Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 19, 2010

Explicit second-person subjects in Russian imperatives: semantics, word order, and a comparison with English

Egbert Fortuin
From the journal


This article offers an analysis of the function of the second person subject of the imperative in Russian. Apart from expressing contrast, the subject of the imperative is used for various pragmatic functions. It is shown that these functions can only be accounted for by looking both at the information structure of the sentence as a whole (word order and sentence stress), and the vocative-like properties of the subject. The specific analysis of these functions is supported by corpus data, more specifically the use of lexical verbs and the use of modal particles. Finally, the function of the subject of the imperative in Russian is compared to the function of the subject of the imperative in English. This comparison shows that the pragmatic functions of the imperative subject in English differ significantly from those of Russian. It is suggested that the difference between Russian and English may be partly due to the fact that English has a relatively rigid word order, whereas Russian word order is largely determined by information structure.

Department of Slavic Linguistics and Cultures, LUCL, Leiden University, P. O. Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands. E-mail:

Received: 2008-01-22
Revised: 2008-10-27
Published Online: 2010-03-19
Published in Print: 2010-March

© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York

Downloaded on 30.1.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow