Russian colloquial complement clauses with čto: Quotative use and other special properties

2023. №3, 27-59

Alexander B. Letuchiy
HSE University, Moscow, Russia; Vinogradov Russian Language Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia;


The article addresses Russian colloquial constructions with the complemtizer čto, such as Ty skaži, čto ja že ne znal ‘Say that you didn’t know it (lit. ‘that “I didn’t know that”’) or On načal izvinjat’sja, čto on ne xotel ‘He began to apologize that he didn’t mean that’. These constructions are mainly described in respect of person: namely, of indexical shift, meaning that person is marked as in direct, rather than indirect speech. However, it turns out that other features also make this construction special: the two of them we describe here are possibility of interrogative and imperative constructions in the embedded clause and extended use of embedded clauses with the semantic role of content with verbs like otkazyvat’sja ‘refuse’ or izvinjat’sja ‘apologize’, which normally do not take this type of complement clauses. All these features are parts of the same process: re-analysis of the complementizer as a sort of a citation marker. At the same time, the three features do not necessarily correlate with each other: some uses are characterized with only one or two colloquial features. The data also show that some properties of constructions under analysis make them similar to unmarked complementation: both types of constructions do not behave as canonical complex sentences, and the second part does not show all properties of embedded clauses. In this sense, both the colloquial constructions with čto and unmarked complement clauses allow to unite two clauses, the second part not being signifi cantly demoted in syntactic status.

For citation:

Letuchiy A. B. Russian colloquial complement clauses with čto: Quotative use and other special properties. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2023, 3: 27–59.


The reported study was funded by RFBR and GACR, project No. 20-512-26004.