Accusative in -a as a Marker of Transitivity, Pragmatics and Discourse in Ukrainian

Alla Nedashkivska Adams, University of Toronto

(Note: -X stands for -zero; pine fonts did not allow me to have zero sign)

The phenomenon of an animate accusative case marking for masculine inanimate nouns instead of the 'standard' -X morpheme, which syncretizes inanimates with masculine animate nouns, is extremely common in both spoken and written contemporary Ukrainian; however, has not found an adequate grammatical account in Ukrainian linguistics. Most standard formal descriptions of Ukrainian only briefly admit the presence of 'variation' in accusative forms for masculine inanimates such as napysaty lyst-X and napysaty lyst-a 'to write a letter'. Statements regarding the existence of parallel forms, however, seem more conjectural than analytical and they do not answer, but rather raise, the questions as to when, why, and where a masculine inanimate noun is marked with -a and not -X morpheme.

This paper first presents a short overview of previous hypotheses--regarding the use of -a accusative marker for masculine inanimates in Polish and Ukrainian scholarship (Ukrainian shares the phenomenon of -a accusative with Polish, Slovak, Belarusian and Upper Lusatian). It then advocates the hypothesis that the choice of -a marking is connected with Transitivity, discourse and pragmatic factors. The analysis demonstrates that marking depends on the level of utterance Transitivity, which is determined on the basis of object individuation and affectedness, punctuality, volitionality, and the number of participants in the event. In addition, it shows that the level of Transitivity is manifested morphosyntactically and signaled by the -X or by -a accusative ending on the object indicating low or high degree respectively. Pragmatic and discourse factors are analyzed within the proposed Prototypical Discourse Situation Model, which is based on the theoretical premises of Yokoyama's (1986) Transactional Discourse Model and Zaitseva's Theory of Utterance (1994, 1995). This model demonstrates that the choice of case marking adheres strongly to the following pragmatic factors: the Prototypical Discourse Situation and speaker's conceptualization of the event, the knowledge of both the speaker and the hearer of the situation and linguistic code, and the status of shared knowledge. Discourse notions which are shown to be crucial for object marking include discourse structure and the speaker's organization of discourse, the topic of discourse and discourse frame, as well as discourse saliency assigned by the speaker to a particular construction.

The data for this study is based primarily on examples from contemporary (1990-1998) Ukrainian literature. Authors were chosen to represent various areas of Ukrainian in order to demonstrate that the phenomenon of -a accusative is not merely a dialectal characteristic. The present paper argues against 'variation' or 'parallelism' in Ukrainian object marking. It constitutes a contribution to the problem of the ramifications of Transitivity, pragmatics, and discourse for case marking.


Yokoyama, Olga T. 1986. Discourse and Word Order. (Pragmatics and Beyond Companion series 6). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Zaitseva, V. 1994. "The Metaphoric Nature of Coding: Toward a Theory of Utterance." Journal of Pragmatics (22): 103-126.

---. 1995. The Speaker's Perspective in Grammar and Lexicon: The Case of Russian. New York: P. Lang.

Keith Langston, University of Georgia, and Anita Peti-Stantic, Filozofski fakultet, Pedagogijske znanosti, Zagreb

Language Attitudes and Lexical and Grammatical Choice in Croatian

Keith Langston, University of Georgia, and Anita Peti-Stantic, Filozofski fakultet, Pedagogijske znanosti, Zagreb

The study of language attitudes has been an important area of sociolinguistic research since the 1970s. The investigation of attitudes and beliefs held by speakers is necessary for the understanding of language behavior and language variation; language attitudes are also a valid object of study in their own right since they constitute a part of the linguistic competence of the members of a given speech community (Knops and van Hout 1988: 1). Much of the research in this area concentrates on the evaluation of social characteristics affecting reactions to different language varieties, including people╣s perceptions of speakers of varieties different from their own. The current paper, however, focuses on a different type of phenomenon, namely speaker attitudes towards the redefinition of linguistic norms that is in progress in Croatia today. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the demise of the idea of a unified Serbo-Croatian language, there has been a struggle to establish an identity for Croatian as a language in its own right. The years since the declaration of Croatia's independence have seen attempts to change standards of usage in Croatia, and information on speaker attitudes and behavior is clearly important in evaluating the potential for success of this type of language planning.

