Agreement with International Corporate Names in Russian

Elena Doludenko


Foreign words which appeared in the Russian language in the last two decades had to be adjusted to the Russian pronunciation and grammar systems. Among these words, there are names of the biggest international companies. Since Russian has three genders and two numbers, the question arises: which gender and number would these company names take?  Morphological gender assignment in Russian depends on the inflectional class to which a noun belongs and could be seen in the oblique cases (Corbett, 1991). Gender assignment to borrowings in the languages with grammatical gender distinction is different because native speakers have to assign gender to the words which were not present in the language before. Corbett (1991), Corbett & Fraser (2000), Chernyshev (1970), and Graudina (2001) claim that inanimate indeclinable borrowings should be neuter.  Poplack, Pousada and Sankoff (1988) claim that borrowed words may receive the unmarked gender, which is masculine in Russian. Using Google search, I investigated possible variants of sixteen company names’ agreement, which are assigned by native speakers via their agreement with verbs, possessive pronouns, or adjectives. The names were found with all genders and both numbers agreement, all genders except for neuter agreement, only plural agreement, only masculine or feminine agreement, only feminine, and only masculine agreement. I offer different explanations for the existing patterns, among which The Basic Level Hyperonym Constraint suggested by Thornton (2007) appears to be the main rule in assigning gender to corporate names in Russian.

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