Decategorialization and Clines of Grammaticalization: Evidence from Verb Doubles in Russian

Dagmar Divjak, Katholieke Universitiet Leuven

In recent cognitive (Langacker 1991) and functional (Givón 1990) literature, the finite verb in [Vfin Vinf] patterns is considered as independent main verb, assigning the infinitive the role of object. Yet, at the same time, in literature on grammaticalization (Hopper & Traugott 1993) the [Vfin Vinf] schema is the pattern, typical of modal, phrasal or other dependent, non-full verbs.

In my presentation I go into the behavior of the about 300 peripheral members of the category “verb” (cf. Croft 2001) in Russian, i.e. (personal) verbs that combine with an infinitive, such as rešit' (‘decide’), ljubit' (‘like’), moč' (‘may, can’). Merging insights from cognitive-functional and grammaticalization approaches, I present a comprehensive model for the 300 verbs that enter into the [Vfin Vinf] pattern in Russian (Divjak 2004). I focus on what “decategorialization” (Hopper & Traugott 1993) implies for Russian verbs and I argue that restrictions on both the argument and aspectual structure of a verb are needed in order for the verb to grammaticalize. At the same time, I use elements from argument and aspectual structure to localize each of the verbs on the proposed cline from independent to dependent finite verb.

The results I present are based on data from elicitation tests with 15 native speakers of Russian. The three test constructions highlight three different facets of the event as encoded in the argument structure and event-temporal properties of the finite verbs. The results of the elicitation tests show that there is evidence for a cline of eight different degrees of integration between the verbs in a [Vfin Vinf] pattern (cf. Givón’s 1990 “binding scale”, Divjak 2004). These eight marks on the scale visualize the degree of independence both verbs and the events they express have with respect to each other, yielding semantically largely coherent verb classes. Interestingly, in Russian, finite verbs that show the highest degree of dependence on the infinitive and seem to have taken first steps towards grammaticalization express not only phase and mood, but also intent, attempt or result (cf. Dixon’s 1996 cross-linguistically attested “secondary verbs”).


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