Friday, May 21, 2010

The horrors of the Russian language

Two quite simple phenomena, typical in everyday speech:

Он сам пришел (he himself came)
Мы все пошли гулять (we all went to walk)

Everything's fine until you try to understand the functions of сам and все. First, their meaning is quite hard to describe. As for the second one, I still don't have an idea what does все add to this sentence and how does it differ from Мы пошли гулять. I suspect that there must be the same difference in English translation, but can't state it clearly.

Furthermore, the syntactic behavior is completely weird. It looks as if все was an optional syntactic modifier of мы. But if we change the case, we'll get a very strange construction:

У нас (у) самих ничего нет (we ourselves don't have anything).
До нас (до) всех дошло известие (to us (to) all has come the news).

This optional preposition doubling makes no sense to me, and I don't know how to describe that in both phrase structure and dependency grammar rules. What modifies what in this case?

4 comments:

D_K said...

I believe "мы все" is a phraseologism or an idiom, i.e. no entity modifies another one, they merely get concatenated.

As to "он сам" -- we have at least two options:

1) "сам" denotes independency and can be substituted with "самостоятельно". In this case "сам" becomes an argument of verb
2) "сам" as pronoun similar to "он", i.e. again an idiom.

Peter Gromov said...

Yes, they both look very much like idioms. But this doesn't explain why is pronoun doubling so regular. Are they all separate idioms? All cases, with or without preposition?

And, labelling "мы все" an idiom doesn't answer what does this idiom mean.

kirillka said...

Какая разница между "I love her" и "I do love her"? "Do" усиливает глагол "love".

"Мы все пошли гулять" -- "все мы, до единого человека пошли гулять"

Имеет смысл?

Peter Gromov said...

@kirillka Мне кажется, что усиление - это про "Все мы погли гулять". А в "мы все пошли гулять" - возможно, смешнее, возможно, разговорнее, но усилением это назвать язык не поворачивается. Особенно в контексте: "Собрались мы с Васей и Машей. Побухали. А потом мы все пошли гулять".

Некстати: еще бывает "Все дети пошли гулять" vs. "Дети все пошли гулять" vs. "Дети пошли все гулять" vs. "Дети пошли гулять все". И везде вроде разные смыслы, при этом описать я могу только первый и последний.