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First-person- and third-person-oriented genericity in Russian. Elena Paducheva (Moscow) SPE-6 , St.Petersburg, 1 0-14 .0 6 .201 3.

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first person and third person oriented genericity in russian

First-person- and third-person-oriented genericity in Russian

Elena Paducheva(Moscow)

SPE-6, St.Petersburg,10-14.06.2013

The paper deals with Russian generic-personal sentences (GPS) – this term being applied, in the first place, to subjectless sentences with the predicate of the second person singular (present or future tense), with the implied subject referring to the generalized first person and meaning something like ‘me and those like me’. (Some of the examples below are taken from the Russian National Corpus, )

(1) a. Est’ mnogo slov, kotorye proiznosish’ po privychke ‘there are many words that <you> pronounce as a habit’.

b. Vechno tebja zhdesh’ (L.Tolstoj) ‘<you> always wait for you’ [ ‘one always has to wait for you’]

(2) S nachal’stvom ne posporish’ ‘with the authorities <you> won’t argue’.

In Moltmann 2010 the meaning of generic one in English is described in basically the same way. It is claimed that this pronoun expresses first-person-oriented genericity. Taking into consideration the fact that in the American variety of English you is often used instead of one, I suggest that the implied subject of a Russian GPS (with the predicate of the second person) also expresses first-person-oriented genericity.
Jespersen (Philosophy of grammar) about one and you; example from “Martin Eden” by Jack London.
  • Ruth: “By the way, Mr. Eden, what is booze? You used it several times, you know.” “Oh, booze, it’s slang. It’s whisky and beer – anything that will make you drunk.” Ruth: “Don’t use you when you are impersonal. You is very personal, and your use of it just now is not precisely what you meant” “I don’t just see that.” “Why, you said just now to me ‘whisky and beer – anything that will make you drunk’ – make me drunk, don’t you see?” “Well, it would, wouldn’t it?” “Yes, of course”, she smiled; but it would be nicer not to bring me into it. Substitute one for you, and see how much better it sounds.”
So one and you do not mean the same. Still it is clear that 2d person pronouns and verb forms express first-person-oriented genericity easier than the 1st person ones do, both in English and in Russian. Perhaps in some other languages as well.
There are other varieties of GPS in Russian – sentences with the generic ty ‘you’, ex. (3), (generic vy is also possible – when interpreted as a form of politeness, not plural):

(3) Chto ty budesh’ delat’ s bessovestnymi ljud’mi! ‘what will you do with dishonest people!’

  • Generic use of the implied subject of the imperative is also possible:

(4) Podi dokazhi, chto ty ne verbljud ‘go and prove that you are not a camel’.

Other means of expressing first-person-oriented genericity – generic my ‘we’, ex. (5), and generic chelovek ‘man’, ex. (6):

(5) Oxotno my darim, chto nam ne nadobno samim ‘gladly we give <to others> what we need not ourselves’.

(6) S vozrastom chelovek stanovitsja bolee snisxoditelen k ljudskim slabostjam ‘with age, a person becomes more forgiving of human weaknesses’.

  • The referential status of the 1st person pronoun in philosophical contexts, such as cogito ergo sum (Decartes), won’t be discussed.
In what follows I deal with generic use of subjectless second person predicates, as in (1), (2), and of the second person pronouns, as in (3).
  • I am ready to accept that English generic one behaves approximately in the same way as you in the American variety of English. So I compare the English generic one described in Moltmann 2010 with the Russian first-person-generic ty ‘you’ and the implied 2d person subject of the GPS.
The first obstacle. In Moltmann 2010 generic one is usually equated with the arbitrary PRO – or controlled PRO. But in Russian zero (and non-zero) 2d person subject of a GPS usually is not interchangeable with the arbitrary PRO.
Russian GPSs are not synonymous with constructions implying arbitrary PRO. Generic one should rather be translated into Russian by an impersonal predicative construction, and not by a GPS or 2d person pronoun. Cf. example (1a) from Moltmann 2010 and its Russian equivalents (Ra)-(Rd):

