The important semiotic indicators of Dostoyevsky's emotional image



This article is devoted to finding the emotional semiotic character of F. Dostoevsky that is expressed by the key characters' behaviour in 'The Gambler', 'Idiot', 'The Brothers Karamazov'. The object of the study is emotionally painted speeches of characters in his works. The subject of the study is emotive signs indices in emotional texts of Fyodor Dostoevsky

General Information

Keywords: semiotic indicator, emotional image, signs indices

Journal rubric: General and Comparative Historical Linguistics

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Iskhakova Z.Z., Gyulbyakova L.K., Zhuravleva M.V. The important semiotic indicators of Dostoyevsky's emotional image [Elektronnyi resurs]. Âzyk i tekst = Language and Text, 2016. Vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 3–8. DOI: 10.17759/langt.2016030401.

Full text

The linguistics started to pay an attention to the emotions much later than other sciences but it considered emotions in its own way. At the language level, the emotions transform into the emotiveness. The main function of emotions in the emotiveness is the expressions of the speaker’s emotion, not the endeavour of making a listener feel it. Also, emotions have their own signs that form the emotional semiotics of people.

The authors of this article have as an aim to define the emotive signs in written speech. They analyse the works by Fyodor Dostoevsky and their choice is not occasional. The manuscripts of Dostoevsky are exact opportunity to understand the emotional expressions of the characters. The creative world of the author is full of reflection on his modern Russian society. The author brought his own thoughts into his works, articles, letters, and of course his novels. Their content was limited by its epoch, some special interests but anyway we still can read the emotions of his characters as Dostoyevsky's ones. We can say that Dostoevsky shares his own peculiarities in the novels either but his acquaintances say that we should be very careful if want to use his works as sources of his biography [8].

The actual source of Dostoevsky biography is his second wife's memories that we can use to be sure that we interpreted his image in the right way. She remembered that Dostoevsky had his emergent behaviour and character in the whole, from the beginning until the end, sometimes downright hellish pride: he was so stubborn in defending of his thoughts, freedom, and sensitivity to every oppression. [2, p.47] While he was endless kindness and heartiness he also was bad-tempered and was not so sociable.

His acquaintance, writer Vsevolod Soloviev, wrote about him that sometimes Fyodor Mikhailovich was really dark, sometimes he even forgot to say hello. He really tried to find any reasons to start fighting, hurting personally the host. And everything seemed wrong. And if his friends tried to make a joke to calm him down so he thought that the joke was about him [8].

But as we have mentioned we would like to make his portrait from the signs that the author shared with us in his novels. It is done to make the study more linguistic and less historical. Our choice is 'The Gambler' (1866), 'The Idiot' (1868), 'The Brothers Karamazov' (1879-1880). These novels are the most autobiographical and finished than other his works. So we took a sample of mature and late periods of his creative work.

During the sampling, we defined that emotive index is the most frequent emotive sign. Basing on the scientific definition of emotive indices we can relate to them: expressive morphological and derivational affixes, amplifying adverbs in combination with adjectives, syntactic-stylistic means of verbalization of emotions, units of the associative-emotive lexicon [6, p.84]. The essence of the emotive index is the actual adjacency between the constituent components of the indicative sign: the signifier and the signified [6, p. 85].

In the article "Emotive codes in Dostoevsky's "The Gambler"" it was found out that F. M Dostoevsky used emotive codes by means of their verbalization in his writings. The fiction of F. M. Dostoevsky is a kind of reflection of his life and his personality. In this regard, the wife of F. M. Dostoevsky wrote in her memories that in the works of her husband she finds the features of his personal life, his habits attributed to the heroes of the novel, his personal opinions about many things expressed almost in the same terms in which she had to hear [6]. It appears that the involvement of the semiotic knowledge to establish the emotional essence of the image of F. M. Dostoyevsky in his works of art can bring some clarity to the description of the image of the writer, at least in the emotional state of the author's personality or that period of his work and in his emotional appearance in general.

In the work "The Gambler" we can give the following striking examples of signs indices:

— Ну, врешь, врешь! — перебила тотчас бабушка. — Ну, вот эта умнее всех спросила, а то: ах да ах! Вот видишь ты: лежала-лежала, лечили-лечили, я докторов прогнала и позвала пономаря от Николы. [4, p. 89]

According to this example the dualism of a sign index consists in the actual adjacency between signifier, the material aspect of a sign, and signified, expressional rethought nomination appearing in combination with the amplifier ну; that is, the syntactic-stylistic signified врешь, лежала, лечили is provided in emotive repetition due t interjection o ну. In S. I. Ojegov and N. Yu. Shvedova's explanatory dictionary the interjection ну expresses motivation, surprise, admiration or indignation [10].

Another example is shown in the following lines: — Эк ведь его! — сердилась бабушка, — да скоро ли этот зеришка проклятый выйдет? Жива не хочу быть, а уж досижу до zéro! Это этот проклятый курчавый круперишка делает, у него никогда не выходит! [4, p. 107]

The suffix – ишк according to Efremova's dictionary has the following value: the word-formation unit creates nouns of the general sort with the value of the person, which is characterized by a sign, called by the motivating adjective, but with a shade of immaturity, crassness or humiliating [7].

