New Political Borrowings In Russian Dictionaries Of The Early 21st Century


The article deals with a lexicographical representation of neologisms referring to political discourse in two types of dictionaries: an explanatory dictionary of actual vocabulary and an annual neological reference book. The comparison between the lexicographical sources related to the turn of the century and the recent ones showed a decrease in borrowing intensity. Although the actual vocabulary dictionary reflects only single neolexemes, it states complex semantic processes occurring to the meanings of actualized words previously acquired by the common language. The material unification made it possible to reflect the diversity of paradigmatic relations within the field “Politics”. The analysis revealed the following two trends: the tendency to reduce the number of borrowings and the trend to provide the lexical core of the newest Russian political discourse with neologisms which arose on the basis of Russian derivational affixes. The updated series “New in Russian Lexicon” based on the electronic neological database contains complete and timely information about the latest borrowings. It was shown that in the first decades of the 21st century, political vocabulary incorporated into Russian tends to correlate with other countries’ political realities. Lexemes of the type mentioned are usually borrowed in groups, frequent and widely used in journalism, but quickly become obsolete and are not included in dictionaries with long-time frame coverage. Representing all yearly neologisms (including the occasional ones) in the annual neological reference book enabled us to collect the data that reflect cultural appropriation, a rare and interesting mechanism observed in the development of political loanwords.

Keywords: Cultural appropriation of loanwords, lexicographical description, neolexeme, occasional derivation, topical political vocabulary


The vocabulary development of any language reflects the dynamic changes in the material and spiritual culture of a people, as well as the social, political, economic, technical, and cultural trends that determine its life. Therefore, a detailed study of national vocabulary in synchrony is one of the fundamental scientific tasks of modern linguistics.

The scientific approach to the lexicographic representation of borrowed neologisms has a long history of formation. The borrowing and usage of lexical units of foreign origin has been playing an especially important role in the Russian language since the 1930s.

As new loanwords have traditionally been (and still are) considered as agnonyms, as early as in the 19th century the main linguistic function of dictionaries was formed: that is, the explanation of the lexical meanings of new words of foreign origin. This task is performed with the help of dictionaries of different types such as explanatory and neological dictionaries, as well as dictionaries of foreign words.

The second aspect of the study is related to the problem of neology and neography. Relevant questions related to the identification of essential features of the new word and the principles of its lexicographic description are presented in the works by: Bukina (2016), Cook (2010), Krysin (2004), Koltsova (2017), Metcalf (2004), Rets (2016).

The third aspect is the thematic group of vocabulary which forms the core of modern political discourse. The general issues of political linguistics and political discourse are reflected in the works of Russian and foreign linguists like Graber (1981), Iñigo-Mora (2004), Sheigal (2001), Tkacheva (2007), Urban (1988), Vorobyeva (2011), Western (2016).

Problem Statement

The object of the analysis in the article is the foreign vocabulary belonging to political discourse in the Russian language of the 21st century and the ways of its lexicographical description in explanatory and neological dictionaries. While describing the semantic field “Politics”, Tkacheva rightly proves that its systemic organization manifests itself “in the presence of thematic groups, rows of synonyms, oppositions of antonyms, hyponyms and hypernyms, as well as word families” (Tkacheva, 2007, p. 12). Political vocabulary represents political discourse, the communicative sphere of political interaction. In order to analyze the units of institutional and non-institutional political discourse the article uses the following definition: “a kind of iconic system in which semantics and functions of different types of language units and standard speech actions are modified” (Sheigal, 2001, p. 3).

The dependence of political vocabulary on extralinguistic factors was manifested in the fact that in the 1990s, Russia, under the influence of political, economic and cultural conditions, developed a predisposition to the borrowing and active usage of new foreign vocabulary. The enlargement of the semantic field “Politics” by means of the neologisms of foreign origin has become one of the most outstanding trends in the development of the Russian language throughout the last decades of the 20th and at the turn of the 21st centuries (Krysin, 2004). However, it has been stated in research papers that the number of political neologisms that have entered the Russian language in recent decades tends to decrease. The article raises the problem of the way this trend is reflected in special types of explanatory and neological dictionaries.

Research Questions

What are the general principles of describing the new political vocabulary of foreign origin in explanatory and neological dictionaries?

What are the dynamics of the process of borrowing political vocabulary into the Russian language at the beginning of the 21st century?

Which neological dictionaries reflect the process of word borrowing in the most up-to-date and accurate way?

Purpose of the Study

To identify a downward trend in borrowing political vocabulary in the modern Russian language; to justify the value of an annual neological reference book in the lexicographical reflection of the processes of the latest borrowings in Russian political discourse.

Research Methods

The research methodology is based on such principles as observation, description, comparison, analysis, and forecasting. The material of this study comprises authoritative sources reflecting lexical changes in the Russian language of the early 21st century.

