This paper explores a possibility of applying the Vendlerian classification of lexical verbs, developed on the basis of English, to the verbal system in Russian. Verbs in Russian unlike in English are obligatorily classified into imperfective and perfective verb forms according to their interaction with tense, and thus verbal aspect in Russian is considered a purely grammatical category. Against this background, we examine the interaction between the lexical and the grammatical aspect in Russian.
We adopt Paducheva's 1996 view that as well including stative verbs, the imperfective verbs in Russian can be clearly distinguished into at least two more distinct lexical classes that correspond to the Vendlerian activities and accomplishments. Paducheva claims, however, that the Vendlerian classification of lexical verbs is not relevant in Russian, since there are no grammatical operations sensitive to it. In this paper we show that this is not the case, and that there are modifiers which are sensitive precisely to the distinction between imperfective accomplishments and activities..
The relevant data are modifiers of the form 'bit by bit', or more generally X by X. These occur with imperfectives which correspond to verbs classified as accomplishments in English, such as stroit' (to build) and est' (to eat), but not with verbs corresponding to English activities, such as gulat' (to walk) and vesti' (to drive). A second modifier postpenno, unlike X by X modifier, distinguishes between accomplishments and activities in the perfective as well as the imperfective aspect.
We explain the data in the following way. We follow Rothstein's, (2004) analysis of accomplishments as denoting events which are sums of an activity subevent and a subevent of change, where the event of change is related to the activity via an incremental relation. An incremental relation assumes a contextually determined incremental chain, C(e2), imposed on the event of change, via the stage of relation holding between its subevents (where stage is defined as in Landman 1992). This essentially assigns to the BECOME event a division into the contextually relevant parts of the change of state event. The incremental relation projects this incremental chain structure on the activity subevent of the accomplishment verb. Thus, the structure captures the generally accepted intuition (Dowty 1991, Krifka 1992, Tenny 1994, and others) that the change of state 'measures out' or marks the progress of the activity and thus of the event as a whole. 'Bit by bit' modifiers are analyzed as constraints on the contextually detemined stage-of relation which picks out the contextually relevant parts of the BECOME event in terms of which the events are measures out. We assume a measure function which assigns to an event a pair consisting of a cardinality and a standard of measure, and give the interpretation of X by X as a verbal modifier. X by X modifiers cannot appear with activity verbs, since they presuppose an incremental relation and an incremental relation, and only accomplishments have this structure.
A similar interpretation is assumed for postepenno, which is also interpreted as a modifier constraining the incremental relation, but which, instead of constraining the size of each subevent in C(e2) forces the incremental chain to be sufficiently fine-grained, with parts of approximately the same size. We will show that the fact that postepenno but not X by X modifiers can occur with perfective aspect follows from the interaction between the modification and the semantics of perfectivity, which we take to be some form of telicity.
In conclusion, we show that there is evidence that some grammatical operations of modification do pay attention to the distinction between activities and accomplishments, and that these modificiation operations show that the accomplishments occur in both imperfective and perfective aspect.