Russian purely aspectual prefixes: Not so empty after all?
Nearly two thousand perfective verbs in Russian are formed via the addition of so-called "empty prefixes" (čistovidovye pristavki) to imperfective base verbs. The traditional assumption that prefixes are semantically "empty" when used to form aspectual pairs is problematic because the same prefixes are clearly "non-empty" when combined with other base verbs. Though some scholars have suspected that the prefixes are not empty but instead have meanings that overlap with the meanings of the base verbs, proof of this hypothesis has eluded researchers. With the advent of corpora and electronic resources it is possible to explore this question on the basis of large quantities of data. This article presents a new methodology, called "radial category profiling", in which the semantic network of a prefix is established on the basis of its "non-empty" uses and then compared, node by node, with the semantic network of base verbs that use the same prefix as an "empty" perfectivizing morpheme. This methodology facilitates a comprehensive analysis of ten prefixes, comparing their meanings in "non-empty" and "empty" uses and showing precisely how in the latter case overlap produces the illusion of emptiness. We are able to fully specify the semantic network of each prefix, and discover that for some prefixes there is overlap throughout the network, while for others overlap is restricted to a contiguous subsection of the network. We investigate the dynamic interactions among prefixes, and identify what meanings are incompatible with the "purely aspectual" function of the so-called "empty" prefixes. The results of our analyses, including complete lists of verbs, are publicly available at: http://emptyprefixes.uit.no/ and http://emptyprefixes. uit.no/methodology-eng.htm.