The study is corpus-based; the contexts illustrating theoretical hypotheses are retrieved from the neological base of the Institute for Linguistic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (

The Russian Academic Neography (RAN) is a database with a search system for published new word dictionaries (The neologisms of 2010-2020). On the basis of this source a series of annual dictionaries has been prepared for printing. Words of foreign origin were handpicked from these dictionaries.


The data analysis of the “The Russian Dictionary of the Early 21st Century: Actual Vocabulary” (which reflects the lexical processes characteristic of the turn of the century) testify to the relevance of political discourse, which is reflected in the entry word area and in the example area. The political vocabulary in the dictionary is very representative and multifaceted (it contains about 500 words with a label political). The intentional principle of the word-list development (which presupposes working with certain lexical groups) has led to consistency and systematic approach in the lexicographical representation of paradigms pertaining to the political sphere. The dictionary includes the following categories of words related to microfields: form of government, state structure, political system, person (leader, supporter, follower), names of political parties, ideological and political currents, administrations, as well as words derived from political terms (words of different parts of speech).

In accordance with the authors’ intention, the dictionary reflected the following complex dynamic processes in the Russian literary language of the recent years of the 20th century and the early 21st century: the language scientification manifested in the intensive term acquisition by the common language, and the entrance of new borrowings, as well as the activity of word-forming derivation.

The lexicographical description of the political vocabulary in the “The Russian Dictionary of the Early 21st Century” is implemented on a strictly systematic basis. Tkacheva (one of the dictionary authors) writes that “the stratum of political vocabulary is indeed a semantic field” (Tkacheva, 2007, p. 271), which is an extensive association of words belonging to different parts of speech and having a common semantic component (or components). In the field structure paradigms of a smaller volume can be observed: lexical-semantic groups, hypernym-hyponym rows, synonyms, antonyms, as well as word families. These types of system relations are reflected in the dictionary in the form of one-type interpretations and one-type syntactic structure of definitions. This presentation made it possible to implement the scientific principle in lexicography and to show the system relations of words in their quantitative and qualitative diversity.

In terms of language system dynamics, the dictionary reflects two classes of new foreign political vocabulary: new words (there are only a few of them) and actualized vocabulary. In this article we will not fully consider the entire lexical-semantic field but will only demonstrate a few examples reflecting the semantic properties of the words of the type studied. The following examples illustrate the fact of borrowing new loan words related to political discourse by the lexical system of the Russian language:

anti-globalization ‘movement against globalization, globalism’ (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 68), globalism in the first and second meanings: ‘ideology reflecting the desire (usually of one particular state) to impose its will on other countries and their inhabitants, to establish the world domination’ and ‘the idea of building a single world order without dominating the role of any country’ (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 248).

Wahhabism ‘a Muslim radical religious and political movement prevalent in some Persian Gulf countries as well as in the North Caucasus; ideas, actions characteristic of the representatives of this movement’;

Islamism ‘Islamic fundamentalism’;

impeachment ‘the removal of the powers of the top officials as a result of their gross violations of the law’ (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 396).

The root morphemes global, Wahhab, Islam demonstrate the activity of word-forming derivatives characteristic of the functioning of the so-called keywords of the era, or actual words: anti-globalization, anti-globalist (noun and adjective), globalism, globalist, globalist; Wahhabism, Wahhabi, Wahhabist (noun and adjective); integrator, integration, integrate, European integration; Islamization, Islamism, Islamist (noun and adjective).

These and other (very numerous) examples of words related to the sphere of politics and their derivatives could not be considered new in the scientific sense of the word at the time of the dictionary creation. The examples given reflect the intensive language renewal processes that characterize the critical period of society development that began after 1985 and continued throughout the 1990s.

The actual political vocabulary reflected in the “19th century Russian Dictionary” partially refers to the vast neological massif of the 1990s, as evidenced by the data from other sources. The analytical tool “Distribution by Year” of the Russian National Corpus makes it possible to determine the exact entry of the word into the language. When a word enters the language, the frequency of use becomes nonzero. Here are a few examples: anti-globalization (1999), Wahhabism (1995), Wahhabi (1996).

The bulk of the political vocabulary presented in the dictionary has been present in Russian language for a long time, but in the late 20th and early 21st centuries this vocabulary was involved in intensive processes of activation (the growing frequency of usage) and actualization, accompanied by a change in the structure of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations and semantic shifts in the word meanings.

For instance, the word deportation, which entered the Russian language in the 18th century, became relevant in the 21st century in connection with the rethinking of the topic of political repression of peoples in Stalin’s Russia, as well as because of the sharp intensification of migration processes at the turn of the century. It is reflected in the development of the semantic structure of the word meaning: unlike previous lexicographical sources, the “19th century Russian Dictionary” comprises two meanings of the word, a terminological and a non-terminological one:

1. Forced eviction (of a person, a group of persons or a people) out of a country or a place of residence; expulsion. 2. Moving a person or group of persons from their temporary residence, often illegal. (Currently, deportation is commonly applied due to ideological, political and national reasons). (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 297).

