The syntactic encoding of experiential situations in Russian: Comparing verbs of perception, cognition and emotions

2019. №6, 68-93

Maria A. Ovsjannikova
Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia;


The paper examines the groups of verbs of perception, cognition and emotions in Russian. The three groups of verbs are compared in terms of the extent to which they are characterized by grammatical properties associated with lower semantic transitivity, e. g. refl exive marking, syntactic intransitivity, encoding of the experiencer in the object position and restrictions on passivization for transitive verbs. Typological hierarchies of verb classes suggest that grammatically, verbs of perception are expected to be more similar to highly transitive verbs than verbs of cognition, and verbs of emotion are most likely to deviate from transitive encoding. The study shows that Russian verbs of emotions indeed manifest the grammatical properties indicative of lower transitivity more extensively than verbs of perception and verbs of cognition. There is no systematic ordering between the latter two groups, although many
of the grammatical properties point to a higher semantic transitivity of verbs of cognition as compared to verbs of perception. The distributions of verbs in terms of grammatical properties are largely determined by the derivational relations typical of the three groups. In particular, among verbs of perception and cognition, experiencer-subject verbs tend to be basic for stimulus-subject verbs, whereas among verbs of emotion the opposite direction of derivation is predominant.

For citation:

Ovsjannikova M. A. The syntactic encoding of experiential situations in Russian: comparing verbs of perception, cognition and emotions. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2019, 6: 68–93.