The notion literary language
was introduced by Vilem Mathesius, the member of the Prague Linguistic Circle [Mathesius 2003: 194-209], and it does not coincide completely with the widely spread notion of language standard
. Under literary language one understands the polished language that is able to distinguish maximum shades of meaning and stylistic details. This is the key idea of Prague linguists, whose activity was dominated by functionalism. Literary language performs its main function – shades of meaning differentiation – with the help of its supradialectal nature, standardization and codification. The language standard is more focused on establishing the levels of proficiency in foreign or native language [Azimov, Shchukin 2009]. In this case, codified norms serve as a measurement tool
and texts are written on their basis. Therefore, the notion literary language
includes, apart from standardization, the idea of
language development, its optimization as means of communication. Language standard is not programmed this way. Even though it is rarely mentioned, the Russian linguistic tradition formed under the strong influence of Prague functionalism and has always focused on the history
of the Russian literary language. The expression language standard
appeared in the vocabulary of the Russian linguists not long ago.
What is typically understood under the development of literary language and the development of language in general?
The concept of development dates back to the nineteenth century when every development was interpreted as a process of changes that lead to some positive outcome or, if compared with human life, to maturity and decline (for example, August Schleicher held this view [Schleicher 1873]). That is why development and inertness were contra-posed and this opposition, in its turn, provoked the vain discussion between innovators and purists. It seems that Prague linguistics put an end to this conflict, having reinterpreted the norm in a teleological way. For them, the main target was the most accurate language. A codified norm was necessary to prevent the shades of meaning and details of style from merging in one word or in one grammatical form.
It is worth mentioning that rather witty functionalist ideas had been forgotten by the beginning of the twenty-first century. Discussions about the limits of word borrowing resumed and no common denominator in the spirit of functionalism was offered. These debates became less frequently supported by logical arguments. The metaphor of language purity and the metaphor of rich language were just two conflicting metaphors behind which stood poorly reasoned ideas of homogeneity and heterogeneity of national culture. The latter was also poorly reasoned but had better validity from the position of Lotman's semiotics.
Nowadays, however, when ideas of ecology
are not new to humanities scholars [Haugen 1972], it is obvious that changes can not only be evolutionary but also involutionary. The criteria are simple – survivability, the capacity or incapacity to adapt. Prague functionalism made a step in this direction. This approach makes it possible to analyze processes that take place in language in general, identify risks, raise a question about the need to restore the segments of the communicative environment that are endangered by involutionary processes.
So far we have been discussing only literary language issues but not the issues of language in general. What are the views of contemporary scholars on the development of literature and opinion journalism?
D.S. Likhachov's work titled The Development of Russian Literature from the Eleventh to the Seventeenth Century
summarizes knowledge about old Russian literature, [Likhachov 1973]. What did Likhachov understand by the development? One of the answers can be as follows: the strengthening of personal identity, diversity of genres, expansion of literature subject, interest
in secular themes. Generally speaking, it is an acquisition of new conceptual spaces and new genres by literature. And this concept of extensity perfectly complements the idea of intensity proposed by Prague Linguistic Circle.
It is quite obvious that the developed literature (in Likhachov's sense) led to the Golden Age of the Russian classical literature, maintained the written language, increased its survivability and readability (one may recall Likhachov mentioning fictionalization of literature). However, if we address the literature of the 1930s, we may see the opposite situation: the thematic circle narrows, the personal identity becomes weaker, the system of genres becomes less varied and most of them become merged into one another. The readers' interest steadily went down. The bookshelves in the shops were full but it was not something people wanted: it was sometimes either impossible to get books or people had to "hunt" for them. These new processes were, obviously, involutionary and, of course, had nothing to do with the development declared by the
Earlier we made reference to the works by historians of the Russian language. What was their vision of the development? Nearly the same. They saw the development in acquisition of new conceptual spaces, the extension of noetic space of the language, the replenishment of its conceptual basis, in variety of genres and styles and in high accuracy of language in a spirit of Prague linguistics.
The historians of the Russian language always perceived language development as its capacity to overcome borders between written and oral speech, between official and non-official forms. This is exactly what N.М. Karamzin and A.S. Pushkin are praised for. How does this point get on with the aspiration for stylistic order? Being inside one discourse it is possible to describe another. Moreover, one person can easily communicate with the one using a different discourse. The Russian language and literature worked in this direction during the entire nineteenth century. Judicial discourse experienced the same: the legal language of laws collided with the common language of cases. We should also note that V.V. Vinogradov, highlighting the importance of convergence of literary and spoken forms, writes not only about vocabulary but also about
"grammatical alignment" where the influence of polemic genres is the most noticeable. So, under the development of language we understand the development of its semantics (the widening of conceptual space, the enrichment of vocabulary), syntax (multiplication of strategies for unfolding atext), and pragmatics (increase in number of genres).