National Precedent Phenomena In Teaching RFL: Topical Areas For Research


The national precedent phenomenon carries cultural markedness, it is known to any member of the national linguocultural community, it has significant linguodidactic potential. Learning a foreign language involves mastering not only its grammatical basis, but also a cognitive base and, as a result, immersion in the cultural space of the native speakers community. It is the precedent phenomena in all their diversity that contribute to the successful implementation of this process. Full-fledged communication in the target language is impossible without understanding the specifics of precedent phenomena and their features. Mastering a foreign language is accompanied by the inclusion of precedent phenomena with at least zero or unexpressed markedness, since it is the precedent phenomenon that contributes to an increase in the level of linguocultural competence of students. The linguoculturological content of precedent phenomena, including the generalized knowledge and experience of previous generations, reflected in literary and artistic works, rituals, phraseological units, symbols, metaphors, etc., unites and demonstrates all the national and cultural peculiarities of native speakers, the cultural experience of many generations, necessitates purposeful work with these linguistic phenomena. Precedent phenomena are characterized by the presence of a cultural component that conveys moral and ethical values, priority national and cultural views, worldview, and allows increasing the level of communicative competence and expanding knowledge of national culture elements. This work describes the relevant areas of precedent phenomena research in teaching Russian as a foreign language practice.

Keywords: Cultural code, precedent, precedent phenomenon, precedent text, Russian as a foreign language


One of the studied phenomena in modern linguodidactics, psycholinguistics, and cultural linguistics is precedentness, considered earlier, as a rule, within the framework of stylistics.

Introduced by the Frenchman Jean Fourquier, the term "precedent relation" implied a connection between two grammatical forms, one of which was formed from the other one, the original form. This is mentioned by Golubeva (2015) in her work (pp. 47-52)

In cultural linguistics, a precedent is a phenomenon with the invariance of perception, which is known to a certain large layer of the national community and reflects its emotional and cognitive background.

Precedent phenomena are a consequence of different communication and in this regard, their types can be distinguished. For example, verbal communication provoked the appearance of certain texts, situations, statements, names, and non-verbal communication - symbols, paintings, sculptures, music, etc.

As a subject of research, methodologists are interested in the verbal types of precedent phenomenon, and primarily precedent texts, since they are the central objects in the study of foreign languages.

In Russia, the term "precedent text" was first used by Karaulov in 1986 at the VI International Congress of Russian Language and Literature Teachers. The author used this term to designate an extensive layer of phenomena: well-known quotations, unusual names, names of literary works and art, etc., which demonstrated a supra-personal character and, accordingly, multiple citations in society. The researcher believed that the case text is characterized by a set of specific features:

  • significance in the emotional and cognitive spheres for a certain circle of individuals;
  • wide popularity in society and in time, that is, such a text should be popular among several generations;
  • significant and renewable citation by individual representatives of society and a certain society. (Karaulov, 1987, p. 261)

In modern methodological research, such concepts are differentiated as: universal precedent phenomena, recognizable in connection with globalization, a single information space; social phenomena as subjects of attention of the specialty language; nationally precedent phenomena reflecting such realities of a certain linguistic culture as precedent names (Aibolit, Pechorin, Korobochka), statements (Why did Volodka shave off his mustache?), situations (Time of Troubles), texts (Woe from Wit).

Turning to national precedent phenomena in the methodology of foreign languages teaching is based on the principle of interrelated learning of language and culture, and it contributes to the formation of a linguocultural component of foreign language communicative competence.

Today the precedent phenomenon is focused on by Russian methodologists in the field of teaching Russian as a foreign language. Here we can single out such areas as the study of the place of precedent phenomena in the total volume of educational material and the correspondence of precedent units to the stages of training.

Problem Statement

The research problem is determined by the focus on national-cultural component of the process of teaching a foreign language, which implies acquaintance with a number of national-precedent phenomena. The challenge lies in the methodological selection of these phenomena in accordance with the level of language learning due to the dynamic nature of precedent units, the recognition of which has a pronounced socio-cultural and age markedness.

