Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Talking About Time in Russian and Finnish

Johanna Viimaranta

Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Slavonic and Baltic Languages.

In this study I look at what people want to express when they talk about time in Russian and Finnish, and why they use the means they use.

The material consists of expressions of time: 1087 from Russian and 1141 from Finnish. They have been collected from dictionaries, usage guides, corpora, and the Internet. An expression means here an idiomatic set of words in a preset form, a collocation or construction. They are studied as lexical entities, without a context, and analysed and categorized according to various features.

The theoretical background for the study includes two completely different approaches. Functional Syntax is used in order to find out what general meanings the speaker wishes to convey when talking about time and how these meanings are expressed in specific languages. Conceptual metaphor theory is used for explaining why the expressions are as they are, i.e. what kind of conceptual metaphors (transfers from one conceptual domain to another) they include.

The study has resulted in a grammatically glossed list of time expressions in Russian and Finnish, a list of 56 general meanings involved in these time expressions and an account of the means (constructions) that these languages have for expressing the general meanings defined. It also includes an analysis of conceptual metaphors behind the expressions. The general meanings involved turned out to revolve around expressing duration, point in time, period of time, frequency, sequence, passing of time, suitable time and the right time, life as time, limitedness of time, and some other notions having less obvious semantic relations to the others. Conceptual metaphor analysis of the material has shown that time is conceptualized in Russian and Finnish according to the metaphors Time Is Space (Time Is Container, Time Has Direction, Time Is Cycle, and the Time Line Metaphor), Time Is Resource (and its submapping Time Is Substance), Time Is Actor; and some characteristics are added to these conceptualizations with the help of the secondary metaphors Time Is Nature and Time Is Life. The limits between different conceptual metaphors and the connections these metaphors have with one another are looked at with the help of the theory of conceptual integration (the blending theory) and its schemas.

The results of the study show that although Russian and Finnish are typologically different, they are very similar both in the needs of expression their speakers have concerning time, and in the conceptualizations behind expressing time. This study introduces both theoretical and methodological novelties in the nature of material used, in developing empirical methodology for conceptual metaphor studies, in the exactness of defining the limits of different conceptual metaphors, and in seeking unity among the different facets of time.

Keywords: time, metaphor, time expression, idiom, conceptual metaphor theory, functional syntax, blending theory

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Last updated 16.08.2006

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