2019. № 2 (20), 31-36

 V.V. Vinogradov Russian Language Institute (Russian Academy of Sciences)


 The article addresses the problem of univerbs polysemy and its representations in explanatory dictionaries, in particular the EDRES (The Explanatory Dictionary of Russian Everyday Speech). Univerbs are widespread in modern Russian colloquial speech (cf. vremyanka 'temporary shelter', generalka 'general rehearsal', dezhurka 'duty room', communalka 'communal payments', creditka 'credit card', manka 'semolina', ovsyanka 'oatmeal', socialka 'social sphere', excursionka 'excursion service', etc.). Suffixal univerbs (representing one variety of univerbs) are formed according to word formation pattern that actively manifested itself in the 19th century (cf. nochlezhka 'flophouse', otkrytka 'postcard', putevka 'voucher', etc.). Words of this type derived on the basis of a phrase (usually an adjective + noun) by means of suffixes (-ka, -ik, -ushka, -shchyk, etc.) become are new nominative units synonymous to already existing nouns. Thus, the word sgushchenka 'condenced milk' is formed from the phrase sgushchennoye moloko 'condenced milk' on the basis of the adjective sgushchennoye and the suffix –ka. However, the similarity of the way of word formation and of the morphological structure of such words does not imply the similarity of their semantic structures. The origin of the difference in univerbs semantic structure (“monosemy” or “polysemy”) lies in the nature of the motivating adjective meaning, in particular in the degree of its generality or concreteness. Difficulties emerge when one tries to produce lexicographic definitions of univerbs derived from adjectives with a broad, generalized meaning expressing only the most general idea of the relationship to the subject. There arise questions of the relationship between different word meanings, as well as of polysemy and homonymy. D.N. Shmelev in his works put forward the concept of “diffuse semantics” which helps to remove many ambiguities and uncertainties.