Krasovitsky, Alexander, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, Alison Long & Harley Quilliam. 2009. Surrey Database of Short Term Morphosyntactic Change: Predicate agreement with quantified expressions. University of Surrey. http://dx.doi.org/10.15126/SMG.17/4
Languages change by gaining and losing word forms over time, but an equally significant role in their history is played by subtle shifts in the function of existing forms. Investigating such developments requires us to analyse patterns of use in large amounts of historical data, but such data are simply unavailable for most languages. Russian is a happy exception. It is a language with a rich and relatively stable system of inflectional morphology. Yet while the system of forms has changed relatively little, the use of these forms has undergone a remarkable degree of change over the last 200 years, a period for which a substantial quantity of varied material is available. The Surrey Database of Short Term Morphosyntactic Change: Predicate agreement with quantified expressions verbs provides statistical analyses of changes in predicate agreement with quantified expressions in a 10 million word corpus of Russian literary texts written between 1801 and 2000. In Russian, predicates whose agreement controller is a quantified expression may take either singular or plural agreement:
Predicate agreement with quantified expressions shows significant variability synchronically, determined by the quantifier type, the word order, and the lexical semantics of the noun and of the verb. Statistics derived from the corpus reveal a complex relationship between these factors. The quantifier type is a dominant condition: low numerals favour plural agreement overall, higher numerals allow variation, conditioned by word order and animacy. Word order, or precedence (Corbett 2006) is the second most important agreement condition: subject-predicate word order favours plural predicates irrespective of the subject noun’s lexical semantics. Animate subjects show stronger preference for plural agreement than inanimate. Animacy however does not override word order: with subject-verb word order plural predicates are more frequent irrespective of the subject noun’s lexical semantics. Finally, the variation in question is subject to the Predicate Hierarchy of Individuation (Robblee 1997) : verbs that take more individuated arguments, namely activity (agentive) verbs are more likely to agree in the plural than are verbs of state. Diachronic analysis shows an unusual undulating type change: a fall in one period can be followed by a rise in the succeeding one.
Corbett, Greville G. 2006. Agreement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Robblee, Karen. 1997. The interaction of Russian word order, agreement and case marking. In Anne-Marie Symon-Vandenbergen, Kristin Davidse & Dirk Noёl (eds,), Reconnecting language: Morphology and syntax in functional perspective (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 154), 227-248. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
The database was created for the project 'Short term morphosyntactic change: Variation in Russian 1801-2000', funded by the Arts and Humanties Research Council under grant number RG/AN4375/APN18306. This support is gratefully acknowledged.
Creators: Krasovitsky, Alexander; Brown, Dunstan; Corbett, Greville G.; Baerman, Matthew; Long, Alison; Quilliam, Harley;
Title: Surrey Database of Short Term Morphosyntactic Change: Predicate agreement with quantified expressions
Publisher: University of Surrey