Swiss Cheese for Lazy Speakers: Verb Omissions in Russian and Czech


  • Jekaterina Mažara University of Zurich



In this paper, I will examine a specialty of colloquial Russian - the omission of verbs - and compare it to the possibilities of verb omission in Czech, where this phenomenon is rather rare. The omissions in question are to be separated from compulsory ellipses, which will not be taken into account in this paper. They are also not to be regarded as zero lexemes, which are elusive to attempts of reconstruction. The nature of this third kind of omission itself presents a frame for the comparison, since these omissions can be placed along two scales, that of AMBIGUOUS/VAGUE VS. UNEQUIVOCALLY RECOVERABLE and FREE FORMATION VS. PHRASEOLOGICALLY BOUND PHRASE. The comparison of verb omissions in the two languages along these scales emphasizes the restrictions of omissions in Czech and the high degree of freedom in Russian. Moreover, verb omissions in Russian can lead to changes in the meaning of a sentence, whereas they seem to be merely a stylistic device in Czech.