Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spotted in the wild: reversed sequential action!

Russian has a verb form they call a деепричастие, or verbal adverb. (Often, perversely, this is called a "gerund" in Slavic linguistics, do not ask me why.) It functions as the verb in a subordinate clause and modifies the verb in the main one, hence its name. There are two forms, from the two aspects. One (imperfective) denotes action that occurs at the same time as the main verb; it's usually translated with "X-ing or "while X-ing" (he read the paper sitting in the chair). The other (perfective) denotes action that occurs sequentially with that of the main clause, almost always prior ; the textbook translation here is "having X-ed" (he read the paper, having sat down in his favorite chair).

Grammar books will spare a sentence or two to let you know that it's possible for the perfective to denote action that happens after that of the main verb.  They invariably offer up the same example - он вышел, хлопнув дверью, he went out, slamming the door - and they will add, as does Terence Wade: 'but this construction should not, however, be regarded as the norm' (his emphasis, section 379, p393 in my edition of A Comprehensive Russian Grammar).

Today, however, I found one in the wild! Two, in fact, though in the same sentence. Dmitry Berko wrote (at Grani.Ru:
Позиция казалась разумной. Во-первых, юридически это совершенно правильно. Во-вторых, возникает возможность негласного торга с обвинением: вашему начальству так нужно признание "беспорядков" на Болотной? Пожалуйста, мы думаем иначе, но не спорим. Все равно уже куча судов эти самые "беспорядки" признала, создав преюдицию и сформировав общественное мнение. А нам отдайте мальчика, который к ним не причастен.

The position seemed reasonable. First, legally it is completely sound. Second, it opens up the possibility of a backroom deal with the prosecution: Your bosses really need an acknowledgment that there were "riots" on Bolotnoye Square? Well, okay; we don't agree with that, but we won't argue. After all, a whole series of trials have already acknowledged these same "riots", thus creating a prejudicial effect and shaping public opinion. And then you give us the boy who wasn't involved in them.
Clearly, obviously, the creating and shaping are the result of the previous court actions.

I'm so excited about finding this. I'm such a nerd.

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