In accordance with the value of diminutive suffix -ишк and repetitons "проклятый" lexical units "зеришка" and "круперишка" express negative emotion. They point out the emotionality telling in adjective lexicon with affixes, expressing negative assessment. It becomes known only by means of the emotionally charged speech of characters.

In the work "The Idiot" we can find such lines as: -- Если сердитесь, то не сердитесь, -- сказал он, -- я ведь сам знаю, что меньше других жил и меньше всех понимаю в жизни. Я, может быть, иногда очень странно говорю... [5, p. 30]

Such stylistic reception, like overlapping, "frames" the emotionally charged statement of the character. But connotations with magnifying expressivity, as well as morphological means of emotiveness, correspond to the status of indices in semiotic system. The stable syntactic link of amplifiers and intensifiers to significant parts of speech serves as a premise of implementation of the indicative signs function.

Another example of a sign index is shown in the following lines: - Вот каково ее сердце! Я все время только и делал, что выслушивал о любви ее к нему. Я теперь еду, но знайте, Катерина Ивановна, что вы действительно любите только его.

- Я слишком молод и слишком сильно любил вас. Я знаю, что это бы не надо мне вам говорить…

- Я не хочу сидеть подле надрыва…[3, p. 253]

The repetition of personal pronouns Я performs the significant and strengthening function of emotive indices. Я делал, Я еду, Ялюбил, Я знаю, Я не хочу increase nominative value of verbs, the expressing actions. The bilateral essence of signs-indices as units of associative-emotive lexicon represents in a following way: Я делал is the material essence of a sign while the meant is egocentric specifics of a sender.

However, in the speech of characters of works of F.M. Dostoyevsky there are not only signs-indices. There are also many signs-symbols expressed by interjections, emotional adjectives, lexical units with the lowered tonality.

— Эвона! Да мало ль Настасий Филипповн! И какая ты наглая, я тебе скажу, тварь! Ну, вот так и знал, что какая-нибудь вот этакая тварь так тотчас же и повиснет! — продолжал он князю [5, p.6].

Эвона – is the colloquial lowered particle. It is used while one underlining or strengthening the qualitative and quantitative characteristic, corresponding on a word meaning of вон [4]. This sign symbol expresses surprise of the character in a negative key, and the further sign symbol тварь emphasizes it. In Efremova's dictionary the following definition of a creature is given: “colloquial lowered: the mean, nasty, disgusting, despised person”. [7]

Another example serves the lines:

 ⁃ Экая досада! Пропал человек, значит сам хочет...смотреть на него не могу, всю ворочает. Экой олух!

 ⁃ И бабушка поскорей обратилась в другую сторону [5, p. 105].

 ⁃In Ojegov and Shvedova's dictionary the term олух determines as slang and means foolish and an idiot. The repetitions экая and экой point out of the emotional character's speech [10].

In general, a detailed examination of the emotional image of F.M. Dostoevsky based on the concept of the emotional-deictic field of Iskhakova Z.Z. establishes a diverse “repertoire” of using emotive codes of artistic characters of Russian writer. Besides it is revealed the most frequent emotive codes with indexical nature. It seems that all this is due to the most severe emotional image оf F.M. Dostoevsky, as emotive-indices are one of the most important representatives of emotive-deictic field belonging to the central part of it. Moreover, it is important to note that the emotive indexical signs in the works of F.M. Dostoevsky presents all sorts of lexical and stylistic means of expression of the emotional state of the speaker.

So emotive-indexical signs in artistic speech of the characters of F.M. Dostoevsky as the most important representatives of his emotional image, along with a variety of linguistic signs of emotional state of the speaker's speech, indicates the qualitative nature of human emotions, namely its broad spectrum and linguistic capabilities to implement it in the speech. It seems that all of this is absolutely consistent with the extraordinary, at times full of controversial nature of the great Russian writer.


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  2. Dostoevskaya A.G. Vospominaniya [Memories]. Vstup. stat'ya, podgot. teksta i primech. S.V. Belova i V.A. Tunimanova. Moscow: Publ. Pravda, 1987. p. 544, 8 l. il.
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  4. Dostoyevsky F.M. The Gambler. Moscow: Alphabet-classics, 2011.
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  8. Kazakevich A. Stars as people: the paradoxical and little-known facts from life of the famous people. Moscow, 2007.
  9. Miller O.F. Materials for F. M. Dostoyevsky's biography. O. F. Millerthe Biography, letters and notes from the notebook of F. M. Dostoyevsky: [Collection]. Saint-Petersburg: Ampere-second printing house. Suvorina, 1883
  10. Ojegov S.I., Shvedova N.Yu. Moscow: Explanatory dictionary of Russian, 2001.
  11. Saraskina L.I. Dostoyevsky. Moscow: Young Guard, 2011, 825 p. (Life of remarkable people; release of 1320).

Information About the Authors

Z. Z. Iskhakova, Doctor of Philology, Assistant Professor, Professor, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:

L. K. Gyulbyakova, master student, Department of Linguodidactics and Intercultural Communication, Faculty of Foreign languages, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, e-mail:

Maria V. Zhuravleva, master student, Department of Linguodidactics and Intercultural Communication, Faculty of Foreign languages, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:



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