History of a greeting card traces back to the times when first written postal communication appeared. Initially, such letters were of business character, as very few were literate and so that to write or to read a received message people had to address to literate ones. Accordingly, in view of the fact that the letter passed through the third party, the messages were meager and contained less personal information. Later on, with the spread of literacy and development of postal industry, there appeared several varieties of letters. Some of the messages were put into envelopes with stamps; others went without the latter and were called open letters. Such letters originated postal cards, or postcards.
As the development of postcard was different in various countries, it is difficult to determine the exact date of its appearance, but the end of the XIX century has left a considerable number of fine examples of the genre, and therefore, the time can be called the heyday of the art.
For defining the term “postcard”, let us turn to the lexicographical sources: 1. a special postal card for an open letter; 2. a card of a special format with an artistic image [1, p. 470] 3. a small piece of stiff paper, usually rectangular, on which one can write a message or greeting to someone and send it by mail [2, p. 797] (translated by the author). Oxford Dictionary provides the following definition: a card used for sending messages by post without an envelope, especially one that has a picture on one side [3, p. 1176].
Most post cards bear a photograph or a picture on one side, so modern illustrated cards are divided into art (original and reproduction) and documentaries (photo greeting card). Another classification is based on era when they were produced. Cards can also be classified grounded on the purpose of use: information (invitation), greeting and thank you cards. So, there are a lot of types of cards that can raise interest of a researcher. The purpose of the current study is the language that is used in the post cards.
Greeting cards are associated with congratulations and wishes, confined to certain festive events (a New Year and Christmas, Valentine’s Day, February 23, March 8, Birthday, Anniversary, Wedding, Easter and others).
Greeting card is usually a bright, beautiful picture, designed to improve mood and to express appropriate emotions. Not just the art of the card, but also meaning and contents are of great importance. Together, all these components are integrated and serve the purpose of congratulating and causing positive emotions of the recipient. Precisely the messages of congratulations or wishes express the thoughts that are sometimes difficult to convey in words and any action. At the same time, the card began to turn into a work of designers and creatives’ art. A greeting card is gradually becoming an original souvenir that delivers a lot of positive emotions and pleasant moments to both a sender and a recipient.
Congratulation is a type of natural writing that represents a multi-attribute object. It can be learned in lingvocultural aspect which presupposes anthropological image, namely, a description of the material being studied, concerning native speakers and consideration the characteristics of the genre as the realities of peoples’ cultures. Congratulations not only interconnect the author and the addressee, but also tune their further communication to the successful cooperation in the sphere of business relations, amicable meetings or romantic dates. Congratulations contents determine the emotional side of the author and can influence the condition of the recipient.
Having examined and studied the greeting cards in the Russian and English languages, we have identified a number of features specific to a greeting card, found in both selected linguistic cultures: syntactic structure of writing greetings, conciseness, specific vocabulary and a certain direction (focus) i.e. the recipient and the sender.
The most specific characteristic feature of the cards is the language of their syntactic structure, consisting mostly of verses that are easy to read in rhyme, 5-6 or a maximum of 8 quite short sentences, representing a chain of subordinate clauses with an extensive sysytem system of syndesis:
Zhelayu v den’ rozhdeniya / Udachi i vezeniya, / Lyubvi i vdokhnoveniya, / Mechtaniy ispolneniya!
This birthday greeting is easy to read, in one breath, which contributes to a better perceiving and memorizing the words of congratulations addressed to a birthday person.
The English language wishes are also including rhyme, which can be traced in the suggested wishing poem for the birthday:
Today I’m happy for a reason / For you, today is the beginning of a new season / Today, I want to show you that I care / With lots of happiness, wishes and love to share / With pride, joy and utmost delight I say / Wish you a very-very Happy Birthday!
The rhymed congratulations are more common for the cards with the ready-prepared text. If the card is filled by the sender, it is often written using the text consisting of simple sentences without the use of consonant words or syllables in line endings, i.e., rhyme; this can be seen in the following examples:
Only special people receive birthday messages from me. And you have always been that special one. Wish you a very Happy Birthday!
Pozdravlyayu Vas s prazdnikom! Zhelayu zdorovya, schastya, radosti, lyubvi i vsego samogo nailuchshego.
