New Insights into Slavic Linguistics

by Jacek Witkos (Volume editor) Sylwester Jaworski (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 406 Pages


This volume presents a number of contributions to the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Slavic Linguistics Society held in Szczecin, Poland, October 26–28. The largest number of articles address issues related to the (morpho)syntactic level of language structure, and several papers describe results of recent research into different aspects of Slavic linguistics as well. The current volume proves conclusively that Slavic linguists make a remarkable contribution to the development of various theoretical frameworks by analysing linguistic evidence from richly inflected languages, which allows them to test and modify contemporary theories and approaches based on other types of data.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Editors’ Foreword
  • On the Czech Nuclear /r/ and /l/
  • Clausal Subjects in Polish Predicational Clauses with Nominal Predicates
  • Condemned to Extinction: Molise Slavic 100 Years Ago and Now
  • English Spatial Prepositions over and above and their Polish Equivalents
  • Cased PRO: From GB to Minimalism and Back Again
  • Agreement Strategies with Conjoined Subjects in Croatian
  • Gender and Analogical Extension: From Animacy to Borrowings in Polish
  • Differences in Encoding Motion in English and Polish: Difficulties in Translating Motion between these Two Languages
  • Dative-Infinitive БЫ Constructions in Russian. Taxonomy and Semantics
  • A Rare Type of Reflexive Use in Slavonic Languages
  • A Comparison of Croatian Syllabic [r] and Polish Obstruentised [r]
  • The Structure of the Speech Act of Complimenting Viewed from a Pragmalinguistic Perspective
  • Inner Islands and Negation: The Case of Which-Clauses and As-clauses Revisited
  • Nationality in Polish and Russian Advertising Slogans
  • The Emotionality of Interpersonal Communication and the Translation of the Verbs of Speech
  • Dialect Leveling and Local Identity in Slovenia
  • Polish Anticausative Morpho-Syntax: A Case for a Root-Based Model against Lexicalist Reflexivization
  • Exhaustive to in Polish: A Minimalist Account
  • Language Practices of Pride and Profit: The Tourist Landscape of L’viv, Ukraine
  • Epistemic Indefinites in Slovak: Corpus Survey and the Haspelmath Map
  • Sorting out-to and što: Bulgarian and Macedonian Relative Markers
  • A Corpus-Based Study of Human Impersonal Constructions in Russian
  • Case-Ending Processing in Initial Polish L2: The Role of Frequency, Word Order and Lexical Transparency
  • The Polish and Kashubian Colour Lexicons: Basic and Non-Basic Terms
  • The Distinct Types (Heads vs. Non-Heads) of Homophonous Suffixes: A Case Study of Russian
  • Clitic Templates and Discourse Marker ti in Old Czech

← 8 | 9 → Editors’ Foreword

We, linguists, are lucky to live in a period of new fascinating exploits in our field. For instance, the study of syntactic structures is flourishing; with the onset of the Minimalist Program about twenty years ago it is still gaining momentum. By now the theory of syntax has developed so quickly that we have entered into the third phase in the era of minimalism: after the early Agr-based model and the Agr-less model from the late nineties the phase theory is the current stage. Such productive frameworks have appeared and crucial milestones have been reached in almost every branch of linguistics. Typically, initial studies and applications of the theoretical novelties are conducted on English, by far the most studied language in modern linguistics, while other languages are subject to critical analyses much later in the life cycle of particular theories and approaches. The current volume belongs to a class of publications proving that this need not hold true of the current state of affairs. It shows that scholars researching languages form the Slavic Sprachbund are quick to apply the hot-off-the press theoretical apparatus of the phase theory, Distributed Morphology or nano-syntax to analyses of a family of languages whose distinctive properties feature complex concord and agreement systems in φ-features, rich and productive nominal case systems and a notorious flexibility of word order driven by information structure requirements. In doing so, Slavic linguists creatively develop the frameworks they are working in, exploring possibilities that richly inflected languages provide for testing and modifying theories based on other type of linguistic data.

This volume contains a selection of papers delivered at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Slavic Linguistics Society that took place in Szczecin, Poland, on 26-28 October 2013. The event was co-organized by the Slavic Linguistics Society, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and the University of Szczecin, the last of which had the privilege of hosting the conference.

