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Article on D. Pesetsky’s grammar theories

  Tags: Grammar | Russian
 Language Learning Forum : Русский Post Reply
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 Message 9 of 12
10 February 2014 at 6:25pm | IP Logged 
chokofingrz wrote:

To see why nouns might be inherently genitive, though, consider a Russian phrase Pesetsky discusses in his book: “eti poslednie pjat’ krasivyx stolov,” or “these last five beautiful tables,” which is an example of “case mismatch.” The words “these,” “last,” and “five” are all in the nominative case, but “beautiful” and “tables” remain genitive.

“The idea that nouns are born genitive is completely counterintuitive to everybody,” Pesetsky acknowledges.

Crackpot? Genius? Inconsequential linguistics boffin? Discuss.

I must also say I really don't understand what he means. Maybe it is better explained in his book, but this particular example doesn't make sense to me. What does he mean by saying that "beautiful" and "tables" remain genitive? In my view, the noun, in a language where the noun declines, doesn't remain anything. Yes, grammatical convention has it that the "basic form" is the nominative, but that doesn't mean that nominative is another name for noun. So his statement that “A noun assigns genitive because genitive is just another name for noun" is, to be frank, mere nonsense IMHO.

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 Message 10 of 12
10 February 2014 at 6:32pm | IP Logged 
Cabaire wrote:
The case mismatch is a quite interesting issue:
эти последние ( пять красивиых ( столов would mean "these last five stools which are beautiful" (but there may be other ugly ones)
эти пять последных красивих столов would mean "these five stools, which are the last and beautiful too" (no others left, but they are beautiful, hurrah!)
Complicated case structures happen easily in highly inflected languages.

Probably off-topic, but Cabaire's post sent me on a bit of a tangent. I'll get the boring nitpicky stuff out of the way first:

-стол doesn't mean "stool", and neither does стул. The former translates to "table" or "desk", while the latter translates to "chair". "Stool" is табурет(ка).

-эти последние пять красивых столов

-эти пять последних красивых столов

But the thing that struck me the most is how the difference in meaning between the two sentences really doesn't seem all that self-evident to me. When I first read the two sentences I thought of them as completely interchangeable (and equally ambiguous). After reading each sentence out loud about ten times I felt I was ready to say that you got things backwards - it's the first one that states that no other tables are left, while the latter implies that there are other, uglier ones. After reading them more slowly another ten times I was starting to come round to your point of view, but then I tried putting more emphasis on a different word each time and it all went to hell. But then, for all I know your translations could be 100% correct and logical from the point of view of prescriptive standard Russian, as opposed to my personal idiolect.

Edited by vonPeterhof on 10 February 2014 at 6:35pm

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 Message 11 of 12
10 February 2014 at 10:41pm | IP Logged 
Well, I would not give that translation the shirt off my back, I only suppose there are shades of meaning. I can be totally wrong, naturally...

PS. Damned be false friends. I suppose, стол и стул are among the first nouns I was taught in Russian, and I got them wrong :-( And the soft and hard endings of my adjectives need a revision too. Thanks, vonPeterhof!
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 Message 12 of 12
10 February 2014 at 11:08pm | IP Logged 
chokofingrz wrote:
Crackpot? Genius? Inconsequential linguistics boffin? Discuss.

I've since read some of Pesetsky's criticism of Everett's work. Perhaps he's wrong, but he's certainly not a crackpot.

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