eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
Kuue (inter)subjektiivsuspartikli kasutus eesti keele registrites; pp. 91–123
PDF | 10.3176/esa66.04

Tiit Hennoste, Helle Metslang, Külli Habicht, Külli Prillop

The use of six (inter)subjectivity particles in Estonian registers

The article analyzes the usage of three epistemic particles (vist, ilmselttegelikult) and three attitude particles (õnneks, kahjuksparaku) in texts belonging to different registers of Estonian: spoken interaction (institutional and everyday), online texts (instant messaging and comments), printed texts (prose fiction, journalism, and academic texts). The research material comes from the Keeleveeb portal and the corpora compiled in the project PRG341 “Pragmatics overwrites grammar: subjectivity and intersubjectivity in different registers and genres of Estonian”. The study combines descriptive statistics with qualitative semantic and pragmatic analysis of the particles, comparing the frequency of usage of particles in different registers and exploring the possible semantic/pragmatic motivations underlying the frequency data. 

The research results broadly confirm the statistical picture obtained from similar studies done on other languages. Particles are used especially often in everyday interaction and quite rarely in journalism and academic texts. Verbal interaction, online comment sections and fiction fall between these two extremes. However, the analysis also reveals that this sort of generalizing overview fails to adequately describe the phenomena under investigation.

First, the typical approach in register analysis, wherein epistemic and attitude particles are taken together as one group, is not appropriate. Different particles behave differently and should be analyzed individually. Only by doing this is it possible to determine the similarities and differences between particles.

Second, the oppositions hitherto proposed as factors capable of explaining the differences in usage frequency between particles (e.g. dialogue/monologue, spontaneous/edited, everyday/public) do indeed work, but only within certain boundaries. They can explain the variation in frequency of some but not all particles, and they can explain some but not all of the differences. We have identified additional factors and created a narrower classification of the previously known factors. Third, the variation in usage frequency of certain particles may itself be a useful criterion for distinguishing different registers. This is true primarily of neutral and widely used particles. Of the particles analyzed in the present study, the most appropriate for this purpose are vist, expressing uncertain knowledge, and the contrast-marking particle tegelikult.


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EKSS = Eesti keele seletav sõnaraamat. (20.03.2021).

ENC19 = Jelena Kallas, Kristina Koppel 2020. Eesti keele ühendkorpus 2019. Eesti Keeleressursside Keskus. (15.03.2021).

Keeleveeb.  (21.03.2021).

Suulise eesti keele korpus. (21.03.2021).

Sõnaveeb = EKI ühendsõnastik 2020. Eesti Keele Instituut.  (20.03.2021).

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