Russian Language Journal


Mark J. Elson


Russian conjunctions, и, а


This paper is concerned with the systemic status of the coordinating conjunctions и and а in Contemporary Standard Russian. Most previous treatments of и and а have, without comment, viewed them as minimal syntactic units (i.e., words) defined, for systemic purposes, functionally—as equating or likening in the case of и but contrasting or opposing in that of а. However, these treatments, whether intentionally or unwittingly, have left unattended the possibility that и and а, although syntactic units, are more properly defined grammatically (i.e., are systemically characterized by an invariant grammatical meaning of which their functions are derivative).1 At least one previous treatment, by Rudnitskaya and Uryson (2008), does treat meaning, but it is limited in scope with questionable conclusions and therefore leaves the issue of the systemic basis of и and а—function or grammatical meaning— unresolved.