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Russian Case Morphology and the Syntactic Categories

Russian Case Morphology and the Syntactic Categories

David Pesetsky
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 192
  • Book Info
    Russian Case Morphology and the Syntactic Categories
    Book Description:

    In this book, David Pesetsky argues that the peculiarities of Russian nominal phrases provide significant clues concerning the syntactic side of morphological case. Pesetsky argues against the traditional view that case categories such as nominative or genitive have a special status in the grammar of human languages. Supporting his argument with a detailed analysis of a complex array of morpho-syntactic phenomena in the Russian noun phrase (with brief excursions to other languages), he proposes instead that the case categories are just part-of-speech features copied as morphology from head to dependent as syntactic structure is built.Pesetsky presents a careful investigation of one of the thorniest topics in Russian grammar, the morpho-syntax of noun phrases with numerals (including those traditionally called the paucals). He argues that these bewilderingly complex facts can be explained if case categories are viewed simply as parts of speech, assigned as morphology. Pesetsky's analysis is notable for offering a new theoretical perspective on some of the most puzzling areas of Russian grammar, a highly original account of nominal case that significantly affects our understanding of an important property of language.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31450-3
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Samuel Jay Keyser

    We are pleased to present the sixty-sixth volume in the seriesLinguistic Inquiry Monographs. These monographs present new and original research beyond the scope of the article. We hope they will benefit our field by bringing to it perspectives that will stimulate further research and insight.

    Originally published in limited edition, theLinguistic Inquiry Monographsare now more widely available. This change is due to the great interest engendered by the series and by the needs of a growing readership. The editors thank the readers for their support and welcome suggestions about future directions for the series....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction to the Puzzles
    (pp. 1-4)

    It is the oddest facts that sometimes provide the most useful clues to significant properties of language. In this monograph, I argue that the peculiarities of Russian nominal phrases provide clues of just this sort concerning the syntactic side of morphological case. In fact, the richest evidence will come from the most peculiar of these phrases: those that involve a member of the closed class traditionally called thepaucal numerals. This class includes the low numeralsdva‘two’,oba‘both’,tri‘three’, andčetyre‘four’, as well as several expressions of fractional quantity that I will not discuss at any...

  6. 2 Do We Need the Traditional Case Categories?
    (pp. 5-10)

    It is an obvious fact about Russian that most nouns, adjectives, numerals, and demonstratives bear a case suffix, and that the choice of case suffix is determined by two factors:morphological environment(the lexical properties of the stem to which the suffix attaches) andsyntactic environment. The traditional cross-classification of Russian case affixes by case category (“nominative,” “genitive,” etc.) versus declension class and gender directly reflects the distinct roles of syntactic and morphological environment in determining the choice of case suffix.¹ At the same time, though the traditional case categories do reflect the syntactic side of morphological case, it is...

  7. 3 Russian as a Case-Stacking Language
    (pp. 11-20)

    The “primeval genitive” conjecture in (6) is a clear nonstarter, unless we can explain why Ngen morphology is not visible whenever the noun bears any other kind of case morphology. On the proposal sketched in chapter 2, a nominative-marked noun should be the result of merging D to an NP whose head bears primeval Ngen—followed by copying of Dnom morphology onto the terminals of that NP, in accordance with (5). In fact, however, the surface form of nominative nouns in Russian shows no evidence of an Ngen suffix inside the Dnom. Thus, either (4), (5), and (6) are false,...

  8. 4 Argument 1 for the Core Proposal: Ngen, Dnom, and Pobl
    (pp. 21-34)

    The first argument for the core proposal of this monograph concerns the case and number mismatches observed in chapter 1. I begin with a discussion of paucal constructions and then take up the differences between paucals and the nonpaucal numerals.

    As we saw in (1b), when an expression containing a nominative paucal such asdva‘two’,tri‘three’, orčetyre‘four’ combines with a noun, the noun shows morphology usually described as genitive singular. Example (20) shows the same phenomenon in simpler phrases that contain only the paucal and a noun.¹

    The use of the singular here is the feature...

