Russian prefixes as a verb classifier system.

2012. №6, 3-47

Laura A. Janda
Universitetet i Tromso;


I hypothesize that the Russian «purely aspectual» prefixes are a verb classifier system. 1 present an extensive set of tests for this hypothesis. The tests include comparison of distributional data with definitions for classifier systems, plus five different statistical studies proving that the behavior of each prefix is unique and explainable by recourse to its meaning. All of the evidence confirms the hypothesis and at the same time supports the Vey and van Schooneveld proposal that the prefixes are never «empty» but instead overlap with the meanings of the verbs. My analysis goes beyond the Vey and van Schooneveld overlap proposal in that I establish a specific network of meanings for each prefix, rather than assigning an abstract invariant meaning. Recognizing Russian as a verb classifier language brings numerous advantages, facilitating cross-linguistic comparisons and improving both description and pedagogy.