Regina R. Guzaerova
Kazan Federal University, Institute of Philology and Intercultural Communication
E-mail: rguzaerova@gmail.com
Drahomíra Sabolo
Inštitút rusistiky, Filozocká fakulta Prešovskej Univerzity v Prešove
Vera A. Kosova
Kazan Federal University, Institute of Philology and Intercultural Communication
Recepción: 05/08/2019 Aceptación: 18/09/2019 Publicación: 23/10/2019
Citación sugerida:
Guzaerova, R.R., Sabolová, D. y Kosova, V.A. (2019). Rabotnitsa and bezdel’nitsa: russian
femininitives with sux -nitsa. 3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. Edición
Especial, Octubre 2019, 300-315. doi: https://doi.org/10.17993/3ctic.2019.83-2.300-315
Suggested citation:
Guzaerova, R.R., Sabolová, D. & Kosova, V.A. (2019). Rabotnitsa and bezdel’nitsa: russian
femininitives with sux -nitsa. 3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. Special
Issue, October 2019, 300-315. doi: https://doi.org/10.17993/3ctic.2019.83-2.300-315
3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. ISSN: 2254-6529
The article is concerned with the actual linguistic problem – the functioning of
the designations of females with the sux formant -ниц(а) / -nits(a) in modern
Russian. The sux -ниц(а) / -nits(a) is one of the most popular means of forming
the derivational category of feminitivity, distinguished based on commonness of
derivational meaning ‘a female person belonging to the category of persons called
a motivating noun’. The relevance of the study is determined by the increasing
signicance of female denominations as an object of linguistic research, as well
as their activity in modern Russian media space. We understand media space as a
global communication environment created by electronic means. The article has
developed a classication of feminitives with the sux -ниц(а) / -nits(a) based on
the formal structure of a productive word. The language material for our study
is 635 lexemes with the indicated sux, selected from authoritative dictionaries
of the modern Russian language, the National Corpora of the Russian language
and the data from various Internet resources. The paper makes the conclusion
about the stylistic universality of the female designations with the sux -ниц(а)
/ -nits(a), that is, their ability to function in dierent styles of speech; lists social
and linguistic factors under the inuence of which the changes in this point of
the derivational system occur.
Feminitivity, Word Formation, Feminitive, Gender, Neology, Derivation Category.
Edición Especial Special Issue Octubre 2019
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17993/3ctic.2019.83-2.300-315
One of the most used means of the derivation category of feminitivity in the
Russian language is the sux formant -ниц(а) / -nits(a). This derivational type
in terms of the category we are interested in feminitivity has a modication
meaning ‘a female belonging to the category of persons called a motivating
noun’. The meaning of “a person based on gender” is distinguished following
on from juxtaposition of the semes of “male” and “female” and correlates with
the grammatical meaning of gender, with the exception of the group of personal
generic nouns and masculine nouns with the lost seme “male”, such as врач/
vrach (doctor) (Novikova, 2004; Igartua & Santazilia, 2018). Such names usually
designate a profession, a position, a specialty.
The category of personal nouns is traditionally one of the most signicant objects
of linguistic research, especially in relation to the gender (San et al., 2015; Bokale,
2010; Nikunlassi et al., 2011), including the derivational aspect (Makleeva et al.,
2017; Makleeva et al., 2016; Neri & Schuhmann, 2014), which determines the
relevance of the present research.
Feminine personal nouns, as a rule, are formed from masculine nouns due to social
factors and historical reasons. Until recently, the way to call women a separate
word was the only possible way: жнецжница / zhnets - zhnitsa (a reaper), ткач
ткаха / tkach -tkakha (a weaver), золотарьзолотарица/ zolotar’ – zolotaritsa (a
goldsmith), and in the 19th century a new tendency to generalize the names of
persons in the form of a masculine gender did arise: поэт / poet, живописец/
zhivopisets (a poet, a painter). In the 20th century, this trend continued to develop
rapidly, which led to a decrease, rstly, in the number of female derivatives being
formed, and, secondly, in the frequency of using feminitives already existing in
the language (feminine gender-specic profession title or other aliation) (Yanko-
Trinitskaya, 1966).