Language attitudes are admittedly somewhat difficult to measure and compare with each other and a variety of techniques have been employed in previous research. These may be organized into three basic methods: content analysis of societal treatment (for example, the analysis of media usage and prescriptive language books), direct measurement through questionnaires and interviews, and indirect measurement through the speaker evaluation paradigm. Most studies rely on a single approach, with the latter being the most popular, but all three methods have their limitations and there have been calls for a more rounded methodology that would combine these (Ryan, Giles and Hewstone 1988). The current paper compares previous research on Croatian that was based on content analysis with information obtained through direct methods. The authors utilized a questionnaire asking respondents to choose which of two or more variants they normally use and which of these variants they consider to be "better" or "more correct" (similar to the methodology used by Labov 1966 in one part of his research). The results were analyzed to determine whether there exist significant correlations with age, gender, level of education, or other factors. This information was supplemented by interviews to elicit speakers╣ opinions about changing standards of usage in Croatian. Finally, the question of the relationship between attitudes/reported behaviors and actual behaviors is briefly considered.


Knops, Uus and van Hout, Roeland. 1988. "Language attitudes in the Dutch language area: An introduction." Roeland van Hout and Uus Knops, eds. Language Attitudes in the Dutch Language Area, 1-23.

Labov, William. 1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Ryan, Ellen B.; Giles, Howard; and Hewstone, Miles. 1988. "The Measurement of Language Attitudes." Ulrich Ammon et al., eds. Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society, vol. 2, 1068-1081.

Liljana Mitkovska, University of Kiril i Metodij, Skopje

On the Possessive Interpretation of the Indirect Object in Macedonian

Liljana Mitkovska, University of Kiril i Metodij, Skopje

In Macedonian (as well as in Bulgarian) the preposition na has become a grammatical marker for both indirect object and for possession (Mu ja dadov knigata na Marko. - I gave the book to Marko. and Knigata na Marko padna. - Marko's book fell down.). This was most probably derived from the so called Dativus Simpatheticus, as was pointed out by Koneski (1986:165). In clauses of that type the indirect object is considered to be linked both to the predicate, coding the indirectly affected entity, and to one of the other noun phrases in the clause (the direct object, prepositional object or subject) by entering in a possessive relationship with it. The following examples illustrate this:

- Vesna mu gi mie racete na deteto. (Vesna is washing the child's hands. / Vesna is washing the hands to the child.)
- Tie mi vlegoa vo sobata (They came into my room.)
- Ochite im svetea vo temninata. (Their eyes gleamed in the dark.)
- Knigata mi e nova. (This book of mine is new.)

This double interpretation is no surprise, as the dative and genitive are functionally and conceptually very close. As pointed out by Topolinjska (1996:15) they are both used to code the second human participant in the predication. It can often be the same referent in the situation. I believe that this is motivated by the semantic invariant of the dative, which is (according to many authors, but particularty to Wierzbicka 1986:419) indirect affectedness - a person is affected, not directly, but through what happens to other entities within his/her domain. In such situation, possession is a plausible and often employed link.

In this paper I try to establish the syntactic-semantic environment in which Dativus Simpatheticus is possible in Macedonian. I propose that it is pragmatically derived (agreeing with Levin 1986) and that it has spread out through metaphorical extension. The semantic features of the verb and the nature of the existing possessive relationship are also issues that have to be considered: the closer the link between the possessor and the possessed (i.e., the higher the degree of inalienability) the stronger the possessive implication.

In connection with this, I also examine the relationship between this manner of coding possession and the other means available in the language. It seems that alternate possessive constructions are often in complementary distribution (Mi ja zede knigata. / Ja zede mojata kniga. - He/she took my book.) and they are never used in the same context. The answer lies in the difference in the communicative hierarhy encoded by the two constructions (Topolinjska 1996: 18).


Koneski, B. 1986. Istorija na makedonskiot jazik.

Levin, J.S. 1986. "Remarks on the pragmatics of the 'Inalienable Dative' in Russian," in Brecht R.D. and J.S.Levin (eds.) Case in Slavic.

