Biaspectual Verbs in the Russian Language

Summer 2016

Emma Wilcox : Linguistics

Mentor: Gary Holland

Aspect is very pervasive in the Russian language. One definition of aspect can be taken from renowned Russian linguist, Roman Jakobson: aspect “deals with temporal values inherent in the activity or state itself.” With the exception of a few, Russian verbs express imperfective and perfective aspect in pairs. Imperfective aspect is considered to be the basic part of the pair, working without special morphology whereas perfective aspect is achieved by means of prefixation. An imperfective/perfective pair such as chitat’– prochitat’ (to read – to complete the action of reading) is a typical example of these Russian verbs. However, there exists a group of verbs that can express both imperfective and perfective aspect without morphological modification, that is, without any prefixation. These verbs are called biaspectual. A small minority of these verbs are of Slavic origin, but the vast majority are borrowings. My summer research will focus on looking at and analyzing a sample of recent borrowings in corpus. The questions that I hope to answer are: What is special about these verbs? How do they behave in the language? Why do they resist morphological modification? Conducting this research will help shed light on the phenomenon of biaspectual verbs which to this day present a problem for Slavic scholars. Understanding the phenomenon of biaspectuality will deepen our understanding of aspect in Russian and potentially other Slavic languages.

I want to thank my faculty mentor Gary Holland for his support and advice. He has provided invaluable insights into my research and will be instrumental in seeing me successfully turn it into an Honor’s thesis. I want to extend my gratitude to professor Darya Kavitskaya who inspired me to do this research when I was a student in one of her classes. I want to thank Surf and Wishek Foundation for giving me an amazing opportunity to immerse myself academically in a subject I love.