“How to grow big”: Predicative adjectives in Russian child language.

2017. №6, 65-78

Polina M. Eismont
Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation, Saint Petersburg, 190000, Russian Federation; polina272@hotmail.com


The paper discusses the choice of adjective case in the depictive construction with the verb of the change of state stat’ ‘become’ and its acquisition by Russian native children. The analysis relies on 102 samples of this depictive construction taken from 93 oral unprepared elicited narratives of native Russian children at the age of 3 years 6 months — 4 years 11 months old. The analysis shows that despite the fact that children have already acquired the meanings of nominative and instrumental cases, the choice of a particular case in the depictive construction is still unstable. Comparing these data with the data of the Corpus of Spoken Russian showed that the correlation between the predicate case and the syntactic structure of utterances is statistically significant. The interplay between semantic, syntactic, and communicative parameters forms four quasi-synonymic depictive constructions with the verb stat’ in Modern Russian. They differ in three parameters: meaning of the adjective (it may be temporal or actualized), word order, and the place of communicative focus that could be either the adjective, or the verb (the process of the change of state). The analysis shows that the meaning of the adjective is the most important parameter for children at the age between 3 years 6 months and 4 years 11 months old. If children accept the temporal meaning of the adjective, they follow the adult-like model, but if they doubt the possible temporality of an adjective, the choice of the predicate case is random.