Topolinjska, Z. 1996. "Funkcionalna optovarenost na kratkite dativni formi vo makedonskiot i vo bugarskiot standarden jazik (paraleli i razliki)," in Studii od makedonsko-bugarskata jazichna konfrontacija.

Wierzbicka, A. 1986. "The Meaning of a Case: A Study of the Polish Dative," in Brecht, R.D. and J.S. Levin (eds.) Case in Slavic.

Ludmila Dutkova, University of Arizona

Texas Czech of Texas Czechs: an Ethnolinguistic Perspective on Language Use in a Dying Language Community

Ludmila Dutkova, University of Arizona

This paper identifies the remaining functional contexts of Czech language use in the Texas Czech speech community, and examines a limited yet still relevant role of speaking and/or comprehending an obsolescing language in ethnic identity of its users. In the process of shift, language functions become redistributed and those of a dying language, reduced. Such is the case of Texas Czech communities where the top-down functional shift (Hill 1983) has entered a critical stage. I investigate the question of language use in a dying language community from both the insiders' and the researcher's perspectives, using speech and questionnaire data from 39 informants, the second-to-fourth generation descendants of Czech Moravian immigrants to Texas.

The data suggest that while the speaker's and interlocutor's identities are important determinants of language choice (Gal 1979, Dorian 1981), the participants' language choice in Texas Czech communities is predictable only from the interplay of three factors: Interlocutor, Setting (specific social contexts), and Topic (specific functional contexts of language use). According to Dorian (1981, 1982), the East Sutherland Gaelic semi-speakers with a severely limited productive competence showed remarkable communicative skills due to their receptive competence. Similarly, when speakers choose to use Texas Czech, the success of communication does not depend on whether their interlocutor is an equally proficient peer, because also the low proficient semi-speakers and near-passive bilinguals of Texas Czech tend to maintain excellent receptive skills.

Further, American Czech has lost its honorific T/V pronoun distinction of full Czech (Henzl 1975ms, Kuchera 1989). My data show that the intimacy associated with the T dimension may have been replaced by any use of Texas Czech, which functions as a marked "we code" (Gumperz 1982), importantly however not in opposition, but in addition to English. Texas Czech today survives as one of the many expressions of Texas Czech (Moravian) identity, and just as with other "badges of ethnicity" (Dauenhauer 1998 et al.), its use is a matter of personal choice. One can feel Czech and/or Moravian without speaking the language, yet any volunteered use of Texas Czech is emblematic of the group membership (Barth 1969), marking intimacy and the ingroup ethnic solidarity.

Marika Whaley, Ohio State University

The Origins of the Russian Imperfective Future Construction budu + Infinitive

Marika Whaley, Ohio State University

In modern Russian linguistics, the imperfective future construction budu + infinitive (hereafter referred to as the "be-future") is often characterized as an aparadigmatic member of the Russian tense system. Whereas other tenses are expressed through the modification of verb stems on a morphological level, the imperfective future is expressed syntactically by the combination of an inflected auxiliary verb with an infinitival complement. The singular nature of the be-future in the Russian verbal system has led some scholars to believe that the be-future must be a rogue construction borrowed from a foreign, non-Slavic source. Such conclusions are often tied to a larger, more far-reaching attempt to argue that the Slavic be-future was originally a borrowed form.

This paper will explore the possibility that the development of the be-future can be traced to primarily internal influences, and that the construction is in fact an inherently "Slavic" member of the Russian tense-aspect-modality system. I will justify this hypothesis by closely analyzing the Old Russian future perfect, a construction that employed the same auxiliary as the Modern Russian be-future, and by exploring the relationship between the be-future and other constructions of verb + infinitive (i.e., phase verb constructions). My analysis is founded upon two areas of research in general linguistics: the study of the evolution of future tenses in general, carried out by scholars interested in grammaticalization theory, and a description of the mechanisms of syntactic change, proposed by Harris and Campbell (1995).

