Implicit lacunas as a factor of communicative disharmony
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010
Author: Kotova Larissa, East Kazakhstan State University in honor of S. Amanzholov, Kazakhstan
East Kazakhstan State University in honor of S. Amanzholov, Kazakhstan
The analysis of narrative (literal) communication in the sphere of
effectiveness of speech communication shows that there are several factors
which make the “author-addressee” dialogue ineffective, being implicit for the
Giving definition to the notion of effective communication A.K. Mikhalskaya
points out a significant difference in its interpretation from the point of
view of a new culture concept: “not only a correct interpretation of a message
by an addressee, but also a genuine mutual understanding between the
members of a communication process can be acknowledged as the result of
effective communication, psychological manifestation of which is gladness. Successful
communication also causes esthetic emotional experience similar to that caused
by works of art” [Mikhalskaya 1990, 5: 56-57]. Such kind of a dialogue between
the author and the reader leads to achieving harmony which can be viewed
as the desirable communicative effect in artistic communication.
Contemporary works of literature are aimed directly at this type of
communicative effect. However, it would not be an exaggeration to say that
harmony is something that any communicant who is involved in a dialogue wants
to achieve. “A communication can be called harmonious if it gives the
communicants not only the information to think over, but presents the reader
with the feeling of the beautiful, satisfaction and joy of empathy. Thus,
harmonization can be defined as intellectual, emotional and esthetic empathy of
communicants, which presupposes creative activity of not only the addressor,
but also the addressee” [Bolotnova 1992, 4:77].
There is no doubt that it is especially relevant when a narration
has some special conditions – “secondary informative ways” which include
allusion, reminiscence, parody and other types of statements, which “presuppose
that the readers have certain knowledge of history and philology” [Akhmanova,
Gyubbenet 1977, 3: 47]. They are also can be called “vertical context”. These elements
require extensive speech and cognitive activity from the reader. “Vertical” and
“horizontal” conjugacy of various textual stimuli and associations in the
opinion of the author of a literary work should arouse certain associations,
which help to identify and reveal allusions which enrich the text to be perceived.
If textual stimuli and associations remain unread, there will be no effect that
the author counted for.
The ability to sense the vertical context is in itself a criterion
of reader differentiation (naïve/sophisticated). A priori we can assume
that it is easier to sense and understand the allusions for a “sophisticated”
reader, since he is well-read which is a necessary condition for sensing a vertical
context and influences the effectiveness of literary communication (allows
However, the experiment, during which the informants were offered to
interpret sentences with different types of allusions, showed paradoxical results: there was one clearly designated type of allusions which
was not sensed by the first group of informants. In other words communication
of these readers with the author not only wasn’t harmonious, but also had no
communicative effect whatsoever (i.e. there was disharmony noticed). There was
formed a control group of readers members of which didn’t sense any other types
of allusions, but errorlessly found and revealed this very type.
Here are some examples of texts offered to informants: keep Thy
promise to Peter: do what Thou said. Strengthen her gates, fix her locks, erect
her horn, uplift her. (St. Ephraim the Syrian A Spiritual Psalter: or,
Reflections on God, Ps. 86); I yielded to temptation and went backward: stretch
thy arm to me and I shall rise like the sinful woman in the house of Simon,
like the thief on the cross (Ps. 91).
Some excerpts from G.K. Chesterton’s works:
If you doubt the penitence as a practical fact, there are your
knives and forks. You are The Twelve True Fishers, and there are all your
silver fish. But He has made me a fisher of men.” (The Queer Feet); "We must
surrender," he said. "You could do nothing against fifty thousand
tons of water coming down a steep hill, ten minutes hence. We must surrender. Our
four thousand men might as well be four. Vicisti Galilae! Perkins, you may as
well get me another glass of wine." (The Napoleon
of Notting Hill); Men who have escaped death by a hair have it, and men whose
love is returned by a woman unexpectedly, and men whose sins are forgiven them.
(The Ball And The Cross).
Or there is one of his entire works:
fishes flew and forests walked
figs grew upon thorn,
moment when the moon was blood
surely I was born;
monstrous head and sickening cry
ears like errant wings,
devil's walking parody
all four-footed things.
tattered outlaw of the earth,
ancient crooked will;
scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
keep my secret still.
