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Regular version of the site

Article

‘Need’ with Accusative in Russian

Scando-Slavica. 2020. Vol. 66. No. 1. P. 3-22.

The paper is a corpus-based study of a construction of spoken Russian consisting of the adverbial necessity modal nado/nužno ‘need’ followed by an accusative (genitive) complement. Although the construction has been noted in the literature, it has not received a detailed analysis, due to its colloquial nature and low frequency in the corpus. I investigate the distributional and semantic/ pragmatic properties of this construction, contrasting it with the corresponding construction with nominative. I argue that the construction with accusative expresses prototypical possession (animate non-abstract possession), whereas the construction with nominative can but need not express (prototypical) possession. I also argue that the construction with accusative is inherently subjective as it expresses the perspective of some individual (typically, the speaker), whereas the construction with nominative, again, can but need not express subjectivity. I provide evidence for both claims, showing that neither alone can account for the distribution of the two constructions. Finally, I briefly discuss two other constructions, namely verbless subjunctive with nouns and the construction with an elided modal showing that they can also be analyzed as expressing prototypical possession. The proposed account, if correct, can shed light on the syntax of predicative possession, an important topic in Russian grammar.