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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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On (in)definite tense and aspect in Russian


← 174 | 175 →Atle Grønn

University of Oslo

The semantics of tense and aspect in natural language involves primitive relations such as temporal precedence, temporal inclusion etc. The arguments (times and events) that participate in these relations can be definite (discourse old) or indefinite (discourse new). In order to implement this idea we need a dynamic framework. The framework must furthermore be compositional to account for the systematic interaction between tense and aspect. In Grønn & von Stechow (to appear) we try to bring these ingredients together in a general theory with examples mostly from English.

In section 2, I will show how the system works for tenses in Russian, including embedded tenses. The idea is to present at a semi-formal, intuitive level the most important observations and facts supporting this kind of approach.

For the rest of the paper, starting with section 3, I will focus on Russian aspect and illustrate the phenomenon of (in)definite aspect with the notoriously difficult ‘factual’ reading of the Russian imperfective (Grønn 2004). I will make two principled arguments concerning the Russian imperfective: there is no unified semantics for this unmarked form; in fact even the factual IPF, characterized by the semantically perfective inclusion relation ‘e ⊆ t’, can be divided into two readings – an indefinite and a definite event reading depending on the discourse status of ‘e’. Second, I see no principled reasons for why this configuration should be limited to past tense...

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