Short term morphosyntactic change

Korn (1967) - STMC bibliography


Korn, David 1967. Case selection: Genitive or accusative after negation in Contemporary Russian? Modern language Review 62. 486-497.


This article addresses the choice between the genitive and accusative for the direct object of negated verbs, as in (1):

(1)   My   ne  čitaem  gazet-y / gazet
  we not read newspaper-PL.ACC / newspaper[PL.GEN]
  ‘We do not read newspapers.’

The author analyzes this variation using a corpus of literary texts from the middle of the 20th century. The influence of the following conditions is considered:

Verb properties

  • form of the verb (gerund, participle, imperative)
  • verb aspect
  • verb’s lexical semantics (specifically verbs ljubit´ ‘to love’ and imet´ ‘to have’)

Object noun properties

  • gender
  • number
  • structural conditions
  • indirectly negated infinitive
  • directly negated infinitive (double negation)
  • intensive negation
  • word order

Preferences for a particular object case for each condition are explained by stylistic factors, semantic contrast, ambiguity of morphological forms, and scope of negation. Thus, the genitive is generally considered more bookish than the accusative. Consequently preference for the genitive with gerunds and participles is attributed to the bookish character of constructions with these forms. Conversely, the high frequency of accusatives with imperatives arises from the fact that imperatives are more frequent in colloquial speech. The high frequency of feminine accusative objects (63%, versus 20% for masculine and 29% for neuter objects) is explained as an attempt to avoid the use of ambiguous forms (for the majority of feminine nouns the genitive singular is at least graphically identical to the nominative plural).

The author concludes that in the constructions under consideration, the genitive is more usual than the accusative, and that under some conditions, such formal style, it is almost the sole option. The accusative is exceptional and is used under special conditions: with perfective verbs, when the verb is imperative, if the genitive form is ambiguous, or when the object noun precedes the verb.

Texts investigated

Prose between 1946 and 1964.

V. Aksenov (1961-63), V. Nekrasov (1948-62), V. Panova (1942-61), A. Solženicyn (1958-64).


Calculations are made on the sample of 3498 examples extracted from the corpus of 50,000 words, with factors under investigation taken separately. Results are presented in percentages, and partially in raw figures.

Which data from the source were used

Statistics from the source are presented in the database in their entirety.

Project members

Prof Greville G. Corbett
Dr Matthew Baerman
Dr Dunstan Brown
Dr Alexander Krasovitsky
Dr Alison Long

Period of award:

September 2004 - May 2008


Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - RG/AN4375/APN18306