Shuneyko А.А., Chibisova О.V. Self-presentation speech techniques of English-speaking and Russian-speaking actors

Выпуск журнала: 

УДК 81-114



Shuneyko А.А., Chibisova О.V.

This article discusses the linguistic means of creating an image which include a specific set of calculable constantly implemented speech techniques. Their consideration is carried out through the use of methods of communicative and semantic analysis. The material of the study is the speech of English-speaking and Russian-speaking actors who are represented from the viewpoint of the high degree of their popularity and demand. The comparative analysis of the aggregate speech techniques implemented in speech of different cultures leads to the conclusion that they are similar or identical in formal and typological relations.

Keywords: speech techniques, means of self-presentation, communication of different cultures.




Шунейко А.А., Чибисова О.В.

В статье рассматриваются языковые способы создания имиджа, в которые входит поддающаяся исчислению конкретная совокупность постоянно реализуемых речевых приёмов. Их рассмотрение осуществляется с использованием методов коммуникативного и семантического анализа на материале речи репрезентативных в отношении высокой степени популярности и востребованности англоязычных и русскоязычных актёров. Сопоставительный анализ совокупности реализуемых в речи представителей различных культур речевых приёмов позволяет сделать вывод о том, что они сходны или тождественны в формальных и типологических отношениях.

Ключевые слова: речевые приёмы, средства самопрезентации, коммуникация представителей различных культур.


The communicative space surrounding a person has significantly changed its quantitative and qualitative characteristics at the beginning of the XXI century. The first are related to the increased volume of broadcast information and accelerating means of its transmission. The latter, in particular, are manifested in the fact that a particular person acquires a mass of his own twins or antipodes. He simultaneously exists as a real person, and besides he is embodied in the products of his activities and information or virtual twins produced by himself or by other people.

There appeared, became normal and pervasive the situation in which a person is the sum of more or less similar or different objects: he himself, his incarnation in the products of his own activities, his embodiment in social networks, in the media, in the interpretation of other people and etc. It brings positive and negative results, simplifies and complicates the life of a person. The life of a person is simplified because he can delegate his qualities to his lookalikes and use them for his own purposes. It is complicated because the control of identity becomes more time-consuming and assumes a character of specialized activity. This activity is so special that there appeared some separate professions for its high-quality implementation: image makers, stylists, speechwriters, etc. Maintaining the image requires more and more personal and professional efforts. Care should be taken not only to ensure that you have an appropriate and necessary appearance, but also that your doubles looked similar to you and do not conflict with the chosen public image standard.

This has significant implications for the area of any professional activity. Now for creating the image it is not enough to have the products of one’s own professional activity. For successful self-promotion, one needs further efforts: from the simple resume writing to the organization of PR companies. In the heightened degree it concerns the representatives of public professions: actors and politicians. They attach great efforts in the political, economic and social spheres, in the field of philanthropy. All this is reflected in their public statements, interviews and blogs, in a constant urge towards creating a series of information occasions.

Society is believed to strive for obtaining information about the social and financial situation, the level of competence and values of public people. Whether this interest is organic and natural or artificially created is impossible to establish now. One can only say that being constantly heated it sharpens the need for obtaining this information. So a dosed injection of thematically oriented information entails the obligation of subsequent similar injections.

Actors work on their image, and their image is on their side. It is in this sphere where the professional activity is always outside the framework of profession, the techniques of image making and self-presenting are practiced, tried out and formed. Therefore, in the conceptual, theoretical and purely practical aspects the analysis of actors’ speech activity carried out off the stage and screen is interesting and topical. For the most part it is aimed at achieving a permanent and unconditional recognition, allowing the actors to most efficiently use their internal and external makings for the implementation of creative tasks and earnings.

Involvement in image making starts up a number of different mechanisms that give rise to the effects of dynamic moving near or off, the ability to regulate the interaction, to select qualities and features necessary for the presentation, to promote the compliance with certain stereotypes. It provokes counter effects from the society, stimulates its attention and cognitive activity. The result is a constant, sometimes paternalized people’s interest in information about the real life of the actors, the desire to discern a personality behind the image, to see a real person behind the character. The trends come into resonance and, in the long run, image making picks up speed.

