2020. № 2 (24), 136-148

 National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences


The paper explores the interpretations of the Russian spatial prepositions pered ‘in front of’ and za ‘behind’ with the words dver’ ‘door’ and okno ‘window’ in the Russian National Corpus. The paper examines some previously unexplored aspects of the functioning of the non-trivial semantic feature of ‘frontness’ in the Russian language. We demonstrate that doors and windows are special two-facade objects that cannot be unambiguously characterized in terms of frontness, unlike all other objects. Due to functional and conceptual differences, dver’ and okno interact differently with the classic diagnostic contexts pered and za. While pered dver’ju usually refers to the space outside, za dver’jucan refer either to inner or outer locations, whereas pered oknom and za oknom demonstrate the opposite distribution. Pered oknom can mean either inside or outside, while za oknom means outside. This is explained functionally: doors in Russian are conceptualized primarily as serving to enter closed spaces from open spaces, while windows are conceptualized primarily as serving for looking out from closed spaces into open spaces. Finally, the range of prepositions that are sensitive to frontness in portals in the Russian language is wider than only ‘behind’ and ‘in front of’: the preposition ‘under’ is often quasisynonymous with ‘in front of’ and the preposition ‘in,’ which in classical works are not considered diagnostics of frontness, prove to be relevant test contexts. On the whole, one can conclude that frontness is a characteristic of a situation rather than of a specific object.