Morphosyntactic, contextual, and lexical determinants of non-referentiality in Russian


  • Angelina Rubina University of South Carolina
  • Stanley Dubinsky University of South Carolina


referenciatily, nominal syntax


A body of previous research has established that DP structure of certain nominal expressions is optional in Russian, and that it correlates with referentiality (Longobardi 1994; Pereltsvaig 2006). This paper explores the optionality of DP projections in direct objects that are alternately marked with accusative (ACC) and genitive (GEN) case, claiming that the latter are not referential and lack a DP projection even though they are found in argument positions. Building on Longobardi’s (1994) hypothesis that referentiality is encoded by DP, Pereltsvaig (2006) presents compelling evidence to show that the non-referentiality of some objects marked with non-canonical GEN is due to structure (i.e., the selection of small nominal QP complements) rather than case. Pereltsvaig (2006) shows that the apparent GEN case on bare NP non-referential objects of na-prefixed verbs is actually assigned by a null Q, with the object itself having ACC case. In this paper, we extend Pereltsvaig’s account, showing that selection of non-referential QP objects can be induced by context, independently of any morphosyntactic restriction, such as compelled by a na- prefix. Here too the verbs assign ACC case to the overt or covert head of a complement QP. We also turn to lexically determined non-referentiality, such as with objects of weak intensional verbs like ždat′ ‘wait for’. Non-referential objects of these verbs must also be QP projections. However, weak intensional verbs themselves turn out to assign GEN case to these non-referential QPs, in contrast with the two previous cases. We take up, in turn, the three different circumstances in which a non-referential “small nominal” (QP) might be introduced as an argument into the derivation: (i) morphosyntactically (objects of na-verbs), (ii) contextually (objects of non-na-verbs and non-agreeing subjects), and
(iii) lexically (objects of weak intensional verbs). 



How to Cite

Rubina, A., and S. Dubinsky. “Morphosyntactic, Contextual, and Lexical Determinants of Non-Referentiality in Russian”. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, vol. 30, no. 1, Dec. 2022, pp. 109-44,