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Working paper

Discourse Function of Referential Choice in Selected 17th Century Texts

            The referential system of Middle Russian is notable for having in addition to the "standard" anaphoric devices—such as zero, pronominal, and nominal forms—devices that combine pronominal and nominal components, e.g. on knjaz' Mixajlo ‘he prince Mixajlo’, tot d'jakon Iov ‘that deacon Iov’. Traditionally, referring expressions of the type Pron+NP were regarded as typical of administrative language and functionally interpreted as satisfying the need for clarity and unambiguous identification of the referents. I show that in a selection of 17th-century texts these constructions are used independently of the disambiguation need. I argue that both compound constructions, Pron+NP and Dem+NP, function as markers of the referent's status at different levels of discourse. Specifically, participants who are major at the discourse level and thematic at the episode level tend to be encoded by means of Pron+NP, whereas participants who are thematic at the episode level but minor at the discourse level are usually encoded by means of Dem+NP. These facts are examined against the background of the history of pronouns and demonstratives in the Russian language.