The valency of stimulus in Russian psych-verbs: semantics-syntax interface

2015. № 1 (29), 28-66

Valentina Ju. Apresjan, Higher School of Economics; Vinogradov Institute of Russian Language, RAS


The paper considers semantics—syntax interface in the domain of Russian psych-verbs denoting emotional states. It attempts to demonstrate that syntactic properties of psych-verbs are semantically motivated. Psych-verbs are usually assigned two thematic roles — Experiencer and Stimulus. While Experiencer in Russian psych-verbs denoting state is usually coded as nominative or dative, Stimulus lacks a standard syntactic expression. The paper puts forward a hypothesis that variation in syntactic expression is semantically motivated. It is explained by the absence of a holistic role in place of Stimulus. The types of emotional stimuli vary greatly in different emotion clusters (anger, joy, sadness, pride, fear etc.) and these ontological differences receive semantic and syntactic reflection. In different emotion clusters and depending on syntactic expression, the role of Stimulus can be semantically flavored by other thematic roles, such as Patient (for certain verbs of anger), Addressee (for certain verbs of joy), Place or Theme (for certain verbs of sadness), Instrument or Part (for verbs of pride) and others. The choice of syntactic expression is often triggered by this additional thematic role. The types of additional roles are determined by the whole event structure, namely, the type of stimulus, wishes of the experience, the type of feeling, behavioral and speech manifestations of emotion. If a verb allows different kinds of syntactic expression of stimulus, each government pattern is associated with its own additional thematic role.