A unifying approach to impersonality in Russian

Katrin Schlund
  • Zeitschrift für Slawistik, March 2018, De Gruyter
  • DOI: 10.1515/slaw-2018-0007

Impersonal constructions in Russian form a formally and functionally determined homogeneous network

What is it about?

The article analyzes Russian constructions that are all characterized by a common feature: lack of a nominative subject and agreement between finite verbal predicate and subject. It turns out that this formal property is very well motivated on semantic grounds: All these constructions lack a typical subject that is in control of an action and in the center of communicative attention.

Why is it important?

The article shows that there is a relationship between form and meaning in a particular subset of Russian grammar that is not merely arbitrary (contrary to traditional assumptions in linguistics). The ideas are developed in such a way that they can be useful for the analysis of impersonal constructions in many other languages of the Indo-European language family.


Katrin Schlund (Author)
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany

Working on this article revealed to me that a great number of rules which I simply had to accept as a student of Russian and other Slavic languages are actually motivated by semantic factors. This made this particular part of Russian grammar a lot more understandable. I was also fascinated by the coherence of the category of "impersonality" in Slavic languages (and beyond).

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The following have contributed to this page: Katrin Schlund