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Why does Russian not make motion verb forms extensible ????

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Why does Russian not make motion verb forms extensible ????

Postby dsteve54 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:25 pm

??WHY?? do Russians, in their language, choose to ???NOT?? make the forms used for action verbs extensible to other verbs as a means of expression?

So, speaking of only indicative mood, for instance, for "to go (on foot)" there is

ходить imperfective aspect; indefinite form
-----------past, present, and future tense, all marked by inflections in sense of a true definition of tense

идти imperfective aspect; definite form
-----------past, present, and future tense, all marked by inflections in a sense of a true definition of tense

пойти perfective aspect
--------- past, and future tense, all marked by inflections in a sense of a true definition of tense.

So, to OVERSIMPLIFY for the sake of argument, we use ходить when we are encoding the fact that we choose to draw emphasis to the process as a whole and not the execution of an instance of it.

идти...we encode to draw emphasis to the fact that we are dealing with some stage of execution other than completion...present, past, future...something that is, was, will be underway but not necessarily completed

поити - we encode to draw emphasis to the fact that we are dealing with some aspect of completion of something that had been or will be underway....past or future. (...it has been completed or will be completed in the statement of interest)


Ok....so given THAT system for motion verbs of which the main ones are fourteen sets, or so, ??WHY?? do Russians NOT have this system for many, if not all kinds of NON-motion verbs. It SEEMS like the paradigm could be extensible

I can see where it would NOT apply to a verb like "understanding".....maybe the lines of delineation are hazy as to when "understanding" is .... We CAN talk about "understanding this period of history" as a process, but we don't use it in the iterative sense. "Every year I understand"...we can say "Every year I undergo some level of greater understanding of". And it would be hard to talk about "understanding" as a completed process, but we DO say "I already understand this", or "I will understanding this".......So it SEEMS that there COULD be a form

понимать- imperfective aspect, "indefinite form"
???*****???? - imperfective aspect, "definite form" "Little by little he is understanding what I am saying", "When he was [in the process of understanding me], the bomb fell on the building across the street", "tonight he will understand completely", "he understood completely".
понять - perfective aspect

It seems that this verb, even being abstract, COULD merit an imperfective aspect, definite form.

But even more tangibly, it seems like for "to pour" there could be an imperfective aspect, definite form

наливать imperfective aspect..."indefinite form"
???****??? imperfective aspect...."definite form"
налить perfective aspect



What is really the difference between a motion process and an non-motion process, to the extent that one merits an additional representation and the other does not? And why are only selected motion processes chosen to have the additional form (pour, to my way of thinking, could be a motion verb)?
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Postby dsteve54 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:47 pm

The question I would ask is why is there **NOT** extensibility of Russian motion-verb forms to non-motion verb forms? Or you COULD go the other way by simply asking, "what makes motion verbs (declared to be 14 or so sets) so special that they merit special forms, when something like "pour" which is equally tangible, does not?

It seems like either they would extend the forms used for motion to include more abstract or other concrete verbs, or on the flip side, if they are not needed for a verb like "pour", then are they really needed for a verb like "walk"?
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Postby Slava » Sat Dec 26, 2009 10:20 pm

I know it's a bit of a pat and banal answer, but, when it comes to languages, there is no "why." Remember Pinocchio and Gepetto: "Because."
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.
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Postby dsteve54 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:07 pm

Actually, my friend, who is American, but a teacher of Russian, eventulally did reply to me in an email, rather than this forum. I suggested he post here directly with his response, but for whatever reason, he has not yet. However, I will take the liberty of excerpting (I hope he does not mind) because I liked the response and his wording:
[Begin excerpt]
I don't think you quite grasp the semantic differences between verbs of motion and other simple imp/perf verb pairs. The reason why the three-form system of motion verbs can not be extented to other verbs is that these motion verbs possess two added semantic dimensions besides the standard aspectual meanings of other verbs: multidirectional & indeterminate motion (as with ходить), whereas other verb forms do not.

Some verbs, like наливать/налить, because of their underlying meaning, do have a directional nuance, and this, as with other motion verbs is expressed with a preposition plus accusative case. But, their underlying root meanings do not include the two dimensions noted above, since it is impossible to pour something multidirectionally or without any goal (the object or place into or onto which something is poured, either explicit or implicit in the construction). The same semantically-motivated nuance applies to verbs like бросать/бросить "to throw" or вешать/повесить "to hang."

Does that clear it up any for you?

[End excerpt]

Well, it did clear it up for me. I had been considering the completion/noncompletion angle, but I had forgotten about multidimensional/unidirectional motion.

So I think I am squared away. My only residual thought would be that in the abstract, I think about делать/сделать and wonder if there could be a sense of " 'doing' something in a multidirectional way", as in helter-skelter, and if "doing" in some way could have an analog to
, say, a verb like бродить. But even in the later case there is a separate verb гулять to express the notion of strolling around. So maybe "doing all over the place" is perhaps encapsulated in an entirely different verb, maybe a prefixed version of делать.
So it is probably torturing words to try to associate motion with some abstract verbs in an attempt to "bring them into the fold" of visible-motion verbs.

So I probably have my answer in a nice presentation by my friend....of course, I continue to daydream about this or that possibility, but with all that is going on, it is probably like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to concern myself about it much more. :)
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Postby dsteve54 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:21 pm

Oh, I forgot to mention that "Why?" is usually a philosopher's question, and for better or for worse, I have that bent.

I am always looking for reasons, motivations, and undercurrents. As I mentioned about "deck chairs/Titanic", I can sometimes be in outer space when I should be more grounded. But sometimes it serves me because there are some "Why" type people around...maybe we should be quarantined.
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Postby skinem » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:44 pm

Thanks for posting your friend's reply, dsteve54.
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