Russian Aspect in Conversation

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 arguing for a version of completed action vs. action in process as the meanings of the aspects, 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 aspct.  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, facilitating 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.