. 16
( 17)


event -- an interaction between the known object and a new individual ([14]):
[13] o
Vtyz v ;lfkj s hfpjxfhjdfybt.
I was facing disappointment.
[14] Ytj;blfyyj o vtyz v dspdfk s Eubyxec, yfxfk hfccghfibdfnm j vjtq ;bpyb.
Unexpectedly I was summoned by Uginchus, who began to ask me about my life.

Like SVO, OVS is also a hierarchical construction: it links a known entity (O)
to a new property, which includes a new individual (the S of VS). OVS is in a
sense the inverse of SVO, which links the S to a property that includes another
participant (VO).
452 A Reference Grammar of Russian

7.3.4 SOV, OSV
When both major constituents are before the verb, they establish the entities as
bases. The predicate, as focus, then states the relation among them.
In the order SOV, the object is a weak basis. This order is frequent with pro-
nouns or known entities (108/359xx = 30%, or second most frequent, of three-
part utterances with vtyz SOV order links the current predicate to surrounding
text through the effect on the object. In [15], for example, we read the story of
the speaker™s departure, in [16], the story of the speaker™s triumphant return:

[15] Yfcnfk ltym vjtuj jn(tplf. s Hjlbntkb o vtyz v ghjdjlbkb d lj cnfywbb. Etp;fk
z d ghbgjlyznjv yfcnhjtybb.
There arrived the day of my departure. My parents accompanied me to the
station. I departed in a state of elation.
[16] Ghbt[fk ljvjq, s dct o vtyz v gjplhfdkzkb.
I came home, everyone congratulated me.

In the other verb-¬nal order, OSV, the object is a strong basis. It can be used
to contrast this particular entity to others,

[17] Vtyz gjkmcnbkj, xnj bvtyyj o vtyz s jy v ghbukfiftn.
I was ¬‚attered that it was me that he was inviting.

or to shift attention back to an entity that had previously been prominent:

[18] Eghfdljvif nht,jdfkf, xnj,s z yf yjxm jnlfdfk tq cdjb ljrevtyns. o Vtyz
nfrfz ajhvfkmyjcnm v euytnfkf.
The manager demanded that I give her my documents every night. For me such
formality was oppressive.

This order was the least frequent of the six possible three-part word-order pat-
terns with vtyz (6/359xx = 1.7%). The result is perhaps surprising, since this kind
of “topicalization” of objects is often considered one of the most characteristic
functions of Russian word order.
Both orders, VSO and SVO, manipulate information in a similar way. They both
establish a list of entities for discussion, and then go on to state a relationship
among them. Both orders can be characterized as relational. They differ only
in the ranking of the entities.

7.3.5 VS(X), VSO, VOS
Putting the major arguments after the verb presents the world as a holistic sit-
uation. First the state of the world is established (the property or event named
by the verb), then secondarily the entities that participate in this state are
The presentation of information 453

Although SV(O) order is the neutral order for most predicates, certain pred-
icates often put the domain argument early, then the verb, and then the sub-
ject. This order is usual for existential (quanti¬cational, modal, experiential)
[19] d
E yfc v jcnfkfcm s rehbwf.
We had a chicken left.
[20] -- Gjckeifq, Rkfdjxrf, d vyt v ljcnfnjxyj s jlyjuj pdjyrf -- b ndjq ;tyb[ nen ;t
-- Listen, Klavochka, it would be enough for me just to place one phone call -- and
your ¬anc† will immediately disappear.

Predicates reporting transitions in weather or time or conditions also prefer this
[21] d
D Vjcrdt v yfcnegbk s ujkjl.
In Moscow famine set in.

The order DVS imposes an existential, or what is sometimes termed a presenta-
tional, interpretation on verbs that are not strictly existential, such as the two
verbs of motion in [22]:
[22] E Cthjdf tcnm rfhnbyf: d dgthtlb hfpvfibcnj v ifuftn dscjrbq wfhm s Gtnh, f
cpflb, njkrfz lheu lheuf, v cgtifn s njkcnst dtkmvj;b.
Serov has this picture: in front there strides expansively the tall tsar Petr, and
behind, elbowing each other, there scurry fat notables.

In existential and presentational functions, the subject entity is not previously
known. Once introduced, the entity can then become a participant in further
When the predicate and subject are known, VS(O)X order lets the speaker
insert a strong focus and answer an implicit question -- in [23], about the manner
of the reception, in [24], about the location of her abode.
[23] v
Dcnhtnbk s jy o vtyz d jabwbfkmyj-[jkjlyj.
He met me in an of¬cial, cold manner.
[24] v
:bkf s jyf d e vkflituj csyf Fylhtz. Jyf ghbt[fkf yf gfhj[jlt r ljxthb yf
dct ktnj.
Jlyf;ls v gj,sdfkf s jyf b d e yfc. Z yfcnhjgfkbk csyjdtq, xnj,s dtkb ct,z
cvbhyj, yt ,fkjdfkbcm.
Where she lived was with her younger son Andrei. She had come on the
steamship to her daughter for the whole summer.
Once came she to visit us. I worked on my sons so that they would behave
calmly, and not act up.

9 Statistical correlations between word order and lexical classes are studied in Robblee 1994.
454 A Reference Grammar of Russian

The order VSX can be used to start a new episode (gj,sd’kf in [24]). The usage
is sometimes termed “epic,” in memory of its use in chronicles and folk texts to
announce new events or episodes. In contemporary Russian, it has connotations
of the Soviet imperial style.
The order VOS introduces a new scene involving the object (hence VO) and
then, as a strong focus, the as yet unknown subject that is involved:

[25] Gjxtve ;t vtyz djj,ot jcdj,jlbkb, lf tot nfr crjhj? v Jn[kjgjnfkf o vtyz
Trfnthbyf Gfdkjdyf Gtirjdf.
Why did they release me at all, and why so quickly? My release was arranged by
Ekaterina Pavlovna Peshkova.

