Discourse Particle -to in Shukshin's Short Story "Zabuksoval"

Svetlana McCoy, Dictaphone

Linguistic theory has thus far been unable to provide a unifying account of the colloquial Russian particle -to which has been traditionally labeled as "emphatic," "contrastive," "intensifying." Descriptively, its multiple functions have identified (Vasilyeva 1972, Bonnot 1986, etc.); however, such approaches have proved inadequate (McCoy 2001). In this paper I will argue that -to encodes the speaker's directions to the hearer with respect to the processing of the proposition marked by this particle: -to indicates that the proposition marked by it is in a set relationship with other propositions in the hearer's knowledge set.

My approach integrates the following frameworks: the theory of "kontrast" (i.e., the ability of certain linguistic expressions to generate a set of alternatives; VallduvĖ and Vilkuna 1998), cognitive statuses of referents in discourse (Yokoyama 1986, Gundel et al. 1993), information packaging on the clausal level (VallduvĖ 1992), and hierarchical organization of discourse (B¸ring 2000). Specifically, the following properties of the particle -to will be discussed (the first two of which represent its essential properties, while the others two are consequences):

    1. it marks a set of sets of propositions (equivalently, a set of questions);
    2. it marks referents known to the hearer but not currently activated in the discourse;
    3. it is an enclitic to a set-evoking element, usually the "link/topic;"
    4. it generates a discourse tree, the branches of which are "sisters" dominated by the same question under discussion.

These set-evoking properties of -to will be illustrated by Vasilij Shukshin's short story "Zabuksoval" 'Stuck'. The set-up is the following: a collective farm mechanical engineer Roman Zvjagin is listening to his son Valerka learning by heart the Rus'-Trojka excerpt from Gogol's novel Mertvye Dushi 'Dead Souls' when suddenly he encounters a challenging idea:

(1) A kogo vezut-TO? Koni-TO? ģtogo... Chichikova? [...]
And whom [they]-carry-TO Horses-TO This ... ChichikovACC
'Wait a minute, who in particular is being carried(-TO)?
As for the horses(-TO), [who do they carry]? That Chichikov?' [...]

The central question of the story is "Who is in the carriage?" (x is in the carriage) and the eye-opening answer to it is "Chichikov is riding in the carriage!" (x = Chichikov). First Roman is thinking to himself, then tries to talk to his son, then reveals his thoughts to his son's teacher, and finally is left with his thoughts alone again (hence, the title "Zabuksoval" 'Stuck').

Out of 30 occurrences of -to in this 5-page story (which is an unusually high number anyway), exactly one half are found within (variations of the) proposition The person in the trojka is CHICHIKOV! Why is particle -to so important here? The answer to the question Who is in the trojka? is NOT difficult to find: even the boy knows that it is Chichikov. The essence of the story is that Roman considers this question as a member of the set of questions addressed in the Rus'-Trojka excerpt, with the super-question Is Rus'-Trojka indeed the symbol of Russia? and the other sub-questions How fast is the Trojka going?, Where is it rushing to? ... (see (2)). The answers (explicit or implicit) to all other questions suggest that Rus'-Trojka IS INDEED the symbol of Russia. ONLY as a member of this set of questions, the question Who is in the trojka? AND the answer it supplies ("Chichikov") is absurd, ridiculous, challenging, etc.: Chichikov is a thief, a scoundrel, who cannot be considered symbolizing the best in Russia.

The role of -to in the organization of the main conflict in the short story is to serve as an unambiguous marker of the generated set of questions (or the set of sets of propositions). In other words, particle -to acts as a pointer/cursor in the discourse tree--making the alternatives salient in discourse, or drawing the hearer's attention to the fact that the proposition marked by it should be treated as a part of a set of sets of propositions.

(2) Particle -TO as the organizer of the main conflict in Shukshin's "Zabuksoval":

Chart to appear.