Feature-based approaches to exceptional cases in Russian

Project Overview


Feature-based approaches to exceptional cases in Russian

Project members:

Dr Dunstan Brown
Prof Tore Nesset, University of Tromsø

Period of award

April 1997 - April 1998


British Council and Research Council of Norway (NOK)

Innovations can spread and eventually pervade a language, they can fail to take hold, or they can remain, without ever affecting a large number of lexical items. Examples of the latter kind are interesting, because they provide us with insights into why a linguistic system does not favour such innovations. The second locative in Russian is such an example. It is well known that it arose as a result of the restructuring of inflectional classes together with the parallel development of a stressed inflection in a small number of nouns. there are two questions associated with its development and current state. The first, more often posed, question relates to the factors which favoured its development. The second, less often posed, question is why it failed to generalize.

This project set out to provide an explicit model of this exceptional part of Russian word structure, namely the second locative and genitive cases. These cases only occur in the singular, whereas other Russian cases typically also occur in the plural. The research enables us to answer questions about how the categories of number and case are related and has wider implications for a typology of human languages.