Personal Transformations Of Phraseological Units In The Discourse Of Politics


This paper presents a linguistic study of the different types of transformations of sustainable verbal complexes in the political discourse of the famous political figure of Russia Dmitry Rogozin. The linguistic personality of D. Rogozin has an extensive fund of ethno-linguistic material. Individual transformations are a reflection of national cultural world picture of the person. Language units of phraseological level perform in national linguistic and cultural reality a number of functions that are related to opportunities of identification, ideological ways of reflecting the surrounding world, institutional and axiological properties. Various modifications of phraseological units in speech are the result of individual linguistic-creative thinking and evidence of the general trends of the adequate perception of the familiar expressions of the national society. Changing the basic formal structure, semantics, bringing different connotative shades of meaning of the idiom, the politician expresses his emotional evaluation of experiences, reinforcing the main (pragmatic) function of the utterances in a political discourse. Due to the author’s unique linguistic and creative thinking, the phraseological units undergo various kinds of changes, in close interconnection with the contextual background, situation, pragmatic function and other related characteristics of political discourse. The considered speech samples recognize a strong, decisive personality, and most importantly, a responsible politician who boldly faces the problems and offers rational ways to solve them.

Keywords: Linguistic personalitphraseological unitspolitical discoursetransformation


Phraseology of the Russian language develops and is stably replenished with new expressions of evocative nature due to the word-creation of educated people with the ability to think figuratively and to seek out ways to combine elements of the language with changes in the worldview of modern representatives of society.

More and more in modern political discourse, we are faced with stable word complexes from the field of phraseology. Now it is hardly possible to imagine a leading politician who does not have phraseological competence, whose linguistic personality constantly develops through his speeches to the public. Such evolution is inextricably linked with the direct activity of a representative of this segment of the population, whose linguistic personality acts, on the one hand, as the owner of the individual qualities of speech activity, and on the other hand, as an ideal representative of institutional discourse, able to formulate in his speeches the prospects for fulfilling the hopes and needs of potential voters.

Problem Statement

Society has always followed with interest the acts of individual creativity in the language. These are words and phraseological units, which represent not only the author’s self-expression, but are also addressed to the listener or reader, and therefore are significant for society. The language units of the phraseological level perform a number of functions in the national linguistic and cultural reality related to the possibilities of identification, ideological ways of reflecting the world, institutional and axiological properties. Transformations of phraseological units are usually understood by the addressees, since they are built in a way known in the language and, by a known model or analogy, but their meaning is formed by the context. In modern discourse, more and more occasional use of phraseological units is observed. Often, individual transformations of phraseological units are a natural manifestation of the known flexibility and manifested dialect in the use of phraseological units.

Research Questions

The aim of the study is to identify typical signs of the transformation of phraseological units of a linguistic personality in the political discourse of Dmitry Rogozin (Golovina, 2003; Malushko et al., 2016; Murugova, 2017). The linguistic personality of a politician also has at his disposal certain means of representation, which have both idiolect and linguistic and cultural characteristics of his nation. The mentioned characteristic features can be seen as a result of the analysis of phraseological forms of the language and their application in the usage.

Purpose of the Study

The main objectives of the study are the following:

  • to consider the ethnocultural originality of the political discourse and linguistic personality of the politician, framed by the key abilities of phraseological thinking of the Russian social community;

  • to establish ideological and ethnocultural features of the phraseology of Dmitry Rogozin;

  • to identify the specific features of the phraseological changes

Research Methods

The methods and techniques of the research are determined by the aim and objectives of the study and are supported by the specifics of the material, namely:

  • the descriptive method

  • the method of component analysis of the material

  • the method of identification projection and the introspective method.

Elements of componential-connotative synthesis were also used in the processing of the collected material.


The political discourse is one of the forms of the nationwide discourse space and is subject to the generally accepted laws of the functioning of the national language and speech. An individual’s conceptual representation of the realities of political life is displayed in the phraseological foundation of an ideologized language, whose semantic component is a cognitive-associative basis for identifying a politician’s linguistic personality (Sopova, 2016).

In the space of political discourse, phraseological units are used not in an isolated form (Rebrina & Malushko, 2017), but in close interaction with each other and with the context, they undergo various transformations, modifications and form a sign continuum, which in turn reflects the essential characteristics of the linguistic personality of a public figure.

