Frequency Dictionary of Inflectional Paradigms: Core Russian Vocabulary

15 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2013

See all articles by Olga Lyashevskaya

Olga Lyashevskaya

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: May 30, 2013


A new kind of frequency dictionary is a valuable reference for researchers and students of Russian. It shows the grammatical profiles of nouns, adjectives, and verbs, namely the distribution of grammatical forms in the inflectional paradigm. The dictionary is based on data from the Russian National Corpus (RNC) and covers a core vocabulary (5,000 most frequently used lexemes).

Russian is a morphologically rich language: its noun paradigms harbor two dozen case and number forms, while verb paradigms include up to 160 grammatical forms. The dictionary departs from traditional frequency lexicography in several ways: 1) word forms are arranged in paradigms, so their frequencies can be compared and ranked; 2) the dictionary is focused on the grammatical profiles of individual lexemes, rather than on the overall distribution of grammatical features (e.g., the fact that Future forms are used less frequently than Past forms); 3) the grammatical profiles of lexical units can be compared against the mean scores of their lexico-semantic class; 4) in each part of speech or semantic class, lexemes with certain biases in the grammatical profile can be easily detected (e.g. verbs used mostly in the Imperative, Past neutral, or nouns often used in the plural); and, 5) the distribution of homonymous word forms and grammatical variants can be followed over time and within certain genres and registers. The dictionary will be a source for research in the field of Russian grammar, paradigm structure, form acquisition, grammatical semantics, as well as variation of grammatical forms.

The main challenge for this initiative is the intra-paradigm and inter-paradigm homonymy of word forms in the corpus data. Manual disambiguation is accurate but covers approximately five million words in the RNC, so the data may be sparse and possibly unreliable. Automatic disambiguation yields slightly worse results. However, a larger corpus shows more reliable data for rare word forms. A user can switch between a ‛basicʼ version, which is based on a smaller collection of manually disambiguated texts, and an ‛expandedʼ version, which is based on the main corpus, a newspaper corpus, a corpus of poetry, and the spoken corpus (320 million words in total).

The article addresses some general issues, such as establishing the common basis of comparison, a level of granularity for the grammatical profile, and units of measurement. We suggest certain solutions related to the selection of data, corpus data processing, and maintaining the online version of the frequency dictionary.

Keywords: frequency dictionary, grammatical profile, inflection, grammatical homonymy, grammatical variation, Russian, Russian National Corpus

JEL Classification: Z0

Suggested Citation

Lyashevskaya, Olga, Frequency Dictionary of Inflectional Paradigms: Core Russian Vocabulary (May 30, 2013). Higher School of Economics Research Paper No. WP BRP 35/HUM/2013. Available at SSRN: or

Olga Lyashevskaya (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017

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