Discourse And Child-Centred Discourse In Russian Folk Tales


The work is devoted to the phenomenon of discourses in Russian folk tales. Folktales – one of the types of folklore – is a quintessence of the collective mind. They reflect different spheres of a certain nation. They are regarded as valuable materials for the upbringing of young children. From folk tales children not only learn about the national character, but also learn how to communicate. Discourse in Russian folk tales is narrative in nature. On the one hand, folk tales are mostly made on the basis of village life and fiction. On the other hand, they are created mainly for children and are composed by discourses accessible to children. Due to the above-mentioned reasons, the discourse in Russian folk tales deviates from the literary Russian language. The aim of the work is to analyze the discourse and child-centred discourse used in Russian folk tales, to find out the peculiarities of discourses in Russian folk tales and their differences from the literary language. The article analyzes the views of researchers on this topic. The study of Russian folk tales allows us to look deeper into Russian culture, children's discourse and the child-centred discourse in folklore, and this problem is of practical importance in the fact that the story and phenomenon in folk tales can serve as a teaching material at school. On the basis of the analysis of Russian folk tales it is possible to consider various problems of the children's discourse directed on the child of a discourse of national character.

Keywords: Children's discoursechild-centred discourseRussian folk taleliterary languagenational character


Fairy tales accompany every child as a child. They play an important role in early childhood education around the world. In-depth study of folk tales is an important task for teachers and linguists, as fairy tales are often used in children's classrooms as teaching materials. Children learn about the world and the language through fairy tales. Folk tales are closer to a certain people because they are created on the basis of tradition and ethnic life. Russian folk tales are miniatures of Russian life and Russian character. Culture is expressed through language. Discourse in Russian folk tales has its own peculiarities, which attracts attention of researchers, for example, Bogatyrev (1975), Ossovetsky (1952). On the basis of the existing points of view, the paper presents different specifics of Russian folk tale discourses. The work is of practical importance in that some ways of expression in folk tales can serve as a discursive model that can be used in children's audiences. Research shows that the discourse used by teachers affects the perception of students' knowledge (Hiebert & Wearne, 1993).

Problem Statement

Russia has a lot of folk tales. They are often used for educational purposes. They reflect all aspects of Russian life: language, food, nature, worldview, lifestyle and so on. In turn, folk tales also influence modern life in many areas. According to a study by psychologists, folk tales have pedagogical benefits for the development of a culture of safety for students (Nadezhda, 2017), while the linguistic characteristics and peculiarities of Russian folk tales have not been fully studied. The present study can provide theoretical support in the process of educating children and communicating with children.

Research Questions

The work focuses on the discourse in Russian folk tales, its features on phonetic, morphological, syntactic and stylistic levels. These features have an important impact on Russian language moments such as word formation and rhyme.

Purpose of the Study

The aim of the work is to analyze the discourse and child-centred discourse used in Russian fairy tales, to identify the peculiarities of discourses in Russian fairy tales and their differences from the literary language.

Research Methods

A number of research methods are used, including the method of contextual analysis, the method of linguistic-cultural analysis, the method of linguistic analysis.

Contextual analysis method: when studying discourses in Russian folk tales, the context and situation of communication are taken into account.

Method of linguistic and cultural analysis: the discourse in Russian folk tales is not only of communicative importance, it also reflects the cultural characteristics of the Russian people. In this paper, the study of discourses is implemented on the basis of taking into account the cultural specifics.

Method of linguistic analysis: the discourse in Russian folk tales is analyzed depending on the goals, situation and other extra-linguistic factors.


According to Fasmer's (1986) etymological dictionary of the Russian language, the word "fairy tale" appeared only from the XVII century, based on the word "kazat", which has the meaning of "speak", "say". On the question of the concept of "fairy tale" (this work only refers to the genre of the work) in the humanities there is a generally accepted understanding: a narrative work of oral folklore about fictional faces and events, one of the main genres of folklore. The Russian folk tale, accordingly, is the mind of the Russian people. Russian folk tale is composed in the environment of Russian culture, so it differs from others in the fact that it certainly reflects the nature, way of life, linguistic culture, worldview, system of values of the Russian people. In this regard, it can be considered a typical material for the study of the Russian language, discourse and culture.