Discourse is determined as “a complex communicative phenomenon that includes, in addition to text, extralinguistic information” (Alefirenko, 2015, p. 158). There is a complex relationship between discourses and social systems: “‘Discourse’ is a category used by both social theorists and analysts and linguists” (Fairclough, 2013, p. 131).

Linguistic and extralinguistic information in the semantic structure of a phraseological unit undergoes transformation due to the influence of the institutional discourse format. “The study of political discourse should not be limited to the structural properties of text or talk itself, but also include a systematic account of the context and its relations to discursive structures” (Dijk van, 1997, p. 15) The cognitive activity of representatives of the linguistic society also has an effect on this process. The interaction of these factors plays a role in the reconstruction of the phraseological picture of the world, presented as a nationally marked phenomenon. Not only rational, but also emotional information about the world around us is reflected at the heart of this picture of the world.

The assertion that phraseological units have a constant composition and structure is beyond doubt and comes from the definition of a phraseological unit. “The phraseological unit is a stable, cohesive combination of words with a fully or partially figurative meaning” (Naciscione, 2010, p. 8). Stability, traditionality, constancy of composition – the indisputable characteristics of the phraseological foundation of the language. Nevertheless, considering phraseological units in the context of discourse manifestations, we can observe variety of transformations of the mentioned forms of the language.

Speech changes require native speakers to be creative in expressing thoughts, feelings and, in general, self-expression in their speeches. In order not to get lost in the general mass of society, it is necessary to transform, react to constant changes in the surrounding space, taking into account the message of modernity, while trying not to erase your personality against the impersonality of the crowd. It is necessary to create an effect, to develop and not to lose, but to emphasize your individuality, using refined, unique formulations in your speech, which determine the charisma, the uniqueness of the personality. Most of all, this statement concerns political discourse, because prominent political figures need to take into account the degree of influence of their speeches on voters, which will favourably affect their careers and attract the attention of supporters of their political views. They consider as transformation any deviation from the generally accepted norm enshrined in linguistic literature, as well as an impromptu change for expressive-stylistic purposes (Gusseynova, 1997).

Due to transformations, phraseological units sometimes acquire new expressive-stylistic properties. Thus, speech becomes brighter and more diverse, and phraseological units remain recognizable and familiar.

As examples, the utterances of Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Rogozin are analyzed (Rogozin, 2010). The title of his work “The Hawks of Peace” displays the transformed stable expression, most familiar to a wide range of Russian speakers like “dove of peace”, representing the symbol of a bird that represents loyalty due to maternal feelings, as well as strength (the dove was depicted on the sceptres of some rulers, symbolizing the power that God sent them), wisdom, also innocence, purity, love, in ancient times ‒ fertility. In Noah’s Bible, it was the dove that brought the olive branch to the ark as a symbol of reconciliation of the elements. In the modern view of many nations, the dove is associated with peacekeeping ideas. In the United States and England, those politicians are called hawks who lobby for military action, and those who advocate for a peaceful settlement of conflicts are called doves.The author of the book himself explains the choice of just such a combination of lexical units by the fact that “in our cruel and dangerous times, “hawks - high calibre people with firm principles, civic attitudes, rigid will and inexhaustible energy should deal with the affairs of the world” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 5). The peace must not only be kept, but also protected. In the same context, the expression “hawks will not pick hawks’ eyes” is used, in which the semantic meaning of the Latin proverb “lupus non mordet lupum” and the Russian “ворон ворону глаз не выклюет” (“ravens do not pick ravens’ eyes”) are implicitly hidden, animal images represent close people who are related by common interests excluding betrayal. We consider these cases of the use of stable combinations of words as a replacement for words in phraseological units. The word was replaced by a not complete synonym, since the hawk and raven are not synonyms. But the image of the bird is preserved, and, due to the replacement, the phrase takes on new shades of meaning. The raven is a very controversial symbol. In Europe during the Middle Ages, it was the most sinister bird, a messenger of evil and a sign of death, testified of troubles and misfortunes, although in other countries and religions it was a symbol of wisdom, cunning, insight, foresight and fearlessness. In Russia, the semantics of the word comes from “вор-он” (“thief-is-he”), since this bird plundered peasant crops. In ancient mythology, the hawk appears as an attribute of the gods of the Sun, a symbol of Heaven, spirit, strength, nobility, swiftness, longevity, nobility. A hawk, like an eagle, could fly up to the sun and look at it without blinking. As a result of the replacement of the word, the author’s phrase acquired, as mentioned above, new shades of meaning, namely, greatness, fearlessness, the ability to be higher and nobler than most people around.

