On Russian Speech in the USA: Confessional Personality in Foreign Language Environment

2020. № 6, 54-66

Серафима Евгеньевна Никитина

Институт языкознания РАН

(Россия, Москва)



The paper is devoted to Russian speech genres of Molokans and old ritualists, living in the USA in the states of California and Oregon. The article is based on the field notes of the author taken in 1990s. The paper introduces the term confessional personality, which denotes a member of a confessional community who shares the religious beliefs, traditions, lifestyle and language of the community. The article consists of two parts. The first part mentions the most crucial features of the descibed confessional cultures: specific social closure, high level of self-consciousness, self-sufficiency, high level of migration, traditionalism, eschatological thinking, religious attitude towards labour, the idea of chosenness, and mythological elements incorporated in their religion. The article shows examples of how these features influence various types of speech, e.g. there always exist eschatological themes in different forms and genres of Russian speech, common for both Molokans and Old Believers. The second part of the article is a speech portrait of a confessional personality – a remarkable and talented Old-Believer woman of the Chapel Confession (Chasovennye) born in 1932. The woman came through a great number of deprivations and sorrow in her life, preserving a clear Russian speech, though. When talking about her life, she used different speech genres. She mentioned her religious credo, tried to be precise in memoir genre, devoted to her predecessors, spoke about sorcery as of false art, told about her grandmother’s job as a doctor, sang spiritual lyrics and recited her own. Further research might include the comparison of speech portraits of members of different Russian confessions. It can provide new material for theoretical descriptions of the connection between culture and language in confessional communities.

For citation:

Nikitina S. E. On Russian Speech in the USA: Confessional Personality in Foreign Language Environment. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2020. No. 6. Pp. 54–66. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170012876-2.