Alexej Shmelev
Moscow State University

Manipulation in Russian discourse: universal and language-specific

The paper is concerned with the techniques for indirect action of Russian discourse on the audience. All evidence suggests that the manipulative tricks used in present-day political discourse are much more variable than they were in Soviet times. However, the very essence of "linguistic manipulation" has remained the same: what is said acts upon the addressee with cunning tricks rather than straightforwardly. Therefore, most useful for manipulation are the sentences with non-assertive components carrying the proposition that the speaker intends to suggest to the addressee. With those techniques, the speaker does not spell out the ideas he or she intends to suggest to the public but instills those ideas into them indirectly, through the use of certain linguistic devices. Some of the most popular manipulative tricks are universal (using assertions in the guise of presuppositions, influencing by conversational implicatures, etc.). The other are culture-specific and/or language specific. Thus one of the most striking characteristics of Soviet ideological language was the use of two different sets of linguistic units according to whether the discourse reference was made to "us" or to "them". One can find ideological words in other languages as well, and it is the speaker who chooses a referring expression so that the choice depends on his or her political purposes; however it seems likely it was Soviet Russian that was equipped to the greatest degree with comprehensive and non-intersecting subsystems of lexical units for designation of the entities that belong to "them" and to "us". I will concentrate on manipulative use of some Russian words that encode culture-specific concepts such as pravda 'truth' (as opposed to istina 'truth'), spravedivost' 'justice' (as opposed to zakonnost' 'legality'), tovarisc 'comrade', scast'e 'luck, happiness, bliss'. In addition, I will discuss some metaphors that scapegoat the migrants in Russian bureaucratic discourse.