The conclusions presented in this paper are important for resolving two current problems in Russian historical linguistics. First, a detailed study of the development and categorial status of the be-future in premodern Russian has not yet been undertaken. Second, a demonstration of how the evolution of the Russian be-future was influenced by internal factors serves to weaken the position of those who believe that the Slavic be-future was originally a borrowed form. The results of this study will lend support to the idea that the Slavic languages that employ 'be'-type futures developed these forms independently. This investigation has broad significance for the study of the verbal systems of many of the Slavic languages.

Nila Friedberg, University of Toronto

Metrics and Optimality Theory: The Case of Russian Verse

Nila Friedberg, University of Toronto

Optimality Theory (OT - Prince and Smolensky 1993) has been recently employed in the analysis of poetic meter by many authors, such as Hayes and MacEachern (1995), Golston and Riad (1995), among others. However, so far there are no OT accounts of Russian meter, which has been traditionally studied from a statistical (Belyi 1910, Taranovski 1953,Tomashevskii 1921), but not a generative point of view. Russian meter presents an especially challenging case for generative approaches to poetry (Halle and Keyser 1971, Kiparsky 1975), since Russian iambic verse has very salient metrical tendencies, but very few strict rules.

In this presentation, I examine the inventory of possible rhythmical forms in the 18th-19th century Russian iambic tetramater, and suggest that the diversity of metrical grammars derives from different rankings of constraints on well-formedness. Thus, the aims of the paper are twofold: on the one hand, I outline a constraint-based analysis of Russian meter, on the other hand, I suggest a modification of OT that allows to model statistical tendencies.

In Russian iambic meter, stress is often ommitted on strong positions, i.e., positions which are ideally expected to be stressed. Stress omission is due to the fact that the majority of Russian words are long. For example, in (1) an unstressed syllable /za-/ occupies a strong position ('S' - strong position, 'W' - weak position; the boundaries of iambic feet are marked by a dash; stressed syllables are capitalized):

Line Kog-DA ne v SHUT-ku za-ne-MOG
Metrical W S / W S / W S/W S

According to Taranovski (1953), 18th century poets ommit stress on the second foot in a line more often than on the first, whereas in the 19th century, the opposite situation holds.

I hypothesize that poets internalize a set of conflicting constraints referring to different structural positions, such as edges of Line or Colon (Colon is a half of a line; in case of a tetrameter line, a colon is a constituent containing two feet). In the 18th century, the first foot was stressed more often than the second since the salience of the left edge of a line was considered more important than the salience of the right edge of a colon. In other words, in the 18th century, the constraint MarkLeft(Line) was ranked higher than MarkRight (Colon), whereas in the 19th century, these constraints were reranked, and poets started stressing the second foot more often than the first.

The problem for the traditional OT approach is that both line types a. and b. in the tableau were possible in the 18th century. In reality, there is no fatal violation of candidate a. - it is simply less statistically preferred than candidate b. In order to account for this fact, I adopt the proposal of Golston and Riad (1995), and suggest the following modification of OT: if a candidate violates a high-ranked violable constraint in the grammar, it is statistically rare; if it violates only a low-ranked constraint, it is statistically frequent. To summarize, the departure of this model from OT is that (i)OT makes no predictions about how frequent the winner is; (ii) In OT, a candidate that emerges as less harmonic than others, is a loser; in our model, such candidate is simply less statistically frequent than others.

Extending the analysis further, we examine the metrical preferences typical of all Russian verse, the metrical preferences typical of only certain periods, and the preferences specifying individual poets. We suggest additional constraints such as Contrast (a line must contain at least one omission of stress), Binary Colon (at least one colon in a line must contain two stressed feet), StressS (do not omit stress anywhere). Employing different rankings of all of the constraints suggested above, we succeed in generating the hierarchies of preferences of all 24 Russian poets mentioned in Belyi (1910).The fact that the line with no stress omissions was never the most preferred type for any poet, is captured by the fixed ranking Contrast >> StressS.

The last issue to be addressed is the status of strict rules. Certain types of stress omission, such as omission of stress on the last foot in a line, are unattested for most 18th-19th century poets (Taranovski 1953). Following Hayes and MacEachern (1995), I suggest that metrical constraints should be divided into violable and inviolable. The constraints responsible for deriving statistical tendencies are VIOLABLE, and always ranked below the inviolable ones.

