Linguocultural Analysis Of Vernacular In The Novel Of Mo Yan


The article is devoted to the research of the semantic meaning and function of vernaculars in the literary text on the example of the Russian translated text of the novel "Life and Death are Wearing me out" by the linguocultural method. The relevance of the research is due to the attention of linguocultural studies to the problems of semantics and the functional features of the prose language for understanding modern fiction. The vernacular in the contexts of the Russian translated novel is considered as object of study. The aim of the study is to use the linguocultural approach to research the semantic meaning of vernaculars to reveal the functional features reflecting the specific worldview of the Chinese people. The results of the analysis show that vernaculars are the most frequently used in the character's language and in the author's language to express a special emotional state of characters, to show the social position of characters and the communication of common people. Through the example of this novel, it can be determined how the author uses the vernacular in the linguistic fabric of his work, telling the story of the reincarnation of the hero Simen Nao, and reflecting on the important values of the Chinese people with the background of various cultural and political transforms.

Keywords: Linguocultural analysis, Mo Yan, Russian language, the vernacular


Language is directly involved in two worldview processes. Firstly, a linguistic picture of the world, one of the most profound layers of the human picture of the world, is formed in its depths. Secondly, language itself expresses and explicates other pictures of the world of man, which through special vocabulary enter into the language, bringing to it features of man, his culture.

As Shaklein (2012) identified:

The world picture of any language is considered not only in the context of folklore, mythology, culture, history, customs and psychology of a certain nation, but also in the context of language. The most important task of linguoculturology at the present stage of development is to reconstruct the primitive model of the world on the basis of descriptions of lexical and grammatical meanings. (p. 11 )

Speech reality reveals the presence of constants - "certain permanent principles of culture" (Stepanov, 1997, p. 84), which ensures the stability and adaptability of cultural reality. It is necessary to identify the constants of the vernacular linguoculture.

The study of the lexical semantics of vernaculars continues to attract the attention of researchers, because vernaculars occupy a special place in the structure of the Russian language. Some researchers (Ushakov, Kalinin) thought that the vernacular is outside the literary language and lies between colloquial speech and dialects. Others regarded the vernacular as a reduced stratum of the Russian language (Ilyinskaya). There has been much discussion since the publication in 1973 of Filin's article "On the structure of the Russian literary language". According to his point, there are two types of vernaculars in Russian. The first kind of vernaculars is as a stylistically reduced stratum within the literary language: "Vernacular is an organic component of the system of literary language, performing in it a certain stylistic role." (Filin, 1973, pp. 3-12). The second kind of vernaculars that he defined as extra-literary: "Under modern non-literary the vernacular is to be understood the language of that part of the population, first of all urban, which has not yet sufficiently mastered literary linguistic norms" (Filin, 1973, pp. 3-12). Thus, in the modern Russian language there are two kinds of vernacular: vernacular is a stylistic means of literary language and in the speech of those who have not sufficiently mastered literary language.

In works of literature, the vernacular can be used in the heroes’ dialogues for the character's speech. The vernacular is as well in the author's language "as a measure of special expression" (Valgina, 1987, p. 78) for irony, emotional evaluation of situations, phenomena and characters, etc. It is in the style of fiction that vernacular has a stylistic marking, representing the speech of the common people.

According to Belchikov (1990), literary vernacular is

The boundary of literary and vernacular languages - a special stylistic layer of words, phrases, forms, turns of speech, united by a bright expressive coloring of the reduced, roughness. The norm of their use is that they are allowed into the literary language with limited stylistic tasks: as a means of social and speech characterisation of characters, for the "reduced" in expressive terms description of persons, objects, events. (p. 402)

The works of Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan are highly regarded around the world and his novels and stories have been translated into many languages. Among his works should be highlighted the Russian translated text of the novel "Life and Death are Wearing me out" because the novel combines folktales with history and modernity, showing the influence of the best examples of world literature. As the famous scholar of Chinese literature and translator Egorov says: "...the main characters of his works are peasants and common people of China." (Egorov, 2014, p. 12). For this reason, there are vernaculars in the speech of the characters in the novels a means of characterization of the hero in order to carry out a certain artistic task, and to achieve different goals: expressive-emotional specialties of the hero, indication of his social affiliation, creation of individual features of the character, etc.

