Interplay between Position and Interpretation: An Experimental Study of Russian Bare Plurals

Daria Seres Guillen, Joan Manel Borras Comes, Olga Borik

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This article presents an experimental study of the correlation between the linear syntactic position and the interpretation of plural bare nominal external arguments of intransitive verbs in Russian. We present two experiments (pilot and main), where participants gave their acceptability judgements regarding sentences with pre- and postverbal subjects in contexts that suggest definiteness or indefiniteness of the bare nominal in question. The obtained results confirm that the preverbal position correlates with a definite interpretation, whereas the postverbal position with an indefinite interpretation. However, we found that the acceptability rate of preverbal indefinites is also reasonably high. We propose an explanation for the appearance of indefinites in preverbal subject position in terms of lexical accessibility, construed more generally as D-linking. The experiments also showed that indefinite subjects have a higher acceptability rate in any position, which may be explained by the hypothesis that bare nominals in Russian have a default indefinite interpretation, and so may freely appear in a wider range of contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRevue roumaine de linguistique, LXIV (2)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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