Arguing in Russian: Why solzhenitsyn’s fictional arguments defy translation

Anna Wierzbicka*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper discusses patterns of ‘arguing’ which prevails in Russian speech culture and shows that they differ profoundly from those characteristic of modern Anglo culture(s). The author focuses on the extended arguments (spory) in Solzhenitsyn ‘s novel ‘In the First Circle’ and shows that many linguistic and cultural aspects of the original are lost in the English translation. She argues that this was inevitable because English doesn’t have and “doesn’t need” linguistic resources to render various aspects of Russian communicative practices, which are culture-specific and have no counterparts in Anglophone culture(s). The paper shows too that the techniques of semantic analysis developed in the “NSM” approach to cultural semantics help explain why Solzhenitsyn’s fictional arguments defy translation, and more generally, how they can be used to identify some deep differences between Russian and Anglo speech cultures and communicative norms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)8-37
    Number of pages30
    JournalRussian Journal of Communication
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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