For I also had my hour;
far fierce hour and sweet:
was a shout about my ears,
palms before my feet. (Donkey)
Here are some excerpts from K.S. Lewis’s works:
Solomon... for the first time in many years the
bright solar blend of king and lover and magician which hangs about that name
stole back upon her mind. For the first time in all those years she tasted the
word King itself with all its linked associations of battle, marriage,
priesthood, mercy, and power. Next moment she was once more the ordinary social
Jane, flushed and confused to find that she had been staring rudely (at least
she hoped that rudeness would be the main impression) at a total stranger. But
her world was unmade. Anything might happen now. (That Hideous Strength); Now of a sudden they all began
talking loudly at once, each, not contentiously but delightedly, interrupting
the others. A stranger coming into the kitchen would have thought they were
drunk, not soddenly but gaily drunk: would have seen heads bent close together,
eyes dancing, an excited wealth of gesture. What they said, none of the party
could afterwards remember... Never in her life had she heard such talk — such
eloquence, such toppling structures of double meaning, such sky-rockets of
metaphor and allusion. A moment after that and they were all silent (That
Hideous Strength); In this way also it may be hard for "the rich" to enter
the Kingdom. And yet, I believe, the necessity for the conversion is inexorable;
at least, if our natural loves are to enter the heavenly life. That they can
enter it most of us in fact believe… (The four loves) and others.
Thus, on the one part, there are readers philologists, who sensed no allusions in 32 reading excerpts, 27 of which were taken from the texts of the authors of the 20th century, who are our contemporaries (it was decided not to take into account those 5 passages that were taken from the texts of the 4th century writers – some of them have been mentioned earlier in the article: their specific character and archaic language can make them difficult to understand even by philologists. On the other part there is a group of naïve readers who easily detected allusions in all texts (out of 42 texts offered to them) including the texts of the 4th century authors (which they didn’t find difficult to comprehend, and moreover, the informants gave lots of additional information about the meaning of the “promise given to Peter”, and about what particular Peter the author wrote, they knew the name of the “sinful woman in the house of Simon”, and they indicated what complex life situations or his own sins the author meant; they errorlessly named the holiday mentioned in the poem “Donkey”)
There was a hypothesis voiced about the reasons that brought such result, about its being not connected with traditional division of readers into sophisticated and naïve. In such case what parameters made a primary influence on the result?
Some measurements (such as age, sex, native language, education
level, profession, living standards, interests and so on) in the group of
informants were leveled to a maximum extent. There was a single measurement in
which the informants differed. The control group (aged from 26 to 72) consisted
of Christians (of different ethnicity, all of them belonging to the
congregation of the same orthodox church). Unlike them, the first group’s
representatives (aged 19 to 68) were people of the postsoviet culture,
non-religious, though nominally Christians (christened), but not attending
church and not accustomed to church sacraments.
As readers both groups developed under identical conditions of state
atheistic upbringing and education, in traditions of soviet culture. The soviet
reader educated on the literature of social realism was deprived of the ability
to get acquainted with the achievements of world philosophy, culture and
literature: they were inaccessible for the reader, on the one hand, due to
censure that safeguarded atheistic views, and, on the other hand, even when the
reader had access to it he could not understand them to the full extent due to
developed atheistic world outlook (it would be honest to say that the soviet
reader didn’t need it).
So, the only significant difference between the two groups of
informants is the fact that the first group had a developed religious mind and
an appropriate world outlook, and the second group didn’t. Besides this
perception of the world should be called “Christian” (not Russian unlike
the Russian linguistic picture of the world, and not orthodox, which is
supported by the given examples in other languages– passages from the works of English writers of the 20th century and from works in Greek, written
in the 4th century by an ethnic Syrian). For, as it is known,
the spiritual experience of Christians of all times is identical.
Christian readers (the 2nd group) sense the allusion (and
appropriate meaningful layers) not only because they know the Gospels as a
precedent-related text (also known to men of religion) but because everything
mentioned in the text is familiar to every believer as a spiritual experience,
an experience which more than once was felt (as a personal confession) and voiced
in confessions. This is a qualitatively different type of knowledge and
The first group not just lacks linguistic and/or extralinguistic
knowledge (background knowledge which can be gained from cultural and
historical commentary), but also knowledge which form the world outlook, that
knowledge and experience the lack of which requires clarification of every
detail and symbol.
