The 10th Anniversary FDSL Conference, Leipzig 2013
Edited By Gerhild Zybatow, Petr Biskup, Marcel Guhl, Claudia Hurtig, Olav Mueller-Reichau and Maria Yastrebova
Genitive alternation in Russian: a situation semantics approach
← 156 | 157 →Ljudmila Geist
University of Stuttgart
In Russian, the canonical case of direct objects is Accusative (henceforth Acc). However, under sentence negation, the Genitive case (Gen) can be used as an alternative. It has been assumed that Gen indicates low individuation or a decrease in referentiality, while Acc indicates higher individuation and higher referentiality (Mustajoki & Heino 1991, Paducheva 2006 and Partee & Borschev 2004, Pereltsvaig 1998).
In example (1) the bare NP in Acc is interpreted as definite, while the lower individuated NP in Gen receives an indefinite non-specific interpretation. That definiteness and specificity alone are not the key distinguishing features is shown in (2), where the definite NP may occur in Acc or in Gen. Acc indicates that the conversation took place, while if Gen is used the natural interpretation is that there was no conversation. Thus (2a) and (2b) differ in existential presupposition: while the referent of the Acc NP is presupposed to exist, the referent of the Gen NP is interpreted as possibly non-existent.
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