Conceptualizing emotions in Russian: metaphor of motion

Alexei Shmelev, Moscow Pedagogical State University

Russian spatial expressions referring to emotions have often been discussed in terms of "conceptual metaphors". However, the notion of "conceptual metaphor" does not explain why not all kinds of context allow the same metaphor for a given emotional state.

Another way to approach the same problem is to provide a more detailed semantic description of conceptualization of emotions in Russian. It should be emphasized that the classification of "emotional states" that follows represents the semantics inherent in the emotional terms. (It may be observed that similar semantic analysis of some emotional terms has been arrived at in New explanatory dictionary of Russian synonyms, ed. by Apresjan, independently from the present study.)

Emotions as the Russian language conceptualizes them may be classified into "impressions", "states", and "spontaneous" ("uncontrolled") feelings.

"Impressions" have some outer source. They are thought of as derived from one's environment. Typical "impressions" are gore 'grief, sorrow, woe', ogorchenie 'grief, chagrin', radost' 'joy', udovol'stvie 'pleasure'. (All English glosses are, of course, approximate.)

"Spontaneous feelings" are styd 'shame', strax 'fear', toska 'melancholy, sadness, nostalgia', bespokojstvo 'uneasiness, disquiet', trevoga 'anxiety', grust' 'sadness'. They are conceptualized as outside (most often hostile) forces that 'seize' the experiencer.

Typical "emotional states" are razdrazhenie 'irritation', jarost' 'rage', beshenstvo 'fury', unynie 'depression', otchajanie 'despair', uzhas 'horror', vostorg 'delight', vosxishchenie 'delight, rapture, admiration', zameshatel'stvo 'confusion, embarrassment', pechal' 'grief, sorrow', skorb' 'extreme sorrow, grief', etc. They may be caused by the outer world, but, in contrast to "impressions", they are not "derived" from outside (accordingly, such verbs as prinesti 'bring' or dostavit' 'deliver' cannot govern their names) but rather arise as a reaction to some event. (Of course, the "event" need not actually have occurred, so long as the experiencer thinks it has occurred.)

The spatial metaphor for a given emotion depends on its type. Thus, "spontaneous" feelings 'seize' (oxvatyvajut) people. Cf. Strax oxvatil, bespokojstvo oxvatilo, toska, trevoga, grust' oxvatila, but not *prijti v styd, strax, bespokojstvo, toska, trevoga, grust'nor *prinesti styd, strax, bespokojstvo, toska, trevoga, grust'.

"Impressions" may be 'brought' (prineseny) or 'delivered' (dostavleny). cf. prinesti gore, radost'; dostavit' ogorchenie, udovol'stvie, but not *prijti v gore, ogorchenie, radost', udovol'stvie nor *gore, ogorchenie, radost', udovol'stvie oxvatilo. Gore and radost' (but not ogorchenie nor udovol'stvie) may also be "objectified" (cf. U nee radost', gore '[lit.] She has joy, sorrow', but not *U nee ogorchenie, udovol'stvie).

"Emotional states" can be further subdivided into "transitory", short–term states (razdrazhenie, jarost', beshenstvo, uzhas, vostorg, vosxishchenie, zameshatel'stvo, etc. and "deep" states (pechal', skorb'). "Transitory" emotional states have an outward target; they are usually overtly manifested and last only a short while. "Deep" states are introvert, they do not imply outward manifestations. Being in "deep" state, a person does not notice the outside world. One use prijti v 'come into' with "transitory" states and pogruzit'sja v 'immerse, plunge into' with "deep" states.

There are two or three emotional terms that may refer to both "transitory" and "deep" states. This is, e.g., otchajanie. Cf. (1) Opozdav na avtobus, on prishel (*pogruzilsja) v otchajanie 'Having missed the bus he is in despair' vs. (2) Posle smerti zheny on pogruzilsja (*prishel) v otchajanie 'He is in despair after the death of his wife' (observed by Anna Mostovaja). The state referred to in (1) is quite different from that in (2). The former would be manifested by pulling one's hair, dramatic gesticulation, screaming, cursing, etc.; the latter is much deeper.

Both "transitory" and "deep" states may be "condemnable" (beshenstvo, jarost' etc.). The spatial metaphor used with "condemnable" states is vpast' v 'fall into' (this is why the image underlying the English expression to fall in love is totally alien to Russian).

Emotions may be modified with adjectives and reinterpreted. Cf. ?vpast' v gnev 'fall into anger' (problematic); vpast' v neobosnovannyj gnev 'fall into unjustified anger' (fully felicitous); *vpast' v spravedlivyj gnev 'fall into righteous anger' (unacceptable). Along the same lines: one cannot say *vpast' v grust' 'fall into sadness'; however, some speakers of Russian (not me!) regard vpast' v glubokuju grust' 'fall into deep sadness' as more acceptable. (However, the possibility of such modification is limited. For example, skorb' is totally incompatible with vpast' because it can never be unjustified: one cannot say *neobosnovannaja skorb' since skorb' includes in its semantics the idea of being caused by a serious loss.) In addition, almost every emotional "state" (provided that it is not based on rational considerations) can be reinterpreted as a "spontaneous" feeling. So, beshenstvo oxvatilo, vostorg oxvatilare perfectly felicitous.