, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 597-631

The Semantics of the Russian Comitative Construction

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Abstract

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.