Problem Statement

The active use in modern literature of the vernacular that reflects national and cultural characteristics of words’ semantics. It is necessary to define all the meanings of vernaculars in order to understand the literature with foreign culture.

Research Questions

Among the main research questions, we should highlight the following:

  • to define the vernacular of the Russian language;
  • to analyse the lexical semantics of the vernacular in the mentioned fiction;
  • to reveal the functional peculiarities of the vernacular;
  • to summarize and make conclusions.

Purpose of the Study

We aim to explore the semantic meaning of the vernacular with a linguocultural approach to reveal the functional features reflecting the specific worldview of the Chinese people.

Research Methods

During the research on the material, we have used the following methods: analytical description, commentary, semantic and linguocultural analysis.


According to research of linguists, in literature the fullest realisation is the emotional function of language, rather than the communicative one. The literary works express the aspirations and the creative abilities of the author in a special way. No doubt that each work of fiction is unique, therefore the set of text elements for each creation will be unrepeatable. The use of specific words in literature is intended to enhance the imagery of the text and to represent the linguistic characteristics of the characters more accurately.

Mo Yan's individual linguistic style was shaped by his life experiences in village, by his sensitive and subtle observation skills as well as his strong literary skills. With their help, his works have a distinctly traditional and national character, achieving a deeper artistic effect and a transcendence of traditional ways of describing literary language.

The story of the novel is about a landowner, Simen Nao, who was shot during the land reform of 1950. He is reborn as various animals and observes the historical events in communist China over a period of fifty years. The main characters in the novel are peasants who live in Chinese Province of Shandong. The novel's narrator is Simen Nao himself, in the guise of various animals, and the son of Simen Nao's former farmhand Lan Lian, and his concubine Yingchun-Lan Jiefang. On account of this, the novel has a large number of vernaculars for creating the personality and feature of the characters.

Analyzing the Russian translated text of the novel, it can be noticed that in the monologues of the narrators and the dialogues between the various characters, vernacular nouns are actively used. Using the explanatory dictionary of Ozhegov and Shvedova, it is possible to establish their meanings precisely. Repeatedly appear the vernacular nouns with negative emotionally-valued connotations in the novel.

In order to prove it, we can take the following examples.: here - "A rude, sneaky person (vernacular, pejorative)" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 1134). In chapter 1 of the novel the main character Simen Nao scolds Lan Lian: "You ungrateful brute, Lan Lian" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 23). It is clear in each of these examples that the use of the vernacular "" in the characters' dialogues shows the mood and attitudes of the characters towards each other.

(Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017): "A person with low, animal instincts, a degenerate (vernacular, contempt.)" (p. 1287). For instance: In chapter 5 from Simen Nao's viewpoint describes Hong Taiyue: "...only Hong Taiyue remained standing: with character, the bastard." (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 58). In chapter 8 Lan Lian scolds Xu Bao because of the castration of his donkey: "You ruined my donkey, Xu Bao, you bastard! " (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 86). If we turn mind to the vernacular word "", this word is the most frequently arised in the novel. With the help of this word in the dialogues of the characters, the speaker humiliates the listeners.

: here - "a stupid person, a dullard, a fool (vernacular, colloquial)" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 353). In chapter 42 Jiefang mocks at himself: "Here I was at the banquet, unable to string a couple of words together like an idiot" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 535).: "(vernacular) "a stupid person, a fool" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 268). In chapter 25 Diao Xiaosan criticises the Sixteenth: "Do you take me for a fool?" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 330). If compare these words, they are used as synonyms in the relevant situation.