It results in required constant intellectual efforts from the reader
with non-developed religious conscience not only when they read texts of the
Holy Writ and Holy Tradition (patristics), but also when they read fiction
containing allusion to these texts. When they read them there appear lacunas
similar to those emerging in cross-cultural communication in perception of a
foreign text. Figuratively speaking these lacunas “gulp” the religious content.
At the same time “when it comes to psychological, human (italics of the
author of the article – L.K.) meaningfulness of the religious contents compared
to any other type of information which can circulate within human society, it
is of maximum value” [Mechkovskaya 1998: 39].
Studying lacunas always leads to assumptions about a
certain level and direction of culture scientization of this or that society.
Our case is not an exception: it illustrates not only the level and direction
of soviet culture scientization, but also shows what kind of information turned
out to be in “neglected” part of a cultural fund of some recipients, including
Usually a person realizes the fact
of presence/absence of knowledge which makes religious content quite understandable
(using introspection the reader can prove it). But sometimes it can be observed
that this fact slips away from the reader’s attention (it is implied), which
leads to disappointing mistakes in text interpretation. The mistakes become
even more disappointing when they are made by professionals – philologists,
linguistic culture experts, writers, and etc. lets consider one of the
Literary expert V.V. Savelyeva analyzing some
aspects of N.S. Leskov’s novel in her book “Artistic anthropoligy” writes:
“Using mythonyms as proper names leads to the problem of bringing into
correlation of a certain character and a mythological character. In this case
either other personalized or non-personalized elements should subdue mythonyms
or mythonyms will absorb all nominations. For example, the deacon in N. Leskov’s
novel “Islanders” has the name of Achilla (highlighted by V.V. Savelyeva
– L.K.) and is characterized by a great physical strength. When trying to find
sense in the image of the character the reader has the right to speak about
somewhat contradictory image of the character, combining features of a pagan
character and an orthodox righteous man” [Savelyeva
In fact there is no and cannot be any “internal
contradiction” as well as “combination of features” of paganism and orthodoxy. The
researcher, provided he is a religious person, wouldn’t miss the fact of
“joyful religiousness” of N.S. Leskov (as he defined it), which presupposed
sincere and warm faith (orthodox in this case) and absolutely excludes the
ability of appearance of thoughts which could lead to “combination” of such
features (in the mind of the author of the 12th century literary
monument “The Song of the Igor’s campaign” these features could match not only
in terms of ethics, morality and dogmatism – here the author has an unshakable
Christian position, but rather in terms of folk poetical figurativeness of the
language). In the mature orthodox mind of a 21st century man it is
hard to find other two things so “incompatible” and even mutually exclusive
(and thus having no chance for “being combined”. Though in the mind of the
soviet reader – even a professional reader – such an opportunity exists) as
Christianity and paganism. We can mention their historical antagonism which has
a twenty-century long tradition.
N.B. Mechkovskaya writes: “Studying the history of
Christianity perception by people we cannot fail to notice the fact that in the
Russian language (the only language among all Slavic) the name of the estate
which represented the majority of population is motivated by the name of the
religion: крестьяне (peasants) derived from the
Old Slavonic крестианинъ (Christian). In
other Slavic and non-Slavic languages of Europe the nomination is motivated
differently… (for example, селянин (peasant,
villager) comes from the ancient Slavic verb ‘сидеть’ (to sit) – L.K.). Similarly only in Russian the name of the
seventh day of the week is motivated by a Christian symbolism: воскресение (Sunday, in Russian - Resurrection); in
other Slavic languages this is a free from work day… In this light there is another
interesting fact: Old Slavic word поганъ (pagan) in all east European languages acquired additional extremely
negative meaning of “dirty, filthy, nasty” having lost its original meaning”
[Mechkovskaya 1996: 57]. Even soviet philologists cannot but know these facts.
