Frequency effects in language representation
We present an empirical study to address two theoretical issues, both of which are controversial in the scholarly literature, namely the “Locative Alternation” and Russian aspectual “empty” prefixes. Our data, extracted from the Russian National Corpus, represent the behavior of the Russian verb gruzit’ ‘load’, which participates in the Locative Alternation in both its unprefixed (gruzit’) and prefixed forms (nagruzit’, zagruzit’ and pogruzit’), where the prefixes na-, za- and po- are traditionally considered semantically “empty”, bearing only the aspectual feature “perfective”. The data on the Locative Alternation was analyzed using a logistic regression model in order to probe for a significant relationship between prefixes and grammatical constructions. While the unprefixed imperfective gruzit’ favors the Theme-Object construction, the addition of a prefix radically changes this distribution, each in a different way: nagruzit’ strongly favors the Goal-Object construction, zagruzit’ creates a near-balance between the two constructions, whereas pogruzit’ uses the Theme-Object construction in a nearly exclusive manner. Our findings support the hypothesis that the Locative Alternation involves both the meaning of the verb and the meaning of its constructions. Since the three prefixed verbs exhibit statistically significant differences in their behavior, our data does not support the idea that the prefixes are semantically empty. Furthermore, our study demonstrates that a verb is not a monolithic unit, since passive participles behave differently from other verb forms. The Locative Alternation constructions can be represented by their full and reduced versions, which show a different distribution of the two constructions. In addition, we find an interesting relationship between the prefixes and the use of prepositions.