Derivative words with the female meaning have been studied well in diachronic
and synchronous aspects: see the works by Novikova (2004), Zemskaya (2011),
Berkutova (2017), Protchenko (1984), Yanko-Trinitskaya (1966); a description of
3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. ISSN: 2254-6529
the morphemic means of expressing the meaning of femininity is presented in
Russian Grammar (Novikova, 2004; Zemskaya, 2011; Berkutova, 2017; Protchenko,
1984; Shvedova, 1980; Yanko-Trinitskaya, 1966).
The category of feminitivity is distinguished based on the generalized derivational
meaning of ‘female’. In terms of the semantics of the original word and the
derivative, feminitivity is the derivational category of the modication type,
since the main meaning of the producing word in the derivative is preserved,
only the seme denoting female is added. The denominations of women form an
independent derivation category according to the criterion formulated by R.S.
Manucharyan: “In this language, one or another derivation category exists if the
corresponding word-forming meaning is expressed by formal indicators, among
which there is at least one that expresses – within the indicated framework – this
meaning only (Manucharyan, 1981).
The derivational models of the category of word-formation of femininity
are extremely diverse: Russian Grammar captures 10 basic modication types
with a general meaning of femininity (Shvedova, 1980) among which there
are those that express exclusively femininity.These include the models with
suxes of foreign origin -ш(а) / - sh(a): авторша / avtorsha, архитекторша /
arkhitektorsha, кассирша / kasirsha; -есс(а) / ess(a): стюардесса / styuardessa,
пилотесса / pilotessa; -ис(а) / -is(a): актриса/ aktrisa, лектриса / lektrisa. The
most popular of them is a derivational type with the sux -ш(а)/ -sh(a) which
nds productivity mainly in colloquial speech: блогерша / blogersha, хакерша/
khakersha, менеджерша/ menedzhersha, байкерша / baikersha. The suxes -к(а) /
-k(a), -ин(я)/-ын(я) /in(ya), yn(ya), -иц(а) / its(a) derive the words to designate
women (активистка / aktivistka, рабыня / rabynya, княгиня / knyaginya,
мастерица / masteritsa, гостья / gost’ya) and female animals (голубка / golubka,
гусыня / gusynya, волчица / volchitsa, летунья/ letun’ya). The primordial Slavonic
suxes -ин(а) / -in(a) and -ниц(а) / -nits(a) express exclusively the meaning
of feminitivity within the nominal category of persons (синьорина/ sin’yorina,
учительница / uchitelnitsa).
Edición Especial Special Issue Octubre 2019
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17993/3ctic.2019.83-2.300-315
The object of our study is the feminitives with the sux formant -ниц(а)/ -nits(a)
and their functioning in the modern Russian media space which is a special place
for language implementation, generating new language forms. The inuence of
the communicative environment, namely the Internet, on constructing gender
concepts in the language becomes an object of studying by linguists often
(Miftakhova et al., 2018; Miftakhova et al., 2017; Bussmann & Hellinger, 2001;
Chelak, 2019; Bochina et al., 2015).
The language material is represented by 635 lexemes with the sux -ниц(а)
/ -nits(a) and has been selected by a continuous excerption from authoritative
dictionaries of the modern Russian language (see Reverse Russian Dictionary,
1974; Kolesnikov, 2002; Yefremova, 2000). The analysis of the functioning of
naming units denoting females in the language has been carried out based on
material collected with the help of the NCRL (National Corpus of the Russian
Language) (Russian National Corpus, 2019), media data and personal blogs on
the Internet.
The research methods are based on: a) an integrated approach to the analysis
of derived units; b) the analysis of the derivational structure and motivational
relations; c) determining the specics of functioning in speech.
The sux -ниц(а) / -nits(a) is one of the oldest means of expressing the derivation
category of feminitivity in the history of the Russian language. Specialist in the
eld of historical word formation Azarkh (2007) writes: “The most productive
model of correlation of naming units that designate persons on the basis of
gender in the Old Russian period is the opposition of derivatives ending in -(ьн)
икъ and -(ьн)ица: ключьникъ / klyuchnik – ключьница / kluchnitsa. This type is
3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. ISSN: 2254-6529
common in many Slavonic languages: Ukrainian (монтажниця, сортувальниця,
заступниця), Byelorussian (ўладальнiца, вучанiца, чараўнiца), Polish (robotnica,
tanezcnica), etc.
