Capitalized graphemes and their function in modern writing

2017. № 1 (33), 142-160

Iya V. Nechaeva, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences; Moscow, Russia


This paper is concerned with the problem of the linguistic grounds for using capitalized graphemes in modern Russian writing. Emphasis is placed on two main functions: semantic and syntactic; stylistic and etiquette functions are also touched upon. Within the framework of semantic function the functions of desemantization, individuation, identification, and evaluation (the axiological function) are singled out. Linguistic material shows that uniqueness of the denotatum referred to by a word is not a diagnostic feature of an onym and does not necessitate the use of upper-case graphemes. On the contrary, in practice the axiological criterion, despite its linguistic groundlessness, frequently serves as the reason for using CAPS LOCK. The status of a proper name is also treated in connection with the problem under investigation. The author has in mind nominations like p/Perestroika, b/Blizhnee zarubezh'e, i/Internet, automobile names like (")f/Ford f/Fokus(") etc. An attempt is made to determine the cause of orthographic variation in the above nominations. To study spontaneous written preferences, a public inquiry was made among educated native speakers concerning the writing of car models' names; the results of this inquiry are given in the paper. Also considered is the issue of using the "polite" pronoun Vy. A correction to the orthographic rule concerning its use, as given in the "Polnyi Akademicheskii Spravochnik" (Complete Academic Reference Book) of 2009, is proposed.