I Wanted to Wash Myself – Syntax of Russian Reflexive Verbs in Spoken Language

2021. № 2, 20-34

Alexander B. Letuchiy, HSE University, Vinogradov Russian Language Institute (Russian Academy
of Sciences) (Russia, Moscow), alexander.letuchiy@gmail.com


The article focuses on non-standard constructions with Russian reflexive verbs like myt’sja ‘wash (oneself)’, brit’sja ‘shave (oneself)’, pričesyvat’sja ‘comb (oneself)’, and so on. The particularity of these constructions is that in colloquial and internet speech, they are sometimes used in constructions incompatible with internet in literary speech. While modifiers like ves’ are non-standard, they do not conflict with the literary norm. It is not the case with constructions with prepositions krome ‘except’ and vključaja ‘including’ and, in particular, accusative NPs – they represent highly colloquial phenomena.

The constructions under analysis shed light both on the grammatical properties of reflexives and their functioning in speech. From the discourse perspective, our data shows that sometimes native speakers are not satisfied with the lack of the explicit patient (e.g., a body part) and find a way to mark them (either with an accusative NP or, less explicitly, with a construction with krome and vključaja). Even when this explicit marking contradicts the argument structure of reflexives, they are incorporated into the clause structure. Syntactically and semantically, our data shows that the subject argument of reflexives combines the properties of an agent and a patient. It combines two participants of the base transitive verb, e.g., Vasja moet čašku ‘Vasja is washing the cup.’

For citation:

Letuchiy A. B. I Wanted to Wash Myself — Syntax of Russian Reflexive Verbs in Spoken Language. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2021. No. 2. Pp. 20–34. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170014706-5.


This research is supported by the grant from the RFBR № 17-29-09154.