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Abstract

This paper addresses the East Slavic/Old Russian construction with nominative case-marking on the infinitival object, cf. zemlja paxati, ryba loviti, which has been a matter of long debate in Slavic Studies. I discuss the probability and verifiability of diverse hypotheses on the origin, evolution and distributive features of this construction in the history of Russian. I argue that the nominative case-marking on infinitival non-subject arguments instantiates the mechanism of differential object marking, since the speakers were able to use both the accusative and the nominative objects in the same syntactic position: the choice of the nominative vs accusative case was triggered by such pragmatic factors as communicative status and referentiality. The data provided by the historical text corpora testify that the modal semantics of the zemlja paxati construction did not favor its use in most types of embedded clauses, especially in infinitival complements of causative and volitive predicates. In these syntactic contexts, the accusative remained the strongly preferred option. With impersonal modal verbs and predicatives, the nominative and the accusative have comparable frequency figures.

Authors

Tsimmerling, Anton V.

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