Structural And Semantic Classification Of Interjections


The development and deepening of problems of describing the interjections of the Ossetian language on the basis of the achievements of theoretical and applied linguistics is an actual task of modern Ossetian studies. The article defines the basic concepts in the history of the study of interjections in foreign and domestic linguistics, discusses the theoretical aspects of describing interjections in Ossetian linguistics. The novelty of the research is seen in the fact that a multidimensional classification of linguistic material for the corpus of interjection units has been carried out for the first time on the basis of structural, functional, and semantic characteristics. Among the non-derivative (primary) and derivative (secondary) interjections of the Ossetian language, the article distinguishes cognitive, cognitive-evaluative, emotive, emotive-evaluative, volitive interjectivisms. The article gives a description of interjections functioning in oral speech, taking into account such factors as gender and age. The authors considered the issues of sound and graphic characteristics of non-derivative interjections in the modern Ossetian language, identified some of the features of their functioning in live spoken speech and indicated the ways of reflection in writing. Due to the intensive influence of Russian on the Ossetian language, this situation is close to bilingualism. The authors outlined the prospects for further study of this topic, the results of which will be of great importance for the theory and practice of translation, lexicographic activity, and the theory of linguistics in general.

Keywords: Interjection, emotiveness, emotions, national specifics, speech situation Ossetian language


The study of phonetic-graphic, structural, and functional-semantic features of interjections is of great scientific interest for modern linguistics. Interjections and onomatopoeia are among the least studied linguistic units in foreign and domestic linguistics. The issues of structural and semantic classification, categorical affiliation, translation, lexicographic representation of interjections and onomatopoeic words are controversial and still remain a field of actual research.

Problem Statement

Interjections, significantly differing from all other linguistic units in phonetic-graphic, structural-semantic, functional-stylistic, and grammatical characteristics, are a significant element of the communication process, with the help of which the direct expression of emotions, emotive evaluation, expressions of will is transmitted (Parsieva & Gatsalova, 2012).

Research Questions

Interjections are linguistic universals. This statement determines importance of their research for modern science in general methodological and practical terms. Lots of issues in the theory of interjectivism are among the relevant areas in science, since they have not yet received an unambiguous interpretation in modern linguistics. This has a negative impact on the quality of the material included in grammars, monographs, and other scientific and educational publications. The lexicographic presentation of interjections and onomatopoeia, as well as the quality of translation of folklore and literary texts, takes significant losses.

The theoretical problems of interjections and onomatopoeic words in Ossetian linguistics have not been sufficiently studied and are presented by several scientific works (Bagaev, 1965; Parsieva & Gatsalova, 2012).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to carry out a structural and semantic classification of interjections, a description of the peculiarities of their use in the Ossetian language. To do this, we needed to solve a number of tasks that contribute to the achievement of this goal: comparison of phonetic-graphic and structural-semantic characteristics of interjections, analysis of their functioning in oral speech, taking into account gender-age differentiation of subjects, study of the lexicographic reflection of interjections of the Ossetian language, etc.

Research Methods

The study of this problem is based on the historical approach, which determined both the study of linguistic units and the processes of language development, and the specifics of their presentation in dictionaries of different types. The study used various methods of analysis of linguistic material: comparative-historical, comparative, descriptive, continuous sampling method.


In linguistic literature, the status and volume of interjections and onomatopoeias are qualified in different ways, which is explained by the heterogeneity of the grounds on which they are distinguished, as well as the originality of their semantic-grammatical structure and sound form. The history of the study of interjections shows that, both in foreign and domestic linguistics, their interpretation is one of the most controversial and, at the same time, the least studied areas of the science of language. Based on the history of the study of interjections, we can identify the main trends in their description:

1) an interjection is recognized as a word and a part of speech (Shakhovsky, 1987);

2) an interjection is equated to reflex cries, instinctive sounds, cannot be a word and a part of speech (Wilkins, 1992);

3) interjections are not included in the logical language, they are represented by the specific affective language of Wierzbicka (1995).

Differences in the views of scientists on the linguistic status of interjections are due both to the difference between interjectivisms from all other linguistic units, and to questions about the origin of language, namely, the interjection theory of the origin of language. The first disagreements in the interpretation of interjection units were already recorded in ancient grammars, but to this day there is no unity in their theoretical description. The same discrepancies are reflected in grammars, textbooks, dictionaries of linguistic terms.

Traditionally, the method of formation distinguishes non-derivative, primary interjections, and derivatives, secondary or second.

