Impersonal constructions and dative-predicative structures in Russian.

2018. №5, 7-33

Anton V. Zimmerling
Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow, Russia;
Moscow State Pedagogical University, Moscow, Russia;
Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia;


This paper analyzes two Russian constructions, verbal impersonals in 3Sg ~ 3Pl and dative-predicative structures with a non-agreeing predicative and discusses the problem of lexical-syntactic interface and the borderline between lexicon and grammar. Productive constructions are defined as bilateral units and analyzed in the perspective of selective conditions imposed on lexical extension, not in the perspective of idiomaticity or non-compositionality. Languages with similar morphosyntax can develop similar constructions with one and the same underlying semantics but these constructions often show different scenarios of the lexicon-vs-grammar interaction. Modern Russian takes an intermediate position between languages where verbal impersonals and predicative structures are grammaticalized and languages where these constructions belong to the lexicon. The distribution of the impersonal patterns in 3Sg and 3Pl in Modern Russian encodes a non-trivial interaction of lexicon and grammar. The key factor in the stability of Russian dative-predicative structures is the distinction between three classes of adjectival stems and the preservation of stems blocking the derivation of predicates which denote inner states.

For citation:

Zimmerling A. V. Impersonal constructions and dative-predicative structures in Russian. Voprosy Jazykoznanija. 2018. No. 5. Pp. 7–33. DOI: 10.31857/S0373658X0001394-2.


This research is supported by a grant from Russian Science Foundation, project No. 16-18-02003 “Structure of meaning and its mapping into lexical and functional categories of Russian” at Moscow State Pedagogical University. I thank anonymous reviewers for their comments. I am also grateful to Mikhail Dymarski, Igor Mel’čuk, Elena Ivanova, Leonid Iomdin, Ethelbert Kari and Maxim Makarcev for the possibility to discuss fragments of this research and for the consultation. The sole responsibility for all shortcomings is on the author.