Thus, the computation of meter may be viewed as follows: first, the inviolable constraints rule out all the impossible line types; afterwards, the remaining well-formed lines are evaluated by the violable constraints and classified into more preferred and less preferred line types.

This approach to meter has the following advantages. First, it shows us that statistical tendencies are not a matter of accident - rather, preferences derive from specific rankings of constraints operating in poets' minds. Second, this model demonstrates that the 'statistical' and the 'generative' approaches to meter (which are generally considered conflicting) can be reconciled, since metrical tendencies constitute an important part of poets' metrical grammars. From the point of view of theoretical linguistics, the model shows a possible way of incorporating statistical tendencies into OT.


Belyj, Andrej. 1910. Simvolizm: kniga statej. Moskva: Musaget.

Golston, Chris and Thomas Riad. 1995. Direct Metrics. Ms., University of Dusseldorf and Stockholm University.

Golston, Chris. 1998. "Iambic Pentamater is Neither." Paper presented at LSA Annual meeting, New York.

Halle, Morris and S.J.Keyser. 1971. English Stress, Its Form, Its Growth and Its Role in Verse. New York: Harper and Row.

Hayes, Bruce and Margaret MacEachern. 1995. Folk Verse Form in English. Rutgers Optimality Archive 119-0000.

Kiparsky, Paul. 1975. "Stress, Syntax and Meter." Language 51.576-617.

Prince, Alan and Paul Smolensky. 1993. "Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar." Ms., Rutgers University and University of Colorado, Boulder.

Taranovski, Kiril. 1953. Ruski dvodelni ritmovi. Beograd.

Tomashevskij, Boris. 1921. Russkoe stixoslozhenie. Munich: Vilhelm Fink Verlag.

Robert Greenberg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Language Politics in Yugoslavia Today: The Crisis Over the Future of Serbian

Robert Greenberg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Ostensibly the Serbian language is an elaboration on the former "Eastern" variant of Serbo-Croatian. Unlike Croatian and Bosnian linguists, Serbian linguists have refrained from the introduction of neologisms, puristic tendencies or the cleansing of "Croatianisms" or "Bosnianisms" from the language. Nevertheless, a perusal of the most recent publications on the standardization of Serbian reveal that linguists in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have been locked in conflict over the future of the Serbian language. Two major crises have erupted, including (1) the debate on the status of the ijekavian dialect, spoken by Montenegrins and the Serbs of Western Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and (2) the controversy surrounding orthographic principles. To further complicate matters, the upheaval of the Croatian and Bosnian wars has created new Serbian language centers in Banja Luka and Pale, which have at times come into conflict with the mainstream linguistic schools of Novi Sad and Belgrade. Moreover, Montenegro, Serbia's partner in the Federation has begun to speak openly of political and linguistic secession.

In this paper I focus on these and other controversies surrounding the establishment of a new Serbian standard language since the breakup of Serbo-Croatian. I will argue that nationalist ideology has been at the root of many of the controversies, and that language issues continue to be politically charged, just as in the former Yugoslav state.

Valentina Abdelrahim-Soboleva, Lincoln University

An Empirical Study of the Aspectual Usage of Russian Verbs in the Past Tense

Valentina Abdelrahim-Soboleva, Lincoln University

The paper will present the results of an empirical study on the aspectual usage of Russian verbs in the past tense. The study includes 394 sample texts, each of which is the length of a short paragraph. The 394 samples contain 1,629 past-tense verbal forms in affirmative sentences which have been tested. The experiment employed both the original, unmodified texts, and modified texts as well. The number of modified texts corresponds to the number of tested verbal forms, that is 1,629. The modified versions of the original texts include aspectual counterparts to the original aspectual verbal forms. Each of the modified texts differs from the original one in the aspect of only one verbal form. In the experiment, both unmodified and modified texts were mixed and presented to three native speakers, who were linguistically untrained. The testers were asked to read the texts and comment if they found any semantic inconsistency in those texts.