For the analysis we selected the speech of three popular Russian-speaking actors: Ivan Okhlobystin, Dmitry Nagiyev, Mikhail Boyarsky, and three popular English-speaking actors: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Clint Eastwood. In the global context, the levels of their popularity cannot be brought into correlation as the first three are not represented there at all. But within Russian and English cultures they enjoy the same popularity; therefore, their speech in the social aspect is comparable.

Self-presentation is directly related to such incorporated linguistic categories as linguistic personality and linguistic portrait of the personality. One can say that it implements these concepts in communicative space in process and always strictly targeted respect. Self-presentation is a targeted implementation of real or fictitious linguistic personality, carried out with a specific purpose for a specific target group.

In various aspects, the specifics of self-presentation were examined by: T.A. van Dijk & W. Kintsch [8], according to whom the strategy of self-presentation should block the negative outcome associated with prospective judgments; Y.M. Zhukov [4], who considers the process of self-presentation to be a part of business communication; E.L. Dotsenko [2], according to whom self-presentation is a communicator’s control of the recipient’s images; I. Hoffman [1], according to whom man turns to the audience in order to establish a conformity of the social role produced by him with the audience’s expectations. The methods and mechanisms for the implementation of self-presentation were studied by R.B. Cialdini and M.E. Nicholas [7], M.R. Leary and J.B. Nezlek [10], A.K Anderson and E.A. Phelps [6], A.E. Jichkina and E.P. Belinskaya [3], E.V. Mihaylova [5], J.D. Laird [9].

The main purpose of self-presentation can be considered the establishment of such a relationship balance with an interlocutor in which the initiator can solve all his problems: maintaining or raising the level of popularity, drawing attention to particular facts, justifying himself, imposing himself, displaying of weakness, etc. In principle, the whole range of communication tasks can be solved here. Ultimately, the goal of self-presentation is an influence, impact or manipulation of a person or group, which lead to the creation of a positive, negative or neutral image of the source, or are carried out at its expense.

Self-presentation is always a conscious purposeful activity, which presupposes a preparation, a plan, implementation of meaningful tasks, focus on a specific target audience, that is, initially artificial verbal behavior, like advertising. In this sense, it opposes spontaneous speech, i.e. initially natural behavior. But it is a mistake to think that its results are always and surely diametrically different from those that are reached by a person in spontaneous speech behavior. This is due to two factors.

Firstly, even in his spontaneous speech behavior any normal person consciously or unconsciously translates not his self, but somebody he wanted to be seen, thus creating a certain image. There is always artificiality and selection in his public (and often intimate) speech behavior: he says something about himself and does not say something, touches some topics and avoids other ones, uses some words and doesn’t use other ones, tries to fool, etc. Just a degree of artificiality is different depending on a variety of communicative factors.

Secondly, even in his self-presentation a person can be natural, propagate his true value orientation, express sincere attitude to something. Lie-truth ratio does not depend on self-presentation or spontaneous behavior, but on different factors which are not connected with the subject and lie outside the communicative situation.

The audience’s opinion of the speaker is a sum of many factors, the whole set of which is practically impossible to take into account. Self-presentation seeks to regulate these factors by selecting and coloring them in the corresponding desired valuation spectra: positive or negative, depending on the wishes of the source.

Self-presentation can be focused both on the avoidance of conflict and the provocation of it. In the first case the speaker eliminates speech forms that may lead to conflict (aggression, superiority, rudeness, ridicule, deceit, etc.), in the second he artificially creates or emphasizes them as hard as he can. Accordingly, self-presentation can be done in a variety of stylistic manners: flattery in the implementation of persuasive manner, the desire to please at the expense of compliments, compromise or tactfulness; belittling the positive qualities of others, criticism, attack in the implementation of an insulting manner; the implementation of protective manner focuses on the prevention of embarrassing situations by a thorough description of the events.