In the test corpus with vtyz the two verb-initial orders were equally frequent:
VSO, 13/359xx = 3.6 percent, VOS 17/359xx = 4.7 percent. Both are also used
following direct quotes, VSO when the subject is a pronoun (cghjcbk jy vtyz
˜he asked me™), VOS when it is a full noun phrase (cghjcbkf vtyz vfnm ˜asked
of me my mother™). This latter fact suggests that VSO and VOS are indeed close
in function; what is crucial is that the subject follows the verb, and the relative
position of O and S is less critical. The orders VS, VSO, and VOS can be termed
situational: they establish the existence of a situation, a state of the world, that
includes certain entities. This function is common to all tokens of these orders,
regardless of whether the subject is known or newly introduced. Existential and
presentational functions are special instances of the situational function.

7.3.6 Word order without subjects
Not all sentences have subjects. Subjects can be absent for one of three rea-
sons. Different types of subjectless sentences do not have the same word-order

Ellipsis: The subject can be omitted by ellipsis between conjoined verbs or be-
tween separate sentences. Though the subject is not represented as a constituent,
it counts as the entity of which the predicate states a property. Accordingly, the
object normally follows the verb, as it does when the subject is overt. This VO
order is frequent (40/55xx of elliptical sentences with vtyz or 73%).

[26] Jy crfpfk, xnj yt v jngecnbn o vtyz lj nt[ gjh, gjrf z yt yfgbie pfzdktybt.
He said he wouldn™t let me go until I had written an attestation.

Impersonal verbs; unspecified agents: If it is usual to use VO when the subject is
omitted by ellipsis, OV order is usual when the clause necessarily lacks a subject --
when the verb is impersonal ([27]) or in the construction with an inde¬nite third-
plural agent ([28]).
The presentation of information 455

[27] o
Vtyz v njiybkj.
Nausea overcame me.
[28] o
Vtyz v gjdtkb gj rjhbljhe. Rjhbljh gjdthyek, o vtyz v ddtkb d yt,jkmie/
[They] led me along a corridor. The corridor turned, [they] led me into a small

In the third-plural agent construction, VO does occur, but infrequently (only
11/72 tokens, or 15%, of the tokens with vtyz as object). In such cases the O is
often the strong focus: Jlyf;ls yjxm/ v dspdfkb o b vtyz ˜once at night they
summoned me as well™.

7.3.7 Summary of word-order patterns of predicates and arguments
The basic functions of word-order patterns are summarized in Table 7.2, with
illustrative examples and overly explicit interpretive glosses in English. There
seem to be three groups of patterns. Intransitive SV and transitive SVO and OVS
are hierarchical: they state properties of a privileged individual. Intransitive VS
and transitive VSO and VOS are situational: they present the world as a holistic
situation in which the property overshadows the identity of the individuals
involved. Transitive OSV and SOV are relational: they list elements, then state a
relation among them.

7.3.8 Emphatic stress and word order
The speaker can choose to mark one word with a stress distinctly louder than the
stresses on other words in the immediate vicinity. Emphatic stress can be used
˝ncle™ ∼ lz r
on words in different positions: r yfv lz ghbt[fk ˜to us came u
˝lz ˝lz
yfv ghbt[fk ∼ r yfv ghbt[fk lz 10
˝lz. Emphatic stress might seem to override the
function of word order. In actuality, word order retains its usual functions. With
emphatic stress, the speaker signals that this word is more informative than other
words. That is not the same as the function of word order, which is to suggest
a strategy for interpreting words together. The value of word order is preserved
when emphatic stress is used with different orders in analogous contexts. For
example, vtyz is stressed in both [29--30], but occupies a different word-order
position and has a different value in each:

[29] ˝
Vtyz gjkmcnbkj, xnj bvtyyj o vtyz s jy v ghbukfiftn.
I was ¬‚attered by the fact that I was being invited.
[30] ˝
Z ,sk ytgjvthyj ujhl b ljdjkty, xnj s jy v ds,hfk bvtyyj o vtyz d d cdjb
I was immeasurably proud and grati¬ed, that he had chosen me for his assistant.

10 Adamec 1966:69.
456 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Table 7.2 Basic word-order patterns of verb and major arguments

SV(X) hierarchical: given entity S, V(X) is s
Vfnm v dthyekfcm d cj cnfywbb
property ˜As for my mother, what she did was return
from the station.™
(X)VS situational (existential): establishes d
E yfc v tcnm s rehbwf.
relevance (existence) of S in X ˜By us remained a chicken.™

VS(X) situational (epic): establishes new d
Jlyf;ls v gj,sdfkf s jyf b d e yfc.
situation involving known S, or ˜It once happened that she spent time also
new property X of known S with us.™

SVO hierarchical: differentiates given entity s
Jyf v dpzkf o vtyz d yf ,fpfh.
S from property VO; links to prior ˜As for my mother, what she did was take
text through S me to the market.™
OVS hierarchical: differentiates given entity o
Vtyz v ;lfkj s hfpjxfhjdfybt.
O as basis from property VS; links ˜What happened to me was that I was met
to prior text through O by disappointment.™
SOV relational: given entities S and O, V s
Dct o vtyz v ckeifkb.
states relation between ˜As for everyone and me, what happened
was that they listened to me.™
OSV relational: given unexpected O, and (Bvtyyj) o vtyz s jy v ghbukfiftn.
given S, V states relation ˜What happened to me in particular with
him was that he invited me.™
VSO(X) situational: property V is situation v
Dcnhtnbk s jy o vtyz m [jkjlyj.
encompassing S and O; X focal ˜Then it happened that he met me in some
fashion, namely coldly.™
VOS situational: property V encompasses O; v
Jn[kjgjnfkf o vtyz s Trfnthbyf Gfdkjdyf
S = strong focus Gtirjdf.
˜Then it happened to me that I was saved by
someone, namely EPP.™

OV relational: VO states property o
Vtyz v njiybkj.
˜As for what happened to me, I was made

unspecified 3pl
OV relational: VO states property o
Vtyz v ddtkb d d yt,jkmie/ rjvyfne.
˜What happened to me was that I was led
into a small room.™

elliptical subject
VO hierarchical: equivalent to hierarchical s
Lfdsljdbx v eks,fkcz, v [kjgfk o vtyz d gj
SVO gktxe.
˜As for Davydovich, he smiled, and as for
that person, what he did was slap me.™
The presentation of information 457

With the pre-verbal object in [29], the sentence is about the individual and how
he was treated: ˜I was ¬‚attered that I was treated in this fashion™. In [30], the
issue is who was chosen: ˜I was grati¬ed by the fact that he chose a person who
turned out to be myself™. Even with emphatic stress, word-order patterns have
their usual values.

