Multivalued and single-valued words in Russian

школа русского языка

You’ve spent all day mastering the Russian language intricacies, but dinner is coming up, and you’re offered tongue stewed in cream. So, is the language Russian or edible? In addition, both word combinations are correct. The thing is that in Russian, as in many other languages, there are not only single-valued words, but also multi-valued ones. 

Single-valued words in Russian

 

There are many words with a single value and they mostly fall into several categories.

  1. People names according to different characteristics: врач (doctor), москвич (Moscow inhabitant), сестра (sister), родственник (relative).
  2. Most animal names: леопард (leopard), крокодил (crocodile), снегирь (bullfinch).
  3. Plants names: ромашка (camomile), липа (linden), клен (maple), клубника (strawberry).
  4. The weekdays and months names: понедельник (Monday), среда (Wednesday), ноябрь (November).
  5. Proper names: Псков (Pskov), Волга (Volga), Александр (Alexander).
  6. New words in Russian: селфи (selfie), фриланс (freelance).
  7. Scientific terms: молекула (molecule), перископ (periscope).

 

One-valued words in the Russian language are words that denote one feature, object or action, i.e. have one lexical value.

Note: words from the above groups can also be polysemous, for example, среда (и день недели / Wednesday, и ваше окружение / surroundings).

Multivalued russian words

 

  • There are fewer polysemous words in the Russian language than single-valued ones, but the values large number because some words with different values seem to be very numerous. The words multi-valued meanings are a historical phenomenon. As a rule, the older a word is, the more chances it has to “accumulate” new values. They some are obsolete and everyday use out but are still used in literary texts. Others are actively used in everyday speech. Others find use in some highly specialized topic.
  • Multivalued words have several lexical meanings, which first is the main one, and the rest are derived, often having figurative value. There are record-breaking words in the Russian language for the additional meanings number:
  • идти (26 values a total + idioms)двигаться / to go, to run (both what moves directly with the legs help, and in a figurative sense – about mechanisms, phenomena); происходить, совершаться / to occur; пролегать, простираться / to run; получаться /  to be successful;  пойти (замуж) / to marry и другие;
  • брать (14 values in total) — захватывать руками или инструментом / to take; уносить, уводить, увозить с собой / to take; добиваться цели, преодолевать / pursue a goal и другие;
  • земля (10 values total) — планета / planet, почва / soil; территория / territory; суша / land; страна / country; мир / world; поверхность / surface и другие.

 

Я иду домой. — I’m going home.

Груз идет морем. — The cargo goes by sea.

За сверхурочную работу идет надбавка. — There is a bonus for overtime work.

Возьми хлеб со стола. — Take the bread from the table.

Он часто берет работу на дом. — He often takes work home.

Он взял рекордную высоту. — He took the record height.

Луна — спутник Земли. — The Moon is the Earth‘s satellite.

Смешайте песок с землей. — Mix the sand with the soil.

 

In Russian, multivalued words can be found among speech any part, except for numerals. It is important that the values of a multivalued word have something in common that unites them.

Multivalued nouns

 

Дом — is a building, housing, family, dynasty, institution (the words are united by the idea of a place associated with a family).

Я живу в большом доме. — I live in a big house.

Он вырос в детском доме. — He grew up in an orphanage.

Кисть — is the artist’s tool, the hand part, the rowan tree fruit, the shawl framing (external resemblance).

Петр купил новые кисти, чтобы нарисовать свою лучшую картину. — Peter bought new brushes to paint his best picture.

После долгой работы у него болела кисть. — After a long workday, his hand hurt.

Море — это водное пространство, огромное количество чего-либо (сходство по размеру).

Летом мы поедем на море. — In the summer, we will go to the sea.

Перед нами раскинулось море пшеницы. — A sea of wheat spread out before us.

Multivalued verbs

 

Звать — to attract attention with a voice, a gesture; to call someone by name: позвал друга на улице (called a friend on the street), его назвали Иваном (he was named Ivan).

Хлопать — to hit one object against another, to applaud: хлопать дверью (slam the door), хлопать в ладоши (clap ones hands).

Родиться — come into being (about a living thing), to form, to grow: у меня родился сын (I had a son), у меня родилась мысль (I had a thought), клюква родится в северном лесу (cranberries grow in the northern forest).

 

Multivalued adjectives

 

Мягкий — can be in texture, in sound, in attitude (something light, pleasant): мягкий голос (soft voice), мягкий ковер (soft carpet), мягкий упрек (soft reproach).

Железный — could be a material, an object to the touch, a character trait (something that doesn’t break, doesn’t give in): железный забор (iron fence), железная воля (iron will).

Красный — can be by color, from blood, beautiful (colour similarity): красное платье (red dress), красна девица (pretty girl).

Not to be confused: homonyms and multivalued words

 

The first ones sound the same, but have no common value, they are completely different words. You can always find words with many values in common, a similarity in some way.

 

For example: счастливый брак (happy marriage) и брак товара (product defect). The word “marriage” here represents homonyms: in the first phrase it means the two people union, and in the second, it means a substandard product. There are no commonalities.

 

Moreover, another example: крем для торта (cake cream) и крем для рук (hand cream). The word cream is multivalued, you can find commonalities: consistency, use method (to smear).

 

For those who are learning Russian as a foreign language, it is difficult at first to get used to so many words with different values that are sometimes completely different from each other. However, as you learn more and more multivalued words, your speech will become brighter and richer, and you will be able to communicate more fluently in most situations. 

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