So, if it is difficult for a person to find the right words for greetings or simply does not have time for this, one can appeal to literary works, which have more literate language, are metaphorically rich and easy to understand.
It should be noted that there are some similarities in the structures of writing greeting cards, inherent in Russian and English languages, and therefore the cultures: greeting or addressing; naming the holiday, causing the card sending; actual text of congratulations with wishes; naming the sender / senders; and the date.
Appealing to the recipient is an important part of cards. The Dictionary of linguistic terms specifies it as “the use of nouns, pronouns, substantivized adjectives or equivalent phrases to name the persons or things addressed” [4, p. 276]. Addressing is also distinguished as a way to transfer the emotional attitude of the speaker to the addressee. Congratulatory language expands and enriches the functions of greeting / addressing. As one can see this part of the card mainly contains conventional addressing with positive connotation. They can be grouped according to the following parameters:
1) official (containing professional and official signs), for example, in the Russian language: Uvazhayemyi Alexandr Grigoryevich! Uvazhayemye rabotniki firmy “N”! Uvazhayemyi pedagogicheskyi kollektiv! In the English language: My dear Sir (Madam), Dear Sir (Madam), Dear John, Dear colleagues! Dear Mr. Simpson, Dear Miss Swanton);
2) family (can be subdivided into several subgroups):
а) using the names (for example: Dorogiye Lena, Artyem i Slava! Dorogiye nashi rodnye, Inna Vasilyevna, Ekaterina Aleksandrovna, Angelinochka i Svetochka! Dear Helen! My dear Andrew! My best friends Lizzy and Pete!);
б) with the reference to the degree of relationship (e.g.: Dorogaya babusya! Mama, papa I brat Pasha! Milaya sestrenka! Dear Granny! Mom, dad and brother! My dear little sister! Daddy!);
3) with gender markers (in Russian: dorogoi / -aya, milyi / -aya or using the words indicating gender differentiations such as a brat / brother, sestra / sister, ladies and others);
4) mentioning the names in different variations (for example: Pashulya! Irisha! Slavik! Lenochka i Sergei! Lyuba! Darya! Kirill Dmitriyevich! In English: Billie! Jim or Jimmie! Robbie!);
5) with diminutive suffixes and similar words (kotik, zaichik, milyi (-aya), my kitty, bunny, honey, sweet, darling, puppy love).
Quite often one can find zoonyms in post cards, which represent one of the ways to name the person with positive connotation.
As the perception of life is not so emotional in the English language culture as in Russian, diminutive forms in English are not very frequent. There is an abundance of such suffixes in Russian, with various forms of warmer relations expression to others. For example, Maria to Russian friends can be Masha, Mashen’ka, Mashutka, Marusia or Musya, the English speaking people would use the name as just Mary because there are no established diminutive forms. Even though there are such forms as Marie or Maria they do not express emotional attitude of the speaker and can be realized as variations of similar names. Most English proper names do not have diminutive forms or are restricted in their number. Artificially created forms as Marykins, little Mary or baby Mary, sound unnatural or in some cases are even insulting. Some English names, of course, have shortened forms. This way, friends can call Robert Bob, Rob or Robbie. But before you employ one of these names, it is necessary to ask whether it is possible to use it and which of the above names is preferred.
The use of such diminutive forms like bunny, kitty or others in the English language requires great care. In Russian, their diversity is richer the use is less conventional, but Russian language speakers should also take into account the status and role relationships between the addresser and the addressee.
Naming the holiday that causes the card sending is also one of the essential components of the studied genre. The following aspects should be considered here:
1) communicating emotional attitude (ot dushi pozdravlyayu s dnem svad’by!, ot vsego serdsa pozdravlyayu s dnem rozhdeniya!, pozdravlyayu Vas s yubileem!, iskrenne pozdravlyayu s okonchaniem shkoly / universiteta!, May your Halloween be merry!, You Are Special To Me in the Valentine Day!, Have a Sweet Birthday!, A Touch of Christmas Magic). One can see the difference in writing styles between the two languages: not a rare thing for English speakers to capitalize the event name and other notional words to add up the importance of this component of the greeting card. Using exclamation marks is not a specific feature in such situations and is typical of both languages.