“(1a)” One can see the picture from the entrance =

(Ra) Etu kartinu mozhno videt’ ot vxoda = ‘it is possible to see the picture from the entrance’

(Rb) *Etu kartinu mozhesh’ videt’ ot vxoda, lit. ‘<you> can see the picture from the entrance’;

(Rc) ?Etu kartinu vidish’ ot vxoda, lit. ‘<you> see the picture from the entrance’;

(Rd) ?Etu kartinu ty mozhesh’ videt’ ot vxoda, lit. ‘you can see the picture from the entrance’.

  • The literal translation, by a GPS with the modal verb in the 2d person, is definitely impossible, see (Rb). Sentences (Rc), (Rd) are not impossible but they are not neutral: there is kind of undue emphasis, which is out of place.
In fact, there are contextual restrictions on the verb in a GPS. A semantic operator is needed that provides the verb with the modality of irrealis. In (1a), (1b) it is quantification. In (7)-(10) it is negation, explicit or implicit; in fact, (7)-(10) express impossibility:

(7) Tebja ne ubediš’ lit.‘<you> won’t persuade you’ = ‘it’s impossible to persuade you’;

(8) Nichego ne podelaeš’! ‘<you’ll>do nothing’ = ‘nothing to do’;

(9) Razve vse zapomniš’? ‘whether <you>remember everything?’;

(10) V tramvae krasivuju zhenshchinu ne vstretiš’ ‘in a tram <you> won’t meet a beautiful woman’.

  • The same in ex. (2):

(2) S nachal’stvom ne posporiš’ ‘with the authorities <you> won’t argue’.

In (11) the modal context is created by the fact that the situation is conditioned; the condition is expressed in phrase ot takoj zhizni ‘because of the life like this’:

(11) Ozvereesh’ ot takoj zhizni ‘<you’ll > become a beast because of the life like this’.

  • GPSs are often used in the context of conditional, causal, temporal or some other connection between different situations:

(12) Tishe edeš’ – dal’she budeš’ (Russian proverb) ‘the slower <you> go the further <you’ll> get’.

The pronoun ty ‘you’ can be interpreted generically if there is a possibility to interpret the situation as being not referential. In (13b) referentiality is cancelled with the help of the conjunction:

(13) a. Xorošo, chtou tebja est’ dom [referential ty] ‘it’s good thatyou have a house’.

b. Xorošo, kogdau tebja est’ dom [generic ty] ‘it’s good whenyou have a house’.

“…an agent generalizes a self-ascription of a property by abstracting from the particuliarities of his own situation and thus ascribing the property to anyone else — or rather anyone the agent can assume is as normal as he himself. Both of these components, the first-person connection, in whatever way it may manifest itself, and the generalization, are part of the meaning of generic one <…> or so I will argue.” (Moltmann 2010).
1 generalization
1) Generalization
  • A GPS usually denotes a repeatable situation – namely, it describes a situation that can take place with different participants, as in (14):

(14) Slovo ne vorobej, vyletit – ne pojmaeš’ ‘a word is not a sparrow – if it flies away <you> won’t catch it’.

A GPS can also describe an event that concerns exactly one person, namely, the speaker. Then pronouns (and verbs) of the 1st and 2d person alternate – their reference being identical; see example from Knjazev 2008:

(15) Znaesh’, na rabote ja tak vymatihvajus’. Ezdiš’ po Moskve so vsyakimi inostrancami, gid-perevodchik. <...> Menya mutit ot zvukov angliyjskoyj rechi. <...>. Tak chto do domu dobereš’sya – i nikuda. (A. Gladilin). ‘You know I’m so exhausted at work. <You> go back and forth through Moscow with foreigners, as a guide-translator <...>I feel sick from the sounds of English speech. So <you> get home and cannot move anywhere.’

