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The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society

Üldise muutumistähendusega verbid ja neid sisaldavad lausetüübid läänemeresoome keeltes; pp. 106–141

Full article in PDF format | 10.3176/esa65.05

Author
Miina Norvik

Abstract

General change-of-state predicates and associated clause types in the Finnic languages

Change-of-state can be associated with inchoative meanings, transition from one state to another, usually with the focus on the new state, but it can also be linked to the emergence of a situation or an entity, or change of possession. In every Finnic language, there tends to be one such predicate that is used to express change, but it is never the only one. This paper presents an analysis of the usage of seven predicates – BE BORN, BECOME, COME, DO, GO, REMAIN, WILL BE – that can be employed to convey change in the Finnic languages.
The article set out to compare similarities/differences in the use of the aforementioned predicates in five intransitive clause types: (i) unmarked clauses, (ii) elative-marked result clauses, (iii) experiential clauses, (iv) existential clauses, and (v) possessive clauses. The aim was to see what meaning nuances can be associated with these clause types, how the clause types are interrelated and what this reveals about the frequency of use of various predicates in a language. The main attention was devoted to six Finnic varieties: Ingrian, Ludian, Lutsi (a language island of Estonian), Valdai Karelian, Veps, and Votic. The data used in the study originated from various collections of text, language corpora, dictionaries, and my own fieldwork data. In the final data set, each language was represented with 100 examples. Finnish, Estonian, and Livonian were included in the study based on previous results.
The study showed that the greatest variety of predicates (typically 3 out of 7) was used in existential clauses, which express emergence of a situation or an entity. Existential clauses were all in all the commonest in the data set (212 occurrences among 600 examples). Furthermore, some predicates in a language could only be found in this type (e.g. all the uses of TULLA in Veps belonged to this type). As a result, it was regarded as the most central clause type, which is most probably responsible for the spread of change-of-state predicates. Existential clauses showed connections with all other clause types, both directly as well as indirectly. Whereas unmarked clauses and elative-marked result clauses most commonly expressed change from state 1 → state 2, they could also be found to express an emergence of something in a similar way to existential clauses. In possessive and experiential clauses, the connection was especially evident if one would leave out the possessee or the change experiencer, respectively. As a result, they could be easily subsumed under existential clauses in such a case. To compare, while in existential clauses about three different predicates occurred, experiential clauses could typically be associated with the predicate that is most generally used in the respective language.
In general, the paper showed that the choice of change-of-state predicates depends on several factors. In addition to the differences in the occurrence of verbs in various clause types, the choice between various predicates also revealed lexical differences. For instance, especially GO and REMAIN appeared in fixed expressions or could be associated with specific meanings. Time reference turned out to play a role as well. For instance, in Veps, the expression of change in relation to the past was most typically expressed by means of DO (54/56 examples of DO occurred in the past tense), while in connection with the future WILL BE was used. In Valdai Karelian, in turn, the same predicate was used regardless of time reference. In the case of Valdai Karelian and Veps WILL BE, but also Ludian BE BORN and Lutsi BECOME, it was also possible to find usages where in connection with the future the expression of change was backgrounded and the following state foregrounded, which thus suggests the development CHANGE-OF-STATE → FUTURE.


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