: "(vernacular, contemptuous). A woman with easy behavior" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 887).: "(vernacular, colloquial). The same as a "" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 1309). In chapter 26 of the novel Jiephan scolds Diao Xiaosan. "- Whore!" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 335). In chapter 50, Fenghuang abuses her aunt, "-You're a whore of whores, auntie..."!" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 622). Both vernaculars are associated with the behaviour of a woman, and they are used to denigrate the reputation of a woman.

Repeatedly vernacular nouns with negative emotional and evaluative connotations appear in the characters' dialogues. The speech of the hero reflects the individual features of the characters. When we referred to the labels of the above-mentioned vernaculars, it should be noticed that they have additional labels assessing the word from the emotional-expressive side as "", "", "" and "".

Thus, the presence of the vernacular words can mark a speaker's speech, as a signal of their social and cultural-speech status, age and the conditions under which the communicative act is constructed. In addition to the above-mentioned vernaculars with negative emotional and evaluative meaning, there are a large number of vernacular words which identify individuals, objects, their actions, attributes and conditions in the the novel. As a variant of vernacular words of neutral style to create the atmosphere of ordinary life in the village. For instance: in dictionary of Ozhegov and Shvedova the word "" is marked "vernacular": "A bone (usually large, protruding under the skin" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 682). In chapter 3 of the novel, Hong Taiyue was a beggar, in order to attract attention by shaking a cow's mosols. "...the dregs of society, and beggarly, pounding a bull mosol" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 29). (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 682): "innards, insides (vernacular)". In chapter 17 of the novel the description of a radish: "...and it split in half, revealing to the world the true gut of the radish: white, brittle, full of juice" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 180).

Besides, it should be marked that vernacular words are related to human body parts. For instance:: " (vernacular) The same as the face" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 1065). "And this type lies there, shameless snoot, smirking, and nodding in my direction" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 290). here: "The same as throat (vernacular)" (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 188). In chapter 3 there is the description of Hong Taiyue: "The gullet of Hong Taiyue is tinned...". (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 34)

It is necessary to elaborate on the vernacular verbs with the feature of motion. Compared to vernacular nouns, there are less of vernacular verbs in the novel. For instance: In chapter 16 of the novel Jiefang yelled to his brother: "Both your hooves should be chopped off!" (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 171). In the dictionary we found the verb "" with the notation "" "To cut off, to snatch away." (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 746). In Chapter 3 the description of Jiefang's way of walking as a child is: "... He had already learned to walk and was stomping around the courtyard...". (Mo Yan, 2014, p. 28). " "(vernacular)." (Ozhegov & Shvedova, 2017, p. 1259)

All the above words we have presented have the label "", which allows us to define them as vernacular. Obviously, these vernaculars are common verbs for all peoples. As vernacular verbs are mostly used in casual daily communication, the hero chooses those words to make speech simpler, and to make it more expressive.


The analysis of vernacular words according to the linguocultural approach in the Russian translated text of the novel allowed us to conclude that in the novel the most frequently used vernaculars are those expressed by nouns. The most prominent use of vernaculars is in the dialogues between the various characters. Through the speech features of the characters, the author conveys the social background of the characters, the specificities of their characters, their moods and feelings.

In the meantime, we have noticed that the features of the lexical semantics of the vernacular, which have been considered in this article, are associated with its pronounced emotional-expressive and stylistic colouring. By using the vernacular word, the speaker not only reduces the stylistic level of communication, not only influences the audience, but also achieves the expenditure of internal energy and emotional amplification of the message.

According to the study of the dialogues and communications in the work, the use of vernaculars can be roughly divided into two situations 1) situations of particular emotional excitement; 2) situations of ordinary communication of the common people.

Therefore, the study of vernacular as a complex and multifaceted in the Russian translated text of the novel by Mo Yan "Life and Death are Wearing me out" can approach the understanding of certain patterns of cultural life in a certain period of China.


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


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Viktor Mikhailovich, S., & Xin, G. (2021). Linguocultural Analysis Of Vernacular In The Novel Of Mo Yan. In & V. M. Shaklein (Ed.), The Russian Language in Modern Scientific and Educational Environment, vol 115. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 264-269). European Publisher.