In the Russian language the sux -ниц(а)/ -nits(a):
1) Is added to the masculine stems ending in the suxтель/ tel’ with the
meaning ‘a person classied according to an action being performed’:
воспитательница/ vospitatelnitsa (educatress), воительница / voitelnitsa
(warrior), долгожительница / dolgozhitelnitsa (long-liver), писательница /
pisatelnitsa (authoress), радиослушательница / radioslushatelnitsa (broadcast
listener), свидетельница / svidetelnitsa (witness), учредительница /
uchreditelnitsa (foundress), etc. (259 words 41%). According to the type of
formal relations, the feminine word has a more compound form compared
with the masculine noun (Zemskaya, 2011);
2) Correlates with the masculine naming units ending in -ник/ -nik. The
meaning of the sux is ‘one who is associated with the activity, profession,
implement or material of labor that is specied in the stem’. It concerns
the derivatives such as бортпроводница/ bortprovodnitsa (a stewardess),
воспитанница / vospitannitsa (a pupil), десятиклассница / desyatiklassnitsa
(a tenth grader), завистница / zavistnitsa (an envious lady), изменница/
izmennitsa (a traitor), помощница/ pomoshchnitsa (an assistant), художница
/ khudozhnitsa (an artist), etc. (376 words 59%). In this case, the feminine
noun is the same in complexity with the masculine noun (Zemskaya, 2011).
Unlike other derivational types of the feminitivity category, for example, with the
sux -к(а) / -k(a), the sux -ниц(а) / -nits(a) is associated exclusively with the
above stems, which determines the lexical and semantic composition of this group
of feminitives in which the job titles predominate. This allows the conclusion that
the word-forming pattern with the sux -ниц(а)/ -nits(a) primarily is used in
naming units related to human activity, professional one.
Edición Especial Special Issue Octubre 2019
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17993/3ctic.2019.83-2.300-315
According to the stylistic characteristics, 177 naming units of female ending in
-ниц(а)/ -its(a) (28%) are marked as colloquial, 5 as slang (0.8%), 17 as low
colloquial (2.8%), among which:
1) The feminitives are colloquial, and the masculine correlates are stylistically
neutral (водитель / voditel’ водительница / voditelnitsa, заместитель /
zamestitel’ – заместительница / zamestitelnitsa, обозреватель / obozrebatel
обозревательница / obozrevatelnitsa, охранник / okhrannik – охранница /
2) Both correlates are colloquial (изобразитель / izobretatel’
изобразительница / izobretatelnitsa, напарник /naparnik напарница /
naparnitsa, обожатель / obozhatel’– обожательница / obozhatelnitsa).
33 feminitives with the sux formant -ниц(а)/ -nits(a) are characterized in
dictionaries as bookish, 10 as ocial, 4 belong to high style, 2 to church
vocabulary (only 7.8%), other lexemes belong to neutral style of speech (392
words 62%). One can argue that the suxal pattern -ниц(а)-/ nitz(a) is the most
universal means of expressing the meaning of feminitivity, and the derivatives
with this formant are regarded by native speakers as stylistically neutral. The
feminitives ending in -ниц(а) / - nits(a) are common in various functional styles
of speech, from scientic communication (1) and journalism (2) to the language
of ction (3), and most often do not possess additional discursive marking:
(1) Известная исследовательница творчества Кракауэра Гертруда Кох
обращает внимание в этой связи на один важный аспект: ««Масса»
больше не выражает ничьих частных интересов, она стала массой
потребителей (Russian National Corpus, 2019);
(2) Сестра юного убийцы, 15 лет от роду, проходит по делу как
свидетельница вместе с двумя остальными подростками, не
принимавшими участия в жестокой расправе (Russian National
Corpus, 2019);
3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. ISSN: 2254-6529
(3) И если позволяло время, монтажница звала её, она подсаживалась к
монтажному столу (Russian National Corpus, 2019).
