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Regular version of the site

Article

“Threats and challenges”: English-Russian interaction today

World Englishes. 2005. Vol. 24. No. 4. P. 477-485.

Language contacts have been extensively studied linguistically and sociolinguistically. This paper argues that cross-cultural analysis of language transfer can also prove useful in contact linguistics. One of the latest borrowings from English into Russian, the semantic calque vyzov vyzovy (‘challenge/challenges’) used often in the cliche´ ugrozy i vyzovy (‘threats and hallenges’), makes certain shifts in the Russian world view traceable. Challenge, a key word in English, is untranslatable into Russian and the trite Russian translation equivalent for challenge – problema (‘problem’) reveals important differences between the two cultures: the Anglophone (especially, American) linguaculture, whose dominant values are individual success and activity, competitiveness, positive thinking, sense of adventure, etc., perceives difficulties as ‘‘stimuli’’ and conceptualizes them in terms of challenges; contrary to this, the Russian linguaculture, which is, if compared with the Western cultures, ‘‘being-oriented,’’ ‘‘relationship-oriented,’’ ‘passive’’ and ‘‘pessimistic,’’ encourages the discussion of difficulties in terms of problems. The borrowing of the concept challenge by extending the meaning of vyzov registers a shift of the Russian value system in the direction of increased agentivity, assertiveness, positivism, competitiveness, etc. Such borrowings are ‘‘challenges’’ rather than ‘‘threats’’ to the Russian language and culture and they call for a more in-depth linguacultural analysis of English–Russian interactions.