Quantified Phrases in Russian

Elena Chernishenko, Princeton University

Russian quantified phrases represent rather interesting data for the case theory, in terms of their internal structure and the nature of the case distribution in them. In Russian, numerals above odin ‘1’ assign some form of the genitive case (dva ‘2’, tri ‘3’, and četyre ‘4’assign the GEN-SG and pjat’ ‘5’ and above assign the GEN-PL) to the nominal material following them - ‘genitive of quantification’ (GEN-Q) - (1); however, this pattern is not exhibited in oblique case positions -instead, the appropriate oblique case permeates throughout the numeral phrase (2). The verb vladet’ governs the instrumental. This quirky case requirement cannot be overridden by the GEN-Q assigned by the numerals in (2a, b). Babby (1987): (1) - heterogeneous case assignment, (2) - homogeneous case assignment. There have been suggested various theories explaining the different case agreement patterns exemplified in (1) and (2). The heterogeneous versus homogeneous case distribution patterns in NOM/ACC versus oblique quantified phrases have been explained either in terms of their structural differences or in terms of the different internal distribution of abstract case in these phrases with the same merge/tree structures. One of the major questions is whether the head of the phrase is always Q (quantifier) or always N (noun), or whether it is Q in one case and N in another case.

Three major hypotheses have been proposed:

I. Depending on the configuration of the subject-verb agreement, either the number/quantifier or the noun can be the head of the quantified phrase; whereas the quantified phrase is either in

caseless position or in NOM case position.

II. The number/quantifier is always the head of the quantified phrase whether the phrase is in NOM/ACC case position or in oblique case position, and the noun is always the complement of the quantifier.

III. The noun is always the head of the quantified phrase whether the phrase is in NOM/ACC case position or in oblique case position, and the quantifier/number is always the complement of the noun.

The existing hypotheses cannot account for several facts. One is the possibility of either

NOM- or GEN-marked adjectives in feminine marked NPs after numerals 2-4 (3a, b). Another fact left unaccounted for is the number feature distribution after numerals 2-4 as opposed to after numerals 5 and above, i.e., GEN-SG marked nouns after 2-4 and GEN-PL marked nouns after 5 and above (1) – while adjectives following numerals are always in PL, nouns can be either PL or SG depending on the numeral that they follow.

In this paper, hypotheses I and III are examined. The explanation of the phenomenon via structural differences and different internal distribution of case is adopted, and the new hypothesis, the synthesis of the modified versions of hypotheses I and III with combination of the historical approach, is defended. The original case system with structural versus inherent case categorization has been developed to facilitate the analysis. Based on the categorization, the conclusion is drawn that Russian GEN-Q, assigned in quantified phrases, is a structural case and quantified phrases can be either QPs or NPs (depending on the verb form – NEUT-SG versus

PL), as opposed to e.g., Serbo-Croatian, cf. Franks 1995. The historical development of numerals 2-4 is used to explain facts in (3), i.e., 2-4 were adjectival in Old Russian and as a result they retain their adjectival features and follow homogeneous case pattern in most of the cases.

The new hypothesis accounts for facts in (1) and (3) and gives a less complicated account of ‘homogeneous’ versus ‘heterogeneous’ case distribution in Russian numeral phrases than do existing analyses.

(1) a. Ivan kupil tri mašiny


Ivan bought three cars’

b. Ivan kupil pjat’ mašin


Ivan bought five cars’

(2) a. Ivan vladeet tremja mašinami


Ivan posses three cars’

b. Ivan vladeet pjat’ju mašinami


‘Ivan posses five cars’

(3) a. Peli četyre krasivye zhenschiny


four beautiful women were singing’

b. Peli četyre krasivyx zhenschin


four beautiful women were singing’



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