The verb tait’sja ‘to lurk’, its synonyms and derivates

2020. № 3 (25), 265-276

E.V. Rakhilina 1, V.A. Plungian

1. Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences National Research University “Higher School of Economics”

2. Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Lomonosov Moscow State University (Russia, Moscow),


The paper tracks the semantic evolution of the (largely obsolete) Russian verb tait’sja ‘be hiding, be hidden, lurk’ and its prefixed counterparts (as za-tait’sja, pri-tait’sja, u-tait’sja). It is demonstrated that 18th — 19th-century Russian tended to use this group of verbs in quite different contexts. We discuss the parameters differentiating lexical items belonging to a wider semantic series with the main component ‘hide’ (prjatat’sja and skryvat’sja) and specify their position along the scale of control. Then, we propose a detailed analysis for the prefixed counterparts of tait’sja and describe the diachronic semantics of this small lexical group. The study reveals a gradual stativization of meaning triggered by a loss of agentivity and control, as well as a lexicalization, i.e. a fossilization of an obsolete lexeme in a specific inflectional form or construction. The latter process results in an increased frequency of an otherwise disused item. The history of tait’sja and its relatives can serve as a good example of general diachronic principles relevant for semantic change. First of all, this is the maintenance of semantically motivated combinability in each diachronic stage, as well as the deep intertwining of lexical and grammatical properties captured by an integral linguistic description. Both principles are crucial for Jurij Apresjan’s contribution to the general theory of language.