The Slavic Linguistics Society was established in 2004, on the initiative of prof. Steven Franks, who also served as the first Chair of the SLS Executive Board. Since then, SLS meetings organized yearly on both sides of the Atlantic have become an important forum that brings together scholars and researchers interested in various aspects of Slavic linguistics. One of the major principles of SLS specifies that it should be as open and inclusive as possible thus researchers ← 9 | 10 → working within any theoretical framework are welcome to make their contribution. SLS also aims at creating an international circle of scholars interested in the Slavic languages – a goal that has already been achieved. So far, SLS meetings have taken place in eight locations in five countries: Bloomington, IN, the USA (2006), Berlin, Germany (2007), Columbus, OH, the USA (2008), Zadar, Croatia (2009), Chicago, IL, the USA (2010), Aix-en-Provence, France (2011), Lawrence, KS, the USA (2012) and Szczecin, Poland (2013). The 2013 conference was, indeed, an international event as it brought together more than eighty scholars from as many as twenty countries. The organizers were honoured by the participation of distinguished linguists who contributed substantially to making the conference an intellectually stimulating event.

The twenty six papers selected for the volume deal with all the major branches of Slavic linguistics, however, as usual, the largest number of contributions addressed a wide range of issues related to (morpho)syntax. Naturally, all of them deserve a brief advertising comment in this introduction.1

Anna Bondaruk’s paper is concerned with a syntactic analysis of Polish clausal subjects found in predicational clauses with nominal predicates. The contents of this well-researched paper are also applicable to the discussion of clausal subjects seen from a wider typological perspective, as many facts and analyses concerning English and other languages are also mentioned. The author’s key claim is that most clausal subjects in predicational clauses are placed in [spec,T], while the nominal predicate in Instrumental is placed inside the extended verbal projection (vP). An additional advantage of the paper is that derivations of particular examples are captured with a view to meeting the requirements of the minimalist technology of the latest vintage.

Steven Franks discusses the idea of cased PRO from various perspectives. In this excellent exercise in linguistic theorizing on the topic of PRO, its origin, derivational status and case, the author shows that the literature on PRO based solely on English provides little insight into the nature of this category, as only languages showing overt inflection on various dependents of PRO constitute the relevant testing ground. Franks focuses on the major elements of the PRO paradox: first, GB requires PRO to be caseless, hence silent (Chomsky 1981, Chomsky and Lasnik 1993) and English, with its impoverished morphology, supports this view; second, secondary predicates, predicative adjectives and floating quantifiers in Russian, Polish (and Icelandic) placed in control infinitives testify ← 10 | 11 → to dependents of PRO, and probably PRO itself, being case marked; third, if PRO is case marked after all, as an ordinary DP would be, how come that it is not pronounced. The author tries to find his own original solution that falls in between the major two approaches to PRO in general: that of Landau (2000), adopted for Polish in Bondaruk (2004) and Hornstein (2001), adopted for Polish in Witkoś (2010). He develops further an approach first presented in Franks (1995): the direct case marking applies to secondary predicates and predicative adjectives to the exclusion of PRO itself. As defective elements, secondary predicates are case marked directly by relevant case assigners/valuators without having to agree for case with their subjects (PRO).

The article co-written by Steven Franks and Jana Willer-Gold focuses on the mechanics of predicate agreement with conjoined subjects in Slavic. It constitutes a valuable contribution to the research on the topic of agreement with conjoined subjects, as it presents a new approach introducing two separate structures for cases of Closest Conjunct Agreement (CCA) and agreement with the entire coordination phrase. It also puts forward a new way of computing and resolving gender features, which accounts for the puzzle of lack of neuter plural agreement with two neuter conjuncts in Croatian. Interestingly, this analysis sets itself apart from those of Marušič et al. (in press) and Bošković (2009) in a number of ways; for instance there is no split agreement and the probe targets only one goal with a full set of phi-features. What is more, the alternative ‘flat’ structure for coordination proposed for CCA is generated in the syntax, rather than resulting from a post-syntactic flattening.