Extralinguistic factors also caused a change in the syntagmatic potential of the word in its second meaning and of its derivatives, which is reflected in the dictionary example area: Deportation of refugees. Deporting of people with an expired visa. Deportation of Tajik illegals to their homeland.

The dictionary also reflects significant semantic shifts in the meaning of the political term liberalism used in Russian language since the early 19th century:

Liberalism, m., polit. One of the influential social and political movements which focuses on the concept of human freedom from socio-political forms of control by the state (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 538).

Only a few borrowings should be fully considered as neolexemes: eurozone ‘12 European countries, in the territory of which the single pan-European currency - the euro - is put into circulation’; European integration ‘political, economic, cultural, etc. unification of European states’ (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 335); ombudsman ‘human rights commissioner’ (Sklyarevskaya et al., 2007, p. 680) and some others related to new phenomena on the political map of the world and within Russia.

Thus, the dictionary showed that in the described period in the semantic cluster “politics” the process of updating words, coupled with semantic shifts in meaning and the increasing activity of word-forming derivation, prevailed over the process of borrowing. The research sample reflects two trends: the tendency to reduce the number of borrowings of the thematic field “politics”, as well as the tendency to replenish the lexical core of the newest Russian political discourse with neologisms built with the help of Russian derivational formants and using traditional mechanisms and methods.

The second source of the neological material is the Russian Academic Neography resource which includes the vocabulary units presented in the so-called annual dictionaries. The annuals are dictionaries that record all speech innovations of a given year, including the ones belonging to individual authors and the occasional ones; the purpose of these publications is to reflect the flow of spontaneous language life, as well as to register the fact of birth, change or entry into the language of new words and meanings.

The dependence of political vocabulary on extralinguistic factors is manifested in the process of the most general quantitative analysis of the vocabulary. The main part of lexical innovations that belong to the political sphere of the second half of the year 2010 are words that originated on the word-forming ground of the Russian language.

The above-mentioned statement is confirmed by word analysis. The main groups of borrowings are connected with processes that are understood in Russian political discourse as foreign phenomena not characteristic of Russia's domestic policy and not related to it. Thus, the electronic resource “Russian Neology” registered numerous similar entries of 2012-2020 built according to the same model: the contamination of the country name and the English word exit: Brexit ‘about the possible withdrawal of the UK from the EU’ (the semantic component of the ‘possible’ here and further was recorded at the time when the word had entered the language); Grexit ‘about the possible withdrawal of Greece from the EU’; Dexit ‘about a possible German exit from the EU’; Dexit ‘about Denmark's possible exit from the EU’; Nexit ‘about a possible exit of the Netherlands from the EU’; Swexit ‘about a possible exit of Sweden from the EU’; Frexit ‘On France’s possible exit from the EU’.

Here are examples of dictionary entries for the words that belong to the presented paradigm:

, a, m. Publ. O vozmozhnom vyhode Germanii iz Evrosojuza. Dazhe dlja Germanii sochinili sootvetstvujushhee slovo — «dekzit»: pogovarivajut, chto v glavnom oplote Evropejskogo sojuza tozhe mnogo kto gotov rasproshhat'sja s Brjusselem. 01.07.16. —. Dexit. (nem. Deutschland ‘Germanija’ + angl. exit ‘vyhod’). — Sm. deksit, Iksit, nekzit i neksit, shvekzit i shveksit. — Sr. brekzit 2012, grekzit 2012, Frekzit 2015. — V napisanii so strochnoj i propisnoj bukvy (Kozlovskaya et al., 2018, p. 28).

, a,. Publ. O vozmozhnom vyhode Shvecii iz ES.. Oko planety 25.06.16. —. Swexit (Sweden ‘Shvecija’ + exit ‘vyhod’). — shveksit. —. brekzit 2012, grekzit 2012, frekzit 2015 (Kozlovskaya et al., 2018, p. 78).

The peculiarity of the functioning of these words is the non-participation in cultural appropriation (“the introduction of borrowed words to the original Russian models of linguistic conceptualization of the world”, (Radbil & Ratsiburskaya, 2017): the core semantic components caused by extralinguistic factors impose a kind of ban, for example the seme ‘characteristic of Britain’ in the meanings of the borrowed synonyms outers and leavers ‘About British citizens who are supporters of the country’s exit from the European Union’.

