Short term morphosyntactic change

Røed (1966) - STMC bibliography


Røed, Ragnar. 1966. Zwei Studien über den Prädikativen Instrumental im Russischen (Avhandlinger utgitt av Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi i Oslo II.Hist.- Filos. Klasse. Ny Serie. No.12). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget


This publication is concerned with the case of predicate nominals (nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals) in 19th and 20th century Russian. The first part is dedicated to constructions with the copula byt´ and the second part investigates the case of predicate nominals with full verbs.

The first part, “Der prädikative Instrumental beim Verbum byt' investigates the variation in case assignment with respect to the properties of the nominal and the form of the verb. The author provides a detailed analysis of nominative-instrumental variation on predicate nouns and establishes differences between four lexico-semantic groups of noun: 1) distinctive and permanent property of a person (he was a good man), 2) temporary property (he was still a young man), 3) profession or other acquired property (he was a doctor), and 4) abstract nouns. Røed shows that preferences for the instrumental increase as we move from Group 1 to Group 4. At the same time the author compares frequencies for the instrumental before and after 1900, and provides evidence indicating an increase in the use of the predicate instrumental within all the four groups. The rate of change however is different in different groups: thus with Group 1 the frequency of the instrumental increased from 3% to 57%, whereas with Group 4, which showed a strong preference for the instrumental already in the 19th century, the increase was less significant, from 85% to 92%.

Røed proceeds then to the impact of the verb form on case assignment and analyzes constructions with the past tense copula, infinitive, present tense (consideration is given to constructions with zero copula and an overtly expressed copula), gerund, participle, imperative and future tense. The combination of each of these forms with each type of nominal is analyzed. On the basis of a comparison of two sets of statistical data, one from the 19th century and the other from the first half of the 20 th century, the author concludes that nouns adopted the instrumental in the predicate position earlier than adjectives, and in the modern language instrumental nouns are more frequent than adjectives (although the latter also show an increase in instrumental forms). The spread of the instrumental with predicate nouns was particularly dramatic with the past tense copula. The general increase in the instrumental weakened the effect of semantic factors on case assignment. Røed indicates that the semantic split between the nominative and the instrumental (i.e. the association of the nominative and constant properties on the one hand, and of the instrumental and temporal properties on the other) is not as obvious in the 20th century as it as in the 19th century.

In the second part, “Instrumental beim Verben mit voller lexkalischer Bedeutung (polnoznamenatel´nye glagoly)”, the author examines the same groups of predicate nominals first with intransitive and then with transitive verbs. The following three groups of intransitive verbs are considered: verbs that are associated with a certain type of activity (rabotat´ ‘to work’), verbs indicating state (sidet´ ‘sit’) verbs of motion (xodit´ ‘ walk’). Transitive verbs are analyzed as one group.

In this part of the book, the author looks at the variation of the nominative and instrumental with predicate adjectives, ordinal numerals and the cardinal numeral odin ‘one’, as predicate nouns with full verb take exclusively the instrumental. Røed argues that adjectives and ordinal numerals have different preferences for case marking. Predicate adjectives with full verbs show an increase in the use of the instrumental. Ordinal numerals (the author provides examples for pervyj ‘first’) on the contrary are much more common in the nominative. The conclusions made in this section, however, are not supported by statistical evidence.

Texts investigated

Fiction from 1766 to 1948. The corpus is split as follows.

Before 1900:

  • D. I. Fonvizin. Komedii (1766/82)
  • A. S. Puškin. Kapitanskaja dočka (1836)
  • M. J. Lermontov. Geroj našeg o vremeni (1840)
  • N. V. Gogol´. Mertvye duši (1841)
  • I. A. Gončarov. Oblomov (1859)
  • F. M. Dostoevskij. Zapiski iz mertvogo doma (1861)
  • I. S. Turgenev. Otcy i deti (1862)
  • L. N. Tolstoj. Kazaki (1863)
  • N. S. Leskov. Ostrovitjane (1880)

After 1900:

  • A. P. Čexov. Rasskazy (1900)
  • M. Gor´kij. Mat´ (1907)
  • L. N. Andreev. Rasskazy (1907)
  • A. N. Tolstoj. Xoždenie po mukam (1921)
  • F. V. Gladkov. Cement (1924)
  • B. Gorbatov. Nepokorennye (1943)
  • K. M. Simonov. Dni i noči (1944)
  • V. P. Kataev. Syn polka (1945)
  • A. A. Fadeev. Molodaja gvardija (1945)
  • B. Polevoj. Povest ´ o nastojaščem čeloveke (1946)
  • K. Fedin. Neobyknovennoe leto (1947)
  • I. Èrenburg. Burja (1947)
  • A. Pervencev. Čest´ smolodu (1948)
  • A. Čakovskij. U nas u že utro (1948)


Calculations are made separately for each part of the corpus. Separate statistics are provided for each of the four groups of nouns, adjectives and pronouns in constructions with the past tense copula, infinitive and future tense copula. Long form nominative adjectives and short forms are counted together (judging by the examples cited). Percentages and raw figures are provided. No statistics are given for constructions with full verbs.

Which data from the source were used

Statistics for constructions with the copula byt´ ‘be’.

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