Scholarly article on topic 'Investigating Russian Derivational Suffix – yaka: Russian Parallel Corpus Study'

Investigating Russian Derivational Suffix – yaka: Russian Parallel Corpus Study Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Olga Nagel

Abstract The present study proposes application of Russian Parallel Corpus in investigation of Russian derivational suffix– yaka. Analyzing the work of professional translators the author makes inferences about the way they process and use derivatives with suffix– yaka. The obtained results support compositional nature of the researched derivatives’ processing coming in line with the results obtained within propositional approach to the description of derivational processes.

Academic research paper on topic "Investigating Russian Derivational Suffix – yaka: Russian Parallel Corpus Study"


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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 154 (2014) 122 - 129


CULTURE, 20-22 October 2014

Investigating Russian Derivational Suffix - yaka: Russian Parallel

Corpus Study

Olga Nagel*

National Research Tomsk State University, 36, Lenin Ave., Tomsk, 634050, Russia


The present study proposes application of Russian Parallel Corpus in investigation of Russian derivational suffix- yaka. Analyzing the work of professional translators the author makes inferences about the way they process and use derivatives with suffix- yaka. The obtained results support compositional nature of the researched derivatives' processing coming in line with the results obtained within propositional approach to the description of derivational processes. © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of National Research Tomsk State University. Keywords: Parallel corpus; derivational morphology; proposition; translation strategy

1. Introduction

The paper examines Russian derivational suffix - yaka as a constituent part of Russian derivational model Verbal base + suffix - yaka which in its turn is a part of a peripheral zone of Russian derivational system. This zone is described as an intermediate functional type of Russian derivational system between mutational and modificational functional types and combines functional characteristics of the two. Thus, the suffix concerned forms nouns from verbal bases and while changing a category of a base (mutation) it also changes semantics of a base adding evaluation and emotionality to a core meaning (modification). For example, kurit' (to smoke)-kur-yaka - tot kto mnogo kurit i eto ploho (a person who smokes a lot and it is bad according to the speaker's opinion). The dual nature of the described derivational model determines the term used by the author to define it - syncretic derivational model.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +7-3822-529-695; fax: +7-3822-529-742 . E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of National Research Tomsk State University. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.10.123

The syncretic derivational model comprises a limited list of derivational types in Russian which have been described within functional propositional approach in Rezanova (Rezanova, 1996) and Nagel (Nagel, 2005).

Functional propositional approach in derivation was advocated by M. N. Jantzenetzkaya within Tomsk derivatology research school. According to M. N. Jantzenetzkaya (Jantzenetzkaya, 2014) propositional approach is universal and reflects the way human cognition is organized. Language is also seen as proposition-oriented and proposition serves as a semantic base for linguistic signs of all levels. It means that proposition structure, its components and types of relations between a predicate and its arguments can be reflected not only explicitly in syntactic predicative unites but implicitly in morphological forms, word-building structure and lexical semantics.

According to this approach Russian derivatives of syncretic type are characterized by heterogeneous propositional semantics caused by active interaction of a base, a suffix and extra lingual environment. The result of such interaction can be presented by the following motivational formulae (Nagel et.el 2014): (S2) believes that (S1) is characterized by (P), here P=N (M1=0), but S1 is characterized by P always, often, is prone to, likes and, consequently, P'>N (M2qn) and does it well or badly (Mql) => and it causes reaction good/bad (M3), where S2 -subject of evaluation, S1 - object of evaluation, P - the predicate , N - social norm, P' - modified predicate, M1 -modus of evaluation, contained in the semantics of a derivational base, M2 - modus of evaluation, gained in the course of word-building act, M3 - emotive modus as a reaction to modus M2, ql- quality deviation, qn-quantity deviation.

The aim of the present article is to demonstrate the way parallel corpora study may contribute to further investigation of innate heterogeneous semantics of Russian derivatives using the analysis of the derivatives kuryaka (one who smokes a lot), gulyaka (reveller; idler, loafer), voyaka (warrior, soldier, a mockery of a warrior / soldier; a soldier that makes one laugh, fighting-cock, fire-eater; cock sparrow), krivlyaka (poseur, affected person; all airs and graces) as a case study.