Fairy tales differ in the customs, culture and religion of different peoples, and the purpose of folk tales is usually to educate the individual, create generally accepted principles of morality and sometimes be used in religious functions. In this regard, folk tales of different countries have their own peculiarities. The peculiarities of Russian folk tales are in the discourses, in the natural environment, in the plot and heroes.

Although all fairy tales have a traditional composition, which begins with the beginning (singing). Zachin (the beginning of a tale) in Russian folk tales differs from analogues in foreign fairy tales. The origins of Russian folk tales usually have no chronological significance, but only set out the place and names of the heroes, for example:

"There was an old man with an old woman in the middle of a field" (Seven Simeons).

"There were times when there was a king and queen in some state; their son was born!

"In some kingdom, in some state there lived an old man with an old woman, and they had a son Martynka!

"In one village lived two men, two brothers: one was poor, the other rich" (Woe).

Compared to the zachins of Russian classical fairy tales, almost all famous Chinese fairy tales begin with chronological features like «很久很久以前» (long ago), «从前»( in the past).

Rhyme is widespread in Russian folklore fairy tales in the zachins, endings, permanent epithets, proverbs: « Were", "in some kingdom, in some state", "and I was there, honey-beer drank", "to live, to live, to make good money", "fox-sister", "wolf-teeth click" (Frolov, 2003).

The rhyme is known to be closely related to the phenomenon of repetition. In order to spread and attract interest in reading, folk tales often use methods of repetition at all levels: phonetic (as alliteration and assonance), lexical (as paronomasia), syntactic and narrative.

While studying syntactic and plot repetition in folk tales it is necessary to mention importance of number 3 for Russian people. In the fairy tale "Sivka-burka" three nights were guarded by brothers of wheat and only on the third day Ivanushka – a fool – jumped up to the window of the princess and took the ring off her hand. In the fairy tale "The Sea King and Vasilisa the Wise" Ivan-Tsarevich hid three times, did three works. Running away from the Sea Tsar, Vasilisa the Wise three times spit in three corners of her vertex for a successful escape. In the fairy tale "Finist – a clear falcon" Maryushka met Babu-Yaga three times, received three gifts from her, went to the Finist three times.

Another point that attracts attention is the constant use of the union of "yes" in the sense of "and": "There was a man and a woman living. They had a daughter and a little son" (Swan-Goose); "She raised them, they started to walk along the river, goldfish, pick up scraps, sew sew up kaftaniki, yes, jump out on the bank, and look at the meadow" (White Duck); "There was a rooster and a chicken" (Bean Grain). There are many more such examples, they also happen in the conversations of the heroes. The use of unions not only has lexical and grammatical meaning, but also acquires stylistic coloring. Classical Russian fairy tales are oral folklore, and undoubtedly have a character of colloquial speech.

This is also evidenced by the use of the "ka" particle and the diminution suffix. For example: "Serve here what's in the oven: I'm hungry!", "Bring me an old reed, an old shuttle, and horse maneuvers: I'll make it all up to you" (Vasilisa the Beautiful); "Let's go around the city" (the Magic Ring); "Let's go to the city, ask my brother: won't it help?". Come and visit me tomorrow and bring your wife: because tomorrow my birthdays are my birthdays" (Woe). Particle "ka" with verbs, according to the spelling rule, is written with a hyphen in the form of a commanding inclination to soften the order. The use of the "ka" particle and the suffix of diminution reflects the peculiarity of the discourse aimed at the child: with a softer modal connotation.

From the lexicon point of view, the words used in Russian folk tales are usually informative in order to make it easier for children to perceive them. In other words, vocabulary in the child's consciousness has a substantive and practical character. Here is an example: The "river" for adult native speakers is of greater importance. In the grammar of literary language there are such expressions as "river of time", "river of knowledge", "it is impossible to enter the same river twice", "tears flow into the river", etc. This means that words in the minds of adults are less informative. In this regard, we can say that the metaphor in folk tales can expand the meaning of the word in the children's idiolect. The expression known to all children "milk rivers flowing with acidulous banks" in fairy tales is one of the attempts to acquaint a child with the metaphor.

In Russian folk tales there is often a sound imitation, which can be divided into two types. One of them is word-forming, for example, "cuckoo (imitation of a bird)", "tambourine (imitation of the crew, knocking, rattle)", "bam-bam! (imitation of gunshot, cotton, slap)", etc. Another type is pure imitation of sounds: sounds that are produced by animals: meow, woof-woof, kwa-kwa, chick-chirk; non-verbal sounds produced by man: khe-khe, chmok, ha-ha-ha-ha; and other sounds of the world around: buk, kap-kap, chpook, pith-puff. This phenomenon can be explained by the following: the majority of listeners of folk tales are children, children at an early age are taught the language as a way of imitation, because it is easier for a child to perceive a simple sound signal and react to it. As a result, sound imitation plays an important role in fairy tales.

In Russian, there are known to be declarative and caressing suffixes. Let's give an example from a passage from the fairy tale by Bazhov (1939) "Rolling fire": ... girl ... at the big pine tree stopped, stomped with a leg, shimmering with teeth, waved with a handkerchief like a whistle... One can see that in a rather short fragment such words as "girl", "teeth", "leg", "handkerchief" appeared many times, which will make the fairy tale attractive and alive for children.

Children's discourse in fairy tales is mainly shown in the dialogues of heroes. For example, in the fairy tale "The Mitten" is a dialogue between animals; the fairy tale "The Spike" includes a dialogue between a cock and mice. In the tale "The Spike", the main character has a dialogue with the animals he meets on his way. These fairy tales are characterized by social subtext, allegory and parable (Shitalevskaya, 2015).

In the sphere of discourse analysis in folk tales, it is necessary to note the Russian philologist-folklorist Proppa (1928) and his work "Morphology of a fairy tale". The book was published in 1928 and aroused the interest of scientists in the study of folklore, its influence on the upbringing of children.

Modern linguists and teachers prove that among all the works for children the most important and effective role in the development of children's speech is played by a fairy tale. Since fairy tales show folk wisdom and value, children receive not only a sample of the Russian language, but also spiritual, moral and aesthetic wealth. In the process of transmission from generation to generation, the fairy tale improves and gradually acquires its artistic quality.

Early childhood education is inextricably linked to folk tales, in which language and expression are imaginative and expressive for children. The child absorbs the harmony of speech by listening to the fairy tale. Therefore, fairy tales play an important role in the upbringing of young children. As Ushinsky (1974) said:

These are the first and brilliant attempts of Russian national pedagogy, and I do not think that anyone was able to compete in this case with the pedagogical genius of the people. The national fairy tale is easily read by children ... because in all ... national fairy tales the same words and turns are constantly repeated, and from these constant repetitions satisfying as much as possible pedagogical value of the story, something whole, slender, easily observable, full of movement, life and interest is composed. (p. 66)


The analysis of discourses in Russian folk tales allows us to conclude that Russian folk tales have their own peculiarities on stylistic, syntactic, morphological and phonetic levels: causes, rhymes, repetition, use of the union "yes" in the meaning of "i", use of the particle "ka" and the suffix of diminution, use of sound imitation, use of suffixes with a subjective shade, etc.

This work explores Russian folk tales; analyzes the fairytale discourse, child-centred discourse, the discourse of heroes; and presents the peculiarities of discourses in Russian folk tales. The research can serve as a basis for further study of problems about discourses, children's discourses, linguodidactics, linguoculture.


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31 October 2020

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

Cite this article as:

Luan, L., & Shaklein, V. M. (2020). Discourse And Child-Centred Discourse In Russian Folk Tales. 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. 637-642). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.10.05.85