The dog bites: On the "aggressive" antipassive in Slavic and Baltic


  • Alice Bondarenko Stockholm University, Sweden



Several Slavic and Baltic languages have an “aggressive” antipassive
construction, where in a reflexive marker is used to mark object omission.
The construction often carries habitual or potential aspectual meanings and is
restricted to a small group of verbs. This study examines the lexical restrictions
of the constructions across a sample of 11 Slavic and Baltic languages, with
a special focus on Russian. The results show that across the languages,
the construction is used to express a set of concepts, of which ‘hit’ and ‘push’
are the most prototypical. Verbs used in the antipassive express unwanted action on
an animate patient, and they also share features of inherent atelicity and potential
reciprocality. All languages in the survey display syncretism of reciprocal
and antipassive markers, resulting in ambiguous plural subject constructions. Based
on this, it is suggested that the “aggressive” antipassive with animate subjects has
grammaticalized from the reciprocal function of the reflexive marker. Lexical
semantics hence play an important role in the extension of functions of reflexive
markers in these languages