2. Methodology

2.1. Theoretical background

A derivative within the stated approach is believed to refer not to one or another sentence or a syntactic phrase but to a deep proposition which in its turn can be realized syntactically, morphologically or lexically. Propositional approach reveals multilayer, three-dimensional interpretation of word-building processes. Such an approach binds system-defined characteristics of a word with its functioning where derivational potential of various lexical-semantic groups is being realized (Yantsenetskaya, 2014).

The propositional structure of the derivatives under the investigation refers to the following propositional structures:

• Kuryaka (the one who smokes a lot): Someone (S2) believes (M), that S1 kurit (smokes) P = // =N (M1ql), and S1 is prone to, likes it and does it often P, P'qn > N, (M2qn), which is bad (M3).

• Gulyaka(the one who parties a lot): Someone (S2) believes (M), that S1 gulyaet (often having parties) P = // =N (M1 ql), and S1 is prone to, likes it and does it often P, P'qn > N, (M2qn), which is bad (M3).

• Voyaka (the one who fights a lot): Someone (S2) believes (M), that S1 voyuyet (fights in wars) P = // = N (M1 ql), and S1 is prone to, likes it and does it often P, P'qn > N, (M2qn), which is bad or good (M3).

The propositional components extracted above are claimed to be potentially present in each derivative of such kind in out of context environment. It has also been stated by means of semantic analysis of sentences that each of the components, individually or conjointly, is activated in a specific context (Nagel, 2005, 2007). To exemplify the above let us look at contextual functioning of the derivative kuryaka. The contexts are taken from the Russian National Corpus: Context (1)

Anatoliy Azol'skiy. Lopushok// «Novyy Mir», 1998

Kto-to iz dymivshich soobschil drugomu kuryake, chto po nekotorym slucham v kakom-to rayone kakoy-to oblasti nekiy mechanizator sozdal nechto fantasticheskoe, gibrid

amfibii s kartofeleuborochnym kombaynom. Context (1) actualizes the predicative component by participle dymivshich (smoking).

Context (2)

Pervym, vpot'mach, chtoby ne trevozhit' zhenu i vnuka, podnimaetsya staryy kuryaka

Ponomar'. [Boris Ekimov. Prosnetsya den'... (1997)]. Context (2) actualizes the subjective component by adjective staryy (old) referring to a physical characteristic of a person which is supported by the noun vnuka (grandson).

The question we raise in the present article is whether the components of the derivative's propositional structure are really potentially active and are processed by the language user compositionally rather than holistically.

2.2. Parallel corpus analysis hypothesis

To answer the question set we propose to look at the semantics of the derivatives through their contextual translation using parallel corpus analysis as an alternative to one language contextual analysis. The main idea of the proposed method lies in the belief that professional translators may serve as informants providing insights about implicit semantics of the derivative indirectly, performing their professional activity, rather than analyzing the derivative directly as a linguist. According to the material collected from the parallel corpus most contexts (39 out of 45) are originally translated from English into Russian and translators are native Russian speakers which serve as an additional validity factor. Only 4 out of 6 translations from English into Russian were done by non-native speakers but still by professional translators whose command of languages is high enough for validity of the results.

We believe that the strategy defining the translator's choice of the derivative as an equivalent will be deductive -collecting fragments of meaning from the context and packing them in a compact way using a derivative to satisfy the needs of a communicative situation in the original. Such strategy in our opinion advocates compositional way of derivative processing and use.

The present study defines parallel corpora as corpora consisting of original texts in one language and their translations into one or more languages. The material is taken from the sub corpus of the National Russian Corpus ( ) which is called Parallel corpora.

