Functioning Of Multicomponent Complex Utterancein Classical And Modern Russian Prose


The article analyzes multicomponent complex utterances, consisting of three or more predicative units, with one or different types of communication, functioning in the works of Russian classical, modernist and modern prose. Contradictions of their grammatical qualifications are revealed, it is confirmed that three types of syntactic phenomena with communicative and structural specifics are distinguished in their composition: textual implementations of polypredicative complex sentences; text fragments; syncretic formations endowed with traits of the first and second types. Authors determine the functional potential of multicomponent complex utterances, due to their polypredicative nature, considerable volume, structural and semantic complexity, textual isomorphism, stimulating their ability to participate in expressing categories of connectivity, articulation, tension and modality, in the interaction of images of the author, characters and reader. Multicomponent complex utterances are typical for Russian prose as a whole, but the article reveals the specifics of its use in the prose by F. Dostoevsky, V. Nabokov in comparison with the prose by modern Russian authors. In Dostoevsky’s novels, they not only depict the psychological stress of his reflective characters, but are also one of the effective manipulative means of his characters-provocateurs. Their textual behavior in Nabokov's prose is the deployment of the leitmotif of memory. Representation of the text in an image of a sentence is a symptomatic indicator of the latest prosaic discourse. Its authors violate readers' expectations by constructing a continuum worldview in the text, but at the same time implying the tragic illusory nature of any attempt to organize chaos.

Keywords: Functioningmulticomponent complex utterancestylesyntaxtext


Classical and modern Russian prose demonstrates the dialectic of the relationship between utterance and text. In this article, the object of the study is multicomponent complex utterances (MCU), consisting of three or more predicative units, with one or different types of communication, functioning in the works of classical, modernist and modern prose.

Problem Statement

The problem statement is motivated by the contradictions of the purely propositional qualification of the MCU, the need to overcome its tightness as a result of entering the text, identifying their functions taking into account the genre-communicative orientation of modern linguistics. It is also due to the need to deepen philological ideas about the syntactic features of different authors’ styles.

Akimova (2006), while analyzing the text of V. Pelevin’s short story “Water Tower”, which is equal to one MCU, called it “syntactic nonsense”. In our opinion, such utterances are not nonsense, but rather a paradox of punctuation-graphic arrangement of syntactic phenomena of various nature. Their understanding is possible both in diachrony and in synchrony. Note that with the diachronic approach, there is a temptation to see here the so-called return of the text to the sentence structure after its genetic release. Another point of view is more legitimate: a complex sentence arises in the process of generating the text.

In synchrony, MCU was studied in various aspects: punctuation, quantitative, syntactic (propositional), and stylistic. In Russian studies, the interpretation of the MCU has come to a standstill primarily due to the indistinguishability of the terms sentence and utterance . Works by Gavrilova (2015), Malycheva (2015), Zaika (2019) et al. are focused on the structural and semantic identity of polypredicative constructions. However, hermetic, purely propositional approach has exhausted itself; it must be opened as a result of entering the text. MCU itself should be rethought based on a number of linguistic concepts: by Gasparov (2017), Ilyenko et al. (2016) and others.

Research Questions

Comprehension of the problem posed is associated with solution of a number of issues: the syntactic nature of the MCU; the differentiation of their types; the functional potential of the MCU; the genre-style conditioning of their functioning in classical and modern prose; their text-forming role and areas of functioning; the incentives for their use in styles of different authors.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the proposed analysis is to determine the role of MCU in the expression of text categories, in the interaction of images of the author, characters and reader, in identifying genre and style specifics of their functioning in classical and modern Russian prose.

Research Methods

The following methods are used in the article: descriptive-analytical, functional-semantic and contextual. A linguist who does not identify the essence of a syntactic unit and its punctuation-graphic arrangement cannot fail to see that the term multicomponent complex utterance refers to a number of different syntactic formations. Previously, as a result of the analysis of a wide in time range and generally diverse textual material in the composition of the MCU the following were distinguished: 1) textual implementations of complex sentences with one or different types of links; 2) fragments of text; 3) syncretic formations endowed with features of phenomena of the first and second types (Kalnichenko, 2015).

The polypredicative nature of MCU pushes the temporal and spatial boundaries of the text, but the cementing role of its communicative contour increases the degree of text coherence, actualizing the very density of being. If the textual implementation of a complex sentence can be compared with a union state, then a fragment of a text presented in an image of a sentence can be likened to a union of states. Syncretic MCU and fragments of the text make the principles of text formation especially clear. Aspects of their interpretation are essentially textual characteristics: continuity, discontinuity, linearity, consistency, coherency.

A differentiated approach to MCU demonstrates the genre-style conditionality of its functioning. Outstanding authors have their own image of MCU, capable of creating a sense of integrity of an utterance. This is a stylistic feature not only of the prose writers mentioned above, but also of L.Tolstoy, A. Chekhov, L. Tsypkin, D. Rubina, A. Korolev, E. Vodolazkin (as cited in Martianova, 2019).