7.3.9 Word order within argument phrases
If considerable freedom is granted to the order of major constituents, word order
within argument phrases in prose writing and in speech is much less ¬‚exible.
As a rule, adjectives occur before the head noun, and genitives and other argu-
ments (of event nouns) occur after the head noun. Complex modi¬er phrases --
participles and adjective phrases in which the modi¬er has its own dependent
arguments -- can come in either order. Before the noun, they are more integrated.
After the noun, they are more detached, semantically and prosodically.
There is one class of modi¬ers that not infrequently comes after the noun, and
that is determiners -- demonstratives and possessive adjectives and existential
adjectives (rfrj
´q-nj). After a noun, such modi¬ers have weak stress. They have the
¬‚avor of an epithet that reminds the addressee of a property which the speaker
takes as known and established. In cgtrnfrkm yfi<pss> bvtk ,jkmijq ecgt[ ˜the
performance of ours had great success™, the speaker reminds the addressee that
the play being discussed is associated with the speaker.
When an ordinary adjective comes after its head noun, it imputes essential
reference to the phrase; [31] distinguishes one variety of the head noun from
other possible varieties:

[31] Pltcm yt yfikjcm n rjvyfns adj jnltkmyjq.
Here there was not to be found a room apart.11

7.3.10 Word order in speech
It is generally assumed that word order in speech differs from word order in
Speech often uses a distinctive construction in which two constituents of an
argument phrase -- adjective and noun, quanti¬er and noun -- are separated,
bracketing other material:12

[32] d
E vtyz adj rfrjq-nj v ,sk s ujl.
Quite the year I had.
[33] Rjivfh, o b[ [=nfhfrfyjd] d nfv v vyjuj . . . jq, blbnt ds r xthnjdjq ,f,eirt.
What a nightmare, of them [= cockroaches] there are a lot . . . Oh, go to hell!

11 Discussion: Schaller 1966:122, Bivon 1971:76 ([31], from Solzhenitsyn).
12 Analysis and extensive illustration in Zemskaia 1973.
458 A Reference Grammar of Russian

In the use of word-order patterns of major constituents, speech and writing
differ at least in preference. It seems that, in speech, speakers are more inclined
to view the world as relations among entities, expressed as bases before the
predicate, as in [34]:

[34] Jyf d ujl dhjlt d c эnbv vfkmxbrjv v dcnhtxftncz, jy tt yf nhb ujlf cnfhit,

<. . .> dct [jhjij, dct d rfqa. s Vfvf tuj o tt v j,j;ftn.
She for a year or so with this boy has been going out, he™s older than she is by
three years, <. . .> it™s all ¬ne, it™s cool. His mother adores her.

Here the speaker makes a list of the elements relevant to a situation -- subject
(jy’), temporal duration (uj a domain (c v’kmxbrjv). This inventory of entities
is tied together by the predicate at the end, which states how these elements are
related to each other -- in [34], they are all components of courtship: dcnhtx’tncz.
Similarly, the components of comparison in [34] are named before the predicative
cn’hit that states their relationship, and the mother and bride are named before
their relation is stated.
While SOXV is common in speech, this is not to say that SVD and SVO are
missing entirely from speech. They occur in narrative structured around the
deeds of the subject:

[35] Ye s vs v dthyekbcm d bp эnjuj rfymjyf / jgznm e;t cnfkj ntvytnm / s vs
hfp,bkb . . . jgznm o gfkfnrb

Well then we came back out of that canyon / it started to get dark again / we
broke out our tents again.

Evidently, word-order patterns have analogous values in speech and in writing,
but speech and writing have different preferences with respect to what they say.
Writing and narrative are more likely to hierarchize entity and predicate (SVO,
OVS), while speech and commentary prefer to list entities and then state the
relationship (SVO). The difference can be seen by comparing [36], a snippet of
conversation, and [37], the commentary provided by the speaker who transcribed
[36]. In the conversation ([36]), both objects come before the verb, while the
commentary uses SVDO order to report the same event ([37]):

[36] -- Dbnz, s ns d ,f,ekt o rjymzxrf v yfkbk?
Vitia, did you granny some cognac pour?
[37] s
Dbnz v yfkbdftn d Yfnfit o rjymzr.
Vitia pours for Natasha cognac.

What is different is the willingness, the predisposition, of speech to present the
world as relations of entities rather than as hierarchical statements of entity
and property.
The presentation of information 459

7.4 Negation

7.4.1 Preliminaries
Negation in Russian,13 as in other languages, is a powerful operator: it selects
out some word and its meaning and then forces one to consider alternatives. To
assert “not ” is to allow or even suggest that, under some other circumstances,
on some other occasion, in some other world, the opposite state of affairs might
hold instead. The signi¬cance of negation, then, is not merely that some situa-
tion is denied, but that we are forced to consider both alternatives at once.
Negation can apply to various parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives). Nega-
tion interacts with other processes such as case.

7.4.2 Distribution and scope of negation
Negation in Russian is generally local.14 To negate a constituent other than the
verb, the negative particle is placed next to the element itself.

