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Linguistic interpretation of "ugliness" of the characters of Russian and Chinese fairy tales

Chzhou Yuitsze

Postgraduate student, Department of Russian Language, MSU-SPI University in Shenzhen, Lomonosov Moscow State University

518100, Kitai, provintsiya Guandun, g. Shen'chzhen', ul. Gotszidasyueyuan', 1

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Abstract: The article examines the interpretation of the concept of the ugliness of the external appearance of the characters of the Russian and Chinese fairy tales; analyzes and compares the similarities and differences of the named concept in different linguistic pictures of the world. Ugliness is considered as a basic universal concept of the aesthetic category inherent in the utilitarian and spiritual needs of people of different nationalities. The object of the study is the concept of ugliness in the linguistic picture of the world, reflected in a fairy tale. The subject of the study was the attributive means characterizing the characters of Russian and Chinese fairy tales; the creation of a semantic classification of representative lexemes, their cultural meanings and connotations. Classical conceptual analysis, which includes etymological, definitional, semantic, comparative types of analysis of key adjectives representing the concept of ugliness, is chosen as methods of practical research. The main conclusions of the conducted linguistic research are that the etymological analysis of the concept of ugliness allowed us to identify the following lexical and semantic groups of adjectives united by the theme "ugliness": ugliness as unattractiveness, ugliness as old age, ugliness as weakness. Based on the analysis of adjectives, it is concluded that the content of the Russian and Chinese concepts of ugliness essentially coincides, but as a result of the influence of national cultures has specific features. Consideration of the concept of "ugliness" in fairy tales in a comparative aspect makes it possible to identify national specifics reflected in the folklore picture of the world. And the novelty of the research lies in the fact that for the first time an attempt was made to analyze the concept of "ugliness" using the material of Russian and Chinese fairy tales. The results of the analysis can be used to study the national folklore and linguistic worldviews of the two peoples.


concept, ugliness, russian fairy tale, chinese fairy tale, unattractiveness, old age, weakness, mentality, adjectives, aesthetic category

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Nowadays, the problem of "language and culture" has long been one of the topical topics in the field of linguistic research. The linguist is interested in "how the language reflects the culture behind it, the naive image of the world, and even more what in the language itself (in semantics, compatibility, syntax, lexical system, etc.) is conditioned by culture and motivated by the picture of the world" [1, p. 109].

Each language has a special way to understand and reflect the surrounding reality. According to V. von Humboldt, language is "the organ that forms thought, therefore, in the formation of a human personality, in the formation of a system of concepts, in assigning to it the experience accumulated by generations, language plays a leading role" [2, p. 78]. The totality of the views of speakers of a certain culture on the world in language is a linguistic picture of the world, which, according to Z.D. Popova and I.A. Sternin, is understood as "linguistic division of the world, linguistic ordering of objects and phenomena, information about the world embedded in the system meanings of words" [3, p. 21]. According to V.V. Ivanova, "the linguistic picture of the world reflects the cognitive, cultural and social characteristics of the nativeЦspeaking people, as well as the geographical conditions of their residence. This reflection is determined by the mentality of the people" [4, p. 44]. Attention should be paid to the problem of the national language mentality, widely discussed in the scientific world by such scientists as: O.A. Kornilov, V.V. Krasnykh, T.B. Radbil, V.A. Maslova, T.E. Vladimirova, I.V. Odintsovo, etc. The language mentality in the modern sense is "a worldview in the categories and forms of the native language, in the process of cognition combining intellectual, spiritual and volitional qualities of a national character in its typical manifestations" [5, p. 15]. Consequently, in modern research, the linguistic picture of the world is defined as "the common cultural heritage of the nation, it is structured, multilevel. It is the language picture that determines communicative behavior, understanding of the external world and the inner world of a person" [6, p. 296].

The unit of the linguistic picture of the world is a concept that reflects knowledge, thinking and human activity. According to S.A. Askoldov, "a concept is a mental formation that replaces an indefinite set of objects of the same kind in the process of thought" [7, p. 269]. A concept is a form of thinking that reflects the basic attributes of things. In addition, the concept is the basic unit of mentality. V.I. Karasik characterizes concepts as "mental formations that represent significant conscious typed fragments of experience stored in a person's memory" [8, p. 91]. "The concept," according to I.V. Odintsova, "is determined by the linguistic and background knowledge accumulated by the linguistic and cultural community and transmitted from generation to generation" [9, p. 95] The most concise and convincing points of view on the understanding of the concept are reflected in the textbook formulation of Yu.S. Stepanov: the concept is "a clot of culture in the consciousness of a person; that in which culture enters the mental world of a person" [10, p. 43]. And further: "this is how a person Ц an ordinary, ordinary person, not a "creator of cultural values" Ц enters culture himself, and in some cases influences it" [Ibid.: 43].

The most interesting linguistic material for the study of the concept, in our opinion, is a fairy tale. The fairy tale as a genre of folklore creativity is a cultural phenomenon. "Folklore creativity," according to Putilov, "has an exceptional ability to discover internal conflict in everyday material and give it a structural and deep semantic character" [11, p. 123].

The concept is revealed based on the analysis of the associative-semantic field of the keyword. The process of conceptualization is "a method of explication of a conceptualized area of a literary text, based on the semantic derivation of its components from a set of linguistic units that reveal one topic, a microtheme" [12, p. 108]. The way to comprehend the essence of the concept revealed in a specific linguistic picture of the world lies in the study of various aspects of its linguistic interpretation. The main means of aesthetic reflection in Russian fairy tales are expressive adjectives, nouns and verbs. We will focus only on adjectives denoting the external ugliness of the character. As Anna Vezhbitskaya notes, "a noun indicates categorization; an adjective, on the contrary, indicates only a description" [13, p. 96], while "a description implies the presence of a number of characteristics that are all at the same level of significance" [Ibid: 97].

Exploring the concept of ugliness as part of an aesthetic category, it is necessary to identify the etymological origin of the word ugliness, to consider the semantic meanings of the word ugliness in dictionaries. As L.F. Koposov notes, "dictionaries ... are one of the most common linguistic sources" [14, pp. 154-155].

The word ugliness comes from the noun freak. In the etymological online dictionary of A.V. Semenov we find: "Freak. Old Russian Ц urod (imbecile, fool). The word is formed with the negation of the noun "genus", derived from an Indo-European root with the meaning "rising, growing, multiplying". Designates a person with physical or moral disabilities" [15, Electronic resource]. Note that the dictionary emphasizes the negative meaning of the word ugliness. In the Explanatory Dictionary edited by D.N. Ushakov, 3 meanings of the lexeme ugliness are noted: "1. A natural defect, an abnormality in the structure of a† Physical deformities. U. are often a consequence of the disease. 2. units only. Ugliness, ugliness, ugly appearance. 3. peren. What-n. ridiculous, disgusting, repulsive, abnormal. Moral education" [16, p. 980]. Consequently, ugliness manifests itself not only in a person's appearance, but also in his spiritual world. In this article we will focus only on the characteristics of a person's appearance.

The study of folklore texts allowed us to identify the following lexico-semantic groups of words that form the concept of ugliness: ugliness as unattractiveness, ugliness as old age, ugliness as weakness.

1. Ugliness as unattractiveness in a Russian fairy tale

In Russian fairy tales there are usually two types of characters. The first appears in the image of an ordinary person, the second appears in human or supernatural guise and has powerful magical abilities. This type of character is regularly a negative hero in fairy tales.

The concept of ugliness in the appearance of ordinary people primarily accompanies the creation of an image of a person with physical disabilities. In Russian fairy tales, the lexemes lame, crooked, blind, oneЦeyed are the most frequent for depicting such a flaw: "Midnight struck - a storm rumbled, the whole palace shook from thunder and crackling; devils ran visibly and invisibly, and lame, and crooked, and all sorts" (Af. N 271). The soldier is here again," the lame, one-eyed imp shouted, "you see, he got into the habit! What are you, Ali, trying to take the wards away from us? I'm going to tell Grandpa now" (Af. N 271). "The crooked and the blind come to their king and say: "My Lord! The storm-bogatyr ordered you to report that he gave his daughter to Ivan Tsarevich in marriage; and he himself was painfully angry, he killed all of us with a ladle" (Af. N 136). Note that usually the hero in fairy tales has two physical disabilities at the same time, for example, a lame one and a crooked one.

The image of the external ugliness of negative characters in magical folklore texts is closely connected with the symbol of danger, death. In the role of such a symbol, the adjective with the root bone (bone) Ц bone regularly acts: "The red maiden looked at the old woman and froze! In front of her stood Baba Yaga bone leg, nose embedded in the ceiling" (Af. N 114). The adjective bone is one of the typical definitions when describing the ugliness of a negative character Ц Baba Yaga.

The word bone is not only a symbol of death, but also a symbol of eternal life. This is especially vividly reflected in the nomination of another negative character Ц Koshchei the Immortal: "Ivan Tsarevich walked for a long time, he reached home: a huge house! The tsar's daughter lived in it, dragged away by the Immortal Kosh. Prince Ivan walks around the fence, but does not see the doors" (Af. N 156). "Koshchei,Ц says M.Fasmera, Ц "a thin, skinny man, a walking skeleton"; "miser". Probably from the bone" [17, p. 362]:

Russian Russian fairy tales associate evil with another traditional character for Russian folklore Ц a Snake. In the Russian mentality, associations have developed associated with the image of the serpent as a multiЦheaded monster, from which evil emanates, associated with destruction, death - death. In fairy tales, the serpent usually has several heads, which is reflected in its characteristics: the serpent is three-headed, six-headed, nine-headed, twelve-headed: "Here the king planned to give his daughter for the named one; and here the three-headed serpent writes to him" (Af. N 124). "He didn't say anything, lay down and fell asleep. So the nine-headed serpent began to come out, he lifted the waters on himself by nine yards" (Af. N 125). The snake lexeme goes back to the word earth Ц the snake's habitat. The serpent, according to M. Fasmer, "is a taboo name "terrestrial, crawling on the ground", from the earth" [Ibid: 100]. The serpent is a typical image of a Russian fairy tale, he is the master of the underworld, the world of the dead. Polyphony is his constant, indispensable feature.

To depict the ugliness of negative characters Ц as a mandatory attribute of an unattractive appearance of a character Ц the use of the words ugly, scary is characteristic. If ugly reflects the characteristic of external ugliness, then the word scary also contains the semes dangerous, formidable, that is, causing a sense of fear: "It was scary for a merchant's daughter to sleep on the same bed with such an ugly monster, but there was nothing to do Ц she sealed her heart, lay down with him" (Af. N 276). "I rested a little and walked through the mountains; I walked, walked, walked, looked - the copper palace is standing, at the gate terrible snakes on copper chains are chained, and swarm" (Af. N 129). Ugly in the "Dictionary of the Russian language" is interpreted as: "1. Extremely ugly; ugly.† 2. Outrageous, disgusting, terrible" [18, p. 74]. Scary Ц "1. Defiant, inspiring a sense of fear. || Frightening with its ugly appearance, huge size, etc." [19, p. 284]. Thus, in fairy tales, the adjective scary has expanded semantics. It is used as an evaluative definition and serves not only as a characteristic of the unattractiveness of a negative character, but also of the impression that this character makes on others.

2. Ugliness as old age in a Russian fairy tale

The dominant characteristic of old age is the definition expressed by the adjective old. This adjective occurs 127 times in the magical Russian fairy tales of A.N. Afanasyev.