Besides, if we consider that all known in history cultural areas to
some extent preserve religious consciousness traditions (and the soviet
cultural area which succeeded from pre-revolutionary Russian is not an
exception), then, as it may seem, it is a well-known fact for all Russians that
in Christian families (especially in the families of clergymen – and the novel
character comes from this kind of family, which is clear from his ecclesiastical
rank of deacon: in an orthodox church clergy is, as a rule, represented by the
whole dynasties. Though this is true for other estates, too) the name to a
child is given during the Sacrament of Christening and, by all means, after
some Christian Saints (both Russian and western, whose names were canonized
before 1054), whose names are registered in Orthodox Church calendar. As a
result of this act a Christian acquires a heavenly patron, which is quite
important for his perception of the world. If we turn to church calendar we
will find the name of Achila there (which is spelled differently from the variant
suggested by V.V. Savelyeva). It was the name of a monk of Kiev-Pecherskaya Laura
(14th cent.) who, by the way, like Leskov’s character had a rank of
a deacon and was canonized as the Reverent (remembrance January 4/17), whose
relics have been still lying in Feodossiyevy Caves of Kiev-Pecherskaya Laura.
Such motivation of the character seems to be more realistic. It is
disappointing that a mistaken motivation (from the name of the ancient Greek
myth hero Achilles or Achilla)
described by V.V.Savelyeva in her doctoral thesis was assumed as one of her
basic theoretical propositions. At the same time the situation is explained by
a deep implicit lacuna.
Lacunas that we registered have not been described and
included by researches into known classifications of culturological lacunas (in
other words they have remained lacunas for several generations of researches of
the soviet period) and, consequently, are not being studied. It is reasonable
to try defining their place in such classifications (we shall take the classification
of I.Y. Markovina and Y.S. Sorokin as the basis) [Antipov
Depending on what status we assign to
cultures-communicants any lacunas can be identified as intercultural or intra-cultural.
In our case this indicator is rather ambivalent and there are two approaches to
its assessment depending on what status we assign to interacting cultures.
1) Lacunas can be called intercultural
provided that Christian and atheistic subcultures that coexist within the
frames of local Russian culture are considered two separate independent
cultures. Presence of different groups of recipients consciously belonging to this or that culture gives rise to the following assumptions: some
representatives of one linguistic cultural community (in our experiment these
are readers of group 2) make a conscious choice and, having refused the
official ideology, enter somewhat marginal for official ideology cultural area
characterized by “cherished by the humanity ideas” (N.B. Mechkovskaya), bind
with these ideas their life goals (altering the previous ones), means of their
achievement, ideals, beliefs, value system and hierarchy, preferences,
interests, way of living and so on and so forth. Under conditions of the soviet
state this move required certain efforts since it lead to desocialization of an
individual. However what was marginal for the soviet culture has always been in
the center of universal culture. Thus, the move which leads a person out of the
frames of one (soviet atheistic) culture, brings him into the other culture
which is beyond the ethnos - a Christian (or Muslim) culture. At the same time
national priorities lose their importance for the individual (what we have
tried to illustrate, emphasizing “unity in one main thing” of Christians of all
times and nationalities. This is also true for representatives of other religions).
In this respect a Christian of any nationality is in antagonistic relations to
its national culture if it is non-Christian (which is the case on the
post-soviet territory), since he cannot fail to notice that his culture rejects
(on a scale from indifference to mockery, blasphemy and defilement) everything
which is sacred for him. Materialistic atheistic culture and mentality
inevitably forms a system of negative sense and semantic fields around the
notions connected with God, faith, church, Christian virtues. At best the
competent bearers of this culture realize optionality of this knowledge
compared to scientific knowledge – examples mentioned above, in our opinion,
should illustrate this statement (the reader can use introspection to check the
correctness of our statement). And vice versa this culture is characterized by
tolerance and indifference towards notions that are associated in the mind of a
Christian with something inadmissible, sinful, dishonorable (take for example
legalizing in the contemporary culture of popularization of violence,
pornography, different types of occultism, activization of totalitarian sects,
pour moral and artistic level of some TV programs and/or movies, principles and
civic stand of mass media and so on). It is natural for a religious man to
distance himself from this culture and to minimize contacts with this culture.
In such interpretation ideological lacunas can be considered intercultural.