[38] Gj heccrjve ecnyjve yfc эrpfvtyjdfk yt cnfhsq tot ghjatccjh Bdfy
For the oral examination in Russian, we were examined by the not old as yet
professor Ivan Nikanorovich.
[39] Uhb,s k/,zn hjlbnmcz gjl эnbv lthtdjv, f yt gjl ntv.
Mushrooms love to grow under this tree, but not under that one.
<. . .> bp yt cnjkm lfktrjuj ctkf
<. . .> from a not so distant village
[41] Z ghjxtk, ghjxtk lheujq hfp. Ahfps ,skb lkbyyst, d vjpue yt chfpe
I read it, read it again. The phrases were long; they did not ¬x into my brain
[42] Yfcnz gjt[fkf yt yf cnfywb/
, f d cjdthityyj lheue/ cnjhjye.
?Yfcnz yt gjt[fkf yf cnfywb/
Nastia went not to the station
, but in the completely opposite direction.
Nastia didn™t go to the station

One might note that, in English, negating the predicate can often be understood,
by synecdoche, to negate a constituent of the predicate phrase; thus it is possible,
even preferable, to translate [41] and [42] into English with verb negation. When
in Russian the negative particle is put next to the verb, it negates the verb, not
some constituent of the verb phrase.

[43] Jlye tuj ktrwb/ z yt pf,sk j Ahtqlt.
One of his lectures about Freud I have not forgotten.
13 14
Brown 1999[a] treats many aspects of negation. Dahl 1979.
460 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Only occasionally does negation of the verb seem to have force over an argument

[44] Эnb xbyjdybrb gjybvfkb, xnj d flvbybcnhfnjhf[ ljkuj yt ecblbim ,tp
dscjrjq extyjq cntgtyb.
These bureaucrats understood that you don™t stay long as an administrator
without a higher educational degree.

Russian is fond of negating both a modal auxiliary and its dependent in¬nitive:

[45] Z hfpkbxfk b jlby ujkjc, b dnjhjq, nht,jdfdibt, xnj,s z yt cgfk, yj z yt vju
yt cgfnm.
I made out one voice, and another, which were demanding that I not sleep, but I
could not help but sleep.

7.4.3 Negation and other phenomena

Negation and existential pronouns: Negative particles form two series of nega-
tive existential pronouns. Pronouns in yb(-) occur with a negated predicate, and
preclude any individual in a factual statement (§4.9.2). Another series of negative
pronouns, in y†(-), combine with in¬nitives, whose subject, if overtly expressed,
is dative. The construction denies the possibility that there could exist any pos-
sible entity that would ¬t in the predication (§5.10.5).

Negation and case: A negated transitive predicate often takes a genitive object
instead of the expected accusative (§5.4). The subjects of existential intransitive
predicates, which would otherwise be in the nominative, appear in the genitive
when the predicate is negated (§5.3).

Negation and predicatives: Negating a copular sentence with a predicative noun
is very likely to produce an instrumental case in the noun, for the reason that
negation limits the validity of the state and invites the consideration of the
alternative polarity in some other world (˜not in this time-world, but possibly
in another time-world™). The validity of the state is then limited; the instrumental
occurs naturally with states that are bounded (§5.2.5).

Negation and complementizers: Negation has an af¬nity with irrealis modality
and essentialist reference of entities. As a consequence, negating a matrix pred-
icate of speech (thought, belief, attitude), as in [46], sometimes elicits xnj,s --
the irrealis conjunction -- in place of xnj in complement clauses.

15 Besters-Dilger 1988:271--80.
The presentation of information 461

[46] Z yt gjvy/, xnj,s yfi cfl ,sk rjulf-yb,elm gj cfljdjlxtcrbv ghfdbkfv
I don™t recall that our garden was ever tended according to the rules of

The special properties of negation derive from the fact that negation is an opera-
tor that proposes alternatives, thereby raising the question of which alternatives
are to be considered; even as negation proposes one thing, it implies the immi-
nent possibility of the opposite.

7.5 Questions

7.5.1 Preliminaries
Questions, along with imperatives, are the most overt form of interaction be-
tween the partners of the speech dyad.16 It is reasonable to distinguish between
content questions and polarity questions. Just as some assertions can be taken
as commands or requests, some assertions have the force of questions.

7.5.2 Content questions
Content questions are formed with one of the interrogative-inde¬nite pronouns,
rnj ˜who™, xnj ˜what™, rjul’ ˜when™, and so on.
´ ´

[47] Jnrelf dtpkb? xnj dtpkb? relf dtpkb? rjve dtpkb?
From where were they carrying them? What were they carrying? To where? To

While rjnj ´hsq has become the most general relative pronoun, as an interroga-
tive it is still restricted to selecting out one individual from a pair or limited

[48] Yf hjkm ,skj ldt rfylblfnrb -- Cjyz b lheufz ltdeirf. Rjnjhfz kexit?
There were two candidates for the role -- Sonya and another girl. Which was

Usually the question word comes at the front of the clause ([49]), but it need
not, if the question can be anticipated -- for example, as part of an exam or
interview ([50]). As an echo or con¬rmation question, the question word can
come last ([50]):

[49] Where did you study?
Ult ds exbkbcm?
[50] Where was it you studied?
Ds ult exbkbcm?
[51] Where did you say you studied?
Ds exbkbcm ult?

16 Restan 1972, recently Comrie 1984; on negation and questions, see Brown 1999[b].
462 A Reference Grammar of Russian

It is possible, more easily in Russian than English, to use two interrogative
pronouns in one sentence ([52--53]):17

[52] Rnj b rjulf bpj,htk rjvgm/nthye/ vsim?
Who invented the computer mouse and when?
[53] “changed”: Erfpfybt, rnj b rjulf gjcktlybq hfp vtyzk lfyye/ fyrtne.
“changed”: an indication of who made the last change in the form, and when.

Multiple questions can be understood to have a single answer (as in [52], where
the perfective bpj,htk<pf> implies a single event) or a distributive set of answers
(in [53], the imperfective vtyzk<if> implies iteration, hence one person for each
occasion). Both question words can be positioned at the front of the clause
([52--53] above) or one can be left internal to the clause ([54--55]):

[54] Who was it, and when, that invented the
Rnj bpj,htk b rjulf
computer mouse?
rjvgm/nthye/ vsim?
[55] Who was it that invented the computer
Rnj bpj,htk rjvgm/nthye/
mouse, and when?
vsim b rjulf?