The use of the proverb “Обжегшись на молоке, и на воду дует” (“A burnt child dreads the fire”) by Rogozin is not trivially. In the text of the book, there is a quote: “Обжёгшись на молоке”, Политбюро “дуло на воду”, требуя от промышленности и в целом от всей советской экономики всё большей милитаризации” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 18). (“As a burnt child, the Politburo dreads the fire, demanding more and more militarization from industry and the entire Soviet economy”). The change in the lexical and grammatical composition of a famous proverb is evident. In the initial form (vocabulary form), the verb is used in the present tense, which implicitly expresses a warning against future possible errors, or occurring in the present. The changed temporal characteristic of the verb allows us to observe not a warning after a lesson learned from previous mistakes, but as it adds a slightly different meaning to the main meaning of the proverb. In this case, the author points out that the Politburo is trying by its actions to disguise in any way the mistakes of its previous decisions.

The phrase “прибрать к рукам” (“lay hands on something”) in the meaning of “присвоить” (“appropriate”) falls under reduction of its lexical and grammatical composition in the next example: “…быстро прибрать себе всю бывшую советскую государственную собственность” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 20). (“... quickly take over all the former Soviet state property”). The phrase is clearly recognizable, but only the verb remains after the reduction, although the lexeme “себе” (“to oneself”) clearly indicates the meaning of appropriating something that did not belong before.

And another example of such a change in the phrase: “пригреть змею на груди/шее” (“cherish a viper in bosom”) as llegorical expression of deceit and betrayal, is obvious in the phrase: “Однако, английская делегация немедленно пригрела у себя этих оппортунистов, …” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 51). (“However, the British delegation immediately cherished these opportunists in their homes ...”).

In these two examples, of the entire composition of the phraseological unit, only the verb remains, but in the context the phraseological unit is foreseen, and its semantic meaning is fully preserved, that the addressee very easily captures the meaning of the statement, due to the same linguistic and mental program. And the pronouns “себе”, “у себя” (“for oneself”, “oneself”) personify the belonging of something to someone, replacing the anatomical lexemes of the original phraseological units “к рукам”, “на шее/груди” (“hands on”, “in bosom”).

The phenomenon of replacement is observed in the following example: “…, который решил скоротать свой скучный отпуск в штабе русской императорской армии…” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 45). (“... who decided to pass his boring holiday at the headquarters of the Russian imperial army ...”) In the phrase “коротать время” (“make time pass”), the lexeme “время”/“time” is replaced by the time period “скучный отпуск”/“boring holiday”, and the verb of the imperfect form is substituted by a similar part of speech of the perfect form. Thus, changes are observed not only in the lexical and grammatical structure of the phrase, but also in its semantics, since new shades of the meaning of the usual expression are acquired, namely, that the indefinite duration and, in some sense, the hopelessness of the action are replaced by a very short period, limited to a certain time frame (holiday).

The following example represents verbalization of the proverb “как пришло, так и ушло”(“easy come easy go”): “ведь деньги, которые легко достались, легко и уходят” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 21) (“because money that is easy to get is easy to go”).

In this case, the use of the image and phraseological meaning in a free phrase is obvious. With the help of other lexical units, indicating the inevitability of a consequence of the cause (the lexeme “легко” (“easy”) is used twice, the pair of antonyms “come - go” is replaced by another one: “got-go”, the author manages to convey the main meaning of the proverb.

Like the previous expression, the following can be mentioned: “Насилие породило ещё большее насилие, кровь пролила кровь” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 91) (“Violence gave rise to even more violence, blood shed blood”). In our opinion, the semantic meaning of the statement “зуб за зуб, глаз за глаз”/ “tit for tat” is fixed here, the main components of which are replaced by other repeating elements, and the form itself is transformed from a capacious and concise interdependence expressed in the original form of the phrase into an independent sentence with the principal parts and additional elements “ещё больше”(“even more”), which enhance the impression of the utterance.

