The History of the Russian Semelfactive: The Development of a Radial Category
This paper explores the history of suffixed semelfactive verbs in Russian, i.e., verbs like maxnut’ ‘wave once’ with the nu suffix. It is argued that the semelfactive aktionsart is best analyzed as a radial category organized around a prototype with four properties: uniformity, instantaneousness, non-resultativity, and single occurrence, which are defined and discussed in the article. I go on to demonstrate that there is a small group of verbs denoting bodily acts that meet these criteria in the Old Church Slavonic texts, thus suggesting the existence of an embryonic version of the semelfactive aktionsart in Common Slavic. Although the cue validity of nu as a marker of semelfactivity remains stable, in Old Russian nu with semelfactive meaning is shown to spread to auditory verbs, optical verbs and verbs of physical movement, which are argued to constitute a radial category organized around prototypical bodily acts. This gradual expansion through the lexicon continues in Contemporary Standard Russian; in particular a number of semelfactive behavior verbs have emerged, although many of them are of low frequency.
PublisherSlavica Publishers Inc.
CitationJournal of Slavic Linguistics 21(2013) nr. 1 s. 123-169
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