Characteristic features of Dostoevsky's style are polyphony and textual tension of his artistic world. But the focus was primarily on the writer's word, with its inherent modal uncertainty, duality, unexpectedness and unusualness (Vinogradov, 1980). However, these characteristics also reveal themselves at the level of syntax and text (Ivanchikova, 2009). The polyphony of Dostoevsky’s artistic world “is not limited to those external, compositionally expressed dialogues of his characters" (as cited in Bakhtin, 2017). It manifests itself in the compositional and syntactic arrangement of the author's (Ivanov & Lakerbaj, 2019) and characters’ (Tarasova, 2016) speech spheres. MCU are used for organizing the text, which is distinguished by eventful saturation, a large number of characters, and exposure of their hidden motives. They realize their text-forming potential by interconnecting fragments of a split worldview of Dostoevsky, showing both the external side of the situation depicted by the author and its inside. MCU mainly function in the narrator’s speech sphere, revealing the psychological state of the character on the verge of insanity (Kazakov & Medvedeva, 2017). They expose the chaos of the character’s internal state. So, the thought of a terrible crime committed by Raskolnikov in the past “kills” his present and extends to the future:

As he [Raskolnikov. – Aut.] said this, he was suddenly overwhelmed with confusion and turned pale. Again that awful sensation he had known of late passed with deadly chill over his soul. Again it became suddenly plain and perceptible to him that he had just told a terrible lie: that now he would never be able to talk freely about anything to anyone (Dostoevsky, 2018).

The character’s experiences and his sudden insight are portrayed by different means: lexical repetitions, metaphor (dead freeze went through his soul), but the deployment of the syncretic MCU affects the reader the most. His subjective modality, expressing despair and hopelessness of Raskolnikov, is reinforced by rhetorical figures of inversion and gradation ( never – about anything / never / with anyon e).

Another textual area of the functioning of MCU is the speech sphere of the characters. MCU of various types convey a tongue twister of their speech, with layering of assumptions about the motives of other people's behavior, exposing their own fears and intentions, transferring them to the consciousness of another. Through them the reader is presented with an image of an almost painful, exalted consciousness of suffering and reflecting characters. They also function in the speech of provocateur characters such as Pyotr Verkhovensky (“Demons”). Repeated use of MCU is one of the methods of its explicit and implicit impact on the addressee:

Talking aside – for we can’t babble for another thirty years as we’ve been babbling for the past thirty – I ask you which is dearer to you: the slow way that consists in the writing of social novels and the bureaucratic predetermining of human destinies on paper for thousands of years to come, with despotism meanwhile gobbling up the roasted hunks that are flying into your mouths of themselves, but that you let go past your mouths; or do you hold with a quick solution, whatever it may consist in, which will finally untie all hands and give mankind the freedom to organize socially by itself, and that in reality, not on paper? (Dostoevsky, 2019).

In this MCU, which is a textual implementation of a complex sentence with subordinate and coordinate links, the causal clause immediately dismisses all the objections of the opponents and weakens their position. The alternative proposed by the provocateur character affects the addressee with its peremptory straightforwardness.

MCU is congenial to the very writing style of V. Nabokov, to the card technique of his writing. For him, the image of MCU exists in a series of images of other utterances, his own and those of others, which sets a new perspective on understanding his syntactic preferences (Nabokov, 2020). The genre specificity of Nabokov’s novel “Other Shores” and his novel “The Gift” directly influence the character of functioning of the MCU in the texts of the novels. In the story, it becomes a way of fragmentary deployment of the leitmotif of Memory in the spectrum of microthemes: Petersburg, Rozhdestveno, mother, father, brother, uncle, teachers ... Syncretic formations, beginning as a text fragment, end as a textual implementation of a complex sentence, especially complex subordinate sentence. The subordinate intra-offer link cements the MCU, strengthens the meaningful relationship with purely grammatical links. Images of syncretic MCU with quantifiers of universality, plug-in constructions, with direct speech, which is represented by quotes and self-quotes, demonstrating both the penetration of poetry into prose and its birth in prose, are repeated in the novel, which is organic for Nabokov, who is both prose writer and poet. A significant part of MCU in the story “Other Shores” receives the lexical and syntactic stabilization of the upper boundary (I love, I see). The boundaries of syncretic MCU, giving a holistic deployment of microthemes, more often than others coincide with a paragraph: We traveled to different waters, marine and mineral, every autumn, but never stayed so long for a whole year — abroad, as then, and I, six, had the first time to truly experience wood smoke giving the delight of returning to my homeland — again, mercy fate, one of a series of wonderful rehearsals that replaced the performance, which, for me, may no longer take place, although this seems to require a musical resolution of life (Nabokov, 2015).

Nabokov’s MCU, which are text fragments, are small in volume. They are based on a graphic asyndeton or a concord of utterances with an open-type syndesis coordinate link. With their sparseness, insufficient density of connectedness, they actualize the boundaries of the chapters. Textual implementations of complex sentences are located inside a paragraph. Not representing complete deployments of microthemes, they do not have the potential to mark a particular strong position in the text.