7.5.3 Polarity questions and answers
Yes--no, or polarity, questions in spoken Russian are formed by preserving the
word order expected for an assertion while using question intonation, normally
IC3 , focused on one constituent. Focused on the verb, IC3 questions the verb or
the whole situation ([56]):

T3 cnm gfgrb tot?
Are there any more folders?
Jy nfv cdjtq vfibys yt bvt3 tn?
Doesn™t he have his own car there?

If the focal syllable is another constituent, the question focuses on that con-

F: Эnj ndjt3 ifvgfycrjt?
[58] Is that your champagne?
No, mine™s in the refrigerator.
V: Ytn, vjt d [jkjlbkmybrt.

In written Russian, polarity questions can be constructed as in spoken Russian,
by presuming the intonation contour that would be used in speech. Polarity

17 Multiple questions in Slavic have attracted attention for some time (Rudin 1988), in large part
because they seem to violate the long-standing assumption in formal syntax that question words
must be placed in a unique, privileged (structurally de¬ned) position at the front of the clause.
The tradition has since come to the view that the initial position of the question word is motivated
not by notational necessity, but (in effect) by discourse (Strahov 2001).
The presentation of information 463

questions can also be marked with the particle kb in written (or bookish oral)
Russian. The particle is placed after the constituent that is questioned, which
occurs at the beginning of the clause. After a verb, kb questions whether the
event or state as a whole occurs or exists:
[59] K/,bkf kb jyf vtyz? Rf;tncz, nj;t k/,bkf.
Did she love me? It seemed she loved me too.

After another part of speech, kb questions whether that particular part of the
information is correct -- the time frame in [60], the cause in [61], the quanti¬er
in [62]:
[60] Crf;bnt, f lfdyj kb ds pfve;tv?
Tell me, is it a long time you have been married?
[61] Vs epyfkb, xnj tuj gjcflbkb. Pf xnj? Yt pf hfcghjcnhfytybt kb cnb[jd
We learned that he had been sent to prison. For what? Was it not for distributing
the poems of Gumilev?
[62] Vyjuj kb xtkjdtre ye;yj?
Is it much that a person needs?

The particle kb makes indirect questions that can be used as arguments; for
example, the question clause is the subject of a predicative in [63]:
[63] <elen kb hfccnhtkbdfnm pfkj;ybrjd bkb ytn -- jcnfdfkjcm ytbpdtcnysv.
Whether they would shoot the hostages or not remained uncertain.

Answers to polarity questions vary in length and explicitness. The response
can be minimal, consisting of just a polarity word, lf ˜yes™ or ytn ˜no™. Or the
focal word that is questioned can be repeated,

[64] Should the tablets go here, yes? Alena?
V: Nf,ktnrb c/lf, lf? Fktyf?
Hm? The tablets yes.
F: F? Nf,ktnrb lf.
[65] I can™t paint it. The color I cannot
Y: Z yt vjue tt rhfcbnm. Djn wdtn
z gjvtyznm yt vjue.
B Эnj d ljdthtyyjcnb jujdjhtyj? Is that stipulated in the permit?
Yes, stipulated.
Y: Lf, jujdjhtyj.

Or much of the syntax of the question can be repeated, with or without a polarity

[66] You have a plot there, yes?
K: E dfc exfcnjr tcnm nfv, lf?
There is a plot. Something™s growing there.
F: Tcnm exfcnjr. Hfcntn xnj-nj d
ytv. Vfnm pfybvftncz . . . Mother tends it.
Are there tomatoes already?
K: Gjvbljhs e;t tcnm?
And there are already tomatoes.
F: B gjvbljhs e;t tcnm.
464 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Negation interacts with questions in a subtle fashion. In asking a positive
question, the speaker makes no presumption about the answer. But in asking a
question using a negated verb, the speaker indicates that the positive situation is
expected, or hoped for, or imagined, despite the real possibility that the negative
situation obtains. Thus yt elfkjcm kb rjve-yb,elm epyfnm ˜has no one succeeded
in ¬nding out™ suggests that the speaker suspects the situation might be true --
that someone has learned the answer. In response to such negated questions,
speakers usually respond to the positive sense that the question would have with-
out negation. Thus a positive answer means the situation under discussion is
true, con¬rming the underlying positive possibility (in [67], yes, consistent with
your suspicion, there will be isolation), and a negative answer means that the
situation is not true (in [68], no, contrary to your suspicion, service will not go

[67] -- Yt gjkexbncz kb nfr, xnj dfif ahfrwbz jcnfytncz d jlbyjxtcndt, f эnjn cj/p
dc= hfdyj cjcnjbncz?
-- Lf, эnj djpvj;yj.
-- Will it not happen that your party will remain isolated, but the union will take
place anyway?
-- Yes, this is possible.
[68] -- Yt e[elibncz kb rfxtcndj ntktajyyjq cdzpb gjckt ecnfyjdrb ghjuhfvvs?
-- Ytn, yt e[elibncz.
-- Will not the quality of the telephone connection deteriorate after installation of
the program?
-- No, it will not.

Sometimes, however, negation seems genuine, as can be indicated by phrases
such as yfd†hyjt ˜most likely™, rjy†xyj ˜of course™. The speaker wants to con¬rm
that the negative situation holds. Then the addressee responds with lf and a
negative verb to con¬rm the ¬rst speaker™s negative prediction -- ˜yes, as you say,
it is true that not ™ ([69]):

[69] -- Ns rjytxyj d chjr ybrfr -- You of course will never ¬nish by the
e;t yt rjyxbim?
-- Lf, yfdthyj yt rjyxe. --Yes, no doubt I won™t ¬nish.

To dispute the speaker™s negative prediction, the second speaker responds with
ytn and a verb of positive polarity, with the sense of ˜no, au contraire, it is true
that ™ ([70--71]).18

18 Discussion: Zemskaia 1973:364 ([70]).
The presentation of information 465

[70] -- Ns rjytxyj d chjr ybrfr -- You of course will never ¬nish by the
e;t yt rjyxbim?
-- Ytn / z gjcnfhf/cm. -- No / I™ll make an effort.
[71] -- Jyb, yfdthyjt, yt gjyzkb --They most likely didn™t understand
-- Ytn, ds pyftnt, gjyzkb, -- No, you know, they understood, some
of them even understood quite well.
ytrjnjhst lf;t jxtym gjyzkb.

