Тебя (не) слышно - why the genitive here?

Jinzub

New Member
English - England
Hello,

When I speak with Russians online they say "Меня слышно?" or "тебя не слышпо" when somebody's microphone isn't working.
Why does this short-form adjective take the genitive instead of the nominative?
E.g.
Sick -> I am sick // больной -> я болен
but
Audible -> I am audible // слышный -> меня слышно

What is going on behind the grammar here? Is it a colloquial form?

Thanks
 
  • nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    In negative sentences, is either the accusative or the genitive case. Мне не слышно музыку/музыки.
    In positive ones , it is the accusative only. Мне слышно музыку.

    The subject here is hidden inside the very notion of 'audible'.
    In case of a positive statement, It is something like:
    (it is) (not-)possible-to-hear you - but reversed;
    In case of a negation, it can also be: (it is) (not-)possible-to-hear you/anything-of-yours, but reversed; this 'anything-of' correlates to the genitive.

    Мне слышно вас/ваш голос/какой-либо звук. - positive, accusative only
    Мне не слышно вас/ваш голос - negative, accusative
    Мне не слышно вас/вашего голоса/какого-либо звука. - negative, genitive;
    note that the explicit sense of 'any' is genitive only; actually the genitive use puts stress on absence of the very sound source.

    Also,
    Ваш голос мне не слышен. - here, голос is a normal subject. This also can be used, but is somewhat formal.
    but, Вы мне не слышны ('You, to me, are not audible') - is rather infelicitous, because a human is not the same as a sound. Still, it can be used, to some degree idiomatically, but not in an everyday context.

    The same is true for видно (visible) .
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    This is an accusative: тебя́, ма́му, кота́, рысь не слы́шно.

    The partitive genitive of absolute negation is also possible, usually with things: ничего́, пе́сни, ма́мы не слы́шно.

    The nominative is impossible here because слышно is a a predicative adverb like ну́жно, мо́жно. An adjective слы́шный would describe an inherent characteristic and would be quite peculiar in reference to a person.
     
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    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    рысь не слы́шно
    I think that, for a negative sentence, it is arguable.
    Both can be used: Мне не слышно мамы, рыси, этого существа, звуков музыки.
    But меня/тебя can be both genitive and accusative.

    For a positive statement, yes, it is the accusative case only.
     
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    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    What is going on behind the grammar here? Is it a colloquial form?
    Not colloquial at all. But grammatical explanations are rather complex here [a link to The Academic Grammar, 1980; in Russian; look for "Видно следы"], so I'll just write a few predicates that are most frequently used in this substructure (i.e. the one with two animate nouns in Dat. and Acc. (or respective pronouns) plus an impersonal verb (or a predicative)):
    Мне вас слышно/видно. (I can see/hear you (well).)
    Мне её жаль/жалко. (I feel sorry for/about her.)
     
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    Şafak

    Senior Member
    Hello,

    When I speak with Russians online they say "Меня слышно?" or "тебя не слышпо" when somebody's microphone isn't working.
    Why does this short-form adjective take the genitive instead of the nominative?
    E.g.
    Sick -> I am sick // больной -> я болен
    but
    Audible -> I am audible // слышный -> меня слышно

    What is going on behind the grammar here? Is it a colloquial form?

    Thanks
    Because "слышно" is followed by the accusative case. The case system in every language can (and usually is) quite complicated and can't be learnt (nor analyzed) by merely drawing parallels with your mother tongue. Some things you just have to memorize. :oops:
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I think that, for a negative sentence, it is arguable.
    Both can be used: Мне не слышно мамы, рыси, этого существа, звуков музыки.
    But меня/тебя can be both genitive and accusative.