Research Questions

Language is a living organism. It is unrealistic to find out how fast languages are changing in the nearest future, although there are attempts both among foreign scientists and among Russian ones, for example, Starostin's method. (Burlak & Starostin, 2005, pp. 129-152). But they are all contradictory and inaccurate. One thing is certain - with the advent of modern communication technologies, this speed has become much higher. For example, the national associative thesaurus offers a dictionary of the decade. Under the influence of modern technologies, not only the lexical composition of the language is changing, but also its verbal memory and linguistic consciousness. Some lexical units are lost, some pass into another category, some appear.

This process is facilitated, first of all, by the Internet World Wide Web, which broadcasts new information around the clock. These are literary works, and advertising, and music videos, and "memes", and films, etc.

What was kept in home archives before the advent of the web now finds its readers on the Internet. And almost any material from the World Wide Web has a chance to become a precedent phenomenon, if not at the national level, then at the personal one.

This creates certain problems in identifying precedent phenomena relevant for a specific period of time. Since such material will not achieve the expected result and, in a certain sense, will slow down the formation of students' linguocultural competence.

It is possible to avoid the problem or reduce it to a minimum with a systemically and comprehensively formed scheme of methods for studying precedent phenomena.

Purpose of the Study

Description of current research areas of national precedent phenomena in teaching RFL, the place of national precedent phenomena in teaching RFL, finding out how much the problem of selecting national precedent phenomena in accordance with the education level has been studied.

Research Methods

The study of precedentness in linguodidactics is based on the following methods:

  • analytical and descriptive (observation method);
  • general scientific methods of classification, comparison, generalization;
  • methods of lexico-semantic, lexicographic, contextual, conceptual, linguocultural, lexicographic, semantic-stylistic analysis.


Interest in the topic of precedent texts at different times was shown by such famous scientists as Krasnykh, Gudkov, Zakharenko, Slyshkin and others.

It is worth noting that the "comprehensibility" of this definition, as well as some other fundamentals of the precedentness theory itself, is illusory and requires a detailed study of all its aspects in order to give the most accurate formulation.

For example, Teliya (1988) describes a precedent as a kind of associative complex that is valuable for a certain segment of society and is represented at a certain frequency in their speech (pp. 173-203). That is, here the precedent relationship can be considered more broadly due to the associative connections used by the subjects of society.

According to Galieva (2011), a precedent text is a text that is significant for a particular person in cognitive and emotional terms, which has a supra-personal character, i.e. well known to the environment of the given personality, including both predecessors and contemporaries, and, finally, this text must be referred to repeatedly in the discourse of the given linguistic personality. (pp. 239-241)

The cognitive and logical orientation of linguistics development provoked a new approach to research. Many objects of research were differentiated, while others, on the contrary, were combined into one group. This systematization allowed to combine such notions as precedent text, precedent situation, precedent statement and precedent name and unite them by the term "precedent phenomena." (Zakharenko et al., 1997, p. 82)

The classifications of precedent phenomena proposed by researchers Gudkova, Zakharenko, Krasnykh, Slyshkin are still relevant to this day. The first one implies a classification according to the sphere of existence:

1. Social - popular in certain social circles;

2. National - used among representatives of a certain national linguistic and cultural community;

3. Universal, the understanding of which lies outside the society or national and cultural traditions.

The second classification is based on formal grammatical (name, statement) and semantic characteristics (text, situation).

Modern scholars place special emphasis on the cultural significance of precedent phenomena in the language, representing them as a system of codes. In the works of Gudkov, Zakharenko, Krasnykh, Slyshkin (2000) they are defined as “a secondary sign system that uses different material and formal means to encode the same content, referred to, as a whole, the picture of the world, the worldview of a given society. (p. 45)

Actually, a precedent phenomenon, as a code unit, is nothing more than a qualitative assessment of the accepted standard in perceptions, behavior in any particular national, cultural or social environment, during a specific period of time. Such a code is based on complexes and stereotypes, which are accepted in the form of a social norm at a certain point of cultural and historical development, and consists of:

1. the original meaning of the phrase;

2. the context that is formed in the source;

3. additional implications that appear in everyday life.

