Lack of a word in a cross-language study in Russia: methodological implications

  • Virpi Outila (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


In this paper we discuss how to conduct research on a phenomenon for which there is no equivalent word or associated meaning system in the language(s) of the empirical research site. We uncover this in the context of a study of employee empowerment in Russia. The lack of a word for ‘empowerment’ encouraged both the researcher and the interviewees to find alternative ways to make sense of and give sense to their views. The interviewees resorted to proverbs as a means to fill the discursive void, make sense of empowerment and render it locally meaningful. The researcher in turn engaged in flexible iteration between data and theory, openness and self-reflexivity. We argue that non-existent words open up possibilities to discuss and debate meanings and question taken-for granted assumptions. Our study shows that a discursive void may be a window into novel theoretical insights and methodological innovation.
Period14 Dec 201716 Dec 2017
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • language
  • discursive void
  • Russia