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Russian verbal forms (was: (In)transitive verbs

From:Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>
Date:Sunday, February 8, 2004, 8:44
Russian verbs can be fun too.

I was very impressed by a book about Russian verbal
aspects (Marguerite Guiraud-Weber, L’aspect du verbe
russe, Publications de l’Université de Provence),
especially about the “prefixo-postfixal” and
“prefixo-suffixal” forms. It is startling that the
Russian language manages to enclose in a single verb
what takes us sometimes a whole line to explain. I’ll
give hereunder some examples from the book:

- Prefixo-postfixals :
. vy - plakat’ – sja, “to feel relieved after having
wept all one could”
. za – chitat’ – sja, “to be completely absorbed in
. ot – kosit’ – sja, “to come back to one’s
occupations after hay-making” ( ! )
. s – pet’ – sja, “to get on with singing together”

- Prefixo- suffixals :
. ot – stuk – ivat’, “to knock several times,
insisting on each knock”
. po – krik – ivat’, “to utter small cries now and
then”, or “to scold now and then”
. pri – kus – yvat’, “to nibble while doing  something
. ras – kur – ivat’, “to smoke with content and taking
one’s time”.

“- sja” seems to mean something like “middle voice”,
“to do something for oneself”, when “-yvat’ / -ivat’
mainly carries an idea of  iteration / repetition.

All these verbs have only 4 syllables, or even 3, in
most forms. It looks like a very economic way to
express complex actions. I think German works somehow
the same, for ex “vyplakat’sja” looks the same as
“sich ausweinen”.

It would be interesting to combine some affixes
(Russian, like German, do sometimes (e.g. “po – raz! –
exat’sja” = to leave, one after the other, or familiar
[pejorative] “po – na – vy – delyvat’ = to make”, but
not to the point of expressing ideas like “to be
completely absorbed in getting on with uttering small
cries together now and then, slowly and with content,
while doing something else”) (*
zasoporazprikrikivat’sja ?)

In some French verbs, the suffix carries an idea
resembling a little some Russian verbs, e.g. “tapoter”
= to hit gently and repeatingly, “pianoter” (the same,
but on piano [or computer] keys). This mark “-ot”
looks the same as Russian “po-“ (attenuative) +
“-yvat’” (iteration), so in that case, French would be
more concise than Russian !

But ideas like “to do something while doing something
else at the same time”, or “to be completely absorbed
in doing something” seem to me very hard to translate
into French concisely. The first would be “tout en” +
gerund (grignoter tout en regardant la télé ; but it
seems that Russian doesn’t have to express the other
action), the secund, “e^tre plongé dans” + deverbal
noun (e^tre plongé dans la lecture du Monde, or :
e^tre complètement absorbé par sa lecture).
“Vy-plakat’- sja” could be “pleurer tout son soul” (or
« toutes les larmes de son corps »), and “ot – kosit’
– sja”, “en avoir fini avec la fenaison” (or : « avec
les foins »).

--- Christophe Grandsire
<christophe.grandsire@...> wrote:
> > Germanic verbs can be such fun! :)) >
===== Philippe Caquant "Le langage est source de malentendus." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Finance: Get your refund fast by filing online.