However, at the present time, feminitives remain outside the ocial business
style of speech: the profession title учительница/ uchitelnitsa (teacher) is perhaps
one of the most commonly used feminitives, however, the name of the All-
Russian contest “Учитель года” (“Teacher of the Year”) and the honorary title
“Заслуженный учитель России” (“Honored Teacher of Russia”) exist only in
masculine. The ability of the masculine form to call a person regardless of gender,
and to unite men and women in the plural provides a similar opportunity to unify
the naming units designating males and females in the ocial discourse. This is
most consistently expressed in the language of jurisprudence where compliance
with terminology requirements, in particular: unity, systematicity and impersonal
character, implies the use of one common naming unit, for example, свидетель/
svidetel’ (a witness), but not свидетельница/ svidetel’nitsa, that is often found in
journalistic style and ction.
At the present stage of the development of civilization, labor is the foundation of
all human life. The level of engagement in labor activity in the largest sense of all
adult members of society is higher than ever, which makes the profession one of
the basic personal values. In the new conditions regulated by the economic laws
of the market, the issue of professional identication and self-representation in
the sociocultural and linguistic context is highly relevant. The use of feminitives
and the formation of new ones according to the patterns existing in the language
can be called one of the manifestations of linguistic reection which is understood
as the individual’s ability to use the language consciously, to regulate speech and
choose the appropriate communicative strategy (Troshina, 2010).
Thus, the use of existing female naming units with the sux -ниц(а)/ -nits(a)
(начальница / nachalnitsa, правозащитница / pravozashchitnitsa, заместительница
/ zamestitelnitsa), the formation of new ones according to the same word-
building pattern (пользовательница/ polzovatelnitsa, анимешница/ animeshnitsa,
землеустроительница/zemleustroitelnitsa) and the rethinking of feminitives in the
Edición Especial Special Issue Octubre 2019
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language in a changing sociocultural context ( the word тысячница/ tysyachnitsa
earlier: “an advanced woman-worker, a collective farmer who performs with
ten or more norms per working day” (Bochina et al., 2015); now it means: “a
woman who has more than a thousand subscribers to her online blog”) are aimed
at solving several linguistic and communicative problems:
1) Language representation of women as qualied specialists and professionals
whose importance can hardly be overestimated because of the importance
of the profession in modern society;
2) Compliance with the grammar norm in the agreement of personal feminine
nouns with the past tense of the verb in the form of feminine. It permits
one to avoid the constructions like исследователь рассказала…, учитель
получила which, despite their common usage, still belong to the style of
everyday conversation;
3) An indication of the gender via a female sux as a part of the language
game. For example, in the prole of a personal page on the Instagram
social platform, the following form was used: красивая девочка
электромонтажница/ krasivaya devochka elektromontazhnitsa (a beautiful
electrician girl) (Instagram, 2019).
The suxal type -ниц(а)/ -nits(a) belongs to the unstable part of the word-
formation system of the Russian language where dynamic shifts occur under
the inuence of various, sometimes conicting social and linguistic factors:
seeking for the uniformity of naming people by profession, the language habit
of combining lexical grammatical gender, the need to indicate the gender of a
person in certain speech situations, the variety of word-forming patterns of the
category of feminitivity and the unsystematic nature of their use in the eld of
non-usual vocabulary.
3C TIC. Cuadernos de desarrollo aplicados a las TIC. ISSN: 2254-6529
The derivation category of feminitivity is characterized by a variety of derivational
models. The suxal type in -ниц(а)/ -nits(a) is one of the most highly productive
in the category of feminitivity, which is proved by the analysis of 635 lexemes with
this sux that function in modern Russian. The prevailing part of the presented
naming units has the semantics of the producer of the action and name women
by professional and social aliation. The sux -ниц(а)/ -nits(a) has a limited
compatibility and is added either to the masculine stems ending in -тель/ -tel’ or
to the stems ending in -ник/ -nik with the apocope of the latter.
The word-formation type with the sux-ниц(а)/ -nits(a) predominantly functions
in a neutral style of speech (62% of lexemes), which indicates the stylistic
universality of the naming units formed according to this word-building pattern.
Thus, the word-formative pattern with the suxal formant ниц(а) /-nits(a) is one
of the most highly productive means of the word-formation category of femininity,
which help designate female by professional, social and other belongings, mainly
to the neutral layer of modern Russian vocabulary. A controversial nature of the
use and formation of feminitives determines the prospect of further studies of
word-formation processes taking place in modern Russian.
The work is performed according to the Russian Government Program of
Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.
Edición Especial Special Issue Octubre 2019
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17993/3ctic.2019.83-2.300-315
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