Basic Forms for the Prediction of Russian Noun Stress

Ronald F. Feldstein, Indiana University

Most Russian stress systems can be divided into two basic varieties:

1. The first provides paradigmatic inventories (such as A, B, C) of stress types. The paradigmatic approach tends to be taxonomic; it simply offers a list of the existing stress types. The student, in turn, can only memorize the paradigmatic category of a given new word, without a feeling for the inner mechanism of how the system works.

2. The second type offers basic forms, in which word components (e.g. stem and ending, or individual morphemes) may bear a particular distinctive property, such as a plus or minus. The interaction of stem + ending, or word morphemes is then governed by rules which determine the ultimate calculation of stress placement.

This paper suggests a third type of system, in which there are two basic stress types other than immobile stem stress, which can apply either to the full paradigm or just a single subparadigm (singular or plural). Each of the two main stress types is correlated to the phonological desinence of certain non–peripheral cases: either the direct cases (nominative/accusative) or the genitive. Constant stem stress can simply be marked with an acute stress symbol over the vowel in question. I submit that there are two other stress types, in addition to constant stem stress. They share a basic stress position on the stem, although one is basically predesinential and other is basically initial in stress. They also share a single rule which specifies deviation from the basic stress position: stress shift to the first (or only) desinential vowel. Some of the other characteristics of the basic predesinential and initial types are as follows:

1. The predesinential accentual type is somewhat comparable to the type that has been called "B" in the paradigmatic approach. If all words had stems longer than monosyllables, the basic stress could be shown on the predesinential syllable, but since monosyllabic stems (e.g. stol, osa) neutralize the distinction between initial and predesinential, I prefer to mark these stems with a stress symbol on (or beside) the stem–desinence boundary, (e.g. stol–/, os–/(a)). For the predesinential stress type, the single rule of stress shift to the desinence is correlated with the form of the GENITIVE case in each subparadigm (singular or plural), as follows: if the genitive ending is a non–zero, the stress shifts to the desinence in the entire subparadigm; but, if the genitive is zero the stress remains on its basic, predesinential position.

2. The initial accentual type is comparable to the type known as "C." Since monosyllables neutralize the distinction between initial and predesinential, this stress type can be symbolized with a stress mark over (or beside) the word–initial boundary (e.g. #/volk–, #/gor–(a)). For the initial stress type, the single rule of stress shift to the desinence is correlated with the form of the DIRECT cases. Stress shift occurs within a subparadigm in which direct case endings are either high or low vowels (i.e. the three extreme points of the triangle i, u, a); but, stress remains on the initial vowel in the entire subparadigm which has zero or mid vowel direct case endings. In the case of either a high or low direct case vowel, the stress shift rule calls for the accent to become desinential in all oblique cases plus direct cases with the –a ending.

Some words have a single basic stress form across both subparadigms, while others are split, with basic initial stress in one of the grammatical numbers, and basic predesinential in the other. I have only been able to state the bare outlines of this approach. I feel that its primary advantage lies in the demonstration that a direct/non–direct bifurcation of the triad of the Jakobsonian non–peripheral cases—NA/G—is intimately connected to the Russian stress system, a relation that escapes one's attention in other accentual systems.

The relations can be summarized as follows:

Basic Stress Type Trigger for Stress Shift to Ending Domain for Stress Shift

1. Predesinential (B) Non–zero genitive Whole subparadigm

2. Initial (C) High or Low Direct Case (NA) Direct –a and oblique cases