The semantics of the so-called “empty” prefix вы- in natural perfective verbs in the Russian language
The present work investigates the semantics of the Russian prefix вы- in so-called natural perfective verbs. Traditionally it is considered that prefixes of natural perfective verbs do not change the meaning of the base verb and thus do not have lexical meaning, i.e. they are “empty”. The only meaning they are supposed to have is the meaning “to bring an action to the end”, which is claimed to be a “purely aspectual” meaning. In the present work, we argue that verbal prefixes have lexical meaning. We use the apparatus of cognitive linguistics and Construction Grammar to defend our argument. With the help of cognitive semantics we show that the meanings of the вы- prefixes of the natural perfectives are interrelated. We accommodate all the meanings in a coherent network. It is furthermore shown that the meaning “to bring an action to the end” is a part of this network, and thus it is a lexical and not “purely aspectual” meaning. The idea behind “empty” prefixes is that they are devoid of content because the prefixed verb has the same lexical meaning as the corresponding non-prefixed verb. However, we propose that the prefix have a lexical meaning, but that this meaning is “masked” because it repeats the meaning of the verb stem. In our analysis of constructions we argue that the meaning of the prefix is always repeated somewhere else in the construction – either in the semantics of the verb stem or in a preposition phrase. Proponents of “empty” prefixes would therefore be forced to maintain the slightly absurd position that the prefix is always empty. In this way, our analysis contributes to solving the problem of “empty” prefixes.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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