Short term morphosyntactic change

Safarewiczowa (1959, 1960) - STMC bibliography


Safarewiczowa, Halina. 1959. Forma dopełnenia bliższego w rosyjskim zdaniu zaprzeczonym, część I, Slavia Orientalis, 8, pt 4, 77-109.

Safarewiczowa, Halina. 1960. Forma dopełnenia bliższego w rosyjskim zdaniu zaprzeczonym, część II, Slavia Orientalis, 9, pt 1, 69-137.


These two articles examine the competition of the genitive and accusative with direct objects of negated transitive verbs in Russian. Safarewiczowa 1959 looks at three early periods (before the 16th century, 16th-17th centuries and 18th century); Safarewiczowa 1960 investigates texts from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The latter study is based on a corpus of literary works and journalism the two centuries and on a number of folklore and dialectal texts. Genitive and accusative frequencies are analyzed individually with respect to a particular author or, in the case of folklore and dialectal texts, with respect to a particular collection of texts (for example, Xrestomatija po velikorusskoj dialektologii is considered as one text). The discussion of each individual source is concluded by a summary table, which presents statistics for this source, split with respect to a number of conditions. On the whole, the set of conditions is the same, however some sources provide data for a larger number of conditions than others. The following factors, conditioning the morphosyntactic choice, are investigated (a list of conditions under consideration in the paper and list of abbreviations for these conditions are provided in Safarewiczowa 1959, 92-94):

  • lexico-semantic class of the object (human/non-human animate/inanimate, concrete/abstract)
  • internal structure of the object (quantified expression as an object)
  • word class of the object (noun, substantivized adjective, pronoun)
  • lexico-semantic properties of the governing verb (verbs of perception, the verb of possession imet´ ‘to have’, the verb znat ´ ‘to know’)
  • morphological form of the governing verb (infinitive and finite verbs; imperative)
  • clause type (declarative, exclamatory and interrogative sentences; various types of subordinate clauses).

The rich statistics provided by the author indicate first the general increase of accusative objects in the 19th and 20th centuries, and second the unevenness of this change if we consider the various conditioning factors listed above. The data also reveal significant differences across individual authors which belong to the same time period. One of the clearest examples is the spread of the accusative in infinitival constructions. In most literary works from the 19th century (from Karamzin to Lev Tolstoj) the genitive is more frequent than the accusative with objects, governed by infinitives. Some authors from the 19th century however (Puškin and particularly Turgenev) clearly stand out and show an inverse proportion of genitive and accusative objects, which will become characteristic of Russian in general only in the early 20th century, from Gor´kij on. Such a dramatic spread of the accusative left behind finite verbs, with which the increase of the accusative was much less significant.

Safarewiczowa’s study is unusual in that along with literary and journalistic works she analyzes folklore and dialectal texts. This allows her to capture striking contrasts between the standard variety and other varieties. Her data show that in some vernacular texts the accusative has to a large extent ousted the genitive. Thus, in Velikorusskie skazki Permskoj gubernii, collected by Zelenin and published in 1914, the average ratio of accusative objects is 71%. This significantly exceeds the average ratio for Gor´kij (40%), which is the highest ratio among literary works investigated by the author.

Texts investigated

19th century , 20th century (pre-Soviet):

A. S. Puškin (exact text not given); V. G. Belinskij (exact text not given); M. Ju. Lermotov Panorama Moskvy, Geroj na šego vremeni; I. S. Turgenev Dym, Otcy i deti; F. M. Dostoevskij Bednye ljudi, Belye no či, Netočka Nezvanova; A. N. Ostrovskij Groza, Bednost´ ne porok, Talanty i poklonniki; D. N. Mamin-Sibirjak Privalovskie milliony, Gornoe gnezdo; L. N. Tolstoj Rasskazy iz novoy azbuki, Čem ljudi živy, also plays (not specified); M. Gor´kij Žizn´ Klima Samgina (part 1).

20th century:

V. Ažaev Daleko ot Moskvy (1948); G. Nikolaeva Žatva (1950); A. Rybakov Ekaterina Voronina (1955), newspaper Pravda.

Dialectal and folklore texts:

  • Zelenin D.K. Velikorusskie skazki Permskoj gubernii (1914)
  • Durnovo N. Ušakov D. Xrestomatija po velikorusskoj dialektologii (1910)
  • Dal´ V. I Poslovicy russkogo naroda (1861-62)


Calculations of genitive / accusative forms (percentages and underlying figures) are presented for each author in separate tables. Statistics are provided for the conditions suggested in Safarewiczowa (1959), taken separately. A summary table (Safarewiczowa 1960, 132-133) presents statistics for the most common conditions for each of the sources individually.

Which data from the source were used

Statistics derived from 19th and 20th century literary texts, as well as from dialectal and folklore sources, are presented in the database in full.

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