Indeclinable (Indigenous) Adjectives in Russian

Keith Goeringer, University of California, Berkeley

Most grammars of Russian set up a dichotomy among parts of speech, opposing those that inflect (N, V, Adj, Pro) to those that do not (Adv, P, Conj, Interj); this tradition has its roots in classical philology, and at first blush appears accurate. In this paper, however, I will discuss a class of uninflected wordforms that by most analyses would have to be classified as adjectives, or at least adjectivals. (The indigenous appears in the title to distinguish these wordforms from borrowed adjectives such as bezh or mini, although these two groups do have certain common features.)

The wordforms in question are part of a class I call bipartites, which are formed from the univerbation of a P + a nominal or adjectival head, as in vmeste or slishkom. Bipartites have traditionally been termed adverbs, and indeed this is the primary function of bipartites. In order to account for the fact that many bipartites adjoin NPs, Russian/Soviet grammarians have expanded the role of the Russian adverb such that it modifies not only the V, Adj, and Adv, but also may modify certain Ns under certain conditions (often the N in question is deverbal -- as in poezdka vchetverom, or the Adv in question is a circumstantial of time or place -- as in Moskva noch'ju). I reject this analysis and show that, at least in the case of bipartites, an analysis as indeclinable adjectives is more logical and is better supported by the data.

Canonical adjectives in Russian occur attributively or predicatively, and many may occur in both functions. The same holds true for bipartite adjectives, although instances of a single bipartite occurring in both functions are rare -- they tend to be more specialized or lexicalized to certain expressions. Examples of attributive bipartite adjectives include navykate 'bulging' and vkrutuju 'hard-boiled':

(1) V odnix tol'ko ego glazax, golubyx, navykate, i neskol'ko nepodvizhnyx, zamechalos' ne to zadumchivost', ne to ustalos', i golos ego zvuchal kak-to slishkom rovno.

(2) On strashno ljubit jajca vkrutuju.

Examples of predicative bipartite adjectives (which are overall more frequently encountered) include nastorozhe 'on the guard' and vnaklade 'losing; (being) a loser':

(3) ...opasnost' priuchila ego byt' vsegda nastorozhe...

(4) Esli chelovek, pishushchij stixi, potratil izvestnye usilija na svoju podgotovku, a počta iz nego ne vyshlo, to on vse zhe ne ostalsja vnaklade.

In the course of the paper I demonstrate that it is more logical to analyze the bipartites in these functions as adjectives or adjectivals, rather than as univerbated PPs. Finally, I show that uninflected adjectives have a historical precedent in Russian, so the above-mentioned inflectional dichotomy is something of an artifice.