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Why Russian aspectual prefixes aren’t empty: prefixes as verb classifiers

Bloomington: Slavica Publishers, 2013.
Janda L. A., Endresen A., Kuznetsova J., Lyashevskaya O., Makarova A., Nesset T., Sokolova S.

In this monograph the authors assert that Russian verbal prefixes always express meaning, even when they are used to form the perfective partners of aspectual pairs. The prefixes in verbs like написать/na-pisat' 'write' and сварить/s-varit' 'cook' have semantic purpose, even though the corresponding imperfective verbs писать/pisat' 'write' and варить/varit' 'cook' have the same lexical meanings. This suggests a new hypothesis, namely that the Russian verbal prefixes function as verb classifiers, parallel to numeral classifiers.

The exposition is designed to be theory-neutral and accessible to both linguists and nonlinguists. The studies make use of quantitative research on corpus data and statistical models (chisquare, logistic regression, etc.), which are presented in a common-sense way that assumes no special expertise. A user-friendly interactive webpage at http://emptyprefixes.uit.no/book.htm houses links to the authors' database, plus additional data from the studies cited.

Why Russian aspectual prefixes aren’t empty: prefixes as verb classifiers