The researchers agree on research potential of the discussed corpora exploiting the resources provided in such studies as typology (e.g. van der Auwera et al., 2005), Functional and Cognitive Linguistics (e.g. Croft, 2010) and etc. Dickens and Salkie (Dickens and& Salkie, 1996) compare French/English bilingual dictionaries with a parallel corpus and show how many equivalents one single word can actually have. Salkie (Salkie, 1996) also employs a parallel corpus to investigate grammar problems. Altenberg (Altenberg, 2002) demonstrates the value of combining bilingual and learner corpus analysis techniques highlighting the explanatory power of bilingual corpora in assessing the role of transfer in interlanguage data..Seeing a parallel text as an online contextualized dictionary many researchers in translation study use parallel corpora as a tool for training translators Danielsson and Ridings (Danielsson and Ridings, 1996). Ana Frankenberg-Garcia (Frankenberg-Garcia, 2009) proved that using a parallel corpus for research in translation may constitute empirical evidence of translation universals. Mona Baker (Baker, 1995) in her paper Corpora in Translation Studies: An Overview and Some Suggestions for Future Research emphasizes corpus-based research as a factor in improving the performance of machine translation systems as it increases the validity and reliability of the comparison. Stig Johansson also claims that through electronic corpora we can observe patterns which we were unaware of before or only vaguely glimpsed. The availability of multilingual corpora has led to a renewal of contrastive studies. We gain new insight into similarities and differences between languages, at the same time as the characteristics of each language are brought into relief (Johansson, 2007).

Parallel Corpora within the Russian National Corpus though being of relatively small current size (9 million tokens) provides substantial background for important typological, grammatical and lexical studies (Sitchinava, 2012). The potential of Russian National Corpora has been discussed for FL teaching in Nagel et al. (2014).

The present study focuses on parallel corpus as empirical evidence of active heterogeneous semantics of syncretic derivatives exploited by translators into Russian.

3. Results and discussion

100 contexts were collected from the parallel corpus. As the purpose of this study is to analyze a variety of entities, only 45 non-repeating variants were left for a detailed study, 6 of which are Russian to English translations and 38 are English to Russian ones. The analysis presents comparative overview of dictionary and parallel corpus data.

The semantic complexity and context flexibility of the Russian derivatives under study makes them challenging for translation from Russian into English. Denotative part of the Russian syncretic derivational model meaning correlates with the English derivational modal with suffix -er which signifies entities that are active or volitional participants in the event (Ingo Plag, 2003). This fact explains the number of suffixed equivalents found in some dictionaries: kuryaka - smoker (, gulyaka - reveller; idler, loafer, voyaka - warrior, soldier (ABBYY Lingvo). Only in case of gulyaka the equivalents seem appropriate due to evaluative nature of the base comprising evaluative component: to revel -to take part in noisy festivities; make merry, to idle - to laze, to loaf. The same cannot be said about the equivalents of the other two derivatives. The English suffix - er can get specific evaluative meaning only from an interaction with the meanings of base and further inferences on the basis of world knowledge (Ingo Plag, 2003).

Dictionary Russian to English translation variants of the syncretic derivatives provide multiple choices for a translator. But as the data show only in 3 (in bold) out of 32 cases dictionary back translation variants match an original word or phrase. A full list of equivalents is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Dictionary English variants for Russian syncretic derivative.

Russian syncretic derivative Dictionary English equivalent (ABBYY Lingvo), Dictionary back translation of the equivalent (ABBYY Lingvo),

kuryaka smoker kuril'schik

gulyaka reveller brazhnik, gulyaka, kutila

idler lentyay,bezdel'nik, lezheboka, tuneyadez,

loafer bezdel'nik, tuneyadez

voyaka warrior voin; boez; borez, voitel'

soldier voennosluzhaschiy, voennyy

a mockery of a warrior / soldier nasmeshka nad voinom

a soldier that makes one laugh nasmeshka nad voinom

fighting-cock boyzovyy petuch

fire-eater lyubitel' ustraivat', vvyazyvat'sya v ssory i draki, drachun

cock sparrow drachun, zabiyaka, zadira

The present study deals mostly with English to Russian translation which supposedly should restrict immediate translator's access to Russian syncretic derivatives. To prove the above we present Russian dictionary translations of target words and phrases which were translated with syncretic derivatives in Parallel corpus. A complete list is presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Dictionary Russian variants for English target words and phrases.

Original words and phrases Dictionary equivalent

1 lusty (hypocrite) zdorovyy, sil'nyy, krepkiy, energichnyy

2 roisterer brazhnik, gulyaka, kutila

3 reveller brazhnik, gulyaka, kutila

4 rioters myatezhnik; buntovschik, povstanez

5 merrymaker vesel'chak; uchastnik prazdnikov, gulyaniy, uveseleniy

6 loafers bezdel'nik, tuneyadez

7 those people te lyudi

8 wilder (students) beznravstvennyy, raspuschennyy

9 merry men na vesele, podvypivshie

10 diner-out chelovek, chasto obedayuschiy vne doma

11 sitter prostofilya, lopuch, zasedayuschiy

12 merry straggler vesyelyy otstavshiy (soldat)

13 idler lentyay,bezdel'nik, lezheboka, tuneyadez,

14 truant lenivyy; prazdnyy

15 loungers bezdel'nik, tuneyadez, lentyay

16 drinker p'yaniza; alkogolik

17 boon companion! sobutyl'nik; kutila

18 insecure jock nenadezhnye dzhoki (prozvische soldat Shotlandskogo gvardeyskogo polka)

19 guard karaul, konvoy, ochrana, strazha

20 weren't a drawback ne byli pomechoy

21 soldiers voennosluzhaschiy, voennyy

22 troops voyska, armiya, vooruzhyennye sily

23 campaigner staryy sluzhaka, veteran; byvalyy chelovek

24 brandisher ugrazhayuschiy oruzhiem

25 these men eti lyudi

26 soldier laddie voennosluzhaschiy parnisha

27 warriors voin, voitel', boez

28 the delighted men dovol'nye lyudi

29 officer ofizer; komandir

30 captain kapitan, strashina

31 fighter drachun, zadira

32 of the army voennyy

33 militant old man drachlivyy starik

34 champion voin, voitel', boez

35 warrior voin, voitel', boez

36 peasants krest'yanin, sel'skiy zhitel'

37 men of war voennosluzhaschiy

38 a chimney-pot dymovod

As the data present only in 2 (in bold) out of 38 cases dictionary translation of target words and phrases corresponds to a Russian derivative. These are original words roisterer and reveler which were translated with gulyaka :

1 a) Several of the merry roisterers had come inside to use the toilet or get a drink of water. [Kurt Vonnegut. Hocus Pocus (1990)]

1 b) Neskol'ko veselych gulyak voshli v kafe — komu nado bylo vypit' vody komu v tualet. [Kurt Vonnegut. Fokus-pokus (M. Kovaleva, 1993)]

2 a) Kama entered the Tivoli, tall, lean, muscular, and fur-clad, the pick of his barbaric race and barbaric still, unshaken and unabashed by the revelers that rioted about him while Daylight gave his orders. [Jack London. The Burning Daylight (1910)]

2 b) Kama, vysokiy, chudoschavyy, muskulistyy, odetyy v zverinye Shkury, voshel v Tivoli so spokoynym

dostoinstvom istogo dikarya; ne obraschaya vnimaniya na shumevshich vokrug nego gulyak, on molcha vyslushal rasporyazheniya Charnisha. [Dzhek London. Vremya-ne-zhdet (V. Toper, 1956)]

Thus, we may claim that translators were not technically primed to use Russian derivatives, nevertheless, as the material shows, in most cases a syncretic derivative was chosen.

The results of the analysis presenting all target words and phrases which were translated with the derivatives under study are presented in Table 3. The table also presents a semantic component (column C) assigned by a translator to a derivative (column A) when he/she chose it as an equivalent to a target word or a phrase (column B). Column D lists a component of a derivative propositional structure affected by semantics of a target word or a phrase.

