The construction stal byt’ (‘became’) in Russian

2018. № 1 (35), 110-132

Anna L. Leontyeva, Higher School of Economics, National Research University / Vinogradov Russian Language Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences; Moscow, Russia
Kristina V. Litvintseva, Higher School of Economics, National Research University; Moscow, Russia


Two constructions in Russian can be used to describe the event of becoming something/ someone: 'stat’ + non-verbal predicate' and 'stat' + byt' + non-verbal predicate'. The first construction ('stat’ + predicate') is normal because the semantics of the verb 'stat' includes two elements: 'phase' and 'existence'. As a consequence, the second construction 'stat'+byt'+predicate' might seem excessive. However, it is common in two periods of Russian language: 1) from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, and 2) in the 21st century in the language of the internet, wherein it is used not only by Russian native speakers but also by bilinguals whose heritage language is Russian. This implies that, although in nineteenth-century Standard Russian the construction became obsolete, it never completely disappeared from the colloquial language. At the same time, there is a difference between the old and the modern usage: in contrast to eighteenth-century texts, in contemporary usage this construction is less dependent on the chronological axis; the semantic accent has shifted from the phase verb stat’ to the stative byt’.