Self-presentation is believed to be directly or indirectly aimed at self-promotion, self-impediment, flattery, exemplification, as well as removal of responsibility, digression from replying, sabotage, enjoying the reflected fame. All this is based on the demonstration of professional merit, echoing, display of friendship, manifestation of public significance, demonstration of moral qualities, accentuating positive or negative information about oneself, as well as links to the circumstances, refuting defamatory opinions, identification, distancing, artificial increase of transmitted information objectivity. In self-presentation an essential role is played by direct and indirect presentation of information, associations with someone or something, statements of a random or non-random membership of a particular status social group.

There is reason to assume that these lists are not exhaustive. Theoretically, self-presentation can be focused on anything and carried out anyhow. But the list of concepts is useful for a particular analysis, and it meets the objectives of the present study.

The conclusions are based on the same speech volumes of each actor. Under consideration there were speech units, which semantic and grammatical content reflects the implementation of some or other self-presentation target: metaphors, colloquial lexicon, comparisons, epithets, syntax, etc. Since all the units also take part in the implementation of any desired targets outside self-presentation, they were examined not from a structural point of view, but from a semantic and functional one. That is, in terms of what impression about the speaker this means creates in the listener by the fact of its use in speech. For the analysis in most cases it is less important to reveal the mere presence of a metaphor, comparison and so on than to ascertain their informative and valuation content, what purpose they exhibit in speech.

The factual resources for the study included four scripts of the video interviews and 30 entries from the Twitter network of each of the actors. There were specially selected opposing genres, because it is their examination that allows exposing invariant features of verbal behavior, present both in extremely laconic and comprehensive means of fixing information complexes. An example from the video interview with Hugh Laurie:

Tavis: So every artist that I’ve ever talked to in my entire career either loves or hates the way they sound, so… 

Hugh Laurie: Hate. Hate, hate, hate. But it’s always been that way. Can’t stand myself on voicemail or anything, no. Always, always hate. Hate the way I sound and hate the way I look. I think that’s the natural state. I cannot understand people who are happy to look at themselves, hear themselves. It’s an absolute mystery to me. I admire it. My God, I wish I could do it, but I can’t. 

An example of the entry from the Twitter network: You produce a jewel of an epigram, chock-full of brevity, and before the spittle has dried on your lips, someone’s saying: "Yeah, also..." 

Next there is reproduced only a limited number of illustrations and the key findings derived per the semantic and functional analysis.

The consideration of the English-speaking actors’ speech separately and in terms of the units traditional for linguistic analysis will reveal a large quantity of differences. It is quite natural, since every person has his individual speech peculiarities, and their number increases as the individual features of a linguistic personality increase. In this case, these features are arranged on the scale freedom - conservative speech. Freedom implies focus on the spoken forms and conservatism is associated with the use of book forms. These qualities are represented in unequal ratio in each of the actors.

Hugh Laurie extensively uses colloquial language (Heck yes, and let it roll, great stuff coming up), which allows him to demonstrate a position equitable in relation to its listeners, to stand with them on the same level, to show friendliness. His speech represents simplified grammatical forms: Love doing voice work. Begins and ends. He uses parallelism: He obsesses over cooking the way he obsesses over everything else... From some TV show - the funny one, the sexy one, the stern one etc. Epithets: favorite moments... confirmed atheist, crazy ones, worse things, the nicest reply. Metaphors: No, never been a hypochondriac. Idioms: I married into an Arsenal family. Those guys are cleverer than cats. I would not wish on my worst enemy. I'm just trying to stop a scab.

Stephen Fry is considered to be a classic English language speaker with a perfect English pronunciation. The analysis of the material didn’t reveal many linguistic means, which are of full-bodied valuation character. This actor’s speech is almost devoid of words-parasites, intensifiers, conversational and emotional-evaluative vocabulary. This is a speech focused on literary language, extremely conservative and deliberately refined. Epithets: monstrous, utterly monstrous; very splendid; all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, all beneficent. Metaphors: a maniac, an utter maniac. Parallelism: their brain is filled with the things they want it filled with. Simplified grammar forms are extremely rare.

In a real verbal behavior the two actors remind their two famous characters Jeeves and Wooster from the series of the same name on the works of P.G. Wodehouse.