Polarity operators not only apply to the literal words of the previous question,
but can respond to questions that the speaker anticipates.19 In [72], the speaker
responds not by listing the songs but to the implicit question of whether she
can remember what was sung.

[72] Xnj vs njulf gtkb? Ytn, эnj dcgjvybnm ytdjpvj;yj.
What did we used to sing then? No, that™s impossible to remember.

The polarity words lf and (less usually) ytn can be inserted in many places in
an utterance to focus the question on a speci¬c constituent, as in [73]:20

[73] Yf gthdjv / lf? ye;yj t[fnm.
On number one [tram] / yes? we need to ride.

Lf, especially, is used initially in utterances to remind the addressee of what
the speaker takes to be an obvious truth:

[74] -- I brought them some cookies by the way
Y: Z bv gtxtymt ghbytckf
vt;le ghjxbv ctujlyz.
F: -- Rjve? -- To whom?
-- To the guys [of course]!
Y: Lf ve;brfv!
[75] F: --Nfr, f pfxtv egfrjdrf lkz -- So, what is this egg-packing material for? Is
zbw, vj;yj epyfnm? эnj it necessary?
D: -- Lf ytn. -- Well no.

In this way lf can even combine with ytn, as in [75].

7.6 Lexical information operators

7.6.1 Conjunctions
The all-purpose conjunction b combines pairs (or multiples) of analogous el-
ements: argument phrases (njkmrj vjz vfnm b ctcnhf Cjyz ˜just my mother
and sister Sonia™), adjectives (jlyj bp cfvs[ e/nys[ b ;bdjgbcys[ ctk ˜one of
19 20
Rakhilina 1990. Zemskaia 1973:362.
466 A Reference Grammar of Russian

the most pleasant and picturesque villages™), and predicates (cnfhe[f pfcbzkf b
djcrkbryekf ˜the old lady beamed and exclaimed™). When b applies only to one
element x, it indicates that it is surprising that this single element x participates,
given the participation of other elements: D cnhf[t ;bk b z ˜In terror lived I as
well™. Put before the initial element as well as the second, it emphasizes the
unexpected participation of both: jlbyfrjdj ghtpbhftvst b ,jkmitdbrfvb, b
,tcgfhnbqyjq vfccjq ˜detested equally both by the Bolsheviks and by the party-
less masses™.
Lf adds an additional element or property, one which is not entirely expected
or one which is a concession: Rfr ybult yt xbckzobqcz, lf tot yt xkty ghjacj/pf
z yt bvtk ybrfrjuj ghfdf [kjgjnfnm j ,/kktntyt ˜As someone who was never
of¬cially registered for work, not to mention not a member of a union, I had no
right to seek a medical dispensation™. Stylistically it is conversational to folksy.
Bkb ˜or™ likewise applies to various kinds of elements -- predicates (Jy yt
gjyzk bkb cjpyfntkmyj jndthu ktybycrbt bltb ˜He did not understand or delib-
erately rejected Leninist ideas™), adverbs (,scnhtt bkb vtlktyytt ˜more quickly
or more slowly™), arguments (k/,jq ghtlctlfntkm rjk[jpf bkb lbhtrnjh cjd[jpf
˜any chairman of the kolkhoz or director of a sovkhoz™). The proposition holds
of at least one of the two elements, quite possibly both. When bkb is repeated
before both elements, it forces the exclusive (disjunctive) reading: {fys Chtlytq
Fpbb bkb dsgecrfkb pfkj;ybrjd, bkb ,tp dczrjuj celf evthodkzkb ˜The khans
of Central Asia would either release the hostages or put them to death with-
out any trial™. Kb,j serves similar functions in a more portentous style: <hfrb
pfrfyxbdfkbcm kb,j hfpdjljv, kb,j cvthnm/ ve;f d n/hmvt ˜Marriages would
end either in divorce, or with the husband™s death in prison™.
The emphatic negative operator yb, which is used to make a series of negative
existential pronouns such as ybrnj ˜no one™, can be applied to constituents other
than a pronoun, when it emphatically precludes the participation of that ele-
ment (yb jlyj z´q ´ujls in [76]). Doubled, the combination yb . . . yb . . . conjoins
and emphatically rejects both of two possible elements ([76]):

[76] Reifqnt crjkmrj [jnbnt, yj yb d rfhvfy, yb d cevre yb jlyjq zujls.
Eat as much as you want, but not into your pocket, not into your bag, not a single

7.6.2 Contrastive conjunctions
Yj and f create contrasts.21 Yj presumes or imputes a general rule which some
particular situation or individual does not follow; the fact that it does not is

21 Silukova 1968, Babiuch 1985, Sannikov 1989.
The presentation of information 467

noteworthy. In [77], a brief acquaintance by general rule would imply a super¬-
cial friendship, but not in this instance. In [78], the individual dog Black is an
exception to the general treatment of dogs.

[77] Z pyfk Bujhz Dkflbvbhjdbxf vtytt ujlf, yj [jhjij.
I knew Igor Vladimirovich less than a year, but well.
[78] J[hfyybrb gthtcnhtkzkb dct[ cj,fr, yj <kэr e,t;fk.
The guards shot all dogs, but Black ran away.

Yj, then, differentiates a speci¬c individual or situation from a general rule.
The conjunction f takes for granted a background situation in which an in-
dividual has a certain property, from which one might expect other individuals
to have the same property. Contrary to this expectation, insists f, the property
has the opposite polarity for another individual. In [79], the kolkhoz survived in
one village, but not in another nearby village.

[79] D ctkt K/,tw, ult z ctqxfc ;bde, rjk[jp ewtktk. F d ctkt Rjnjdt, ult z ;bk
njulf, rjk[jp chfpe hfpdfkbkcz.
In the village of Liubets, where I live now, the kolkhoz survived. But in the village
of Kotovo, where I lived then, the kolkhoz immediately fell apart.