Katarzyna Janic examines the role of the reflexive marker in antipassive constructions in Slavonic languages. The paper focuses on the specific use of the reflexive marker in Slavic languages as a specific type of the antipassive construction and draws parallels between Slavic and other selected accusative languages as well as ergative-absolutive languages in which the antipassive is attested.

The case of which-clauses and as-clauses in Czech and other non-Slavic languages is investigated in a contribution co-authored by Peter Kosta and Diego Krivochen. This paper falls into two relatively independent parts, of which the first focuses on providing a solution to a genuine empirical problem in the contrast shown between as and which relatives in English, while the second concerns deictic elements and is much more programmatic and digressive in nature. The authors propose to treat as-clauses as parenthetical, while the which-clause as a clear case of a head raising relative, where the clause is pie-piped and moved to some position to the left of which. Data from Czech confirm this hypothesis.

Ewelina Mokrosz performs a syntactic analysis of Polish sentences featuring a clause-initial to. The paper presents a minimalist analysis of a specific use of ← 11 | 12 → the marker to in Polish in which the classification of to uses provided in Tajsner (2008) is reanalysed by assuming that the non-clause initial to is connected with a contrastive topic interpretation of an item to its left. At the same time it deals with the proposal in Horvath (2010) regarding the formal status of exhaustivity feature. Mokrosz’s contribution constitutes an interesting entry in the discussion regarding the overall organisation of the Information Structure-interface in languages with (relatively) free word order (e.g. Polish), couched within the so-called cartographic approach (Rizzi 1997, Cinque 1999, 2002, among others).

Catherine Rudin discusses the status and behaviour of the relative markers to and što in Macedonian and Bulgarian. Her paper provides a very clear and concise picture of relative clause markers in Bulgarian and Macedonian. In a very limited space the author manages to provide decisive data, show similarities and differences between the two, together with an outline of a theoretical analysis and the derivation of relevant examples. In brief, while the Macedonian što meets the descriptive frame of the complementizer (though its co-occurance with wh-phrases calls for the parametrically determined relaxation of the doubly filled Comp constraint), Bulgarian -to has a more complex pedigree and is taken to be a definiteness marker but not the definite article (for instance it does not inflect for gender neither is it replaceable by other determiners), so it can be a lexical reflex of a functional head marking definiteness (D) but not φ-features (nominal Agr of Gavrusheva 2000).

In contrast to the papers mentioned so far, Anton Zimmerling’s article examines historical data and provides arguments for the existence of a discourse clitic particle ti in Old Czech. The paper expertly reviews the literature on the issue of clitic placement in Slavic languages seen from a diachronic perspective and focuses on the discourse marker –ti. The primary focus lies on Old Czech but the discussion spills over to practically all known varieties of Old Slavic. Zimmerling succinctly summarizes the findings concerning clitic clustering from the perspective of the descriptive approach employing the key notion of the clitic template, divided into three major areas: the discourse particle section, the pronominal section and the auxiliary section, with two possible placements of Aux elements. The author patiently walks the reader through the meandering ways of the use of the template in historic varieties of Slavic.

Morphology is represented in several articles including Zuzanna Fuchs’ paper that provides insight into the strategies employed by Poles assigning grammatical gender to English loanwords. The major finding that the masculine gender should be regarded as the default is rather predictable given that most of the target word in the study end in a consonant or a consonant cluster. However, the reader’s attention is also drawn to the unexpected treatment of many inanimate ← 12 | 13 → loanwords which, in the accusative singular, are declined as if they were animate. The author argues that this phenomenon, referred to as the masculine gender animacy split, is due to a diachronic shift that might have resulted from analogical extension.

Anna Malicka-Kleparska presents a root-based account of Polish anti causatives. Her analysis draws on Embick (2009) and Alexiadou (2010). In this approach complex lexemes are based on category-free morphemes, from which word structures are derived by morpho-syntactic rules, which, in turn, obey guidelines of minimalist syntax. Thus lexemes are not based on other lexemes, so lack of certain intermediate representations for some very complex forms is no objection to deriving them. This last assumption is significant for the author, as she shows that many anticausatives do not possess appropriate bases in the lexicalist approach. For Malicka-Kleparska causatives and anticausatives are created independently.

