Four Ways to Get Tangled Up in Russian


  • Maria Nordrum The University in Tromsø, Norway



Russian, aspect, prefixes, statistical analysis


In this paper I will analyze the four Natural Perfectives of the simplex verb путатьipf ‘tangle up’, namely впутатьpf, спутатьpf, перепутатьpf and запутатьpf. According to Janda et al. (2013:103), “prefix variation” is a phenomenon that applies to 27% of all Russian verbs and is caused by the ability of prefixes to “focus the meanings of a simplex verb in different ways” (op. cit.:162). My question is: Is it possible to predict the choice of prefix when there is prefix variation? And, if yes: How?

 My hypothesis is that the choice of prefix largely depends on the construction in which the verb appears and the semantics of its internal argument. Thus, I consider two factors in my analysis: Factor 1 Constructions and Factor 2 Semantics of the Internal Argument. My findings indicate that both factors are vital and, more specifically, that the choice of prefix for this verb to a large extent can be predicted by six tendencies that I will discuss thoroughly.

I will argue that these six tendencies are of great relevance to second language learners, like myself, who often find themselves confused at the number of prefixes and, more specifically, Natural Perfectives available for a given verb. The topic of this paper has been born from a desire to gain insight with practical value in second language learning.




How to Cite

Nordrum, Maria. 2014. “Four Ways to Get Tangled Up in Russian”. Poljarnyj Vestnik 17 (November):19–35.



Articles (peer reviewed)