Non-derivative words are short, in one or two syllables, words that are not related by origin to other parts of speech. In the Ossetian language, these include ay, gyy, ge, gyæy, gætt, gæytt, ex, exh, ohh, ohhay, off, oh, uæuu, tæy, ohhay-ge, gæy-dzhidi, ge-mardzæ, gzæt etc. Many primary interjections of the Ossetian language are characterized by the presence of a strong aspiration in the beginning and in the middle, which is graphically conditionally transmitted by means of g: аgа! ægyi! gæ! gjæy! gee! g'ætt! gyy!

The originality of the sound composition of interjections is also manifested in the presence of doubled consonants and semi-vowels tt, ff, xx, yy: gьætt, exx, off, ohx, ohhay, ouuau, uæuu, etc.

Some interjections are represented by a combination of two or more interjection words, for example: gyæy-dzhidi, ge-marzæ, ohhay-ge, ge-uæuuæy-ge; others – by repeating the same syllable, for example: d:-dæ-dæy, exh-ex-ex, oh-oh, ha-ha, etc.

In lively colloquial speech, interjections are varied in pronunciation, often pronounced with a closed mouth, nose, exhale or inhale, which causes great difficulties when transmitted by writing, and sometimes their graphic reproduction is not possible or only approximately reflects the described sound. Adequate transmission of such interjections in writing is possible only with the help of a description of the spoken sound, facial expressions, the speaker's gestures, presentation of the features of the speech situation, etc., which explains the absence of a lexicographic representation of a significant number of interjections in traditional dictionaries.

Derivative interjections are formed in the language as a result of the process of intejectivation, when a word referring to another part of speech loses its nominative meaning and becomes a translator of an emotive state, emotive-evaluative attitude, logical assessment, or the will of the speaker. By origin, among this category of intersectional units, there are interjections formed from verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, onomatopoeic words, particles, stable combinations.

When solving the difficult question of the categorical affiliation of interjections, many linguists consider onomatopoeia, emotionally colored words, expressions of speech etiquette, words spoken with special expression, as well as interjections as part of intersection units, with instinctive cries and / or reflex sounds. In our opinion, words with emotive and expressive coloring, which have not lost their nominative function, are not interjections; as well as onomatopoeia, the function of which in speech differs from the functional-semantic load that interjectivisms perform.

Traditionally, there are two main categories of interjections – emotional-evaluative and expressive. Some researchers single out logical or intellectual assessments in the emotional-evaluative interjections (Karpov, 1971; Lyashenko, 1977). In modern terminology, they are referred to as cognitive (Parsieva & Gatsalova, 2012).

On the basis of semantic differences in the Ossetian language, we distinguished cognitive emotive and volitive interjections (Parsieva & Gatsalova, 2012).

We include cognitive interjections expressing recollection, recognition, guess, confirmation, objection. According to our observations, in this category one can also distinguish cognitive-evaluative interjections containing a logical assessment, the speaker's attitude to the situation (agreement / denial).

Let us consider some examples from colloquial speech. In the Ossetian language, recollection can be expressed by an interjection, which is pronounced on the exhale, drawn out, a-a / a-aa / ga-a is transmitted in writing, it is most often used at the beginning of a sentence as a response to the interlocutor's message or your own thoughts. You can translate it into Russian as ah yes, ah!:

– Ah! Ærhjuydyyækodton, yuskolayyahuyrkodtam. Oh yes! I remembered him, (we with him) studied in the same school.

Another interjection o-o / o-o-o, pronounced abruptly, in two or three syllables, can also express recollection, and depending on the speech situation, at the same time – recall and confirmation of one's thoughts or the words of the interlocutor. It translates into Russian as yes-yes, yeah:

– Oh, ahæm khabar dær go away, mæfydæyyæfekhuyston. Yes, yes, there was such a thing, I heard it from my father.

A guess in the Ossetian language is conveyed by the interjections a-a-a, a-ga, gag-ga, or a drawn-out sound pronounced on the exhale with a closed mouth.

– A-ga, uædæyynæydyzagatay !?

– Ah, so it’s you, so you told him !?

In the case of expressing a guess with a tinge of surprise / surprise, the interjection is pronounced while inhaling, which is quite difficult to adequately convey in writing, usually letter combinations are used mmm, gym-m, gyymm. Used at the beginning of a statement, often accompanied by characteristic gestures and facial expressions. You can translate into Russian as aa, ah.

– Gymm! Mænæ washed tsy said ærtsyd, mænæ!

– Oh! This one deceived me!