Olga Rudolf, in turn, concentrates on the impersonal constructions in Russian, which she takes to be equivalents of one type of German impersonal constructions, i.e. the impersonal pronoun man construction. The central premise of the paper is to look into how semantic conditions influence the Russian translation outcomes of the German impersonal sentences with man based on the corpus data. The elegantly presented results of the corpus study, later subjected to a set of rigorous statistical analyses, are promising in linking certain semantic conditions with the specific choice of a translation option.

A different aspect of Russian morphology, namely homophonous suffixes, is also discussed in Olga Steriopolo’s contribution. The author conducts a morphological analysis of the homophonous suffixes such as -išč’ ‘place/site’ vs. -išč’ ‘augmentative’, -ec ‘person’ vs. –ecdiminutive’, -k ‘female’ vs. -k ‘diminutive’ and classifies them into heads vs. non-heads (modifiers) in the framework of Distributed Morphology. The size suffixes are noun modifiers, while the non-size suffixes are noun heads. This case study suggests that homophonous suffixes differ not in one, but in two aspects: not only do they differ in meaning, but also in the syntactic type, leaving just the sound the same.

Four of the papers fall within the broad category of semantics. Maria Brenda performs a semantic analysis of the special prepositions over and above, and compares them with nad and ponad that are generally regarded as their respective Polish equivalents. The author uses the principled polysemy network model (Tylor and Evans 2003) which assumes that a particular word can be thought of as a sum of different but related meanings that form a continuum. The results of this well-presented analysis indicate that nad is a good equivalent for the Primary Sense of over and ponad for above, which suggests that the Polish prepositions ← 13 | 14 → nad and ponad may encode the same functional elements as English over and above.

Alina Israeli provides the reader with a detailed classification of Russian infinitive constructions containing the particle бы. The author argues convincingly that бы constructions should not be regarded as extensions of regular infinitive constructions, nor should they be considered to form a unified group. Another interesting issue that this well-informed paper addresses is how to determine whether a бы construction refers to a past or a present event. The questions are resolved by identifying six possible constructions containing the particle бы and assigning different meanings to them.

The question of representing nationality in Polish and Russian advertising slogans is investigated in Agnieszka Krzanowska’s paper. Her analysis of numerous adverts reveals that the linguistic strategies employed in both languages are very similar. The data presented in the paper point out that, in a majority of cases, nationality is indicated indirectly by referring to positive connotations related to the origin of an advertised object.

Veronika Richtarcikova examines the properties and behaviour of episthemic infidelities in Slovak and determines how they relate to the semantic-syntactic functions enumerated in Haspelmath’s (1997) seminal work, which does not include Slovak data. The term episthemic infidelities is defined by the author as expressions indicating the speaker’s inability to identify their referent, e.g. somebody in English. The author’s thorough linguistic analysis leads her to the conclusion that, on the whole, the Slovak indefinite voľa- and –si series fulfil the same semantic-syntactic functions as those presented in Haspelmath (1997).

The only paper of the volume that focuses on the Kashubian language is written by Danuta Stanulewicz, who investigates the basic colour terms of the language and relates them to those of other Slavic languages. The results of the elicitation list task presented in the paper indicate that not only is the colour lexicon of Kashubian poorer than that of Polish, but it is also less stable. The instability of the Kashubian colour vocabulary is accounted for by referring to the diglossic situation of Kashubians that facilitates, to a great extent, the borrowing of lexical items from Polish.

Ewa Komorowska discusses and compares the structure of the speech act of complimenting in Polish and Russian. Her analysis, based on numerous examples taken from different corpora of the contemporary spoken language, shows that there are three major types of complimenting, however, within each type, one can also distinguish other ways of complimenting that are conditioned by specific morphological, structural and lexical means. The author admits self-critically that she has barely scratched the surface and rightly points out that other aspects ← 14 | 15 → of complimenting, such as Russian and Polish lexical interpretations of a given speech act or its semantic interpretations also deserve attention and should be investigated.

