Russian word order: the pragmatics of unconventional verb-initial types
AuthorBatova, Natalia Anatolievna
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Natalia Anatolievna Batova
In Russian, the statistically dominant order of the subject and the verb in the clause is SVO. However, in a number of linguistic environments, the verb precedes the subject, either following a language convention or establishing an unconventional pattern. This research project provides an account of unconventional verb-initial patterns (VIPs) – namely, VSO, VOS and VS – considering both the syntactic and the pragmatic factors that influence their occurrence in written discourse. Building on previous research of early Russian texts, this study extends the scope of investigation and analyses texts from six different genres and/or time periods: 15th-century travel diary, 18th-19th-century travel diaries, 19th-century classic folk tales, 20th-century narratives, 21st-century modern tales, and 21st-century blog entries. It is argued that unconventional VIPs are best understood within a single analytical framework which addresses pattern variation, information structure and communicative effects of VSO, VOS and VS word order combinations. Previous research accounted, to some extent, for the use of verb-initial word order variations in oral and written discourse, as grammatical, syntactic and, above all, stylistic means of information packaging. Specifically, the theory of functional sentence perspective has provided valuable insight into the information structure of Russian sentence elements, with individual studies outlining the pragmatic effects of using particular VIPs. However, there has been limited empirical investigation of unconventional VIPs across a range of genres and time periods, and little to no attention given to the significance of pattern variation within and across VIPs. Overall, the results of this study show that the use of unconventional VIPs has not only declined over the modern Russian period, but that there is substantial variation across genres, both in terms of the VSO, VOS and VS groups of patterns and in terms of their correlation with information structure and communicative effects. Furthermore, the study reveals that across the six corpora: VOS patterns are infrequent, compared to VSO and VS combinations; VS modified by adjuncts is the most frequently occurring VIP; and VSO without adjuncts (i.e. pure VSO) with Split Rheme information structure is the strongest correlation of word order and information structure. Furthermore, VSO combinations also strongly correlate with discourse management effects in all corpora and with syntactic communicative effects in the 18th-19th-century travel diaries, while VS patterns produce both syntactic and stylistic communicative effects in the 15th-century travel diary. Moreover, the second most prominent group of communicative effects is discourse management devices, particularly, in the 20th-century narratives and the 21st-century modern tales, which are produced by unconventional VIPs with Split Rheme information structure. Rhematised Verb information structure producing stylistic communicative effects was found to be a feature of the 19th-century classic folk tales, whereas Clause Focus producing stylistic effects were found to be a feature of 21st-century blog entries. Finally, this study shows that the 15th-century travel diary stands apart from the five modern Russian corpora in terms of pattern variation, information packaging and pragmatic use, signalling that more research of this early Russian period is warranted.
KeywordsRussian word order; verb-initial pattern; VSO; VOS; VS; unconventional verb-initial pattern
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References