May 302020

Evgenii Efremov

Western University

  9 Responses to “Dative case with infinitives in Russian”

  1. Hi, Evgenii. I’ve heard about your research from Ileana and Michiya. I’m glad there are people working on this topic (especially @ Western). As we have posters simultaneously, I might not be able to join your zoom or skype discussion, if you plan having one. I’ll try, but I don’t know how it goes. So I’m using the comment window here. I have a quick question: Why do you say that imperfective clauses are not true DICs? Thanks!

    • Hi, Egor. Thank you for your interest and your question. And thank you very much for your work on this topic! Your insights and data helped me much in my research.

      As for your question, I think there is some evidence that imperfective sentences are biclausal, and thus, the infinitive is in the embedded clause. First, the semantics is different from negated perfective sentences: necessity with imperfectives vs. negated possibility with perfectives. Second, the negated possibility perfectives are not grammatical (at least with this particular meaning) without negation, while imperfectives can be both affirmative and negative.

      But most importantly, when combined with bylo / budet ‘was /’ to refer to the past / future, imperfectives have to be used with the predicate nado ‘need/have to/should’ (or its synonym nuzno). They are ungrammatical without the predicate (example (4) on the second slide). With perfectives, this is not true: although some predicates like ‘impossible’ can be inserted, they are not obligatory (I think those are most likely paraphrases, express the same meanign but with a different structure). Perfectives can combine with bylo / budet without any ‘intermediaries’. I think sentences like (4) show that imperfective sentences are headed by the modal nado, which is optionally silent in the present but obligatorily pronounced in the past and future. Thus, bylo / budet is a copula here. The dative case comes from nado, which routinely assigns dative to its subject in other contexts, too:

      Mne nado vody/pogulyat’.
      I.DAT need water/walk
      ‘I need some water/to walk’

      So, this is why I am inclined to think that imperfectives do not belong to the DIC class. Negated perfectives are, on the contrary, true DICs, and, as you show in one of your recent papers, monoclausal, so the source of the dative case here is different from imperfective sentences.

      Thank you!

  2. Hi Evgenii,
    Thanks for you poster!
    I’m wondering–
    What is the definition of infinitives that you are assuming?

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your questions and for your interest in the topic!

      I don’t think I have a good definition of infinitives in general. Here my view on infinitives is based on the morphosyntactic distribution of verbal forms in Russian. Russian infinitives are morphologically (and syntactically, too) distinct from finite verbs. Infinitives have a special suffix -t’ (gulya-t’ ‘to walk’, smotre-t’ ‘to watch’) preceded by a thematic vowel. All the examples of infinitival clauses I have on the slides involve verb forms with this suffix. Finite verbs have inflectional morphology that shows person/number/gender/tense/mood. Maybe, to make things a bit clearer, I could say ‘morphological infinitives’ instead of just ‘infinitives’ (not sure if it makes really clear, though). Anyway, these forms have been called infinitives and are associated with non-finite contexts.

      What is more tricky I think is the notion of finiteness. Since I show that the dative infinitive construction in Russian patterns with finite sentences rather than non-finite ones, despite the presense of a morphological infinitive, I guess I would need a good definition of finiteness. But as far as I know, there isn’t one. This is a topic of hot debates in the current literature, and there have been attested multiple constructions in various languages that involve a morphologically finite verb but exhibit the syntactic behaviour of non-finite clauses (Greek, Albanian, Hebrew). Here it is the opposite: a construction that involves a morphological infinitive (that is usually associated with non-finiteness) has the distribution of finite clauses.

      Long story short, here I define infinitives (for Russian) based on certain morphosyntactic facts, in particular a specific morphological form.

      I hope it helps! Let me know if you have further questions.

      Thank you!

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