I say: Some issues in studying 19-century Russian
We consider the pilot project of the corpus of the 19th century to be a linguistic tool which will enable investigation of an unchartered field of research, “microdiachronic” changes. Microdiachrony will outline new linguistic objectives by means of comparing two language norms that are separated by the span of several centuries. The present study embraces three perspectives that are important to us in that they determine the possible future directions for research.
The first is the immense complexity of the mutual influence between the Russian and French languages of that time, which calls for more in-depth professional investigation.
The second perspective deals with the constructions that possess compound and non-compositional semantics; their semantic complexity stands out only when it strikes our eye, as readers or as linguists, by its incomplete compliance with the contemporary norm. In fact, the phrases ja (tebe) govorju, govorju ja, as well as the verbs of speech which have been long and thoroughly studied by linguists sound so habitual that it takes a special instrument to expose their non-triviality.
And finally, the third perspective consists in the semantic trajectory of the micro-changes of our construction, which also proves to be motivated (as well as the construction’s meaning itself). As a matter of fact, it is quite predictable that a construction with an initially very generic discourse meaning should narrow down the scope of its usage. It “freezes” in the two conspicuous discourse-significant and encompassing constructions – that of self-citation and of categorical incentive, and it undergoes different changes in their contexts. But such direction of development points to the widespread transition from the general modal meaning of intensity towards developing “intersubjective” meanings of the locutionary (speaker-oriented) modality – the transition that is thought to be characteristic of the grammaticalization of pre-modal meanings in general (cf. Bybee et al. 1994: 210-212, van der Auwera, Plungian 1998).