Slot:       30A– 6        Dec. 30, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.                                                

Panel:     Morphosyntax

Chair:     Christina Y. Bethin, Stony Brook University


Title:       Predicate Adjectives under Negation in Modern Russian

Author:   Renee Perelmutter, University of California, Berkeley

 Case choice in predicate nominals is one of the most debated contexts of variation in modern Russian. For adjectives, the three choices available are agreement, short form, and instrumental: мой отец был бедный/беден/бедным ‘my father was pooragr/ poorshort/ poorinstr’. This paper asks whether the choices made under negation are different from the choices in positive constructions, and if so, how. Negation has been assumed to favor the instrumental (Nichols 1981:178, Ueda 1992, Timberlake 2004:288), though this claim has never been tested on a corpus.

The paper presents results of an extensive corpus study of predicate adjectives under negation. I show that there are significant differences in statistical distribution between positive and negative contexts. Specifically, long nominative forms are extremely rare under negation (from 0% to 6.9% for various adjectives; from 19.5% to 34.9% for the same adjectives in positive contexts). Short-form adjectives are the most frequent under negation, followed by instrumental.

In the second part of the paper, I analyze the discourse and semantic factors that contribute to the choice of adjectival form. Short form is used with animate referential subjects, and factors that influence this choice include causality, expectation, and evaluation of quality by observers:


(1)           Я помню его до того, как он был вовлечен в чрезвычайно важное государственное преступление... Он не был умен - это не преступление. Он не был достаточно информирован - как все мы в то время.

I remember him before he was involved in a very important political crime. He wasn’t smartSHORT – this is not a crime. He wasn’t informedshort enough – like all of us at the time.


Instrumental is preferred with non-referential, abstract subjects (2), and is moreover the default choice when a temporal boundary is highlighted.

(2)           Кто не знает Кастанеду, тот точно не был молодым в уже почти ставшие легендарными 1990-е годы.

He who doesn’t know who Kastaneda is, wasn’t younginstr in the almost legendary 1990’s.


While three morphological choices are available for adjectives in positive constructions, only two are statistically significant under negation. I show that both short form and instrumental constructions are compatible with the functions of negation in narrative (backgrounding/foregrounding, establishing agentive hierarchies, marking emotional involvement, etc). The third choice, agreement, is frequent in non-narrative contexts such as reporting on visual scenes; negation in these contexts is infrequent, and thus a combination of agreement with negation is statistically insignificant.



Nichols, Johanna. Predicate Nominals: A Partial Surface Syntax of Russian. University of California Press, 1981.

Timberlake, Alan. A Reference Grammar of Russian. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Ueda, Masako. The interaction between clause-level  parameters and context in Russian morphosyntax. Munich: Otto Sagner, 1992.


Title:       A Constructional Analysis of Russian Reflexive Impersonals

Author:   Laura Elaine Davies, University of Colorado, Boulder

The Slavic reflexive morpheme se continues to be a problem that has not been satisfactorily solved in the literature. Some (e.g, Babby and Brecht 1975) consider its role to be a purely syntactic matter (e.g., of valence reduction), while others (e.g., Janda 1993) view it as a purely semantic element. Babby (1996) accounts for canonical and noncanonical uses of Russian –sja with transitive verbs, but does not account for –sja with intransitive verbs or for the use of –sja in impersonal sentences. In this Construction-Grammatical (CxG) analysis I address five types of Russian reflexive impersonals (RI) that appear superficially similar and have overlapping properties, but at the same time differ in many respects. I ultimately show that they are a family of two major constructions and three subtyped constructions. The properties shared across the RI constructions are the external syntactic requirements of -sja morphology and impersonal morphology. But the CxG analysis allows us to see the formal and functional connections between the constructions that go beyond these general requirements.

This paper discusses four types of Dispositional Reflexive Impersonals (DRIs) and one Communicative Reflexive Impersonal (CRI) that have shared properties. Formally, for example, all DRIs externally require an experiencer marked by the dative, though we will see how this requirement is satisfied differently for each DRI construction. The types of DRIs that are addressed are 1) generic dispositional reflexives (DRI), 2) those that allow indefinite null instantiation (DRI-INI), 3) those with semantic narrowing (DRI-IMP), and 4) lexicalized instantiations (DRI-LEX).  The dative types contrast formally with CRI, which does not externally require a dative-marked nominal. In the RIs there is no nominative subject in agreement with the verb, serving the pragmatic functions of relating a disposition or state (for DRIs), or of defocusing the agent participant in order to focus on something else (for CRI).



Babby, Leonard, and Brecht, Richard. 1975. "The Syntax of Voice in Russian." Language 51: 342-367.

Babby, Leonard. 1996. "Inflectional Morphology and Theta Role Suppression."  Annual Workshop on Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The College Park Meeting, 1994.

Janda, Laura. 1993. "Cognitive Linguistics as a Continuation of the Jakobsonian Tradition: The Semantics of Russian and Czech Reflexives." American Contributions to the Eleventh International Congress of Slavists: 310-319.


Title:       Russian Conditionals with Imperative Forms

Author:   Olya Gurevich, Educational Testing Service / Princeton University

Some conditional constructions in Russian use an imperative verb form in the protasis.  Typically, two types of such constructions are distinguished (cf. Israeli 2001): simple conditionals (1а), comparable with esli- phrases in the apodosis (1b); and counterfactual conditionals (2а), comparable with esli by- phrases (2b).  This paper focuses on the discourse and pragmatic factors that influence the choice of imperative-form conditionals over esli and esli by conditionals and argues that these factors include the degree to which the speaker/protagonist is affected by the described events, the choice of viewpoint, and the degree to which the consequent is realizable from the chosen viewpoint. All examples come from the Russian National Corpus and internet searches.


(1)  a. Погибни он, бойцы будут горевать, его помянет даже командир дивизии.

‘If he were to die, the soldiers would grieve, and even the division commander would remember him.’


      b. Если он погибнет, бойцы будут горевать . . .

      ‘If he dies ….’


(2)  a. Приди я на пять минут раньше, я бы спокойно перешел на другой берег.

      ‘Had I come five minutes earlier, I would have easily crossed over to the other shore.’


      b. Если бы я пришел . . .

      ‘If I had come . . .’


Simple conditionals with imperatives have been analyzed as expressing realizable conditions (Xrakovskij 2001) or disastrous events (Israeli 2001).  The discourse factors proposed in this paper subsume both these explanations under the rubric of speaker affectedness and viewpoint, accounting for such non-disastrous uses as (3).


(3)   Для этого Михаэлю необходимо выиграть «Большой приз» ... В этой ситуации помочь лидеру чемпионата может его родной брат Ральф, опереди он в гонке обоих латиноамериканцев.

‘For this Michael must win the “Grand Prix”… In this situation the championship leader can be aided by his brother Ralf, if he were to surpass both Latin Americans.’


Similarly, previous analyses have suggested that imperatives counterfactuals signal potential disaster or highly improbable consequents.  This paper argues instead that the degree of speaker/protagonist involvement and the probability of consequents from the point of view of the protagonist accounts in more general ways for the use of imperatives, including such non-improbable and non-disastrous situations as in (4).


(4)   ... ему нужна была Рахиль ... и будь она мусульманкой, буддисткой или огнепоклонницей, он с удовольствием стал бы мусульманином, буддистом и огнепоклонником, лишь бы Рахиль стала его женой.

‘… he needed Rakhil’ … and had she been a Moslem, Buddhist or a fire worshipper, he would have gladly become a Moslem, Buddhist and fire worshipper, as long as Rakhil’ became his wife.’



Israeli, Alina.  2001.  "An imperative form in non-imperative constructions in Russian."  Glossos 1.

Xrakovskij, Victor (ed.). 2001.  Typology of imperative constructions. Muenchen: Lincom Europa.