Aspectological Dictionary of Russian

Alexei Shmelev, Moscow Pedagogical State University and Anna Zalizniak, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow


The aspectological theory has progressed to the stage where its further development presupposes extensive study of linguistic material, that is, a comprehensive and sophisticated study of aspectual properties of all Russian verbs. The best genre for solving this problem is a dictionary. Hence, the need for an aspectological dictionary of Russian which would comprise, in a unified, user-friendly format, the relevant aspectual information on every verb.

The project of “Aspectological Dictionary of Russian” makes use of the conceptual framework suggested in (Zalizniak, Shmelev 2000); in what follows it is presented with some revisions.

Perfective verbs denote events (actions or occurrences) resulting in change of state, e.g. . On otkrylperf. dver’ ‘He opened the door’ (‘the door is closed’ ® ‘the door is open’). As for imperfective verbs, some of them are isolated lexical entities denoting states or processes (imperfectiva tantum) while the others form aspectual pairs with perfective verbs. An imperfective verb is paired with a perfective verb if and only if it is substituted for the latter in historical present and when referring to repeated events. For example, On otkrylperf. dver’ i voshelperf. v komnatu ‘He opened the door and entered the room’ in historical present would be replaced by On otkryvaetimperf. dver’ i vkhoditimperf. v komnatu ‘He opens the door and enters the room’. Most imperfective verbs paired with perfective ones combine two different types of usage: as a mere substitute for its aspectual correlate (denoting an event) with the same syntactic properties and as a “genuine” imperfective verb denoting a state or a process. The syntactic properties of imperfective verbs referring to events are the same as those of their perfective correlates (with the exception of properties which are wholly determined by the aspectual status of the verb); meanwhile, the properties of an imperfective verb in processual or stative reading may be essentially different.

The relation between an imperfective verb in processual or stative reading and its perfective correlate determines the semantic type of aspectual correlation. The following semantic types of aspectual correlation are the most common: telic (reshat’ ‘to seek for a solution’– reshit’ ‘to find a solution’), stative (ponimat’ ‘to be in state of understanding’ – poniat’ ‘to gain understanding’), gradual (staret’ ‘to advance in age’ – postaret’ ‘to grow old’), proleptic (opazdyvat’ ‘to have too little time’ – opozdat’ ‘to be late’), semelfactive (makhat’ ‘to move to and fro’ – makhnut’ ‘to wave down (one time)’), inchoative (zakipat’ ‘to simmer’ – zakipet’ ‘to begin to boil’). If the imperfective member of an aspectual pair does not refer to any process or state (that is, it has no other meaning than the “eventive” meaning of its perfective correlate), we deal with the “void” type of semantic correlation. This type of correlation may be illustrated by such pairs as naxodit’najti ‘to find’.

The paper will discuss the structure of a lexical entry of the dictionary and provide several examples.