In this monograph the first attempt is made to research the speech etiquette of the Volga-Ural peoples through a combination of the methods of linguistics and ethnology, as well as of culture and folklore studies. In the traditions of the non-Russian populations of the region, the speech etiquette formula had high poetic character, which could be achieved by syncretisation of verbal, musical, choreographic, material and many other texts. The author states that the speech etiquette is an ethno-cultural phenomenon and specific marker of its speakers. His work describes inter-lingual and intercultural genetic connections and historic interference of languages of eight Volga-Ural ethno-linguistic groups (Chuvash, Bashkir, Tatar, Komi, Mari, Mordvinian, Udmurt, and Russian. The author analyses the speech etiquette formulas of two topical groups ― greeting and parting, which is quite justified because they are in common use and have preserved the most traditional features.
In chapter one (“Formulas of Speech Etiquette and Their Functions”), the forms and types of verbal means in etiquette communication are studied, with interest in the dependence of speech etiquette formulas on different communication situations. Chapter two (“Verbal Means of Etiquette Communication as a Subject of Linguistic-Semiotic Study”) illustrates comparative-historic, contrastive and semiotic approaches in the study of the speech etiquette formulas. The main construction of the book is however chapter three (“Peculiarities of the Use of Greeting and Parting Formulas in the Languages of the Volga-Ural Region”) which introduces the greeting and parting versions of thirteen sub-ethnic groups in different communication situations, and casts light on the evolution of their forms. Dozens of greeting types are considered ― in everyday life, on the occasion of special visits, of the reception of guests, of returning from a banquet, etc. Much attention is given to correlation of greetings and partings with the time, place of meeting, surroundings, relationships and interpersonal attitudes, and the social status of people.
It is evident from the book that greetings and partings of different sub-ethnic groups had their particular features. The author analyses the communication between representatives of different nations, pays attention to the possibility of ethno-cultural conflicts connected with discrepancies between etiquettes ― a matter of life or death in some circumstances. A.V. Kuznetsov reminds how his inability to find suitable greeting formulas in communication with Muslims almost cost life to famous specialist of Oriental studies N. I. Il’minskii, suggesting that their capability to select the suitable greeting phrase could save people from death when they were meeting with representatives of another confession and culture. The author also focuses on the problem studying tradition, especially verbal and non-verbal communication behaviours. His observations are based on archival sources of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and from the materials of field studies.
In his conclusions, he points out the existence of two distinctive regions in Eurasia where forms of speech etiquette communication, eastern and western, are widely spread. In the “eastern region,” greetings have dialogue structure, the dialogue is built according to the scheme “graded narrowing of characters:” macrocosm (weather, flora, fauna) > mesocosm > (society, kin, home-folks, relatives) > microcosm (the individual, his folks). In the “western tradition” conversely, greeting formulas have a directive and laconic character. In the Russian tradition, communication bears an “intermediate character” in which one can discern at the same time “early eastern” and “late western” features. This work will no doubt be the basis for future research on speech etiquette in the Volga-Ural Region and more generally in the regions of Middle Eurasia that have been in contact in the course of history. It fills an important lacuna in the study of Turkic, Slavic, and Finno-Ugric languages.