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Bulgarian Verbs of Motion: Slavic Verbs in a Balkan Context

  • Author(s): Lindsey, Traci Speed
  • Advisor(s): Alexander, Ronelle
  • et al.

This study examines the motion verb system of Bulgarian, focusing both on the structure of the Bulgarian motion verb itself, and on the information typically encoded in the Bulgarian verb of motion. It then compares the Bulgarian motion verb system with the motion verb systems of two other Slavic languages, Russian and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS). The theoretical framework is Leonard Talmy's typological categorization of languages as either verb framed/low manner languages or satellite framed/high manner languages. The Slavic language family, like most other Indo-European languages families, is considered satellite framed and high manner: path of motion tends to be expressed by a satellite to the verb (in the form of a preposition and/or a prefix), leaving the verb root free to express manner. The expression of manner in the verb root itself results in a lower cognitive load for the processing of manner of motion, and consequently, speakers of satellite-framed languages tend to develop motion verb vocabulary around the expression of manner of motion.

For this research I collected a data set of 500 motion verbs from Bulgarian literature, and then another data set of approximately 500 motion verbs from each from Bulgarian, BCS, and Russian, from novels translated into these languages from two satellite framed/high manner languages (English and German) and two verb framed/low manner languages (Portuguese and Turkish). I also collected oral narratives using the picture book Frog, Where Are You?,/italic>, and compared these data with similar data collected by other researchers for Serbian and Russian. This allowed me to not only to describe the Bulgarian motion verb system and its most common verbs of motion, but also to compare Bulgarian motion verb usage with other Slavic language motion verb usage.

This research has discovered a number of ways in which the lexicalization patterning of Bulgarian motion verbs is not typically Slavic. Namely, Bulgarian focuses heavily on path constructions, and new motion verb vocabulary has developed around path constructions in ways not seen in BCS and Russian. Additionally, although Bulgarian verbal prefixation appears to be quite similar to that in Russian and BCS, the system is in fact much more limited; this may be a factor in the increased expression of path of motion in Bulgarian. Finally, this research has shown that Bulgarian lexicalization patterns are more similar to those in Greek, and raises the possibility that the Bulgarian motion verb system might have been influenced by Balkan contact phenomena.

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