“How to Do Things with Words” in Russian Charms

2022. № 1, 19-34

Ekaterina N. Kulikovskaya

Pushkin Leningrad State University (Russia, St. Petersburg) kulikovskaya.eka@yandex.ru


In this paper, I analyze texts of Russian charms from the Theory of Speech Acts point of view. The performative, as an utterance equivalent to an action (for example, I name this ship “The Queen Elizabeth”, I give and bequeath my watch to my brother) firstly described in “How to Do Things with Words” by J. Austin, is still being studied by linguists.

The article pays particular attention to the verbs in the form of present tense, first person singular, active voice, indicative mood. The paper explains the choice of words for analysis, illustrating it with examples of how the intentions is shown in phrases like that. The paper proposes a new view on the special performative status of the charm verbs with non-speech semantics (cut, tie) as opposed to the canonical well-studied ones (ask, command). We put forward a hypothesis about the special ritual verbs, which possess ritual semantics unlike canonical performatives. I made observations concerning the specifics of charm performatives in comparison with the same performatives in ordinary speech. The article reveals some pragmatic features, characteristic of performative verbs in Russian incantatory texts. The analysis of verbs makes it possible to find the lexical, verbal core of charm performativity, not being limited to verbs with the semantics of speech action and at the same time remaining within the framework of linguistic analysis. Finally, the classification of Russian charm performative verbs was built. At the end of the article the author provides a semantic classification of Russian conspiratorial performative verbs.

For citation:

Kulikovskaya E. N. “How to Do Things with Words” in Russian Charms. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2022. No. 1. Pp. 19–34. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170017980-7.