In “The Gift” a special degree of closeness of the author and the protagonist of the novel also has its compositional and syntactic expression. Combination of narrative models from the first and third person, complicating the perception of Nabokov’s text, at the same time forces the reader to follow the rules of the author’s game. For example, in one syncretic MCU of “The Gift”, not only what Godunov-Cherdyntsev sees, but also how he imagines his father’s wanderings is described:

How to describe the feeling I experienced when he showed me all the spots where in his own childhood he had caught this and that — the beam of a half-rotted little bridge where he had caught his first peacock butterfly in 71, the slope of the road down to the river where he had once fallen on his knees, weeping and praying (he had bungled his stroke, it had flown for ever!) (Nabokov, 1988). The last paragraph of “The Gift” is the quintessence of the Pushkin leitmotif in the novel, correlating with the last stanza of “Eugene Onegin”. Transformation of the verse into the metrized prose in the final syncretic MCU is motivated by the design of the Nabokov’s novel, giving a sense of an open ending.  

In the syntactic interpretation of the discourse of modern prose, traditionally attention is paid to its analyticity, in particular, to the parcelling, plug-in and some other constructions (Martianova, 2019). The problem of its syntactic originality does not seem, however, so transparent, given the role played by MCU in it. On the one hand, their functioning testifies to the author’s attempt to organize chaos, and on the other, it emphasizes the insolubility of the contradictory nature of life and the linearly-discrete nature of the sentence. The presumption of perceiving MCU as a sentence complicates the receptive program of the text, actualizing the deployment anomalies of modern prosaic discourse.

Its interpretation requires not only an analysis of the styles of individual authors, but also the identification of incentives for presentation of the text in an image of a sentence present in the minds of the author and reader (Chernyak & Sargsyan, 2019). When does a modern prose writer need such a presentation? How does such a representation correspond with reality: transforms it or aims to be congenial to it? We believe that linguistic answers to these questions of a general philological character can be obtained taking into account the concept of functional-compositional types of speech by S.G. Ilyenko (2003).

Modern Russian prose is about the deployment of MCU primarily on demonstration (DTS) and information (ITS) types of speech, in contrast to classical prose, voluminous maxims are not so characteristic to it. So, the text of the story “One vog” by Pelevin (2019), which is equal to one syncretic MCU, unfolds as a DTS. Thus, the author discovers the desire not only to stop the moment, but also to expand its scope.

Using in the story “Avalanche” a MCU oriented in its text deployment towards ITS, Petrushevskaya (2000) creates an endless chain of stringing utterances imitating spontaneous oral speech. She tries to fit, if not a whole life, then its huge part in one MCU, which creates an anomaly in the correlation of the world and the text, provokes a reader's assessment of the character's life as something fleeting, fake, serial.

MCU receive a variety of incentives for functioning in modern prose. Pelevin (2020), presenting the entire text of the story “Water Tower” as a syncretic type MCU, emphasizes the oppressive meaninglessness of the existence of his character. In the story “The Other World” by Tuchkov (2020), the imitation of a film demonstration is carried out as a result of assembling independent sentences into one MCU, which is a fragment of the text. And in the story “Plot” by Tolstaya (2019), the phantasmagoric intertextuality, which not only conveys the state of delirium of the character, but also expresses the author’s ironic historiosophical mood, stimulates the continuous deployment of the same type of MCU.


The analysis confirmed that three types of syntactic phenomena with communicative-structural specifics are distinguished as part of the MCU: textual implementations of polypredicative complex sentences; text fragments; syncretic formations endowed with traits of the first and the second types. The functional potential of MCU is due to their polypredicative nature, significant volume, structural and semantic complexity, textual isomorphism, which stimulates their ability to participate in the expression of coherency, dividedness, tenseness, modality, in the interaction of images of the author, characters and reader. In the novels of F.M. Dostoevsky MCU depict the psychological stress of his suffering and reflecting characters, and are one of the effective manipulative means of the characters-provocateurs.  Textual behavior of MCU in V.V. Nabokov’s prose is due to the complexity of its subjective and temporal organization, the deployment of the leitmotif of Memory. The specifics of functioning of the MCU in the novels “The Gift” and “Other Shores” is motivated by the design and composition of works of different genres, the nature of their volumetric-pragmatic division, changes in the composition of themes and microthemes. Representation of the text in an image of a sentence is not a private individual style (idiostyle) feature, but a symptomatic indicator of the deployment of the latest prosaic discourse. Its authors violate readers' expectations by constructing a continuum worldview in the text, but implying the tragic illusory nature of any attempt to organize chaos.


Thus, MCU realizes its rich functional potential in texts of not only classical, modernist, but also modern prose. Studying MCU allows one to sink deeper into the styles of the authors, to develop ideas of the compositional and syntactic organization of their works.


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Martianova, I., Komarova, E., & Kalnichenko, Y. (2021). Functioning Of Multicomponent Complex Utterancein Classical And Modern Russian Prose. In E. V. Toropova, E. F. Zhukova, S. A. Malenko, T. L. Kaminskaya, N. V. Salonikov, V. I. Makarov, A. V. Batulina, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, & A. M. Grinev (Eds.), Man, Society, Communication, vol 108. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 203-209). European Publisher.