Additional Information Introduced by -ся in Russian

Hyug Ahn, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The purpose of this paper is to introduce 2 topics regarding the meaning of SJA. The meaning of the Russian SJA has been a popular and challenging issue in Russian linguistic tradition (Isačenko 1960, Vinogradov 1972, Gerritsen 1990, Israeli 1997, etc.). At first SJA is known as a marker signaling the elimination of a participant in the corresponding non-SJA verb structure a.k.a. Isačenko's 'intransitivization" and Kemmer's "low elaboration" of an event. For example, the transitive verb myt' "wash" in Russian takes two separate participants as an agent and a patient of washing, i.e. washer and washee. The corresponding SJA verb myt'sja "wash oneself" refers to one participant with two semantic roles. However, there are some SJA verbs with an increase in the number of participants. SJA verbs from intransitive verbs can serve an example, such as rabotat'sja "work". A sentence Segodnja mne ne rabotalos' "I did not feel like working today" is semantically distinct from Segodnja ja ne rabotal "I did not work today". These two sentences can designate the same situation, but the first sentence with a SJA verb expresses the existence of a cause preventing the agent from working. The cause can be an internal condition of the subject or anything/body affecting the agent. Kemmer (1993) claims that the middle construction signals a semantically reduced elaboration of a situation, but here the SJA sentence above provides more information than the corresponding non-SJA sentence.

The classification of SJA verb meanings appears critical to understand the function of SJA, and the use of case in the classification of SJA verbs in Russian is the second topic of my presentation. Czech and Bulgarian maintain both accusative and dative forms of the reflexive clitic. Russian SJA does not have formal distinction, but has obviously preserved semantic features of case. Accusative case is expressed in so-called reflexive proper construction such as myt'sja "wash" and the SJA verb can be paraphrased using accusative reflexive pronoun sebja. Some SJA verbs such as stroit'sja "build something for oneself" express an action that affects the agent. In other words, an agent has done something and the whole event has an effect upon the agent. The agent here becomes a recipient of the action metaphorically. There is another kind of SJA verbs which cannot be paraphrased with sebja such as stučat'sja "knock", belet'sja "show white", etc. These SJA verbs have emphatic function. In the meaning of the sentence Ivan dolgo stučalsja v dver', no emu ne otkryli the behavior of knocking was done by Ivan and the speaker perceives the knocking in empathy with "Ivan".

The semantic relationship among SJA verbs is diverse and seemingly random, but it is semantically motivated and can be explained by important factors such as case and emphasis. Russian SJA designates various changes of participant relations in certain construction. These changes can refer to more information than the corresponding non-SJA sentence as well as less elaboration of the situation. Use of case is a way of intelligible explanation of various semantic functions of Russian SJA.