Infinitive constructions with the particle by

2012. № 2 (24), 42-64


Though the Russian infinitive is a non-finite form, it is frequently used independently, with or without the subjunctive particle by. This paper is an attempt to answer the question whether independent infinitival constructions should be considered as a result of insubordination (the term of Nicholas Evans). On the basis of Russian National Corpus, two semantic types of infinitival constructions can be established. One may be referred to as evaluative infinitive (Emu by ostat'sja odnomu ‘It’s better if he stays alone). The second construction may be called counterfactual non-evaluative infinitive (Ne minovat' by emu tjur'my, no pomogli rodstvenniki ‘He had all chances to go to prison, but his relatives helped him out’). Comparing these constructions with infinitival conditional clauses shows that the evaluative infinitive is a result of insubordination of the protasis of conditional clause, while the semantics of the non-evaluative counterfactual infinitive is a simple sum of the meanings of the infinitive and subjunctive categories.