Table 3. Explication of potentially active elements of derivative propositional structure.

A. Derivative

B. Target words and phrases C. Explicit component D. Element of propositional structure (S, P, M1, M2, M3)

lusty(hypocrite) having or characterized by robust P, Ml

health, strong or invigorating

rioters rebellious character S, P, M1

merrymaker humor S, P, M3

loafers a person who avoids work; idler S, P, M2

those people functional and semantic compression S, proposition itself

wilder (students) violent and uncontrollable in behavior S, P, M2, M3

merrymen slightly drunk S, P, M3

diner-out eating out in café/restaurant S, P, M2

sitter simpleton, duffer, ninny S, M3

merry straggler apart from the others P, M2, M3

idler avoids work P, M1, M2

truant lazy and avoids work S, P, M3

loungers lazy, no work S, P, M2

drinker a person who drinks, esp. a person who S, P, M2

drinks alcohol habitually

boon companion! alcohol S, P, M1, M3

insecure jock faulty Scots guard profession S, P, M2

guard profession S, P, M2

weren't a drawback lacking quality P, M3

soldiers profession S, P, M2

troop profession S, P, M2

campaigner profession S, P, M2

brandisher threat S, P, M3

these men functional and semantic compression proposition itself

soldier laddie profession and familiarity S, M2, M3

warriors profession S, M2

the delighted men content S, P, M3

officer profession S, P, M2

captain profession S, P, M2

fighter profession S, P, M2

of the army profession P, M2

militant old man profession S, P, M2

champion poetic profession S, P, M2, M3


Tot, kto lyubit gulyat, kto zhivet prazdno, razgulno. Upotreblyaetsya kak porizayuschee ili brannoe slovo.


Ispytannyy boez, chrabryy voin. Tot, kto voyuet s zadorom, s zapalom, no neumelo, nezadachlivo (obychno s ottenkom ironii ili shutlivosti).Drachun, zadira, zabiyaka.

warrior profession S, M2

peasants lack of qualification S, P, M3

men of war profession S, mP, M2

Kuryaka Tot, kto kurit, lyubit, privyk kurit' a chimney-pot idiomatic P, M2, M3

The results show that target words and phrases used in the original text evoke various semantic components and the fact that translators choose a syncretic derivative to convey this variety proves our hypothesis about compositional processing and use of derivatives. It can be seen that the choice to use a derivative as an equivalent could be motivated by activation of different components of a propositional structure. It can be either a subject (S) one when a derivative corresponds to a noun in English (all cases of -er suffixed target words), or just a predicative (P) one when a derivative is used for a non-noun entity (truant, etc.). Modus of quantity deviation (M2) is defined by target words denoting profession (officer, captain, soldier etc.). Quality deviation modus (M1) is accentuated in cases of deviation of a predicative (P) component (bowlegs, idler, lusty, rioter). Emotive modus (M3) activation can be traced in soldier laddie, boon companion!, wilder students etc.). Overall specifications of activation are presented in Table 3, column D.

4. Conclusion

Application of parallel corpus data proved efficiency in understanding the nature of derivational processes and confirmed the hypothesis of compositional processing and use of derivatives by professional translators. In the analysis presented professional translators were to play a role of a nominating speaker deciding which propositional component should be emphasized and imprinted in a communicative act by a syncretic derivative. Thus, the idea of propositional nature of a derivative got its support via translation manipulations and revealed the value of Parallel Corpus in the research of the kind. We accept the fact that overall conclusions cannot be made based on the data received from the analysis of only one derivational pattern with suffix -yaka, but the assumption that such an approach could be of some value for further investigation of other derivational patterns seems reasonable.

Besides, the present study was based though not focused on the context determination though we wholeheartedly support the idea of context defined processing and use of derivatives. Textual characteristics of derivative were left beyond the scope of the present study leaving this area for further investigation. The present data also revealed a substantial impetus for the research of deictic nature of a derivative use (those people ^gulyaki, these men^voyaka) using the resources of Parallel Corpora.


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