LINGUIST List 6.1288

Thu Sep 21 1995

Sum: Russian Morphology

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Josh Rotenberg, Summary: Russian Morphology

Message 1: Summary: Russian Morphology

Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 18:07:28 Summary: Russian Morphology
From: Josh Rotenberg <>
Subject: Summary: Russian Morphology

I recently posted a question concerning verbal prefixing in Russian and the
morphemic consequences involved. I received many responses and would first
like to thank the following people for their interest and help.

 Irene Toews <>
 John E. Koontz <>
 Matthew Richardson <>
 Richard Sproat <>
 Robert Beard <>
 Gorka Elordieta <>
 Douglas Oliver <>
 Richard C. DeArmond <>
 Kelly K. Wahl <>
 Lucy Orlowsky care of <>
 Bertinetto Pier Marco <>
 Mari Olsen <>
 Keith <>
 Ann Lindvall <>
 Frank Y. Gladney <>

It seems, as one response put it, I have opened a can of worms with my
question (I have repeated the question at the end of this message).
Unfortunately, I have only been able to spend a small amount of time
checking out the sources I have been pointed too, but I will hopefully get
around to them all. At this point, the only "summary" I am able to give is
that the general consensus says that aspect wavers between inflectional and
derivational, and a distinction is difficult to come to. I suppose this was
the answer I had expected, though hearing it many times and seeing other
examples certainly clarified some questions.

I invite further discussion, and would like to make available the complete
responses in a text file via email if anyone is interested (posting them
all seemed rather lengthy and unnecessary). If you have yet to see the
question and have some answers, by all means, email me. Thanks again.

>Dear Linguists,

>I have been studying Russian for about three years and have recently begun
>studying general linguistics. Several days ago we covered inflectional vs.
>derivational morphemes. Unless I am incorrect, it seems that a lexical
>morpheme can be either inflectional or derivational, but my first question
>is whether or not it can be both (i.e. a prefix can change both the meaning
>of the word and the tense). So far I've only received shrugs from my
>professors. An item is inflectional if it changes the tense, but what if it
>changes the aspect?
>My reasoning for this question stems from verbal changes in Russian.
>The example I used is as follows:
> (1)
> [pisat'] 'to write' imperfective:may be past, present, future
> [napisat'] 'to write' perfective: only past/future
>Both of these verbs have the same meaning, but the first is an action in
>progress, and the second a finished action. The adding of the prefix [na-]
>makes the verb perfective. Now, in the second example, not only is the
>aspect changed (a prefixed verb is made perf. and must have an infix added
>to deperfectivise it) but the meaning is changed as well(different prefixes
>added can change the meaning of the verb.
> (2)
> [pisat'] 'to write' imperfective:may be past, present, future
> [podpisat'] 'to sign' perfective:only past/future
> [podpisyvat'] 'to sign' imperfective
>Hence, my question is can the prefix [pod] (which, in general means 'under'
>and is used as both a prefix and a prepostion {bound and unbound}) be
>considered an inflectional morpheme because it changes the aspect and a
>derivational morpheme because it changes the meaning in contrast, say, to
>the infix [yv] which merely changes the aspect?

>Any answers (and guesses for that matter) are greatly appreciated. Thank
>you in advance.

Joshua Daniel Rotenberg |
Russian Department |
San Francisco State University | | |
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