The status of various languages and dialects is discussed in three papers. Krzysztof Borowski speculates about the future of Molise Slavic spoken in just three villages located in Southern Italy. Although the population of the community has been declining steadily for the last fifty years, there are good reasons to believe that the language will survive as a consequence of the co-operative effort made by local activists who initiated a process of revitalisation of the language. So far, they have managed to launch the periodical Naš jezik, to issue several collections of poems and to publish a number of bilingual dictionaries.

Grant Lundberg investigates the relationship between a local dialect and regional varieties in Slovenia. The results of the large-scale survey presented in the paper indicate that these days many Slovenes are interested in cultivating their local dialects as they consider them to be an important element of their identity, on the one hand, and uniqueness on the other. Also, certain tendencies of local dialects to resist the influence of the standard variety spoken is Central Slovenia, as well as a shift towards regional dialects, have been observed. The findings are interpreted as an attempt on the part of Slovenes to minimise the negative effects of globalisation and Europeanisation on their dialect and culture.

Although languages are generally regarded as markers of national or local identity, a dramatic change in the economic situation of a community usually compels its members to re-examine their attitude towards the role of foreign languages in their lives. Such a scenario, which has recently taken place in Ukraine, is the primary focus of Alla Nedashkivska’s paper that familiarises the reader with the linguistic landscape of the Ukrainian city of L’viv. As the city has become a popular tourist destination, its multilingual environment allows the researcher to determine the status of each language used in the community. The author explores the linguistic signs used in the tourist industry and analyses them within the framework of ‘pride’ and ‘profit’ described in Heller and Duchêne (2012). The present data point to the conclusion that Ukrainian fulfils all three functions, namely symbolic, information and ‘for profit’, while the other frequently used languages: English, German and Polish, perform the last two functions. Importantly, Gvara, a local dialect stigmatised during the Soviet times, has become a significant identity marker.

Two of the contributions draw the reader’s attention to difficulties that arise while translating certain verbs from one language into another. Edward Gillian describes the difficulties he encountered while preparing an assessment tool designed to examine Polish children’s skills in encoding motion, which will later ← 15 | 16 → be used to do large-scale research into emergent literacy and numeracy. Since such a tool for Polish has not been developed yet, the author decided to translate the one he created for English while working in Australia. The analysis presented in the article shows clearly that that Polish speakers of English have difficulty translating verbs of motion due to the differences in lexicalisation of motion between the two languages. Interestingly, both Polish and English are said to belong to the satellite-framed group for lexicalisation of motion (see Talmy 2007), however, in the Polish language, the process of lexicalisation of motion appears to be more complex as both prepositions and verbal prefixes frequently need to be used, whereas in English prepositions suffice to express the same concept.

Sylvia Liseling-Nilsson concentrates on verbs of speech and examines the rendering of the Swedish word säga ‘to say, speak, tell’ in the Polish and Russian translation of the novel The Brothers Lionheart. It is emphasised in the paper that languages differ considerably in linguistic conventions regarding the frequency with which certain lexical items are used. The results of the analysis performed for the purposes of the paper strongly suggest that translators observe the linguistic conventions of the language of translation. In this particular case, the Polish and Russian translations abound in synonyms of the word saga. Undoubtedly, a faithful translation of the Swedish verb into either language would have spoiled the style and would have created an impression of excessive simplicity.

Phonetics and phonology are represented in two papers. Liquid nuclearity is addressed in Aleš Bičan’s article that casts a new light on the distribution of syllabic liquids /r/ and /l/ in the Czech language. As the syllabic and non-syllabic variants of the liquids do not show significant phonetic differences (Hůrková and Hlaváč 1981), and the concept of syllabicity offers very little help in solving certain puzzles, e.g. by applying the notion one should assume that in the word umrlčí ‘dead man’s’ both liquids are syllabic, which is not the case, the author replaces the traditional concept of syllabicity with that of nuclearity, which he defines in terms of a phoneme’s function and conditions of its occurrence within phonotactic constructions. The author argues convincingly that liquid segments can function as nuclei when they are placed within a phonological word and they immediately follow a consonant. In addition to that, one of the following conditions must be fulfilled: (1) they are followed by a consonant, (2) they are followed by another liquid, and (3) they are word-final.