Clint Eastwood in his speech demonstrates the highest degree of freedom. This is reflected in the abundance of colloquial and emotive units. Colloquial words: Yeah; you get lost, kid; a nickel or a dime into the thing; what’s your name, boy; who the hell is this guy; Western Ave; ah you dirty son of a bitch; Silly stuff; pussy generation; duked it out; Shit; chicks. Emotional-evaluative vocabulary: I'm afraid in all the wrong places; you keep saying, you know, what’s the matter with; A dolt, you know; I was just going to classes; I guess; fortunately; all perfectly; Not well; oh; wow; Oh my god; I love it; well I don't care; ah; nah; gee that’s great; oh god; huh; Mm-hmm; that’s for sure; maybe; generally. Epithets: I wasn’t terrible; He was all right; probably the worst; impossible; my absolute favourite picture; mechanical; great; big gangly guy; shy kid; good-looking; terribly active. Simplified grammar forms: Very cold water; You always kind of hang in…; Never had the big budget films or anything; I gotta give

But despite these significant differences in the speech, the goals implemented in the self-presentations, are common. This can be seen from Table 1.

The Russian actors’ speech also differs significantly.

Ivan Okhlobystin flaunts the freedom of his speech behavior, bringing it to the outrageous. Colloquial words: хорохорятся, харей в бетон, фейк, в Ростов ему без мазы, профессиональное чванство (swagger, strike the concrete with one's muzzle, fake, he couldn't care less about going to Rostov, professional conceit). Epithets: мелкие человеческие слабости, здравомыслящий человек, мелким пристрастием, цельная субстанция, дядька скандальный, звонкая встреча, скользкое железо, ураганный ветер, гиблые пустоши, белесый московский вечер (small human weaknesses, sane person, petty passion, solid substance, scandalous guy, ringing meeting, slippery iron, tempestuous wind, godforsaken wasteland, whitish Moscow evening). Metaphors: королева моя критиканская, они точка крепления маятника Фуко (a faultfinding queen of mine, they are the fixing point of Foucault pendulum). Comparison: как и все обычные люди. Я, как любой молодой человек. Выжму, как грязную тряпку (like all normal people. I like any young man. I’ll squeeze it out as a dirty rag). 

Dmitry Nagiyev is not inferior to Ivan Okhlobystin in the desire to seem an open guy, for whom there are no prohibitions and restrictions. Colloquial words: фигня; я ни черта больше не умею; в башке; не надо быть говном в принципе; не хочу связываться с быдлом; ублюдок; отвечая мимо кассы; чмо (bullshit; I can do not a blasted thing more; in the belfry; one shouldn’t be shit in principle; I do not want to get mixed up with cattle; bastard; making an irrelevant reply; schmo). Epithets: неоднобокого и многогранного человека; сиюсекундная; двенадцатисантиметровый; тщеславный (unlimited and many-sided person; occurring this very second; twelve-centimeter-long; conceited). Comparison: как человек, как гражданин, как патриот; как брошенная жена (as a person, as a citizen, as a patriot; like a deserted wife).

Mikhail Boyarsky is the most conservative of the three actors; he reservedly admits marked colloquial language in his speech. Colloquial words: Ну да что там; кайфовали; зверюшку; хабарик; глушили портвейн (Well, it can't be denied; were a killjoy; little animal; cigarette end; guzzled port). Epithets: Закомплексованный; зловонная; непреодолимую; особый; скрытная; огромная (with too many hang-ups; fetid; insuperable; special; secretive; awesome). Metaphors: я не политолог, не экономист; Я – отшельник; стать аскетом; он превратился в острый клинок; стали сиамскими близнецами; казались мне богами (I am not a political scientist, not an economist; I am a hermit; become an ascetic; it turned into a sharp blade; become Siamese twins; they seemed gods to me). Comparison: хочу быть таким же, как все люди; в квартиру, как в раковину;  как крылья; притягивал меня как магнит; лето, как маленькая жизнь; дикими, как котята, выросшие в подвале; нести как мину; воспринимаю ее как благо (I want to be just like everyone else; in the apartment like in the shell; like wings; drew me like a magnet; summer like a little life; wild as kittens grown up in the basement; carry like a mine; I perceive it as a benefit).

With regard to the Russian actors the overall picture is similar. Though there are differences in speech, the implemented goals are the same, as shown in Table 2.

