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Is the set of verbs without a я form growing?

February 2, 2021

Some Russian verbs, like победить, randomly don’t have a first-person singular form. With most verbs the я form is well above the ты form on a Google Books Ngram, but победишь is way ahead of all the conceivable “I” forms of the same verb, which all hover around zero. In the problem verbs you’d always expect a consonant mutation in the missing form, but it doesn’t sound right to native speakers to do the regular mutation, or an irregular mutation, or skip the mutation, and the stylistic advice is to avoid the issue and use the other aspect of the verb, use a synonym, or use a multi-word construction based on the same root.

Are there starting to be more of these verbs? I thought защищу ‘I will protect’ was established and normal. But here a teenager in a 2020 TV show jokingly says защитю, with a little pause to show he’s aware he’s saying a non-standard form. And in metalinguistic discussions, it seems like many people know защищу is the form you’ll find in a dictionary but don’t like the sound of it and half-jokingly suggest ways to avoid it.

In writing защищу seems to be easily holding its expected place way ahead of the prescriptively incorrect alternative защитю and the correct ты form защитишь. But will защищу soon be as strange as ощущу? And what other verbs are doing this?

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