Sylwester Jaworski compares the phonetic properties of the syllabic rhotic of Croatian with those of Polish obstruentised [r]. The author offers a clear explanation of why the former sound is treated as a syllabic nucleus when it is not adjacent to a vowel within a word, while the latter, in the same environments, ← 16 | 17 → is always regarded as a consonant. The picture that emerges from the acoustic analysis of the data collected for the purposes of the paper indicates that the phonological differences are, indeed, phonetically motivated. The key finding is that the syllabic ‘r-sound’ of Croatian contains a distinct vocalic element, epenthesised between a consonant and the rhotic, which is considerably longer than the vocoid inserted between a consonant and a rhotic in phonologically similar Polish words. Since other researchers, e.g. Savu (2012), treat the epenthetic vowel as an integral part of the rhotic, it is further argued that, in the phonology of Croatian and other Slavic languages that allow for syllabic rhotics, it is the vocalic element, rather than the rhotic, that fulfils the role of a syllabic nucleus.

Finally, Jacopo Saturno’s interesting contribution is concerned with a an exciting and still unexplored area of Initial Second Language Acquisition. In his article, the author addresses the issue of case-ending processing in initial Polish L2 by beginner Italian L1 adult learners. The working hypothesis that such learners will have difficulty to process Polish case endings is verified by the results of a Sentence Imitation test administered to a group of 17 adult learners who have not had any prior experience of any highly inflected Slavic language. Despite many variables that need to be taken into consideration while conducting a study of this type, the author managed to design a complex experiment aimed at evaluating the accuracy of case ending processing with respect to case ending, word order and lexical transparency. Predictably, the results have shown that the processing of various components of language depends on several factors such as prominence or frequency. In spite of being limited to several selected aspects of language, the article provides illuminating insight into the development of interlanguage.

We would like to express our gratitude to the Executive Board of the Slavic Linguistics Society for giving us the privilege of organizing the 2013 meeting in Szczecin. Thanks are also due to the reviewers of the papers for their insightful comments and for dealing with the task without extending the deadline. Last but not least, we thank all the participants and contributors for making the execution of this project feasible.


Alexiadou, A. 2010. “On the morpho-syntax of (anti)causative verbs”. In: Rappaport H. M., Doron E. and I. Sichel (eds.): Lexical Semantics, Syntax, and Event Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 177-203.

Bondaruk, A. 2004. PRO and Control on English, Irish and Polish. A Minimalist Analysis. Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL.

← 17 | 18 → Bošković, Ž. 2009. “Unifying first and last conjunct agreement”. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 27, 455–496.

Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht: Foris.

Chomsky, N. and H. Lasnik. 1993. “The theory of principles and parameters”. In: Jacobs, J., von Stechow, A., Sternefeld, W. and T. Vennemann (eds.). Syntax: An International Handbook of Contemporary Research. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 506–569.

Cinque, G. 1999. Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Crosslinguistic Perspective. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cinque, G. (ed.) 2002. The Structure of IP and DP: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Vol.1. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Embick, D. 2009. “Roots, states, and stative passives”. Abstract for Root Workshop, University of Stuttgart.

Franks, S. 1995. Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gavrusheva, E. 2000. “On the syntax of possessor extraction”. Lingua 110: 743-772.

Haspelmath, M. 1997. Indefinite Pronouns. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
Syntax Morpho-Syntax angewandte Sprachwissenschaft Semantik
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 406 pp., 6 coloured fig., 43 tables, 228 graphs

Biographical notes

Jacek Witkos (Volume editor) Sylwester Jaworski (Volume editor)

Jacek Witkoś is professor of English linguistics at Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland). His research interests include general linguistics, theory of syntax, minimalism and Polish-English contrastive syntax. His publication record includes over sixty papers and volumes in the field. Sylwester Jaworski is assistant professor at Szczecin University (Poland). His research interests focus on phonetics and phonology. So far he has published over twenty papers on connected speech processes and rhotic sounds of various languages.


Title: New Insights into Slavic Linguistics