Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 597-631

First online:

The Semantics of the Russian Comitative Construction

  • Mary DalrympleAffiliated withInformation Sciences and Technologies Laboratory, Xerox PARC
  • , Irene HayrapetianAffiliated withCenter for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University
  • , Tracy Holloway KingAffiliated withInformation Sciences and Technologies Laboratory, Xerox PARC

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Russian has two different means of combining two noun phrases to form a plural noun phrase: the coordinate construction (using i 'and') and the comitative construction (using s 'with'). The two constructions are associated with different readings for certain sentences. In particular, the coordinate construction generally allows both a distributive and a collective reading, whereas in certain cases the comitative construction allows only for a collective reading. This difference has been ascribed to a difference in denotation of the two types of phrases. We show that such an analysis is unsatisfactory and propose an alternative analysis that appeals to pragmatic factors. In particular, we claim that distributive readings are dispreferred in the absence of an overt distributive operator and that pragmatic differences between the types of noun phrases raise the saliency of their subgroups to different degrees, thus making distributive readings more difficult to obtain with comitatives.