TENSE IN RUSSIAN FINITE COMPLEMENT CLAUSES: NEUTRALIZATION AND POINT OF REFERENCE
Corpus data have made it possible to partially revise the commonly held assumption that tensed forms in most types of Russian complement clauses take the main clause event as their deictic center, that is, signal relative tense, whereas some verb types, including implicative verbs, are exceptions and their complement clauses invariably signal absolute tense. I checked this view for two emotive verbs (radovat’sja ‘be glad’ and nravit’sja ‘like’) and two implicative verbs (okazat’sja ‘turn out’ and sluchat’sja ‘happen’). Based on manually annotated samples of corpus examples, I found that the absolute vs. relative interpretation of tense in complements of these verbs is probabilistic rather than fixed for individual verbs. The relevant probabilities are not identical in pairs of verbs belonging to the same semantic group. I propose a hypothesis that this probability for a given verb in a given construction is related to another probabilistic parameter: the higher the ratio of complement clauses that are simultaneous to their matrix verb, the lower is the probability that tense signals relative tense. This finding has a natural functional explanation: if the contrast in terms of relative tense is semantically suppressed for a given verb, it is less essential to signal relative tense grammatically.