Using the examples of the expressions presented below, we observe the following type of change in the lexical and grammatical form of stable word complexes, which we have combined into a common group, and a great number of which are found in the speech of the personality we have chosen to study.

The expression “пролить/проливать кровь” (“shed blood”) in the meaning of perishing, giving one’s life to someone, in the phrase “обильно политый русской кровью Крымский полуостров” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 24) (“the Crimean peninsula is abundantly shed with Russian blood”) from the verb unit, acting in the usual form as the principal part of the sentence turns into an epithet, and the meaning of which is enhanced by the adverb “обильно” (“abundantly”). We can observe similar modifications in a number of other cases:

  • “кровь леденеет (леденела) в жилах” (“have one’s heart at one’s heels”) in the phrase “эти леденящие кровь истории, вы и сейчас можете услышать…” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 26) (“these chilling stories, you can still hear ...”);

“спасать (свою) шкуру, спасти (свою) шкуру” (“save one’s skin”) (colloquial scorn fully) ‒ cowardly evade danger (betraying life, interests, etc. of other people) in the example: “Чтобы отблагодарить своих старших товарищей, спасших мою студенческую шкуру,…” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 91) (“To thank my older comrades who saved my student’s skin, ... ”);

“попасть в западню” (“fall into a trap”) ‒ deliberately created circumstances that put someone in a difficult, disadvantageous position. “Тысячи людей, попав в западню, в панике подавили бы друг друга” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 72) (“Thousands of people trapped in a panic would crush each other”);

“прийти в себя” (“come to senses”) ‒ calm down, stop worrying, feeling anxious. “Вскоре журналисты, окончательно придя в себя, стали хохотать в полный голос (Rogozin, 2010, p. 38) (“Soon, the journalists, having finally come to their senses, began to laugh out loudly”).

Therefore, many phraseological units, or rather their verbal elements in the discourse of Dmitry Rogozin turn into participial phrases, thereby changing their grammatical form. This type of modification of the phraseological units is characterized by the most frequent use in the speech of the politician in question, characterizing the linguistic personality of the author, who has creative potential and linguistic and cultural competencies.

The examples, reflecting the grammatical transformations of the phraseological units, are also added with the following, in which the short form of the adjective is replaced by the full one: “лёгок на подъём” (“always ready”) (colloquial expression) ‒ one can easily and willingly get ready to go or travel somewhere or start some business. “Что уж говорить о лёгких на подъём “горячих парнях” …” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 92) (“What can we say about the always ready “hot guys”...”).

The phrase “раскачивать лодку” (“rock the boat”) is widely used in the political discourse of many politicians and means “нарушать стабильность существования, дестабилизировать ситуацию в какой-либо сфере” (“violating the stability of existence, destabilizing the situation in any area”). It occurs in the example “любая попытка “раскачать лодку” немедленно пресекалась по партийной линии” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 26) (“any attempt to “rock the boat” was immediately suppressed along the party line”). In this example, the verb is transformed (from imperfect to perfect).

In general, cases of changing the form of the verb are quite common:

“уходить/уйти с головой” (“pour oneself into”) ‒ the phrase meaning “целиком, полностью посвятить себя чему-либо” (“wholly, completely devote yourself to something”) in the phrase “… и с головой ушёл в военную науку и разработку новейших систем вооружений” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 32) (“... and he poured himself into military science and developing the latest weapons systems”) – the initial form of the verb is the past tense of the perfect form.

  • “потирать руки, потереть руки”(“rub one’shands”) (colloquial expression) ‒ express joy, satisfaction with something, gloating. “Они заговорщически перемигивались, хихикали и довольно потирали руки” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 38) (“They winked conspiratorially, giggled and rubbed their hands pretty much”).

The examples of the following expressions can be considered as expansion of the composition of the phraseological units and, thus, the segmentation of its components by putting other lexemes between them: “в глаза невидел (невидал)” (“I haven’t seen it (I didn’t see it”) (colloquial more often in the past tense) ‒ “совсем, никогда невидел” (“completely, never seen it”). “… но в глаза новой техники ещё никто не видел” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 36) (“... but nobody has ever seen the new equipment”).

In the phrase, the word order of the whole sentence, in which the parts of the phrase is intentionally removed from each other, forms a frame construction of the sentence. This technique also represents the author’s transformation of the phraseological unit.

The expression “три дня и три ночи” (“three days and three nights”) is a famous prophecy of Jesus Christ presented in the Gospel of Matthew: According to biblical tradition, Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday, and on Sunday morning he was resurrected, just on the first day of the Jewish week. We find a modified expression in the discourse of the politician by the example of his statement: “…нужно было как-то продержаться без еды три дня и две ночи” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 39) (“... it was necessary to somehow survive without food for three days and two nights”). There is a kind of deviation from the biblical expression by changing the numeral as a reflection of this particular situation. The echo of the stable word complex is associated with reality and identifies the image of the resurrection of Christ with the conditions in which the author of the speech falls.

The familiar expression “свалиться/упасть в пропасть” (“to roll/fall into the abyss”), which means insurmountable difficulties that cannot be eliminated, and which is now quite often encountered in political debate, is recognized in the phrase “…Отчизна не могла не свалиться в штопор” (Rogozin, 2010, p. 55) (“... Homeland could not help falling into a tailspin”). Replacing a component with another lexical unit enhances the semantic meaning of the expression, giving it an emotional colouring, that is, difficulties are not just insurmountable, but also force to face them again and again, in spiral order, as in a tailspin. The background knowledge of the author, his experience in the military/flying science is reflected.


In most phraseological units, linguistic and cultural information is enclosed in their frame content. The national-cultural characteristics of political discourse in Russia are influenced by national communication factors at this stage of the existence of the national language. Together with the author’s linguistic-creative thinking, they are transformed and cause sometimes familiar, but at the same time new associations, reflecting personal characteristics of the politician.

The very mechanism of using phraseological units in the political discourse serves to express the communicative-pragmatic intention of a representative of the discourse space, in this case, a politician speaking from the upper tier. In the practice of his main activity, the figure of the political stardom is faced with conditions that in a certain way determine the generation of phraseological units of expression. By somehow changing the basic formal structure, semantics, introducing various connotative shades into the meaning of a phraseological unit, the communicant thus expresses his emotional assessments, feelings, and ideological attitudes, strengthening the main (pragmatic) function of statements in political discourse. In the transformed phraseological units, more subjective is observed, changes in the presumption of the use of phraseological units are more important in them, where the value of the phraseological unit is associated with the cultural and historical experience of the participants in the communicative act, the presence of general representations of a linguistic and extralinguistic nature (Korobova et al., 2017).

According to the material studied, we note that in the discourse of Dmitry Rogozin, most transformations of phraseological units occupy lexical and grammatical changes. They are typical signs of the transformation of phraseological units of a linguistic personality in the institutional discourse of Dmitry Rogozin. There are semantic transformations, as well as in the author’s speech there is also a type of transformation such as dephraseologization, which we understand as a high degree of phraseological change, combining both changes in the lexical and grammatical form, and semantic transformations. In the text there is only a hint of a phraseological unit. Dephraseologization can be incomplete, it is presented by the examples above, in which certain parts (elements) of a stable word complex are preserved and the semantic connection between the components is not broken, and the complete one, which is represented by the so-called “phraseological fragments”, as well as examples of “zero” allusion.

We can conclude that the linguistic personality of Dmitry Rogozin has an extensive fund of ethno-linguistic material, which, thanks to the author’s unique linguistic and creative thinking, undergoes various kinds of changes, in close interconnection with the contextual background, situation, pragmatic function and other related characteristics of political discourse. The considered speech samples recognize a strong, decisive personality, and most importantly, a responsible politician who boldly faces the problems and offers rational ways to solve them. Even being as a student, he acquired he science of public speaking and improved methods of arguing his position in front of a large audience, Dmitry Rogozin successfully mastered the art of speech and constantly develops his skills as a diplomat.


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28 December 2020

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Multicultural context, learning environment, modern society, personality formation, informatization of the society, economics and law system of the region

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Sopova, I. V., Borisovskaya, I. V., Taranova, E. N., Kolesnikova, K. A., & Krapivkina, O. A. (2020). Personal Transformations Of Phraseological Units In The Discourse Of Politics. In N. L. Shamne, S. Cindori, E. Y. Malushko, O. Larouk, & V. G. Lizunkov (Eds.), Individual and Society in the Modern Geopolitical Environment, vol 99. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 887-895). European Publisher.