  9. 5 An Independent Argument from Gender Agreement for the Initial Low Position of Paucals
    (pp. 35-50)

    Russian distinguishes three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The gender of a noun or nominal phrase can be detected by agreement patterns of the sort found in many Indo-European languages. In Russian, gender agreement is found with predicative and attributive adjectives, with demonstratives and relative pronouns, as well as with verbs inflected for past tense (historically descended from participles). For nouns denoting nonhumans, gender is almost always predictable from declension class, with only a small number of exceptions (mostly systematic). Nonhuman nouns of declension class 1 such asstol‘table’ trigger masculine agreement—except for those whose nominative singular...

  10. 6 Numerals and Other Quantifiers
    (pp. 51-62)

    As noted in chapter 1, there is a class of quantificational elements in Russian (henceforth Quant) that show exactly the same pattern of case as that found with paucals, but not the same pattern of number. The Quant class comprises the higher noncompound numerals through 100 (pjat’ ‘five’,šest’ ‘six’, etc.),¹ as well as a small group of nonnumeral quantifiers such asmnogo‘many’,nemnogo‘a little’,stol’ko‘so much’, andskol’ko‘how much’. In a nominative environment, the head noun in constructions with these elements displays Ngen morphology, just as it does in constructions with paucals. The same is...

  11. 7 Vacc and the Morphosyntax of Direct Objects
    (pp. 63-80)

    Head movement to a feature assigner is not the only circumstance in which an expected application of FA is blocked, revealing a layer of case morphology that would otherwise have been overwritten. In this section, I will argue that certain categories of DP resist the assignment of Vacc as an idiosyncratic fact about the lexicon of Russian. The stipulative character of this phenomenon is irreducible, since it makes reference to Russian-specific properties of grammatical gender. Nonetheless, though the circumstances in which FA is blocked are peculiar to Russian (hence stipulated), theconsequencesof FA failure are exactly as predicted by the...

  12. 8 Argument 2 for the Core Proposal: “You Are What You Assign”
    (pp. 81-94)

    Though we have seen a number of arguments that Russian nouns are “born genitive” and acquire other types of case marking derivationally, we have not yet explored one of the most significant consequences of this proposal in any depth: the expectation that because Nisgenitive, it should alsoassigngenitive. This chapter takes up this topic. In the course of investigating genitive assignment by N, we will also explore another topic missing from the discussion so far: the interaction of morphology assignment by FA with the laws that regulate how the syntax communicates with the phonology.

    We have already...

  13. 9 Feature Assignment and the Notion “Prototype”
    (pp. 95-116)

    One important detail of the Russian adnominal genitive remains unaccounted for. I will first sketch a resolution that involves a modification of the view of FA taken so far. I will then suggest that this modification might in turn shed light on the parameter that distinguishes languages like Russian with rich case morphology from “non-case-marking” languages such as English or French.

    When a paucal nominal phrase is merged as an adnominal, not only are all accessible elements of the paucal marked with Ngen morphology, but also this morphology is uniformlyplural. In particular, plural Ngen morphology is present on...

  14. 10 Conclusions
    (pp. 117-118)

    Throughout this monograph, I have tried to operate at three levels simultaneously. At the highest level, the monograph has formulated and attempted to support a view of case morphology that eliminates the notion from linguistic theory, reducing the distinctions among cases to the independent distinctions among parts of speech. At the intermediate level, the monograph has presented a very particular view of Russian case morphology uniquely compatible with the monograph’s lofty goals, and it has attempted to show that a series of seeming idiosyncrasies in the distribution of Russian case morphology can be explained under this view. At the lowest...

  15. Appendix 1: Nominative Plural Adjectives in Paucal Constructions
    (pp. 119-124)
  16. Appendix 2: A Defectivity Puzzle: The Numeral-Classifier Construction
    (pp. 125-128)
  17. Appendix 3: A South Slavic Argument by Horvath (2011) That “You Are What You Assign” Holds of Prepositions
    (pp. 129-132)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 133-154)
  19. References
    (pp. 155-164)
  20. Author Index
    (pp. 165-168)
  21. Subject Index
    (pp. 169-174)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-178)