And even iterativity is not obligatory:

(16) Odnazhdy obnaruzhivaeš’, chto tebja net. Ty razbit na tysjachu kuskov, i u kazhdogo kuska svoj glaz, nos, uxo. (L.Ulickaja. People of our king) ‘one day <you> find out that you do not exist. You are broken into thousand of pieces, and each piece has its own eye, nose, ear’

  • NB. The fragment is the very beginning of the book.
An example from Bulygina 1990:

(17) S toboj ser’ezno razgovarivaeš’, a ty kak balabolka, lit. “<you> speak seriously to you and you behave as a chatterbox” = ‘I speak seriously to you, as I used to, and you behave as a chatterbox’.

2 1st person orientation
2) 1st person-orientation
  • Egocentrical (i.e. indexical) linguistic entities, i.e. egocentricals, in Russian were thoroughly studied during the last two decades, see a survey in Paducheva 2012. Egocentricals are words, grammatical categories and constructions that presuppose the speaker as a participant of the situation described, such as edva li ‘hardly’ in He’ll hardly be in time.
  • It is characteristic of egocentricals that they presuppose the speaker in a canonical communicative situation, i.e. in the dialogicalregister. Otherwise they can undergo projection. Two types of projection are to be distinguished: narrative projection and hypotactical projection.
GPS is an egocentrical construction.Prototypically, GPS refers to the speaker. But GPSs are used not only in canonical communicative situations but also in other types of discourse. So narrative projection is possible for the implied subject of GPS,see example (18) (from Knjazev 2008):

(18) No kak postupit’, kogda chuzhdoe segodnjashnemu dnju zhilo v nem samom <…>. S soboj ved’ ne porvesh’, ne perestanesh’ vstrechat’sja. [V.Grossman. Life and fate] ‘But what to do when something alien to today’s life was alive in himself <…>. <You> cannot break with yourself, stop meeting yourself’.

As for the hypotactical projection, it’s OK for English generic one, cf. Moltmann 2010:
  • “Generic one differs from a first-person pronoun such as I in English in that it need not relate to the speaker as the first person, but in embedded contexts relates to whoever is the agent of the attitude or speech act, for example John in (1c):

(1c) John thinks that one can see the picture from the entrance. ”

On the contrary, the implied subject of a Russian GPS cannot undergo hypotactical projection. Only arbitrary PRO can be used in the Russian translation of English (1c):

(R1c) John sčitaet, čto ètu kartinu možno videt’ ot vxoda ‘John thinks that it is possible to see the picture from the entrance’;

(R1c’) **John sčitaet, chto ètu kartinu vidiš’ ot vxoda [lit. ‘John believes that <you> see the picture from the entrance’]

In (19) the 2d person pronoun ty with the 1st- person-generic interpretation is possible in the embedded position, but only because it is co-referent with the arbitrary PRO (= the implied 1st person generic subject) of the predicative neprijatno ‘unpleasant’in the main sentence:

(19) Kak neprijatno videt’, chto ty chto-to terjaesh’ v glazax ljudej ottogo, chto goloden i beden. ‘How unpleasant <for you> it is to realize that youlose something in the eyes of the people because <you> are hungry and poor’. (example from Zalizniak Anna 2012)

See (20), which is the Russian translation of example (8a) from Moltmann 2010:

(8a) One sometimes thinks one’s life is too short.

  • The pronoun ty (i.e. the possessive tvoj) with the 1st person generic interpretation is possible in the subordinate clause in (20). But it is because it is co-referent with the implied subject of the GPS in the main clause – licensed by the context of quantification (inogda = ‘sometimes’):

(20) Inogda dumaeš’, čto tvojažizn’ sliškom korotka ‘sometimes <you> think that your life is too short’.

