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CHAT: Rusian prepositions with Nom., was: CHAT: Back on the list;...

From:Vasiliy Chernov <bc_@...>
Date:Friday, December 7, 2001, 18:15
On Thu, 6 Dec 2001 12:21:47 -0600, Thomas R. Wier
<trwier@...> wrote:

>Russian does this, I'm told. Georgian comes close, but doesn't >really fit the bill.
I think the Russian phenomenon that was meant is rather special. There is a form of Russian nouns, always homophone with Nom. Pl., used only with the preposition _v_. The preposition has the following primary meanings: with Loc.: 'in' (static location) with Acc.: 'into' (end point of motion) with the form in question: can be roughly described as 'into the category of' (joining a social group) The whole combination is used with verbs that normally denote physical motion, as e. g. in: On poshël v plótniki 'he chose to become a carpenter' - with _pojtí_ 'to start to go/walk/move, to leave (for)'; On ushël v soldáty 'he left the place and became a soldier' - with _ujtí_ 'to go (away)'; On výbilsja v bol'shíe ljúdi 'he succeeded in struggling for becoming a big man' - with _výbit'sja_ 'to break through, make one's way out'; On probílsja v nachál'niki 'he's made his way to becoming a boss' - with _probít'sja_ 'to make one's way (through)'. The number of verbs that can combine with the form in question is very limited, yet the category remains marginally productive, since occasionally one can hear new formations of the same kind, as e. g.: On výskochil v nachál'niki 'he suddenly made a boss' - with _výskochit'_ 'to jump out' There are some problems about identifying this form with Nominative. I think it wouldn't pass some finer tests. For example, it's difficult to ask a question to any of the above sentences; the only way to do so that I can think of involves resorting to expressions like 'what group/category' ('into what category has he broken through' or something), but the word for 'group/category' will be singular, and its form will be a doubtless Acc., not Nom. Historically, the form in question is Acc. Pl. In Russian, all original (PIE) forms of Nom. Pl. have been substituted with Acc. Pl. OTOH, already in Proto-Slavic certain categories of words could use Gen. instead of Acc. in certain environments, and Russian has spread this to all animate nouns in Pl.; in modern Russian such forms are demonstrably accusatives (rather than a special use of Gen.). However, the old form of Acc. (now identical with Nom.) has fossilized in certain types of contexts, especially with _v_ when it means 'into the category of'. Basilius -