Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Daniel L. Everett


This thesis attempts to explain variability of word order in Russian declarative sentences. I argued that Russian word order is not "free" but encodes different types of focus: predicate, sentence, and narrow. Chapter 1 of this thesis critiques several theories of grammar that attribute alternative word orders in Russian primarily to differences in style. Chapter 2 discusses the advantages of Lambrecht's information structure theory and Role and Reference Grammar as a theoretical framework for my research. Chapter 3 presents the empirical core of the paper, a detailed revision of Krylova and Khavronina's (1986) classification of Russian word order types into emotive and non-emotive, which overlooks an important relationship between the syntactic and informational structure of utterances. The data analyzed in this thesis were collected from eight native speakers of Russian through a questionnaire whose main goal was to evoke different types of focus, from Russian reference grammars, and Russian literature. I conclude that the seemingly "free" word order in Russian is tightly constrained by focus structure. In fact, alternative word orders do not merely result from 'stylistic' changes but are motivated by explicit and specific constraints on focus placement.

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