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Linguistics

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Volume 56, Issue 1

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On tense and irrealis marking in triclausal constructions (and what distinguishes them from biclausal constructions)

Alexander Letuchiy
Published Online: 2017-12-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0034

Abstract

In this article, I consider Russian triclausal constructions (complex sentences including three clauses, one main and two dependent). More specifically, I analyze constructions where C1 (the main clause) embeds C2 (an embedded clause), while C2 in turn embeds C3. In the paper, I mainly concentrate on sentences where C2 is a clause with an unreal meaning, for instance, an argument clause hosted by the verb xotet’ ‘want’, and C3 is an adjunct (temporal) clause.

I pose the following questions:

  1. How is tense assignment in C3 organized? Is it fully described by the rules of tense assignment that apply to biclausal structures?

    The answer is that tense assignment in C3 varies significantly from one sentence to another: for instance, in C3 the tense can be interpreted with respect to the event in C2, which is atypical for Russian adjunct clauses. Moreover, in many cases all three of the existing variants (tense marking anchored to the moment of speech, to the event in C1, or to the event in C2) can be used.

  2. Are there any syntactic phenomena that are typical for triclausal structures?

    I claim that there is a special phenomenon, which can be called “syntactic doubling” or “copying,” whereby the verb form in C2 influences the form in C3. Importantly, the situation cannot be described in terms of classical form assignment, where the verb in C2 requires a particular form in C3: rather, the syntactic pattern of the verb in C2 allows different forms to be used in C3, the only requirement being that the forms in C3 and C2 are identical. Sometimes a version of doubling is also observed in biclausal structures, but only one of the types of doubling described here (doubling in argument clauses) can be found in biclausal constructions.

    Another phenomenon specific to triclausal structures is represented by structures where C3 cannot be definitively assigned a structural position: in such cases it is unclear whether C3 is embedded under C1 or C2.

    I conclude that triclausal constructions are not reducible to a combination of two biclausal constructions: C1 + C2 and C2 + C3. For the properties of C3, the properties of both C2 and C1 are relevant.

Keywords: triclausal constructions; complex clauses; syntactic doubling; tense; aspect; future tense; converb; participle; finiteness; subjunctive mood

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About the article

Published Online: 2017-12-22

Published in Print: 2018-01-26


Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 56, Issue 1, Pages 163–206, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0034.

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