The adjective old, on the one hand, is used for a neutral characterization of a person and denotes his age: "Ivan Tsarevich dressed up and went to get a horse; he walked a lot from home and met an old man: "Where, well done, went? Willy-nilly?"" (Af. N 157). "An old old woman falls down to meet him: "Hello, Russian tsarevich! Where do you want to go?"" (Af. N 167). On the other hand, when describing negative heroes, the definition expressed by the adjective old enters the functional and semantic field of ugliness as its permanent component: all negative heroes of Russian fairy tales are old creatures. In the texts of fairy tales, the idea of ugliness as the old age of a negative hero correlates with the idea of youth and beauty of a positive hero. Usually the adjective old acts as a definition of a noun denoting a female character: old Baba yaga, old witch, old witch.

To depict the old age of negative characters, the adjective gray is often used in fairy tales, which is used as an evaluative definition with the noun of the braid: "She rushed at the hero, but the Pine-hero himself is strong, grabbed her by the gray hairs, dragged her and threw her out of the hut barely alive" (Af. N 142). "And you, sister, as soon as Baba Yaga comes, sit down here, at this window, look for her in her head and slowly separate the strands of hair and let her pass through the window into the yard; I'll grab her for her gray locks" (Af. N 198).

3. Ugliness as a weakness in a Russian fairy tale

Weakness in fairy tales is usually the result of a character's physical shortcomings. Weak in fairy tales is a person, "1. not possessing sufficient physical strength; opposite. strong" [20, p. 128]: "Two weeks have passed, an old man looks, an old woman looks, and boys were born from those testicles; forty strong, healthy, and one failed Ц he is weak and weak" (Af. N 105).

Weakness in folklore texts is often a consequence of damage inflicted or illness suffered. The illness of the hero in fairy tales is usually a consequence of the actions of a negative character. A sick person is usually characterized as thin and pale: "So the king went hunting. Meanwhile, a sorceress came and brought a spell on the queen: Alyonushka became ill, but so thin and pale" (Af. N 260). A thin person is a person "having a thin, lean body (about man and animal); skinny" [Ibid: 630]. Pale Ц "without blush, devoid of natural coloring (about the complexion)" [Ibid: 97].

Next, consider the concept of the ugliness of the appearance of characters in Chinese fairy tales.

In Chinese, ugliness is denoted by the hieroglyph?. In the "Dictionary of the Ancient Chinese language" the word ? is interpreted as follows: ? Ц 1. Ugliness, ugliness, ugly appearance. 2. Angry, bad. 3. Shame. 4. Hatred [21, p. 53]. Let's consider the interpretation of the concept of ugliness also in three aspects: ugliness as unattractiveness, ugliness as old age, ugliness as weakness.

1. Ugliness as unattractiveness in a Chinese fairy tale

In Chinese, physical disabilities, as well as in Russian, are considered one of the types of external deformity. Chinese magic fairy tales for images of a particular physical disability most frequent lexemes ? (blind), ? (lame): "," (Small Shaoxing lives with his blind mother. He sells cakes to support his family[1]) (69 ). ,, (Fox slid along the arm of a man, she was limping, but reasonable) (101 ).

As can be seen from the examples given, physical unattractiveness in Chinese fairy tales, as in Russian fairy tales, can serve as a neutral character characteristic. But more often unattractiveness is characteristic of negative beings. To characterize the unattractiveness of the characters frequently used the word ?,(ugly, ugly), (terrible), (disgusting), representing ugly kind fantasy creatures: "," (This horned dragon was the youngest son of the dragon king of the East China sea, and he was really ugly) (97 ). ",," (the eldest son has red hair, blue face and fangs, he looks very scary) (5 ). "He Bo was very annoyed. When he saw that there was no one around, he became disgusting) (31 ).

