Time and the event: The semantics of Russian prefixes

  • Gillian Ramchand
Keywords: Slavic, syntax, morphology, morphosyntax, prefixes, imperfective, perfective, superlexical prefix, lexical prefix, Russian, tense, aspect, event structure, temporal semantics, telicity


In this paper, I draw on data from prefixation in Russian to argue for a basic distinction between event structure and temporal struc- ture. I present a linguistic semantics of verb and argument structure interpretation on the one hand, and a formal semantic implementa- tion of 'telicity' on the other, which makes sense of the generalisations apparently common to both domains. I will claim that the temporal domain embeds the event structure domain, and that the latter con- strains the former. At the same time, the different formal primitives that operate at the levels proposed form the basis for a principled linguistic distinction between the two tiers of composition: the event structure level encodes subevental relations and predicational rela- tions within those subevents; the temporal structure level introduces a t variable explicitly and relates it to the structure built up by the event level. Whether the event structure is homogenous or not will have an impact on whether the temporal variable chosen will be 'def- inite' or 'indefinite.' This latter claim then forms the basis for a new conception of the difference between perfective and imperfective verb forms in Russian.