Often the contrast is made explicit by yt . . ., f . . . -- in [80], one time frame as
opposed to another:

[80] D cdjtq cnfnmt Pbyjdmtd ,tp rfrb[-kb,j ljrfpfntkmcnd endth;lfk, xnj vbhjdfz
htdjk/wbz yfcnegbn yt ghjcnj crjhj, f d njv ;t ujle, d ,kb;fqibt vtczws,
lf;t xthtp ytltk/.
In his article, Zinovev without any proof asserted that world revolution would
arrive not just soon but in that very year, in the coming months, even in a week.

Thus yj differentiates one instance (usually a situation) from a general rule,
while f contrasts one speci¬c instance (usually an entity) from another analogous

7.6.3 Nfr;t, nj;t
N’r;t and nj both say that something under discussion now, whether an en-
tity or a situation, is similar to something that is already known. (The similarity
can be explicit and known in advance, or it can be imputed retroactively by the
new utterance.) At the same time, the similarity of the new to the given is not
entirely expected and is worthy of note.22
22 A rich literature, though lacking consensus: Boguslawski 1969, Dahl 1969, Paducheva 1974[a],
1979 ([88]), 1991 ([85]), Gundel 1977, Lubensky 1982 ([89]), Sussex 1982, Chojnacka 1985, Girke
1985, Yokoyama 1986 (306--26; [94], from Gvozdev). A clearer picture results if the opposition is
phrased in terms of polarity (of a property) vs. a list (of entities).
468 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Nj operates on entities. It presumes or imputes a background in which one
individual has a certain property, and allows or invites the expectation that
other individuals would not also have that property. Against this background,
´;t asserts that, contrary to possible expectations, another individual shares
the property in question. Nj ´;t, usually stressed, occurs after the constituent on
which it operates, usually an argument phrase that comes before the verb. That
argument can be the subject ([81]), the subject of an existential predicate ([82]),
or a pre-verbal object ([83]):

[81] Dct jhfkb, b z nj;t jhfk: ¤Ljkjq Rfhfgtnzyf!≥
Everyone shouted, and I also shouted, “Down with Karapetian!”
[82] Rjydthnjd nj;t yt ,skj.
There were no envelopes as well.
[83] Yf cktle/obq ltym zdbkbcm tot ldt ctvmb c vfksvb ltnrfvb, b[ nj;t
hfpvtcnbkb d ,e[ufknthbb.
The next day there appeared two other families with small children, and they as
well were put into the of¬ce.

The domain of an existential or modal predicate:

[84] Jn njq wthrdb ntgthm nj;t yt jcnfkjcm b cktlf.
Of that church as well there remained no trace.
[85] Vyt nj;t ye;ty ,bktn.
I also need a ticket.

Or even the occasions for events (in [86], a series of attempted meetings):

[86] Nhb;ls z tplbk d Ktybyuhfl, cnhtvbkcz c ybv dcnhtnbnmcz, tuj yt pfcnfdfk.
Ldf;ls, dj dhtvz tuj ghbtpljd d Vjcrde, gsnfkcz r ytve ghj,bnmcz, yj nj;t
Three times I went to Leningrad, I tried to meet with him, I couldn™t ¬nd him.
Twice, during his trips to Moscow, I tried to get to see him, but also without

The predicate need not be repeated:

[87] Dct pfcvtzkbcm, b Jrcfyf nj;t.
Everyone burst out laughing, and so did Oksana.

´;t, with weak stress, can be applied to properties if they are treated as
elements in a set of possible properties:

[88] ˝djr nj;t.
Jy ,sk evty, yj jy ,sk b kj Ÿ
He was intelligent, but he was clever as well.
The presentation of information 469

´;t usually follows immediately after an argument phrase, but not always.
Additional possibilities, with interpretive glosses, are given in [89], which pre-
sumes a situation in which Vitia will arrive and Misha may or may not do

Vitia will come in the evening and
± ± 
Dbnz ghbltn dtxthjv b
Vbif nj;t ghbltn dtxthjv as for Misha -- he also will come this evening 
  
Vbif ghbltn nj;t dtxthjv . as for Misha™s arrival -- that will also happen this evening .
Vbif ghbltn dtxthjv nj;t as for Misha™s arrival this evening -- that will also happen
  

Nj operates on the individual (V«if) and any intervening constituents; what-
ever remains to the right of nj ´;t is the property on which the comparison
hangs -- for instance, in b Vbif ghbltn nj;t dtxthjv, it is Misha™s arrival speci-
¬cally in the evening that makes the situation similar to that with Vitia. When
nj is ¬nal, at issue is the similarity of whole facts -- Vitia™s evening arrival and
Misha™s evening arrival.
While nj operates on entities in a list, n’r;t operates on situations. N’r;t
presumes (or imputes) a background in which a property holds of an individual.
N’r;t evokes and then disputes the expectation that no other related property
holds. What stays constant and what contrasts depends on context. Four cases
can be distinguished.
Most transparently, an additional related property is said to hold of one indi-

[90] Dkflbvbh gbcfk nfv gtqpf;b, b jy nfr;t cltkfk bkk/cnhfwbb r ldev bkb
nhtv rybufv.
Vladimir drew landscapes, and he also did illustrations to two or three books.

In [90], two kinds of endeavors are compared and contrasted. In this use, n’r;t
follows the argument and precedes the predicate stating the new property.
In a second construction, n’r;t comes between a preceding verb and a follow-
ing argument. The effect is to assert that the background situation is not limited
to individuals named in the prior context, but includes another individual; it is
the fact of the existence of another individual, of a certain type, that is the new,
surprising situation. In [91], the dinner company includes, surprisingly, a captive
of¬cer. In [92], the possessions of the uncle include, surprisingly, cobbler™s tools.

