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Slavic Grammar from a Formal Perspective

The 10th Anniversary FDSL Conference, Leipzig 2013


Edited By Gerhild Zybatow, Petr Biskup, Marcel Guhl, Claudia Hurtig, Olav Mueller-Reichau and Maria Yastrebova

The proceedings of the 10 th European Conference on Formal Description of Slavic Languages in Leipzig 2013 offer current formal investigations into Slavic morphology, phonology, semantics, syntax and information structure. In addition to papers of the main conference, the volume presents those of two special workshops: «Formal Perspectives and Diachronic Change in Slavic Languages» and «Various Aspects of Heritage Language». The following languages are addressed: Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS), Bulgarian, Czech, Macedonian, Old Church Slavonic, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Resian, Slovak and Slovene.
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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.


Igor’ ne polučil pis’mo / pis’ma.Igor NEG got letter.Acc / letter.GenAcc: ‘Igor didn’t get the letter.’ [definite]Gen: ‘Igor didn’t get any letter.’[indefinite non-specific]


Ja ne pomnila a. ètot razgovor / b. ètogo razgovora.I NEG remembered this conversation.Acc / this conversation.Gen.’‘I didn’t remember this conversation.’Acc: → The conversation took place.Gen: → It is possible that there was no such conversation.

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