The comparison of the results characterizing the goals of Russian and English-speaking actors, are presented in Table 3.

As can be seen from the table, the Russian-speaking and English-speaking actors perform their self-presentation identically, with slight differences that have little impact on the overall picture.

The most common is the goal of self-promotion, which implies a demonstration of his knowledge and skills by the person who wants to appear competent and earn power over the audience. It is based on the accented emphasis of his merits: ... I think I was very fortunate to have a very good education; I think two years with...; I have essentially a logical mind, and sort of a natural desire to solve problems.

Implementing this goal, a person says, “I have a right and I have every reason to be in the center of your attention, because I am endowed with all the human and professional qualities, allowing me to be the best”. It gives the freedom of speech behavior.

Exemplification is close to self-promotion, but requires the demonstration of the importance of one’s identity through the declaration of ability to be a worthy example for others because of professional and moral qualities. It is implemented by demonstrating the social significance of one’s own person. Implementing this goal, a person often uses verbs of opinion.

Declining the responsibility is characterized by the use of negative constructions, indefinite-personal forms, passive voice constructions, which allows the speaker to withdraw himself beyond the given communicative situation and lay the blame on unspecified person. The increased expressiveness of this tactics is due to intensifiers: (It seems to me; I think, it is unlikely, to say the least, as I understand it, I guess, and maybe, that's for sure, of course; I'm afraid in all the wrong places; you keep saying, you know, what's the matter with; A dolt, you know; I was just going to classes; I guess; fortunately; all perfectly; Not well), idioms (I married into an Arsenal family. Those guys are cleverer than cats. I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I'm just trying to stop a scab), figures of speech. The verbs of opinion are used to mitigate the estimates.

The digression from replying (Are you as rich as they say you are? Probably. No, absolutely not. I mean, I have no idea) is carried out through the set of tools that allow (by different degree of hardness or uncertainties) avoiding statements on unwanted topic: disregard, impersonal forms, the vocabulary with the semantics of uncertainty, changing the topic, etc.

The similarity in verbal ways of image making and goals realised in self-presentation, found in various actors representing different cultures, can be interpreted in different ways. It allows making a few observations and suggestions related to the answer to the question: Why is it so? On a superficial level, this is a consequence of the cross-impact of cultures. This trivial conclusion is used to describe almost any unity. It is constantly reproduced like a formula of speech etiquette. We do not intend to confine ourselves to it, especially as the revealed similarities, in our view, demonstrate deeper and more meaningful propositions.

Modern humanity begins to live in the common communicative space in which the boundaries between cultures substantially erode, become easily permeable and not in the least resemble the infamous Iron Curtain. The unity of the communicative space allows access to the full range of cultural forms, regardless by what state they are produced. We can assume that, notwithstanding their belonging to a specific culture, people commit common communicative actions. Communication and speech units are objects different by nature. Speech units reflect the specifics of a particular language, but communication units relate to it to a lesser extent or do not relate at all. The special status of communication units and their calculability makes the possibility of coincidence much more feasible.

We think that the revealed unity is a positive factor and a real material shows that there are more similarities between different cultures than differences. The focus on these similarities, as opposed to looking for differences, the trend which made its appearance in the scientific and political spheres some time ago, can significantly change the situation of interaction in all formats, from domestic to national one.



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Data about the authors:

Shuneyko Alexander Alfredovich  –  Doctor of Philological Sciences, Professor of Linguistics and Intercultural Communication Department, Komsomolsk-on-Amur State Technical University (Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia). 

Chibisova Olga Vladimirovna – Candidate of Culturology, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Intercultural Communication Department, Komsomolsk-on-Amur State Technical University (Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia).

Сведения об авторах:

Шунейко Александр Альфредович – доктор филологических наук, профессор кафедры лингвистики и межкультурной коммуникации Комсомольского-на-Амуре государственного технического университета (Комсомольск-на-Амуре, Россия).

Чибисова Ольга Владимировна – кандидат культурологии, доцент кафедры лингвистики и межкультурной коммуникации Комсомольского-на-Амуре государственного технического университета (Комсомольск-на-Амуре, Россия).