Research article
Issue: № 9 (16), 2013

Бусарова К.О.1, Малышева Н.В.2

1 Студентка; 2 кандидат филологических наук, доцент, Комсомольский-на-Амуре технический университет



В статье исследуются первичные значения зоонимов, определяются роли животных в сознании носителей русского и китайского языков.

Ключевые слова: зооним, психолингвистический эксперимент, русский язык, китайский язык.

Busarova K.O.1; Malysheva N.V.2

1 Student; 2 PhD in Philology, Associate Professor,



In the article the primary zoonyms’ meanings are being under study, animals’ roles are determined in the consciousness of native speakers of Russian and Chinese languages.

Keywords: zoonym, psycholinguistic experiment, the Russian language, the Chinese language.

Zoomys are specific linguistic signs accumulating the gist of ethno-cultural peculiarities of every nation’s perception of the world. China and Russia have always divided in their views on the surrounding world.

Zoonyms have long been investigated from the point of systemic approach that is on the basis of dictionaries of different types. But in our opinion the best way to study their speech functioning is with the help of psycholinguistic methods such as interviewing, associative experiment (limited or unlimited) and the method of semantic differential.

To achieve our objective to analyze zoonyms’ functioning in human consciousness we arranged our investigation into two stages:

  • identification and interpretation of reactions of Russian and Chinese informants to the stimulus “animal”;
  • reveling of common and different reactions

The following hypothesis has been advanced: units which have certain relevance to native speakers will be the most quantitative among the reactions and will be placed on the top of the list.

The informants are 15 Russian students of 18-19 of non-linguistics specialties.

The task suggested to the informants was to write as many species of animals as possible. The time was limited to one minute. The total number of Russian reactions was 209, the average number was 13,9 reactions per person. As for Chinese reactions, the total number was 150, the average number was 10 reactions per person.

The most frequent Russian reactions were: cat (13), dog (13), lion (8), tiger (8), giraffe (7).

The first two reactions can be explained by that fact that a cat and a dog are  popular tame pets in the Russian culture; they can be met in the national folklore fairy-tales, proverbs, and sayings. Also these animals are usual characters of Russian fables. They are an integral part of the Russian culture.

The “tiger” reaction can be explained by the fact the research was carried out in the area of the Far East and this animal is the symbol of its nature. The Amur tiger is the endangered species and is paid special attention.

The most surprising reactions “giraffe” and “lion” got relatively large numbers – 8 and 7, consequently. As we reckon, this figure may be explained by their popularity in foreign mass media, feature films and animated films.

Although there are a lot of native Russian animals such as bears, wolves, foxes and others, they were not among the most popular reactions in the list of the Russian students.

The next part of our investigation was the questionnaire of 15 Chinese students of the same age.

The main similarity consists in the first two reactions: the reactions “cat” and “dog” were on the top of the list. The number of the reactions on the words “cat” and “dog” was 10 and 12, consequently. This similarity can be explained by common presence of these animals in human life, either Russian or Chinese.

The next popular reactions were “duck”, “chicken” and “pig”. They are the animals considered by people from the point of their nourishing value. These domestic animals can also be used for leather (pig) or plumage (chicken and duck).

Among other reactions there were interesting ones – “human” (2 reactions) and “egg” (1 reaction).

As for unique reactions the Chinese informants suggested such zoonyms as “dragon”, which is fictitious; “snake” and “ant”.

The Russian unique ones were “fox”, “bear”.

To clear up the differences between Russian and Chinese meanings we studied their definitions in dictionaries.

Cat (Russian explanatory dictionary) has a unique definition which is relevant only for the Russian language. It is “grapnel or climbing-irons”. The Chinese language has a meaning of the word “cat” which is “fur”. The first definitions in these languages are the same: “the domestic animal with fur and claws, useful for catching mice”.

The Russian word “dog” has some unique definitions : “fur of a dog”; “a person who is desperately faithful to smth or smb”; “evil and cruel person”.

In the Chinese culture the dog is a symbol of Chinese horoscope, which symbolizes faithfulness and readiness for action.

The word “tiger” in the Russian language dictionary has a secondary meaning – “the German tank model of the World War II period”. The Chinese language has several secondary meanings – “brave, strong”; “amber (old Chinese)” and “menaces (old Chinese)”. The tiger is a symbol of Chinese horoscope; it symbolizes strength, violence, fury and sometimes betrayal.

The word “wolf” in the Russian language means “an experienced person got accustomed to misfortunes and dangers, has certain skills in some business”.

To conclude, some reactions can be explained by their presence in our everyday life. Other reactions representing animals beyond their natural habitat (“lion’, ‘giraffe’) are due to the impact of foreign mass media on young people’s association process and aggregate experience.

Nowadays it can be stated that intercultural lacunarity loses its borders. This phenomenon can be exactly viewed in the Russian informants’ questionnaire. The boundaries of cultural peculiarities in the Russian language become obliterated. Representatives of the Chinese culture were not influenced by this event so obviously because of some historical reasons. China has always been a closed country and had fewer opportunities to adopt foreign cultural peculiarities.