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Abstract

Abstract

This article investigates the diachronic development of Russian numeral constructions consisting of a paucal numeral ( “two”, “three”, “four”) followed by an adjective and a noun. Based on statistical analysis of more than 6,000 corpus examples, it is shown that a split took place in the second half of the twentieth century when feminine nouns developed a different agreement pattern from that of masculine and neuter nouns. This split is argued to represent the final step in a long “birth process” of gender-specific paucal constructions that started with the loss of the dual in the Middle Ages. It is suggested that we are witnessing a cascading effect, whereby the feminine pattern develops when the pattern for masculine and neuter nouns is approaching stabilization. The article furthermore includes a discussion of the hypothesis that “S-curves” represent a template for language change. While the documented changes resemble S-curves, the proposed analysis also addresses some general problems with testing the S-curve hypothesis empirically.

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/content/journals/10.1075/dia.18057.nes
2020-08-03
2020-09-26
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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: gender; S-curves; paucal; Russian; numerals
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