2) using numeric characters for naming event (e.g.: s Novym 2012 godom!, s 18 letiyem, s 8 marta!, s 23 fevralya, s 1 sentyabrya, Happy 2012 to you!, on the 20th anniversary, etc.);
3) holiday name can be conventionally established (s Paskhoi!, s Dnem rozhdeniya!, s Novym godom!, s dnem svyatogo Valentina!, s Dnem Velikoi pobedy!, Merry Christmas!, Saint Valentine’s Day!, Happy Easter!, Happy Birthday! etc.).
Traditionally English holidays names are used with characterizing adjectives, for example, happy is a special word for New Year, birthday and Easter; merry – for Christmas, and saint – for Valentine’s Day. As for the Russian language, such words are “saved up” by the author of the text for further congratulations.
The greeting text itself is an inherent and the most important component of the card. Congratulation is an etiquette, festive speech genre, with a prolific use of cliché phrases, therefore, the author of congratulations is a person following conventional rituals and etiquette formulas of behavior. The goal of a congratulant is to express warm and tender feelings and wishes. Generating a greeting text is complex process compared to producing an oral speech. The text should have completeness in terms of expression design. Various features of the author’s personality can influence both the content and form of the text. The identity of the text composer is directly manifested in congratulation itself i.e. selection of topic, linguistic units choice, subject matter etc. Thus, each author selects a specific form or option of congratulations and fills the text with the content, that in his opinion, is best to reflect their emotional state and will the best way affect the condition of the recipient. Etiquette formula, which is an important part of greeting, is often standardized and meets social expectations of such a communication situation. The application of etiquette formulas in this genre is associated with the social norms of behavior in a situation of congratulations, allows maintaining the contact in the desired tone. Conventional formulas of congratulations have a sustained plane of expression and the author needs them to implement the main intention i.e. to express their own emotional state and cause a positive emotional response of the congratulations recipient.
Knowing certain etiquette formulas to reflect pragmatic attitude in the verbal behavior a congratulant can achieve the desired effect or impact on the recipient.
Speaking about the plane of content of congratulations one may noted some figurative language. Both Russian and English greetings are rich in metaphors, metonymy and other stylistic devices, as in the following greeting:
Pust schastye yarkoi babochkoi vsporkhnet / V tvoye okno … i ptitsy daryat pesni, / I budet kazhdyi den esche chudesnei, / I solntse pust v dushe tvoyei zhivet…
Wishing you together times, Carols sung with ageless rhymes, / Scents of pine and pumpkin pies, and good nights with contented sighs / Have a joyful holiday and a Great New Year!
The purpose of using metaphors in ready-made congratulations is the desire to beautify the language, to make it more lively and figurative, which makes the card attractive for the buyer and pleasant for the recipient.
The final phrase of congratulations appears to be very relevant, since it is required to indicate the sender. Signature or words that are written after congratulations must make a favorable impression on card’s recipient, as well as to inform the addressee about the sender. It reinforces positive emotions and can adjust to further communication, which is why the last sentence expresses hope, confidence, happiness, approval, appreciation and love, for example: S (iskrennim) uvazheniyem Х, S (glubokouvazhayemym) pochteniyem Х, Regards Х, Sincerely yours Х, Faithfully yours X, With best wishes and others.
Analyzing the signature of the sender, we have noted some of their variations: official; with reference to the degree of kinship; combination of final greetings with wishes; expanded and unexpanded signature with names.
After complying with all formalities typical of writing style and filling a greeting card, the last essential element is putting the date, which is placed after the final phrase. The date can be provided with words or numeric characters (12 dekabrya 2011 goda, January 1, 2000, 01.02.2011 g., 25/12/2011).
It is necessary to pay attention that in the Russian language when writing dates the word god (year) can be omitted or written in full or abbreviated way (g.). In English the word year is not commonly used either in abbreviated or full form.
Summing up, it should be noted that the language of the greeting card has its own specifics. The first feature is conciseness and focus on a specific reader (addressee). Secondly, there is a purposeful nature, such as information, greetings and thanks. The use of syntactic and lexical units, peculiar to the language of cards, allows applying a positive signal and impact on the human brain. So, when receiving cards, the recipient may experience such positive feelings as happiness and joy. In addition, the sender of such messages can also customize the recipient of positive emotions through congratulation, which may contain wishes for happiness, success, joy, love and other emotions.
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