    For a positive statement, yes, it is the accusative case only.
    I explained this in the post you quoted:
    The partitive genitive of absolute negation is also possible, usually with things: ничего́, пе́сни, ма́мы не слы́шно.
    This is not the default, unmarked usage, but again expresses absolute negation - as in "there is no trace of something". When you're talking to Алёша and his microphone stops working - which is what this topic is about - saying "Алёши не слышно" means "There's no audible trace of Алёша" and this is not what one would normally say. When you're expecting Алёша, but he's nowhere to be heard or seen, you will say "Алёши не видно и не слышно".
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The partitive genitive of absolute negation is also possible, usually with things: ничего́, пе́сни, ма́мы не слы́шно.
    This is not the default, unmarked usage, but again expresses absolute negation - as in "there is no trace of something". When you're talking to Алёша on the phone but can't hear the words, saying "Алёши не слышно" is impossible.
    I agree; this is a very good point; indeed, a person who is the the only source of sound, cannot be 'divided into parts'. It is only possible if there are other sound sources ('Все шумят, так что Алёши вообще не слышно').
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I agree; this is a very good point; indeed, a person who is the the only source of sound, cannot be 'divided into parts'. It is only possible if there are other sound sources ('Все шумят, так что Алёши вообще не слышно').
    I think the correct explanation is that a person who is present cannot be absolutely negated, and I don't think that the number of sounds is relevant, or that somebody is being divided. Алёши не слышно, заснул - можно веселиться: Алёша is stated to be absent from the communicative situation - he's a potential entity outside it. Алёшу не слышно, наверное микрофон не работает: Алёша is part of the communicative situation, he's present but you can't hear his voice.
    Notice that I've clarified the message while you were replying to it.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I think the correct explanation is that a person who is present cannot be absent, and I don't think that the number of sounds is relevant, or that somebody is being divided. Алёши не слышно, заснул - можно веселиться: Алёша as is stated to be absent from the communicative situation - he's a potential entity outside it. Алёшу не слышно, наверное микрофон не работает: Алёша is part of the communicative situation, he's present but you can't hear his voice.
    This makes sense. So it comes that the primary logic should be as follows:
    нет звука (absence) -> не слышно звука
    есть звук -> слышно/не слышно (этот) звук

    It is interesting here that existence itself entails a finite instance.

    Still, I wonder what could be the common conceptual basis, taking into account a strictly partial sense in:
    Мне не слышно отдельных его слов/высоких частот в спектре etc.

    Probably, the latter is just a way to avoid using the accusative form because it looks as the nominative one and creates ambiguity.
     
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    MIDAV

    Senior Member
    Russian
    When I speak with Russians online they say "Меня слышно?" or "тебя не слышпо" when somebody's microphone isn't working.
    Why does this short-form adjective take the genitive instead of the nominative?
    E.g.
    Sick -> I am sick // больной -> я болен
    but
    Audible -> I am audible // слышный -> меня слышно

    What is going on behind the grammar here? Is it a colloquial form?

    In theory, you can use nominative subjects here with their respective short forms, as in:

    Тебя не слышно = ты не слышен
    Меня слышно = я слышен


    You are unlikely to hear or read anything like that in most any regular conversation. But in formal contexts and with other subjects, it might actually be preferred, e.g:

    Если звук не слышен (HP support documentation)

    As to how and by what logic the expected nominative turned into accusative – that's not an easy question. If Spanish is of any help, you can compare it to the personal "a" in similar phrases:

    se oye una voz ~ слышно голос (a voice can be heard)
    But
    se oye a una mujer ~ слышно женщину (a woman can be heard)

    Well, that's not an exact match but call it accusative and you get the same pattern I think.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Still, I wonder what could be the common conceptual basis, taking into account a strictly partial sense in:
    Мне не слышно отдельных его слов/высоких частот в спектре etc.
    My personal hunch was referentiality, but then I did a quick google-fu and found Robblee K.E. (1993). Predicate Lexicosemantics and Case Marking under Negation in Russian (accessible through SciHub), which offers a more precise explanation using the notion of (de-)individuation. Here's a paper by Kagan, O. (2009). Genitive objects, existence and individuation, accessible at the same place, which links individuation to two further types of Genitive (the Partitive and the Intensive), with no mention of Robblee's paper. A discussion on the relation of referentionality to negation in Russian can be found towards the end of this thread. Note that I've only skimmed those papers myself.

    In your sentence, it's the Genitive of Negation (which Kagan unifies with the Intensive); I'm not sure if it's possible to distinguish the Partitive in negative contexts.
     
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