The Function of Polish Partitive Genitive in Aspectual Composition


Bożena Rozwadowska (Wrocław) and Ewa Willim (Cracow)


The question of what determines the aspectual value of a sentence has received considerable attention in current research in aspectology. It is generally recognized (Verkuyl 1999, Filip 1999, Kiparsky 1998, Krifka 1989, among others) that while the bounded/unbounded (terminative/durative, quantized/cumulative) distinction is determined compositionally, languages differ with respect to the means of encoding it. For example, in English the primary expression of aspect is verb-centered and syntactic, whereas in Finnish it is noun-centered and morphological. Slavic languages are taken to mark aspect morphologically on the verb (Filip 1999). Case distinctions, in particular Acc vs. Part/Gen, are also relevant cross-linguistically in this respect. In this paper we will explore the role of the Polish so-called Partitive Genitive (PG) in aspectual composition. With respect to its semantics and syntactic distribution the Polish PG resembles the well-studied Finnish Partitive Case (PC). We will demonstrate that there are some interesting differences between the Polish PG and Finnish PC relevant to aspect. In contrast to Finnish, where PC licenses unboundedness at the VP-level and accusative induces completed (bounded) VP-predicate, in Polish PG is compatible only with a restricted class of perfective verbs, while accusative can appear both with perfective and imperfective verbs:


(1)   a. Marysia napiekła ciastekgen . (‘Mary baked a lot of cookies.’)

b. Zosia ugotowała barszczugen. (‘Sophie cooked some borsch.’)

c. *Zosia napisała listugen. (‘Sophie wrote lettergen.’)

(2)   a. Marysia upiekła ciastkaacc. (‘Mary baked cookies.’)

b. Marysia piekła ciastkaacc/*ciastekgen (‘Mary was baking cookies.’)


If perfectivity implies boundedness, as is commonly assumed, the restriction on the distribution of PG in Polish would mean that Polish PG is inherently bounded. We will try to link this property to the inherently indeterminately quantified character of PG-marked NPs and suggest that the Polish PG is intrinsically associated with quantification (see also Franks 1995). This would explain why certain predicates with weak quantificational force (such as verbs with the accumulative prefix na- or its converse, the prefix u-) not only allow but require their complements to be in PG. Compare (1a) with (3) below:

(3)   *Marysia napiekła ciastkaacc.


We will also demonstrate that perfective PG structures (as in 1a) differ from perfective accusative structures (as in 2a) with respect to standard telicity tests, which poses new questions bearing on the relationships between  (in)definiteness, quantization (telicity) and quantification.


Selected References:


Filip, H. 1999. Aspect, Eventuality Types and Nominal Reference. New York: Garland Publishing.


Franks, S. 1995. Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Kiparsky, P. 1998. ‘Partitive Case and Aspect.’ in: M. Butt & W. Geuder (eds.) The Projection of Arguments, 265-307. Stanford: CSLI Publications.


Krifka, M. 1989. ‘Nominal Reference, Temporal Constitution and Quantification in Event Semantics.’ in: R. Bartsch, J. van Benthem, and P.van Emde Boas (eds.) Semantics and Contextual Expression, Groningen-Amsterdam Studies in Semantics, Vol. 11, 75-115. Dordrecht: Foris Publications


Paducheva, E. 1998. ‘On Non-Compatibility of Partitive and Imperfective in Russian.’ Theoretical Linguistics 24: 73-82.


Verkuyl, H. 1999. Aspectual Issues. Studies on Time and Quantity. CSLI Lecture Notes Number 98. Stanford: CSLI Publications.