The analysis of the neological database and the word-lists of the annual dictionaries of recent years has shown that the political vocabulary included in the language correlates with the designation of the political realities of other countries. Such words are often borrowed in paradigms and get a neographic representation, but quickly become obsolete and are not included in dictionaries with long time frame coverage. To this type apparently belong the newest borrowings from the Belarusian language reflecting the realities of mass protests in 2020:

BUSOFÓBIJa ‘O strahe uchastnikov belorusskih protestov po otnosheniju k silovikam, kotorye priezzhajut na protestnye meroprijatija na mikroavtobusah (busah, busikah)’; BChB-FLAG ‘Belo-krasno-belyj (belorus. bely-chyrvona-bely) flag, javljajushhijsja simvolom belorusskogo protesta’; NASILOVÍK ‘Prezritel'noe oboznachenie predstavitelej silovyh vedomstv uchastnikami belorusskih protestov’ (nasílie + silovík).

Such vocabulary is not acquired by the Russian cultural space and does not take part in the linguistic conceptualization of the world. In this regard, a few exceptions are particularly interesting: these are the loan words borrowed with an aim of designating the new phenomena they denote and “transplanted” into Russian soil which participate in the processes of cultural appropriation of the “alien” and accumulation of the “own” by the system of the developed Russian literary language (Radbil & Ratsiburskaya, 2017, p. 45).

The indicators of cultural appropriation are the active derivational word-formation, including the occasional derivatives, and the semantic augmentation of the meaning. According to the author of the concept (Radbil & Ratsiburskaya, 2017), occasional derivatives build on the basis of borrowed words are the reflexes of the acquisition of the corresponding foreign cultural concept through the word-forming development of the Russian cultural space.

According to Integrum, the usage frequency of the word lockdown ‘restrictive measures during a pandemic’ in the Russian language of 2020 is very high (about 300,000 tokens). Since the word has recently entered the language, the process of its appropriation by the Russian language mentality is in its infancy. The beginning of the word conceptualization is evidenced by a large number of derivatives, which are formed despite the inconvenient, unpromising form of the word from the point of view of the Russian word formation. The derivatives recorded include:

For example: Kak dyshat' na chetvertinku i ne lokdaunknut' region?. V obshhem, dazhe esli nas kovidanulo i pandemijknulo, my Orlovshhinu ne lokdaunknjom! Dobryj lokdaunnyj subbotnij vecher; karantinno-lokdaunnyj rezhim; lokdaunshhiki i karantinshhiki, Volna antilokdaunnyh mitingov i zabastovok narastaet v Italii (Integrum, 2020).

The context analysis reflects the presence of a large number of syntagmatic relations: vesennij, novogodnij, polnyj, zhestkij, total'nyj, global'nyj lokdaun, vvesti, zapretit', ostanovit', prekratit' lokdaun; lokdaun vyhodnogo dnja, etc.

The metaphorical use of the word is also recorded: lokdaunnaja gil'otina, parad lokdaunov. For example: Vnov' nachalsja regional'nyj parad lokdaunov. Perejdjot li on v lokdaun vserossijskij? (Integrum, 2020).

These data indicate the emergence of semantic shifts in the word meaning and the development of hypernym-hyponym relationships (denoting the kinds and types of a lockdown depending on the place and time of the prohibition regime). The word obtains associative links characteristic of the Russian linguistic worldview and becomes part of the so-called anti-proverbs and verbal components of memes:

Sherlok, a chto takoe intellektual'nyj lokdaun?

Jelementarno, Vatson. Jeto kogda idiot pytaetsja izobrazit' intellektuala.


The study of the language data has made it possible to characterize the main mechanisms of extralinguistic determinism of the lexical component of political discourse and to identify the main processes in the field of actual political vocabulary.

Summing up the preliminary results, we can state that the semantic and derivative processes associated with new topical political vocabulary are reflected in the operational neography in a vast, complete and accurate manner. As mentioned above, this is fully facilitated by the implementation of the principle of recording all lexical innovations, including the sporadic ones.

The analysis of the neological database and of the word-lists of the annual dictionaries of recent years has shown that the political vocabulary included in the language correlates with the designation of the political realities of other countries. Such words are often borrowed in paradigms and get a neographic representation, but quickly become obsolete and are not included in dictionaries with long time frame coverage.

The sample data showed that in the latest Russian political discourse, the borrowing process has slowed down its intensity, giving way to derivatives and actualization.

The processes associated with actualized vocabulary (semantic shifts, changes in connotations, expansion of syntagmatic relations) and systemic connections in the field of political vocabulary are more consistently reflected in the explanatory dictionaries of a certain type – the dictionaries that manifest the linguistic changes of several decades.


I would like to express my gratitude to Alina S. Pavlova, the employee of the ILS RAS, for her assistance in translating this article.


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01 September 2021

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Kozlovskaya, N. V. (2021). New Political Borrowings In Russian Dictionaries Of The Early 21st Century. In V. M. Shaklein (Ed.), The Russian Language in Modern Scientific and Educational Environment, vol 115. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 600-608). European Publisher.