The study of the precedent phenomenon, in this context, becomes relevant for teaching Russian to foreign students as well. Here the precedent phenomenon can be used as didactic material for the formation of conceptual, empathic ideas about the nuances of the target language in order to identify national characteristics, as well as the need to:

Distinguish national / social stereotypes as determinants of behavior in intercultural interaction, to determine the degree of their destructiveness; analyze one's own communicative behavior as acceptable or unacceptable in accordance with the system of values of the contacting linguistic cultures, as well as objectively assess the value priorities of the foreign cultural society. (Shatalova & Shatalova, 2019, p. 302)

The linguoculturological approach declares the precedent phenomenon as an artifact and introduces a broad understanding of the “precedent text” concept. According to Slyshkin (2000), the precedent text "can be of any length: from a proverb or aphorism to an epic." (p. 45)

And Krasnykh appeals to the broad interpretation of the word "text" and referring to Lotman, emphasizes that culture itself can be perceived as a single text. (Krasnykh, 2002, p. 254)

The cognitive approach offers the opposite view on this issue. Behind any precedent text there is an invariant of perception and it implies the presence of completely different ideas in the individual and general cultural terms. (Zakharenko et al., 1997, p. 82)

One of the topical areas in the study of precedentness is the texts analysis based on the definition of spheres-sources. (Slyshkin, 2000; Zemskaya, 1996)

Recording changes in precedent phenomena has become no less popular. This usually involves lexical and syntactic transformations.

In addition, there are methods for analyzing statements and names with situations that provoked their appearance; finding out the markedness of a text and typology of markers; interaction of precedents with each other. Krasnykh (2002, p. 254) and Nakhimova (2004, pp. 166-174) distinguish the core and the periphery in the field structure of the interaction between precedents, where the core is the most cited and recognizable phenomenon in the linguocultural society of a certain period, and the periphery is a potentially existing precedent phenomenon and Popova (2010, pp. 135-143) proposes to single out a marked quotation as the central nucleus, and to attribute allusions and indirect speech to the periphery.

In this regard, one of the topical areas of research is the work on the creation of a unified conceptual and terminological apparatus, the classification of precedentness and the definition of precedent phenomena and their volume in teaching RFL at each stage. In addition, the structure of the language is a living thing, which means that some precedent phenomena lose their relevance over time and no longer reflect the mental ideas of native speakers and they are replaced by new ones. The use of obsolete units can cause certain difficulties for representatives of a different culture in the process of forming a new linguistic foreign language communicative competence.

The linguodidactic potential of precedentness lies in the formation of the ability to correctly understand (decode) precedent phenomena as psycholinguistic units (codes) in order to meet the communicative needs of the student and the formation of linguocultural competence.

In the paradigm of teaching RFL, significant issues in the study of precedent phenomena are the ways and methods of determining the main and additional features of precedent phenomena, as well as their hierarchy.

Yashchenko conducted research based on the cognitive metaphor "Monomakh's Cap". Students were invited to watch Sergey Eisenstein's film "Ivan the Terrible", while deliberately focusing on the details of the film related to the history of Russia. The research work used discourse analysis with a focus on the linguistic paradigm of research. (Yashchenko, 2016, p. 10)

Dulebova in the learning process used precedent statements, the source of which was literary texts. The researcher notes that acquaintance of students with fragments of the Russian-language picture of the world is significantly limited by a small amount of knowledge of Russian history and culture, literature, and the specifics of the modern Russian language. Articles of the Russian mass media were used as relevant educational material. The first thing the researcher encountered in her work was the phenomenon of intertextuality of modern Russian-language journalism. And while students quite easily identified unmarked quotations from the world literary classics, they could not capture the national precedent phenomena from Russian and Soviet literature. This could be explained by the fact that Slovak students read Russian literature in Slovak translation, where, ultimately, the perception of the semantics of the entire statement was distorted. To analyze the effectiveness of the methods used, an analysis of various types of language games in the media was used. (Dulebova, 2018, p. 5)

Rubanik and Pen Sin' (2017) conducted research using similar methodological and didactic material. The problems also turned out to be similar, despite the fact that in this case, Chinese students took part in the study. In this study, students were also asked to find analogs of Russian precedent phenomena in Chinese culture. As an analysis of effectiveness, the associative method, the observation method and the analysis of various types of language games in the media were used. (Rubanik & Pen Sin', 2017, pp. 79-85)

