History of Words Sosulya and Sosul’ka

2019. № 5, 22-33

Elena N. Gekkina, Institute for Linguistic Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences)
(Russia, Saint-Petersburg), gekkina@rambler.ru


The article offers an overview of reference and encyclopedic in for mation
on words sosulya and sosul’ka (icicle) that have been widely discussed
in public between 2010 and 2016. Analysis of data from various sources
allowed us to better defi ne functional, semantic and stylistic features of the
two words. First written occurrences of these words known to us date back
to the end of the 16th, beginning of the 17th century. Offi cial handwritten
household and boundary records and diplomatic documents of the Moscow
state list them as anthroponyms — people’s nicknames and surnames. Descrip
tions in vocabulary and historiographic sources on everyday traditions
in Russia testify that sosulya and other derivatives from sosat’ (to suck) served
to refer to small babies and to items that helped in nursing them. Words
sosulya and sosul’ka were also used to denote some kinds of gingerbread
pastries and sweets. In dialects they sometimes refer to smoking utensils.
First written confi rmation of using the ice-related meaning in everyday
speech date to 18th century. Soon both words made their way into book language
with applied focus, which helped to formally establish their functions.
Sources from later centuries demonstrate semantic and stylistic variation of both words even though their lexicographic descriptions are discrete and
Comparative data from other Slavic languages and from northern Russian
dialects, as well as comprehensive functional analysis, allow us to raise the
standalone question of etymology of ice-related lexemes. New data, especially
about the language of the 15th–17th centuries, could help us shed
light on obscure pages of history of the two words and the productive verbal
nomination *sъpsati.