Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 0.644
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.878

CiteScore 2017: 0.79

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.418
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.386

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 56, Issue 1


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


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


  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra & Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon (eds.) 2005. Serial verb constructions: A cross-linguistic typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra & Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon (eds.) 2006. Complementation: A cross-linguistic typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Avrutin, Sergey & Maria Babyonyshev. 1997. Obviation in subjunctive clauses and AGR: Evidence from Russian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 15. 229–262.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Barentsen, Adrian. 1995. Shifting points of orientation in Modern Russian: Tense selection in ‘reported perception’. In Theo Janssen & Wim Van Der Wurff (eds.), Reported speech: Form and functions of the verb, 15–55. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Brecht, Richard. 1977. Čtoby or čto and by. Folia Slavica 1. 33–41.Google Scholar

  • Cristofaro, Sonia. 2005. Subordination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Culicover, Peter. 1997. Principles and parameters: An introduction to syntactic theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Culicover, Peter & Ray Jackendoff. 2005. Simpler syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Dobrushina, Nina R. 2012. Subjunctive argument clauses in Russian. Russian Linguistics 36(2). 121–156.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Engerer, Volkmar. 2013. Towards a theory of phases and phasal verbs in language typology. http://pure.iva.dk/ws/files/35044787/typology_v2_UFC_FoL_anonymous.pdf.

  • Hansen, Björn. 2004. The boundaries of grammaticalization. The case of modals in Russian, Polish and Serbian/Croatian. In Walter Bisang, Nicolaus Himmelmann & Björn Wiemer (eds.), What makes grammaticalization? A look from its fringes and its components, 245–271. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Haspelmath, Martin & Ekkehard König (eds.) 1995. Converbs in cross-linguistic perspective: Structure and meaning of adverbial verb forms – adverbial participles, gerunds (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology 13). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Kazenin, Konstantin I. & Yakov G. Testelets. 2004. Where coordination meets subordination. In Martin Haspelmath (ed.), Coordinating constructions, 227–241. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Knjazev, Mikhail Yu. 2009. Predikatnye aktanty s mestoimeniem to v russkom jazyke: Grammatičeskij status [Sentential arguments with the pronoun to in Russian: Grammatical status]. Saint Petersburg: Saint Petersburg University Undergraduate thesis.Google Scholar

  • Letuchiy, Alexander B. 2013. A strange variant of Russian čtoby-constructions: Irreality and tense marking. In Irina Kor Chahine (ed.), Current studies in Slavic linguistics (Studies in Language Companion Series 146), 149–166. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Mal’čukov, Andrei L. 2001. Opyt isčislenija taksisnyx značenij (na materiale tungusskix jazykov) [Towards a typology of taxis meanings (on the basis of data from Tungusic languages)]. In Sadje A. Shubik (ed.), Issledovanija po jazykoznaniju. K 70-letiju A.V. Bondarko [Research in linguistics. On the occasion of A.V. Bondarko’s 70th birthday], 186–197. Saint Petersburg: Nauka.Google Scholar

  • Noonan, Michael. 2007. Complementation. In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, vol. 2: Complex constructions, 52–150. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Padučeva, Elena V. 2014. Ėkspletivnoe otricanie i semantika sojuza poka [Expletive negation and the meaning of the subordinator poka]. In Vladimir A. Plungjan, Michael A. Daniėl’, Ekaterina A. Ljutikova, Sergei G. Tatevosov & Olga V. Fedorova (eds.), Jazyk. Konstanty. Peremennye. Pamjati Aleksandra Evgen’eviča Kibrika [Language. Constants. Variables. In memory of Alexander Evgen’jevich Kibrik], 339–350. Moscow: Aleteja.Google Scholar

  • Sannikov, Vladimir Z. 2008. Russkij sintaksis v semantiko-pragmatičeskom prostranstve [Russian syntax in the semantico-pragmatic space]. Moscow: Jazyki slavjanskix kul’tur.Google Scholar

  • Schlenker, Philippe. 2003. A Plea For Monsters. Linguistics and Philosophy 26. 29–120.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schmidtke-Bode, Karsten. 2009. A typology of purpose clauses (Typological studies in language 88). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Sebba, Mark. 1987. The syntax of serial verbs: An investigation into serialisation in Sranan and other languages. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Shirjaev, Evgeni N. 1986. Bessojuznoe složnoe predloženie v sovremennom russkom jazyke [Unmarked complex clause formation in modern Russian]. Moscow: Nauka.Google Scholar

  • Shopen, Timothy (ed.) 2007. Language typology and syntactic description. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Stiebels, Barbara. 2007. Towards a typology of complement control. ZAS Papers in Linguistics 47. 1–80.Google Scholar

  • Szucsich, Luka. 2009. Obviation and Feature Sharing in Subjunctive/Conditional Clauses. In Gerhild Zybatow, Petr Biskup, Uwe Junghanns & Denisa Lenertová (eds.), Studies in Formal Slavic Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Semantics and Information Structure: Proceedings of FDSL-7 [Linguistik International 21], 209–220. Frankfurt am Main Peter Lang.Google Scholar

  • Szucsich, Luka. 2010. Obviation und temporale Abhängigkeit bei Subjunktiven. Zeitschrift für Slavistik 54(4). 398–415.Google Scholar

  • Testelets, Jakov G. 2001. Vvedenie v obščij sintaksis [Introduction to general syntax]. Moscow: RGGU.Google Scholar

  • Volkov, Oleg S. 2014. Tipologija glagol’nyx pokazatelej s aspektual’no-fazovoj semantikoj [Typology of verbal markers with aspectual-phasal semantics]. Moscow: Moscow State University Undergraduate thesis.Google Scholar

  • Weiss, Daniel. 1995. Russian converbs: A typological outline. In Martin Haspelmath & Ekkehard König (eds.), Converbs in cross-linguistic perspective: Structure and meaning of adverbial verb forms – Adverbial participles, gerunds (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology 13), 239–282. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

  • Xolodilova, Maria. 2013. Statističeskie svojstva vspomogatel’nyx glagolov u russkix glagolov moč’ i xotet’ [Statistical properties showing the auxiliary status of Russian verbs moč’ ‘can’ and xotet’ ‘want’.]. In Alexander V. Bondarko, Maria D. Voejkova, Ekaterina V. Raxilina & Elizaveta G. Sosnovceva (eds.), Glagol’nye i imennye kategorii v sisteme funkcional’noj grammatiki [Verbal and nominal categories in the system of functional grammar], 311–317. Saint Petersburg: ILI RAN.Google Scholar

  • Xrakovskij, Viktor S. (ed.) 2009. Tipologija taksisnyx konstrukcij [Typology of taxis constructions]. Мoscow: Znak.Google Scholar

  • Zaliznjak, Andrei A. & Elena V. Padučeva. 1975. K tipologii otnositel’nogo predloženija [Towards typology of the relative clause]. Semiotika i informatika 6. 51–101.Google Scholar

  • Zwicky, Arnold. 1985. Heads. Journal of Linguistics 21. 109–132.Google Scholar

  • Сulicover, Peter & Ray Jackendoff. 1997. Semantic subordination despite syntactic coordination. Linguistic Inquiry 28. 195–217.Google Scholar

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.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in