Smykunova chose precedent phenomena selected by continuous sampling from the Russian Associative Thesaurus as an object of research. The research was carried out in order to identify the role of precedent phenomena in a linguistic personality and to identify an arsenal of precedent phenomena necessary for a full-fledged discourse of this personality. An analytical-descriptive method – observation - was used as an analysis. (Smykunova, 2003, pp. 11-14)

As we can see, the methods used were different, based on the objectives of the study. At the same time, each researcher noted that any of the selected "cultural broadcasts" positively affects the general level of understanding of the Russian language by foreigners and significantly affected the language level in "semantic shifts" and changes in the connotations of the figurative means of the language. At the same time, it was noted that the use of precedent phenomena requires explanations, disclosure of the content of the precedent phenomenon, indication of the source, linguoculturological commentary and possible ways to be included in the text.

Teaching a foreign language presupposes acquaintance with the culture and traditions of the country of the target language, knowledge of typical ways of communication, and mastery of established forms of speech etiquette, and the use of fixed expressions and clichéd phrases, information about the realities of the country of the target language, as well as traditions and national customs. So, when studying the Russian language, significant attention is paid to the ability to understand precedent names, expressions from folklore, "sign" quotations, etc. This helps students in the future to establish intra-text and intertext links, to capture the semantic content of the text, its moral, ethical, aesthetic, etc. values traditionally cultivated by the national cultural community.

Chronotypicity is one of the characteristics of precedent texts. And here we are not talking about the time when the text appeared, but about its context, about how relevant it is at the moment, what associations it evokes, literal perception of precedent components can lead to an incorrect interpretation of the text as a whole.

Unfortunately, in the learning process there is no physical opportunity to study a large amount of precedent texts, so it is important to identify the most significant ones. (Zakharenko et al., 1997, p. 82)

Here modern research of precedent phenomena in other spheres of linguistics can provide significant help. Research works on the following topics are relevant for use in RFL:

  • Precedent phenomena of anecdotal space: linguocultural and lexicographic aspects.
  • Precedent phenomena: problems of definition and classification of precedent phenomena.
  • On the classification and differentiation of the types of precedent phenomena in political communication.
  • Names of confectionery products through the prism of precedentness.
  • Experience in the classification of precedent names (feuilleton by Chekhov "in Moscow").
  • The precedent world dynamics of the creative personality in the discourse of new media: problem statement.
  • Linguo-pragmatic features of precedent phenomena in modern youth discourse.

In addition, the achievements of modern linguodidactics, the possibility of studying a large amount of data expands the possibilities of studying the phenomenon of precedentness in synchrony, which is of undoubted interest for linguodidactic and methodological research.


Language is a living, dynamic and evolving phenomenon, both as a whole and in its individual parts. This fully applies to precedentness. This is facilitated, firstly, by the obsolescence of some and the emergence of other precedent texts, something that used to be relevant in one epoch is completely uninteresting in another one.

2. The determinability of many precedents, their significance, are not the same even for different social or national-cultural groups, it is a matter of attention for methodologists. Foreign students need explanations and comments on the code precedent units themselves, and their implication, as well as the peculiarities of their use in the text (situation, functions, etc.). This technique contributes to the formation of simultaneously communicative-speech and socio-cultural competence. The approach to commenting itself cannot be the same, since it largely depends on the content and concept of components, semantics, and its functional and linguocultural significance. The most commonly used are cognitive-semiotic and linguocultural comments.

3. Even a small number of precedent code units increases the interest in learning a foreign language, contributes to the formation of communicative competence.

4. At the same time, when choosing didactic material, one should not forget that not every precedent phenomenon has only a “positive” cultural connotation. Precedent units with negative connotations when working with students should be avoided.


This paper has been supported by the RUDN University Strategic Academic Leadership Program.


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Maria Romanovna, S., Svetlana Aleksandrovna, D., & Tatyana Aleksandrovna, D. (2021). National Precedent Phenomena In Teaching RFL: Topical Areas For Research. In V. M. Shaklein (Ed.), The Russian Language in Modern Scientific and Educational Environment, vol 115. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 237-245). European Publisher.