92. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 555-561). European Publisher.