[91] Pf j,tltyysv cnjkjv cbltk nfr;t gktyysq fdcnhbqcrbq jabwth Pfkmwvfy,
rjnjhsq ,sk ghtrhfcysv crhbgfxjv. Jy lfdfk ehjrb vepsrb ltdjxrfv
At the dinner table there also sat a captured Austrian of¬cer Salzmann, who was
a superb violinist. He gave music lessons to the Bobrinsky girls.
470 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[92] Lzlz ghbdtp c cj,jq dtob, crjkmrj vju pf[dfnbnm, jlt;le b j,edm, ghbdtp
nfr;t zobr c cfgj;ysvb bycnhevtynfvb. Jy cj,bhfkcz gthtvtybnm
/hblbxtcre/ rfhmthe yf cfgj;yjt htvtckj.
My uncle brought as many things with him as he could, such as clothing and
footwear. He also brought a box with cobbler™s tools. He intended to trade his
legal career for the cobbler™s trade.

The newly introduced individuals become the topic of the subsequent dis-
course (Salzmann and his music lessons; the uncle™s aspirations to being a
Third, n’r;t, presuming a situation in which a property holds of an indi-
vidual x, says that an analogous property holds of an analogous individual
x . What is of interest is that the second situation holds at all. In [93], Kostia™s
confessions are compared to the author™s.

[93] Gjcntgtyyj vs hfpjnrhjdtyybxfkbcm. Z hfccrfpfk Rjcnt j cdjtv ckfdyjv
ryz;tcrjv hjlt. Hfccrfpfk, xnj c ltncndf vtxnf/ ,snm gbcfntktv <. . .> B
Rjcnz nfr;t hfpjnrhjdtyybxfkcz, hfccrfpfk, xnj hjl Vfifhjds[ cnfhbyysq
regtxtcrbq bp ujhjlf Nj,jkmcrf.
Gradually we opened up. I told Kostia about my glorious princely clan. Told him,
that from childhood I have dreamed of being a writer <. . .> And Kostia also
opened up, saying the Masharovs were an old merchant clan from Tobolsk.

Here n’r;t is used after the subject.
With respect to such examples, when analogous properties hold of two in-
dividuals, it is often said that nj
´;t and n’r;t are interchangeable, with only
the stylistic difference that n’r;t is formal, bookish, while nj
´;t is said to be

[94] nj;t
Ctcnhf jnkbxybwf, b csy [jhjij exbncz.
Sister™s an outstanding student, and brother also does well.

Still, there is a difference. Nj imputes a set of students who perform well and
asserts that the set is not limited to the one previously known individual (sister).
N’r;t in this context compares the existence of situations, emphasizing that it
is noteworthy that the second exists at all: not only is one fact true (about sister),
but as if that were not enough, a similar fact can be reported (about brother).
They are close, but not identical in value.
A fourth, idiomatic use of n’r;t is the phrase f n’r;t added to an argument
in a phrase in which one or more entities are already listed ([95]):
The presentation of information 471

[95] Dkflbvbh, Kbyf, f nfr;t Fkmrf <j,hbycrfz et[fkb d Vjcrde.
Vladimir, Lina, and also Alka Bobrinsky left for Moscow.

In summary, nj starts with the observation that an individual has a certain
property, and counters the possible presumption that no other individuals have
that property: the property is held constant, and entities are contrasted. (By ex-
tension, properties can be treated as elements in a list of possible properties,
and contrasted in the same way.)23 N’r;t, in contrast, compares and contrasts
situations. With n’r;t, the fact that the initial situation holds at all might seem
to preclude any further related situation, but in fact -- insists n’r;t -- another
related situation holds as well. Often the new situation is a new property of the
same individual ([90]), but there are other possibilities. N’r;t can establish the
existence of a new entity, de¬ned in essential terms ([91]), or establish the ex-
istence of an unexpected parallel event ([93]). When, unusually, the constituent
directly affected by n’r;t is an argument phrase, n’r;t does not merely con-
trast two known individuals, which is the purview of nj ´;t, but compares two
situations which hold of two different individuals ([94]).

7.6.4 :t
The particle ;t, frequently used in colloquial Russian, presumes (or imputes)
a background situation of a certain polarity; the particle then asserts that the
actual polarity is the opposite of the presumed polarity.24 For example, in [96]
the addressee presumes a certain property (availability to serve as guide); the
response with ;t counters that expectation.

[96] -- Ds vyt gjrf;tnt <jkmijq ntfnh?
-- Z ;t gthdsq ltym d Vjcrdt!
-- Will you show me the Bolshoi?
-- [But] I™m [only] in Moscow for the ¬rst day.

:t is used frequently to insist that the identity of some entity is truly this
one (indeed x), either as opposed to the contrary expectation that this speci¬c
individual would not be involved (rather than not x) or as opposed to other
possible entities (rather than x or x ). In [97], the speaker con¬rms that these
UV rays are indeed the culprit, lest one think otherwise:
23 This analysis extends to two unusual examples cited in Paducheva 1991. In Pushkin™s D Gjkmie
c(tplbk z nj;t ˜To Poland went I as well™, whole events -- journeys -- are listed and compared. In
Gorky™s Vfvf jxtym gkfxtn . . . , ,jkmyfz gjnjve xnj b pkfz nj;t ˜Mama cries a lot, she™s sick is
why, and foul-tempered as well™, properties become elements in a list.
24 Vasilyeva (n.d.:54) ([96]) says ;t means “insistent emphasis on the indisputability of a fact.” Rath-
mayr (1985:254) suggests that ;t signals “an appeal to that which is already known in supple-
mentary motivations (explanations, commentaries, justi¬cations) of verbal or non-verbal acts.”
472 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[97] Kexb UVB yfv bpdtcnys. Bvtyyj ,kfujlfhz bv yf rj;t gjzdkztncz pfufh, jyb
;t zdkz/ncz ghbxbyjq j;jujd.
Ultraviolet-B rays are familiar. It is because of them that the skin tans, it is they
that are the cause of burns.

It is this sense that is the basis for the usage of ;t in various idiomatic phrases:
d g†hdsq ;t l†ym ˜on the very ¬rst day™, nfrj ;t ˜exactly such a™, n©n ;t ˜right
there™, rjul’ ;t ˜and when indeed™, gjxtv© ;t ˜why indeed™.

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