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Article

‘Tensed’ and ‘Non-Tensed’ Predicatives in Russian

In the article, I focus on tense marking in Russian constructions with predicatives,
such as xolodno ‘(it is) cold’ and ploxo ‘(it is) bad’. Statistical data from
the Russian National Corpus show that the frequency of past tense forms
(e.g., combinations with the form bylo) is much greater for some predicatives
than for others. This difference results both from semantic and formal
factors. On the one hand, some predicatives denote evaluation (e.g. ploxo
‘bad’). Evaluation can be applied to events that have finished or have never
been realized. What is relevant is that the evaluation is made at the moment
of speech, and this is why the present tense (= the zero copula verb) is used.
On the other hand, it is important that the present tense is unmarked with
predicatives, while with verbs, it is marked with special verbal affixes. The
unmarked present tense form of a predicative can get the temporal meaning
from the embedded verb. Interestingly, this phenomenon is in a sense
opposite to the well-known phenomenon of relative tense marking. While
the latter presupposes that the tense assignment in the embedded event
is anchored to the tense meaning of the main event, the tense value of the
construction with evaluation predicatives is assigned by ‘agreement’ with
the embedded verb.