Slavisches Seminar



26. Juli: "The Relationship of Context to Aspect in Russian: An Experiment"

Gastvortrag von Prof. Dr. Laura Janda (Tromsø), 16:15, Hörsaal 215

The relationship of context to aspect in Russian: An experiment


Russian aspect allows speakers to construe situations as either Perfective or Imperfective, but it is not clear to what extent aspect is determined by context and therefore redundant. We investigate the relationship between redundancy and construal by means of an experiment with 500 native Russian speakers who rated the acceptability of both Perfective and Imperfective verb forms in extensive authentic contexts representing various genres. We find that the meanings of Perfective and Imperfective are firmly anchored in about 81% of uses, where the choice of aspect is largely redundant given the context and native speakers give higher ratings to the original aspect than to the opposite aspect. By contrast, in about 17% of contexts, aspect is open to relatively free interpretation by the speaker. We contend that it is the anchoring in redundant contexts that likely facilitates the independence of construal in contexts with less redundancy. We also find that native speakers differ in their reaction to stimuli, and this variation is greatest when stimuli have been artificially manipulated. Native speakers are fairly consistent in giving the original aspect high ratings, but much less consistent in rating the non-original aspect. This study highlights the relationship between construal and redundancy as well as potential problems in testing the reactions of speakers to non-authentic data.