What's in a Russian aspectual prefix?

A cognitive linguistics approach to prefix meanings


  • Tore Nesset UiT The Arctic University of Norway


Russian, cognitive linguistics, prefix, aspect, trajector, landmark, image schema


This article analyzes Russian aspectual prefixes from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. First, a general schema is advanced that involves a trajector, a landmark, and a relation connecting the two. Second, it is argued that there are conditions on the trajector involving an observer and a domain of accessibility and that the trajector of the prefix is not necessarily the same as the trajector of the verb. Third, landmarks are shown to come in four types, involving the image schemas POINT, LINE, PLANE, and CONTAINER. Fourth, the PATH image schema is demonstrated to represent the prototypical relation between trajector and landmark, although the prefix po- represents an important exception to the generalization that prefixes encode a PATH. Fifth, it is shown that motion verbs provide strong empirical evidence for po- as a pathless prefix. Finally, it is proposed that the aspectual meaning of prefixes is the result of metaphorical extension of their basic spatial senses. Taken together, the article presents a small inventory of conceptual building blocks and advances the hypothesis that these building blocks are sufficient to describe all the meanings of the aspectual prefixes in Russian.




How to Cite

Nesset, T. “What’s in a Russian Aspectual Prefix? : A Cognitive Linguistics Approach to Prefix Meanings”. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, vol. 28, no. 2, July 2022, pp. 141-62, http://ojs.ung.si/index.php/JSL/article/view/51.