2) Lacunas can be called intracultural if
there is a national component of a cultural heritage present, and two temporal
periods – pre-soviet Christian (orthodox) and soviet atheistic are considered
to be two periods in the development of one Russian culture (taking into
account the degree of “merit” of both of them). Level and direction of
scientization at the second stage lead to a “mass” oblivion of the first one
and emergence of “cultural heritage” lacunas of considerable depth and hard to
We can choose any of the approaches to define the status
of the cultures-communicants, thereby the lacunas can be characterized as intercultural
or intracultural (and every time we should provide an explanation).
Regardless of it, every lacuna can be classified at several levels and
according to several criteria.
At the first stage they should be referred to as cultural lacunas, the sublevel of cultural heritage lacunas, the variety of world
Cultural heritage lacunas are considered to be absolute “if in one of the cultures compared there are no realias characteristic of other
cultures”. World outlook lacunas should be called absolute: belongingness
of an individual to this or that culture results in lack in the culture of one
group of recipients of some categories needed in the outlook of the other.
According to the next principle of classification – size
– all lacunas can be divided into confronting (vigorous, deep) and contrastive
(weak, shallow). In our case all lacunas are confronting.
Perception of the text by recipient allows classifying
lacunas according to the implicit character. The analysis of interaction of the
reader and the text (of a different culture or containing an allusion to realias
characteristic of other cultures) shows that against the background of an
easily interpreted text there are some things which are perceived by the
reader as strange, unusual, mistaken or left in the “insensibility”
zone. Depending on this we can divide all lacunas into explicit and implicit.
Observations show that lacunas analyzed by the author appear to ne in the zone
of absolute insensibility, i.e. beyond the “the bright area of the
consciousness” (Baudouin de Courtenay) for
the recipients, whose representatives formed group 1 of informants in our
experiment (lacunized information being absolutely clear and transparent for
group 2 of the informants). This allows us referring to world outlook lacunas
as mostly implicit ones.
The depth of lacunas can be estimated
intuitively: it depends on existence of the possibility to compensate or counterbalance them in each separate case.
Summarizing everything mentioned above we can come to a
conclusion that all lacunas identified during the experiment for a
non-Christian recipient should be characterized as deep in most cases implicit
confronting inter- (intra-)cultural lacunas of cultural heritage, a world outlook
variety, mostly absolute.
If we turn to our examples in each case we can state what array of
information happens to be lacunized for the reader grown up in the soviet
culture period and simultaneously sensed and understood by the Christian reader
[Kotova 2007: 128-133], which once again proves the assumptions about major
directions and levels of this culture scientization and developing a mentality
with deep implicit world outlook lacunas within several generations of soviet
people regardless of higher education or research degree. At the same time
presence of these lacunas prevents them from understanding authors with a
different world outlook in a proper way, and this type of world outlook is
characteristic of not only Russian literature (beginning from the 11th cent. and up to the 20th cent.), but for the world literature in
1. Антипов Г.А., Донских О.А., Марковина И.Ю., Сорокин Ю.А. Текст как
явление культуры. – Новосибирск, 1989.
2. Ахманова О.С., Гюббенет И.В. «Вертикальный контекст» как филологическая
проблема // Вопросы языкознания. – 1977. – № 3. – С. 47-54.
3. Болотнова Н.С. Коммуникативные универсалии и их лексическое воплощение
в художественном тексте // ФН. 1992. – № 4. – С. 75-87.
4. Котова Л.Н. Нарратив в зеркале диалога «автор-адресат». – М.,
5. Мечковская Н.Б. Социальная лингвистика. – М., 1996.
6. Мечковская Н.Б. Язык и религия. – М., 1988.
7. Михальская А.К. К современной концепции культуры речи // ФН. –
1990. – № 5. – С. 50-60.
8. Савельева В.В. Художественная антропология. – Алматы, 1999.
 In the capacity of informants there were
two groups: the 1st group – faculty, graduate students and senior
students of university philological department (sophisticated readers; adequate
text interpretation is one of their core professional skills). Control group –
readers non-philologists of different education and erudition levels
 Information about this hero of antique epos turned out
non-lacunized in this author’s works. At the same time Christianity categorizes
it as “Hellenic intricacy” which is invariably scornfully and pejoratively
treated by Holy Fathers of the ancient times.
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010