The final data of the experiment present the following: out of total 1, 629 tested verbal forms 1,063 forms were originally perfective and 566 forms were imperfective. From a total number of substituted aspectual forms, 1,197 subsitutions were marked as erroneous by all three testers. In a striking contrast, only 64 substituted forms were unanimously accepted. The remaining 368 substituted forms were marked non-uniformly, i.e., the testers were not unanimous in rejecting or accepting the substitutions.

The description of contexts in all three groups (unanimously rejected substitutions, unanimously accepted substitutions, and non-uniformly accepted subsitutions) yields the following observations:

1) The contexts of group I (unanimously rejected subsititutions) display two basic features: they typically either contain various types of adverbial indicators that modify verbs in the context, limiting their usage to only one specific aspect, or are structured in such a way so as to create special conditions for the use of one specific aspect. In this study, this phenomenon is called aspectual harmony. It is applicable to a series of verbs with a similar function and is relevant to both perfective or imperfective verbs.

2) The contexts in groups II and III are similar in that they do not contain aspectual indicators of perfectivity/imperfectivity. The need for aspectual harmony in such contexts is either not indicated overtly (contexts in group III with a mixed reaction) or not indicateted at all (the contexts in group II with unanimously accepted substitutions).

3) The data also shed some light on the use of three notions of imperfective verbs: continuity, habituality, and general validity, as well as on those cases when the use of both aspects seems to be possible.

Based on these findings, the study suggests some solutions to the theoretical and pedagogical problems that exist in Russian aspectology.

Zoran Starcevic, Mie University

Bipartiteness and the Formulae in Russian and Serbian Proverbs

Zoran Starcevic, Mie University

A major attempt has been made to substantiate the claim that all Russian proverbs are bipartite (Levin, M.I., 1964: Repetition as a Structural Device in the Russian Proverb. Doctoral dissertation. Harvard) in the sense that they comprise two propositions. In investigations of the language of proverbs, little has been done, however, in concrete terms to find out just what kind of formulae proverbs are made of.

Levin offers a classification of grammatical formulae -- understood and characterized principally as the appearance of certain word-pairs (such as kto -- tot, ne -- a, and ne -- ne, thus naming the formulae: correlative, contrastive, and conjunctive, respectively).

That criteria limited to lexical-syntactic markers are incapable of unveiling the most fundamental nature of the formulae can be seen in the fact that Levin's formulae fail to account for a large number of proverbs that do not have any such word-pairs, but nevertheless display, in the two propositions, the same "A" Relation "B" logical model, as for example in Serbian Od znana zelja ne boli glava; od neznana -- i glava i stomak ["No headache comes from the known greens; from unknown -- both headache and stomachache"].

Applying the principles of Jakobson's binarism, and literary semiotics, and starting from a hypothesis that the formulaic nature of the proverb is more fundamental than indicated by the word-pairs in Levin's classification, and that all three aspects of proverbial semiosis are necessary in order to account for it, this paper has two aims. Firstly, it seeks to unveil the nature of what appears to be the principal formula in the proverb. It seeks to define this formula in the relationship between binarism as an elementary model of human perception, on the one hand, and the structural bipartiteness of the majority of proverbs expressed in comparison, contrast and/or antithesis, on the other. Secondly, it aims to test the universality of bipartiteness as the basis of proverbial formulae. The paper re-examines the claim (Levin 1964) that all proverbs are bipartite, through analysis of such proverbs as Russian Pro&shackek;logo ne vorotish' ["One can not reverse the bygone"] and Russkij bog velik ["Russian God is great"].

The analysis considers whether it can be demonstrated that proverbs of this type too are varieties of the bipartite formula, and, if not, whether such proverbs perhaps belong to some other formula.

Both syntactic and semantic criteria are applied. These are also related to the pragmatic aspects of proverbial communication.

As to the question whether in addition to the structural ones it is necessary to apply other criteria, such as logical and pragmatic, in order to define the formula(e), the answer proposed is positive, while with regard to the question whether proverbs are modeled after a single archetypical model/formula it is negative.

Both conclusions are supported by findings in a contrastive analysis of 500 each Russian and Serbian randomly chosen proverbs taken from the two renowned collections by I. Dal' and V. Karadzhits╣ respectively.