Russian Aspect in Conversation

Image courtesy of Valeri Pizhanski.


The aspectual category of Russian verbs, expressing a perfective vs. imperfective opposition, has long been the dominant topic in discussions of Russian grammar.  It has been the subject of numerous books and countless articles, but the meanings expressed by the perfective and imperfective aspects remain the subject of considerable debate.  Studies into the 1980’s focused almost solely on some version of completed action vs. action in process, whereas more recent research has proposed other central meanings for Russian aspect and/or explored the effects of aspect in discourse.  Pedagogical materials, however, remain largely focused on this overly simplistic completed action vs. action in process distinction, causing students to commit errors in their speech and writing well into the advanced level.

Russian Aspect in Conversation will begin with introductory modules reviewing basic aspectual usage but concentrating on morphologically complex verbs that are generally problematic for Anglophone learners of Russian.  Learners will then continue on to modules on the use of imperatives and of modal constructions with infinitives (must, want, and can), and then to modules exploring three different kinds of statements of fact in the imperfective aspect.  The five core modules of this online resource will introduce factors that involve the speaker’s communicative intent and beliefs and/or the dynamics between speaker and hearer. Each module will include computer-graded exercises in which users are asked to identify the speaker’s communicative intentions.  These comprehension exercises will be followed by exercises in which the user is provided with a discourse situation and is asked to choose an utterance with the most appropriate aspect.  Customized feedback on all incorrect answers will be provided to guide the student toward a more nuanced understanding of aspectual meaning.  Such exercises are designed to train the student to focus on interpreting the aspectual usage of the speaker to facilitate more appropriate responses in conversational situations. 

Work on this project will begin in the Fall of 2020.  Modules will be released in a serialized fashion with work completed during the summer of 2022.


Other OLRC Resources

Между нами: An Interactive Introduction to Russian! ( Mezhdu nami provides a comprehensive introduction to Russian language and culture. It is organized around the experiences of four American students, each spending the academic year in a different Russian city. Their interactions with host families, roommates, fellow students and teachers create a universe of contextualized information that motivates the use of the target language in the classroom.  The curriculum consists of an online textbook, two classroom workbooks, and two homework workbooks. IIt was the winner of the 2016 Access to Language Education award from the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium and the 2017 Best Book in Pedgogy from the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages.