Distribution of two semelfactives in Russian: -nu- and -anu-


  • Julia Kuznetsova University of Tromsø
  • Anastasia Makarova University of Tromsø




Russian semelfactive verbs formed with the suffix -nu- are well-known in the literature (Isachenko 1960; Maslov 1948, 1965; Zaliznjak & Šmelev 2000). However, the distribution between two semelfactive suffixes -nu- and -anu- is less studied. Makarova & Janda (2009, 90) suggest that “there is no clear trend concerning the frequency of -nu- vs. -anu-”, so the nature of the distribution between the two semelfactive suffixes remains unresolved. In this paper we explore 2041 semelfactive verbs from the Russian National Corpus (RNC1) produced with the two suffixes and show that: 1) distribution of the two suffixes partly depends on the number of the syllables in the base, 2) suffix -anu- is more recent and most monosyllabic roots are currently undergoing a shift from -nu- to -anu-, and 3) prefixed verbs most frequently choose the -nu- semelfactive suffix, because the pairing of a prefix and a root functions as multisyllabic base. These principles function as tendencies and we do not postulate a clear-cut division. This paper is written within the theoretical framework of Cognitive Linguistics, which allows us to fully capture the complex distribution of the two suffixes.