2019, Volume 16, Issue 3

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Ivan A. Podyukov
Perm State University for the Humanities and Education
Perm, Russia

Onomastic Representation of the Otherworld in Russian Popular Language and Culture

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp. 125–139 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.3.035

Received 8 March 2019

Abstract: The article attempts to render a speculative image of the otherworld as represented in Russian onomastic material. The concept itself refers to an imagined metaphysical reality in which most important locations and characters are specified by proper names. The study deals with proper names that suggest references to death and the related notions (metaphorical names of death, cemeteries, topographic objects, and creatures of the otherworld). A particular focus is made on name constituents of dialectal phraseological units in the vernacular of the Kama River area (field materials collected from 2003 to 2018 in the southern and northern parts of the Perm Region). These onymic components are regarded as linguocultural concepts reflecting believers’ worldview and attitude to existence. The semantic analysis of set phrases is carried out against the background of general Russian dialectology, with occasional references to the context of folk traditions of the Kama Region (texts of visions, dreams, and loose retellings of Biblical plots). The study illustrates that proper names add to the clarity and consistency of the afterlife image. In its onomastic reflection, the otherworld is more similar to the real world other than a hostile and dangerous demonic space. The analysis of semantic properties and cultural connotations of the personal and place names under study reveals that, in popular understanding, the otherworld is inseparable from the earthly life. This verbal representation of the otherworld, on the one hand, testifies to the archaic state of worldview with no division into real and imaginary and, on the other hand, serves as a form of psychological adaptation to the problem of life’s ending. The findings of the study may contribute to further research on the cognitive and virtual aspects of onomastics.

Keywords: onomastics, virtual name, anthroponymy, toponymy, phraseology, Russian dialectal vocabulary, mythological worldview, language imaginary.

The study was carried out with the financial support of Russian Science Foundation (scientific project 19-18-00117 “Russian Traditional Culture in the Areas of Active Interethnic Contacts between the Ural and the Volga Region”). The author is grateful to Professor Harry Walter (Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany) for consultations on German phraseology, and to Professor Olga V. Belova (Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia) for her valuable advice.


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