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LINGUIST List 20.3310

Thu Oct 01 2009

Diss: Morphology/Semantics: Lashevskaja: 'Nestandartnoje Chislovoje...'

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        1.    Olga Lashevskaja, Nestandartnoje Chislovoje Povedenije Russkix Suschestvitel'nyx [Non-Standard Semantics of Russian Nominal Number]

Message 1: Nestandartnoje Chislovoje Povedenije Russkix Suschestvitel'nyx [Non-Standard Semantics of Russian Nominal Number]
Date: 30-Sep-2009
From: Olga Lashevskaja <olesarmail.ru>
Subject: Nestandartnoje Chislovoje Povedenije Russkix Suschestvitel'nyx [Non-Standard Semantics of Russian Nominal Number]
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Institution: All-Russia Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI)
Program: Theoretical Foundations of Computer Science
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1999

Author: Olga N. Lashevskaja

Dissertation Title: Nestandartnoje Chislovoje Povedenije Russkix Suschestvitel'nyx [Non-Standard Semantics of Russian Nominal Number]

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

Subject Language(s): Russian (rus)

Dissertation Director:
Elena V Paducheva

Dissertation Abstract:

The present study suggests a view according to which substantive number is
a lexically specified (rather than purely morphological) category. The
addition of the plurality component to the basic lexical meaning may result
in various - although predictable - interpretations of plural forms (the
phenomenon called 'semantic effects' in Corbett (Number, 2000). Among these
interpretations are 'pair' plural (ruki 'hands'), 'sort' plural (vina
'wines'), 'reciprocal' plural (druz'ja 'friends' in Druz'ja davno ne
videlis' 'The friends have not seen each other for a long time'),
'associative' plural (lidery 'leaders, i.e. the leader and those who are
next to him' in Lidery gonki - Shumaxer i Barikello 'The race leaders are
Schumacher and Barrichello') etc.

The notion of plurality may come into conflict with the semantics of
uncountable (mass) nouns. As a result, one can observe either the lack of
plural forms (cf. kislorod 'oxygen') or a kind of modification of lexical
meaning (cf. the above-mentioned 'sort' plurals). In this study we continue
a tradition which relates the count/mass contrast to the lexical semantics
of nouns. This idea was originally proposed by J.McCawley (Lexicography and
the count-mass distinction, 1975) and further developed by A.Wierzbicka
(Semantics of Grammar, 1988). The latter showed that formal characteristics
of nouns in respect to the count/mass distinction may be traced back to how
the items denoted by a noun are conceptualized and depend on such
parameters as their size, the way in which these items are used etc. While
Wierzbicka only used the vocabulary of vegetables (in Russian and in
English) to prove her conclusions, we examine the motivation of the
semantics of plural forms in a number of other lexical classes including
names of substances and aggregate sets, terms for various kinds of food,
plants, clothes, and texts, spatial nouns, nominalizations of motion verbs,
etc. The number of items involved in this study exceeds 1000 nouns.

Perhaps, any theory arguing for the existence of a semantic motivation for
the distribution of number forms may be challenged by pluralia tantum mass
nouns such as kanctovary 'stationery', otxody 'waste', slivki 'cream',
par'y 'exhalation' (cf. also English guts, brains etc.). We suggest that in
this case the choice of a number form may also be related to factors of
purely morphological and lexicon-structure nature (including the
derivational model of a word and its possible polysemy, which occasionally
affect a number model).

Curiously, the inconstancy of nouns in respect of the count/mass
distinction seems to be much more widespread than it was often assumed a
priori. We observe also the lability of nouns in respect to the semantic
contrast between 'simple objects' and 'complex objects'; cf. the variation
between kraj / kraja 'edge(s)', bereg / berega 'shore(s)', nitka / nitki
'thread(s)', shnurok / shnurki 'lace(s)' etc. A particular interest has
been drawn to those contexts where the singular and plural forms are
interchangeable (as in Po kraju / krajam fontana stojali statui 'There were
statues along the edges / edge of the fountain'). Various conceptual and
structural reasons for such neutralization of the number opposition have
been determined. Besides, we touched upon the interaction of semantics,
pragmatics and syntax during the choice of number forms within the context
of distributive utterances; e.g., Vse povernuli golovu / golovy v storony
dveri (lit. 'All [of them] turned [their] heads / a head towards the door'.

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