In Chinese fairy tales, there are a number of polymorphic characters that combine both human and animal traits. In Chinese folklore, such characters are typical examples of ugliness: ", (Gungong has a human head, a snake body and red hair) (12 )). "(Ji Meng, who has a dragon's head and a human body, was rushing from Mount Guana with a strong wind and a downpour) (12. These characters were originally leaders of primitive tribes, but they lost in intertribal wars, in the struggle for political power. In the popular mass consciousness, their images were gradually demonized and acquired the ugly features of a formidable half-man, half-animal.

2. Ugliness as old age in a Chinese fairy tale

Old age in Chinese is a neutral designation of the age of a fairy tale character, which is characterized by the loss of external attractiveness and health. The most popular adjective for old age in Chinese is ? (old). In the Dictionary of Modern Chinese, the adjective ? means: 1. Who has lived for many years, has reached old age; opposite. young [22, p. 817]. ",," (it has been over a decade Hua Liang and Liang Hua already old, their three sons married) (81 ). ,, (time Passed, the widow of Lee was getting older and older, and she was not that beautiful girl) (97 ).

To refer to the appearance of the old man in Chinese fairy tales often used adjective gray : ";;;" (Hanyu "") (I am forty, but I can't see my hair Seda, my teeth are falling out). "," (She excitedly ran into the house, where there were old grandma with gray hair) (21 "). " (From the village came an old beggar with grey hair) (62 ).

3. Ugliness as a weakness in a Chinese fairy tale

External unattractiveness in Chinese fairy tales, as in Russian fairy tales, is often a consequence of the physical weakness of the character. To denote physical impotence in Chinese fairy tales, the adjective ? (weak) is used: "1. Not possessing sufficient physical strength; against. strong" [22, p. 1166]. A sign of weakness is the thinness of the hero, denoted by the hieroglyph ?. "? Ц having a thin, lean body (about man and animal); skinny" [Ibid: 1261]. "," (Golden Phoenix gradually growing up, but Tian Liang and his mother became lean) (78 ).

The reason for the loss of physical strength in Chinese fairy tales (as in Russian fairy tales) is a disease. However, if in Russian fairy tales the disease is usually caused by the actions of negative characters, then in Chinese fairy tales it is the result of the character's hard work: " (Lei Mu got sick due to overwork) (23 ). ,,, (Every year they went together to the mountains, crossed the river to check on the status of water in the Yellow river. Many years have passed, old man Hou is very tired and has become ill) (39 ).

It is interesting to note that in Chinese language weakness associated with yellow skin color Ц ? (yellow): ",," (This child is yellow and thin, he was born premature. He won't live to be twenty) (25 ).In Russian, as noted above, a sign of weakness is the pallor of the face.

In Chinese fairy tales, a person of low stature is considered weak. To characterize such a person, there is an adjective ?. "" (When girl feel angry, they intentionally smashes his hand on the head due to the fact that he was undersized) (58 ).

The linguistic study of fairy tales conducted by us allowed us to identify the following adjectives forming the concept of ugliness associated with the appearance of a person.

Lexico-semantic groups of words united by themes:

The Russian word



ugliness as unattractiveness


Crooked, blind, one-eyed


Three-headed (six-headed, nine-headed)









ugliness is like old age





ugliness as a weakness










Thus, the concept of ugliness, which is an integral part of the category of aesthetics, is assigned one of the central places in the linguistic picture of the world. The concept of ugliness is a complex formation formed by three lexical and semantic groups of words: ugliness as unattractiveness, ugliness as old age, ugliness as weakness.

The analysis of adjectives manifesting the lexico-semantic group ugliness as unattractiveness indicates that a physical defect is considered a sign of ugliness in both Russian and Chinese fairy tales. Russian Russian fairy tales are almost always distinguished by the external unattractiveness of negative characters, that is, the external ugliness in Russian fairy tales is a reflection of the internal ugliness. In Chinese fairy tales, external unattractiveness can be characteristic of both negative characters and ordinary people. The ugly image of negative heroes in Russian fairy tales has a direct or indirect connection with the underworld, with death.

The analysis of adjectives included in the lexico-semantic group ugliness as old age allows us to speak about the analogy between the languages and cultures of the two peoples. A typical adjective when depicting old age is the lexeme old, the main sign of old age is gray hair. In Russian and Chinese fairy tales, both negative characters and ordinary people can be old. However, only in a Russian fairy tale there is a certain pattern: if the hero is negative, then he is always old.

Ugliness as a weakness is found in fairy tales in people with physical disabilities, natural or resulting from illness. If in Russian fairy tales the adjective pale is used when describing a sick person, then in Chinese fairy tales the adjective yellow is used. This is due to the different skin tone of Asians and Europeans. In addition, if the Russian hero usually falls ill under the influence of magical evil forces, then the Chinese character Ц as a result of overwork, which is caused by hard work aimed at improving the lives of ordinary people.

[1] Translation of Chinese texts hereafter by the author - Zhou Yujie


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The article "Linguistic interpretation of the concept of "ugliness" of the appearance of heroes in Russian and Chinese fairy tales", proposed for publication in the magazine "Litera", is undoubtedly relevant, devoted to the consideration of the concept of "ugliness" on the linguistic material of the fairy tale. The author considers in the study a comparative study of the appearance of the characters based on the material of Russian and Chinese fairy tales, which contributes not only to the theory of conceptology, but also a comparative study of the cultures of the two countries. Taking into account the growing interest in the Chinese language and culture, as well as the strengthening ties between the two countries, the article is in demand in society. Russians Russian fairy tales, the author comes to the conclusion that negative characters are almost always distinguished by their external unattractiveness, that is, external ugliness in Russian fairy tales is a reflection of internal ugliness. In Chinese fairy tales, external unattractiveness can be characteristic of both negative characters and ordinary people. The ugly image of negative characters in Russian fairy tales has a direct or indirect connection with the underworld, with death. In Russian and Chinese fairy tales, both negative characters and ordinary people can be old. However, only in a Russian fairy tale there is a certain pattern: if the hero is negative, then he is always old. This work was done professionally, in compliance with the basic canons of scientific research. We note the scrupulous work of the author on the selection of material and its analysis. The main research methods are descriptive, etymological, comparative and comparative. However, the scope and principles of sampling the linguistic material on which the study is based are unclear. The author does not specify the sample size and its principles. How large is the text corpus, what time period does it belong to, and how widespread are these fairy tales? The research was carried out in line with modern scientific approaches, the work consists of an introduction containing the formulation of the problem, the main part, traditionally starting with a review of theoretical sources and scientific directions, a research and a final one, which presents the conclusions obtained by the author. Structurally, the article consists of several semantic parts, namely: introduction, literature review, methodology, research progress, conclusions. The bibliography of the article contains 22 sources, among which works are presented exclusively in Russian. However, like any major work, this article is not without drawbacks. We believe that ignoring works in foreign languages does not allow us to take into account the achievements of foreign philologists in the article, and also artificially isolates research from the global scientific paradigm. In addition, errors in the design of the bibliographic list were revealed, violating generally accepted rules and the current GOST. The author does not follow the generally accepted alphabetical order of the cited works. However, these remarks are not essential and do not relate to the scientific content of the reviewed work. In general, it should be noted that the article was written in a simple, understandable language for the reader, typos, spelling and syntactic errors, inaccuracies in the text of the work were not found. The work is practice-oriented, representing the author's vision of solving the issue under consideration. The article will undoubtedly be useful to a wide range of people, philologists, undergraduates and graduate students of specialized universities. The article "Linguistic interpretation of the concept of "ugliness" of the appearance of heroes in Russian and Chinese fairy tales" can be recommended for publication in a scientific journal.
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