On the perception and interpretation of the meaning of utterance (factors determining the activity of the reader)

2021. № 2 (42), 152-177

Belarusian State University
(Minsk, Belarus)


The process of perception and interpretation of written text, including utterance as its unit,
is determined by many factors. The article analyzes the activities of the reader of a literary
text when faced with ambiguous, ambivalent utterances. Factors influencing the choice of one
of the semantic options are systematized. The following speech situations that complicate
(impede) the activity of the recipient are analyzed: 1) syntactic homonymy (subject-object relations),
2) double syntactic connection (attributive and adverbial relations), 3) transformations
of the syntactic structure that produce a metaphor, 4) lexical and grammatical homonymy,
5) metaphorical and metonymic modifications of meaning, 6) different cultural
backgrounds (basis) of the interlocutors. The role of formal associations in word choice on the
part of the speaker is also taken into account: the reader can feel them or, conversely, not notice
them. Cases of communicative failures (misunderstandings) are considered against the background
of the mechanisms of transformations and in connection with the concept of an invariant
meaning. We conclude that it is impossible to speak about semantic invariants of an entire
communicative unit unless the threshold of comprehension is greatly lowered. Theoretical
considerations are illustrated by examples from Russian fiction and journalism.