LINGUIST List 9.249

Thu Feb 19 1998

Sum: Russian Syntax

Editor for this issue: Anita Huang <>


  1. Jameela Ann Lares, Russian Syntax

Message 1: Russian Syntax

Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 07:02:25 -0600 (CST)
From: Jameela Ann Lares <>
Subject: Russian Syntax

Thanks to the many who replied to my query on Russian syntax: Vadim B. 
Kassevitch, Tilman Berger, Waruno Mahdi, Karen Davis, Keith Goeringer,
Joel M. Hoffman, Dina Belyayeva, Michael Betsch, Don Dyer, Marina
Yaguello, Daniel E. Collins, Sergey Avrutin, Richard Robin, Vera
Schmiedtova, Vladimir Selegey, and Yurij Lotoshko. Don Dyer and Edward
Finegan also sent longer texts to me by mail and attachment.

The report was virtually unanimous that Russian 1) is pretty much SVO, but
that being said, 2) it allows many syntactical variations to express tone
and register, 3) it is also governed by left/right theme/rheme
considerations. As Karen Davis put it, "Russian, being highly inflected,
allows many different word orders with no chance of confusing S with O." 
Waruno Mahdi points out that when the inflections for nominative and
accustive case are identical and could lead to ambiguity, then the basic
SVO rule serves as a constraint. 

Some exceptions to SVO: Per Joel M. Hoffman: VS also common, as for
example with unaccusative verbs and indefinite subjects. Per Vladimir
Selegey, although Russian has SVO order in neutral contexts, it is
possible to change the order to emphasize the Object.


Premysl Adamec, *Porjadok slov v sovremennom russkom literaturnom jazyke*,
renowned work on Russian word order.

John Baylin's dissertation (Cornell, 1995? or 1996?).

Comrie, *The World's Major Languages* and *The Slavonic Languages*,
for overviews of the syntax.

*Russkaia* grammatika (Moscow, 1970; known as _Grammatica-70_ to Russian
linguists) has discussions of sentences as structural patterns or models; 
and see vol. 2: Sintaksis, ed. Shvedova et al. (Moscow, 1982), paragraphs
2128-2145, especially paragraph 2143. 

Jameela Lares
Department of English
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

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