Thus, the implied subject of a GPS can be accounted for as the 1st person PRO in generic use. Its semantic and referential properties become clearer when compared with those of the implied subject of the indefinite personal sentence (IPS) in its generic variety.
  • In Russian the first-person-oriented genericity, as in GPS, is opposed to the third-person-oriented genericity, represented by generic use of the 3d person PRO in the IPS:

(21) Cypljat po oseni schitajut ‘<they> count chickens in the automn’ [generic use of the 3d person PRO].

The generic 1st person PRO differs from the 3d person plural PRO in several respects.

1. Generic 1st person PRO refers, in the first place, to the speaker; while the 3d person PRO rather excludes the speaker. In (22) the speaker opposes himself to those who revile the autumn:

(22) Dni pozdnej oseni branjat obyknovenno. No mne ona mila (Pushkin) ‘Days of the late automn – <they> scold them usually. But for me it [i.e. the automn] is nice’.

Another example:

(23) a. Kogda uezžajt, ostavljajut adres. A ja ne ostavila. ‘when <they> go away <they> leave the address, but I didn’t’.

b. Kogda uezžaeš’, ostavljaeš’ adres. *A ja ne ostavila. ‘when <you> go away <you> leave the address, but I didn’t’.

  • A GPS cannot exclude the speaker from the set of possible agents of the situation described.
2. Generic 1st person PRO is eager to enter co-reference relationships, cf.:

(24) Podal’she polozhiš’, poblizhe voz’meš’ ‘the farther <you> put <something> the safer <you>take it back’;

  • And the 3d person PRO is not characteristic of co-reference marking.

(25) Po plat’ju vstrečajut, po umu provožajut ‘<they> meet you according to your dress, <they> see you off according to your wit’.

  • In fact, IPS lowers the rank of the participant: it is thrown out of the field of vision and doesn’t make an appropriate antecedent.
3. The difference in the grammatical number of the predicate is also relevant. In a single use the plural form of the GPS predicate doesn’t express plurality of the subject: a singular person counts her chickens or reviles the late autumn. But in the context of the anaphoric reference the plural of the 3d person PRO reveals itself; e.g., in example (26) (from Bulygina, Shmelev 1997) the first clause introduces a set of running men referred to in the second clause:

(26) Skoro begut – dal’nix ne zhdut ‘when <they> run fast <they> do not wait for those behind’.

4. The verb with the 3d person PRO has the subjunctive mood:

(27) Esli by vybory mogli čto-to izmenit’, ix davno by otmenili ‘if elections could have influenced anything <they> would have prohibited them long ago’.

  • But the predicate of a GPS cannot be in the subjunctive. Sentence (28), a GPS equivalent of an example from Moltmann 2010, has no counterfactual version in Russian:

(28) Esli ty angel, ty ni čelovek, ni božestvo ‘if you are an angel you are neither human nor divine’.

  • First. Russian ty ‘you’ and PRO, both being 1st person-oriented generics and translational equivalences for the English one, have different appropriateness conditions. So it would be misleading to call them the same name. The difference is to be described.
  • Second. Comparison of the English one with the Russian ty ‘you’ gives rise to a suspicion that English one and American you are not quite alike.
  • Bulygina T.V., Shmelev A.D. Языковая концептуализация мира (на материале русской грамматики). М.: Языки рус. культуры, 1997.
  • Knjazev Ju.P. Адресатное и обобщенно-личное значения форм 2-го лица // Динамические модели: Слово. Предложение. Текст: Сб. ст. в честь Е.В.Падучевой: ЯСК 2008.
  • Paducheva E.V. Высказывание и его соотнесенность с действительностью. М.: Наука, 1985.
  • Paducheva E.V. Неопределенно-личное предложение и его подразумеваемый субъект. Вопросы языкознания, 2012, №1, 27-41. .
  • Moltmann, Friederike. 2010. Generalizing Detached Self-Reference and the Semantics of Generic One. Mind & Language 25.4:440–473. .
  • Zalizniak Anna A. Второе лицо: семантика, грамматика, нарратология //Логический анализ языка. Адресация дискурса. М.: Индрик, 2012. С. 24-40.