The objection can be conveyed using verbal and non-verbal interjectivisms: næ-æ, næ-næ-næ, oh, ohh, uæuu, etc.

– Uæuu, uymngænænnæy, uyrastnæuydzæn, rædyduydzæn.

– Oh, no, you can't do that, it will be wrong, it will be a mistake.

As part of emotive, there are the actual emotive and emotive-evaluative interjections. Emotive ones convey the speaker's emotional state, his reaction at a certain moment of the speech situation, and emotive-evaluative ones also express an assessment of what is happening.

It should be noted that most interjections are ambiguous, that is, depending on the speech situation, they can express different and sometimes opposite emotions or emotive assessments, for example, gye can convey praise, joy with a tinge of approval:

– Ge, uydynkhorzhabærttæ! Oh, this is good news!

Sadness, regret, sympathy:

– Ge, mæguyr, uædæ ma yyntsygænæn is ahæmbællæhhyfæstæ ?! Eh, poor fellow, what else can he do after such grief?!

Discontent, reproach:

– Ge, læppu, histærtywaldzyafærsynhuyd, uæhimæmolætysondjynkæsut. Eh, guy, you should have asked the elders, you seem very smart to yourself.

Also, different emotions can be conveyed by the interjection oh, ex, uæuy, while the intensity of expression is indicated by the repetition of consonants or vowels, which in writing looks like ohh-x, ooh, o-o-oh; exh, e-ex, yæ-æuu, etc.

In the Ossetian language, a sufficiently large number of emotive interjections that can convey a variety of emotions can be attributed to polysemous: æдt, ællækh, a-a, dædædæy, oh, oh, oh, uæuu, etc. dzhidi, g'eri-ga, ge-uæuu (y (ge), oys, ohhay (ge), pui have much narrower semantics.

The third large group is volitional interjections, the main function of which is to address the speaker to the addressee in order to express his will. By the direction of the impact on the recipient, the following are traditionally distinguished:

1) appellative-contacting, or vocal interjections – expressing an appeal, their main function is to establish contact with the recipient; in this group there are units of direct contact, used to attract attention in the form of an appeal or appeal and remote contact, transmitting a call for help or a call to respond.

2) appellative-incentive, or imperative – prompting the beginning of a certain action or its continuation / termination, in their functions they are close to the imperative mood and have common features with it (LES: 290).

Interjection units are different in terms of their functioning, expressiveness, degree of expressiveness, and are characterized by the national specifics of their use in speech. They have a definite connection with the traditions of the native speaker. So, in the Ossetian language there are emotive and volitive interjections that are found only in female speech. For example, emotive: dædædæy, mæ art bauazæl, mæhædzarbaykhorz, mækonayil; volitive interjection ks-ks was used as an appeal to a person whose name could not be pronounced under certain conditions (the presence of older men or women, etc.).

The peculiarities of expressing emotions through interjections have a clear age differentiation, for example, ægygyi, ge-uæuæy, gyæy-dzhidi, ohhay (ge), uæuua are quite rare in the oral speech of Ossetians and are used mainly by representatives of older age groups. We did not record these interjections in the speech of representatives of younger and middle age groups; we began to observe the use of borrowings from the English language more often: yes, oh, yes, wow, lol; from the Russian language: wow, oh you, oh-oh-oh and some others, which is due to the strong influence of Russian on the Ossetian language in a situation of close bilingualism.


Thus, we examined some of the phonetic-graphic and semantic-stylistic features of interjections of the Ossetian language. Further study of the functioning of interjections and interjection formations in oral speech, in the text of fiction and modern media discourse will be of particular importance for expanding the possibilities of lexicographic representation of intersectional units not only for Ossetian linguistics, but also for translation dictionaries from different languages in general. Most often, the use of interjections is found in lively colloquial speech and the language of fiction, where they are used to convey emotiveness, enhance expressiveness, and impart imagery. Interjections are distinguished by their national flavor, connection with the traditions and customs of the people, which causes particular difficulties in translation. Therefore, prospects for studying this topic are obvious: description of the functioning of interjections in folklore and literary texts,identification of innovations in their use on the material of Internet sources, determination of the most adequate methods translation of interjections on the material of Russian and Ossetian languages, creation of a corpus of emotives and development of a new lexicographical description of interjections.


The study was carried out with the financial support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research within the framework of the scientific project No. 20-012-00472 “Interjections and onomatopoeic words in the Ossetian and Russian languages”.


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Parsieva, L., & Gatsalova, L. (2021). Structural And Semantic Classification Of Interjections. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1290-1296). European Publisher.