By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 18:48:00 +0000 From: Katrin Hiietam Subject: Finnic Adpositions and Cases in Change
AUTHOR: Grünthal, Riho TITLE: Finnic adpositions and cases in change SERIES: Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 244 PUBLISHER: Finno-Ugrian Society YEAR: 2003
Katrin Hiietam, unaffiliated scholar
'Finnic adpositions and cases in change' is a typologically oriented empirical study written within the framework of construction grammar (cf. Croft 2001). It is mainly aimed at specialists in the same subject area but would also be of interest to anyone working on language typology and change in general.
The main focus of the book is adpositional phrases and changes in the case system in Finnic. Special attention is paid at two endangered Finnic languages, namely Livonian and Veps. However, ample reference is made to genetically related languages, such as Finnish, Estonian, Ingrian, Votic, as well as Mordvin, Mari and Udmurt which places the research findings in a wider perspective.
The data used in the study is mainly drawn from already existing published resources, such as grammatical descriptions and dictionaries which came out mainly at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the Estonian and Finnish data originate from contemporary sources and are consulted with native speakers. The author decided to use already published data for the two main languages of the study because around that time period, namely at the beginning of the 20th century, the Finnic languages had their maximal geographical distribution in their modern form. Also, they were not influenced by political changes in the area, such as conscious language policy by the officials to switch to the politically dominant language (Grünthal 2003:2; see also Grenoble 2003, Chapters 3.1 and 4).
The exact number of adpositions in languages under consideration is not defined exactly, since according to Grünthal (2003:56) these elements form an open class and there are no clear boundaries between adpositions and inflected nouns. In addition, due to constant change and reanalysis in the languages in question, this task would prove difficult.
Historically adpositions in general originate from three main sources: (1) nouns (the most common path), (2) syntactically reanalysed verbs and (3) lexicalised denominal infinite verbs (Grünthal 2003:46). Three types of elements that form the category of Finnic adpositions are as follows: (1) postpositions are the most frequent ones, (2) prepositions are an innovation and reflect a considerable change in the system, and (3) elements that are ambivalent in terms of their position in relation to the noun in an adpositional phrase. Due to this, the Finnic adposition system is typologically remarkable (Grünthal 2003:115). The author states that the development of Finnic adpositional phrases is generally not due to language contact but rather to language internal processes, and points out case government as the most significant of them, along with syntax and semantics (Grünthal 2003:89, 114). Yet, there are also examples where the case marking patterns have been influenced by the neighboring languages. For example in Veps, that has been influenced by Russian which marks both agents and instruments with the same instrumental case (Grünthal 2003:128).
Grünthal (2003: 1999) claims that the basic pattern of Finnic adpositional phrases is fairly uniform but significantly different from that of Indo-European languages. Generally, prepositions tend to govern the genitive on the noun, while postpositions require partitive case. Overall, the author concludes that Finnic prepositional phrases are morphosyntactically more uniform than postpositional phrases (Grünthal 2003:65, 68, 76). Besides case marking and word order in adpositional phrases, Grünthal also discusses the phenomenon of headedness. Based on criteria from Zwicky (1985, 1993) and Nichols (1986) which are further developed in Corbett et al. (1993), Grünthal (2003: 105) concludes that in Finnic the function of head has been split according to diverse criteria (cf. Payne 1993:114). The functional head (noun in the genitive, which is a modifier and a syntactic complement) does not coincide with the syntactic head (postposition, which is the morphosyntactic locus and obligatory part of the postpositional phrase).
In addition to the morpho-syntactic properties of Finnic adpositional phrases, Grünthal discusses closely related phenomena, such as changes in word order and case marking (Grünthal 2003:36, 88). The reason why these topics are included is twofold: Firstly, the author reports that adpositions have diachronically developed into suffixed case endings in many languages. This means that these two elements must probably share some high-ranking properties. One of them is that the postpositional phrase forms a highly dense unit which generally does not allow and free morphemes between the noun and the postposition. Hence, the postposition resembles a case marking in its behaviour. (Grünthal 2003: 109). Secondly, the loss of case marking, besides language contact, has been known to result in word order alternations (Delsing 2000, Trosterud 2001, for typological discussions on the effect of language contact see Campbell & Harris 1995: 136-141, Comrie 1981:200-203).
As an example of a change in case marking, Grünthal (2003: 133, 136) discusses developments in the Finnic local case system. He shows how the allative which is an external local case that marks direction onto the surface of something, e.g. 'onto the table', has come to mark recipients in Veps. In Estonian for example, the adessive has come to be used in spatial and temporal constructions (e.g. Erelt et.al 1993: 63-64). In general, Grünthal (2003:128, 135) claims that in Finnic local cases are in addition used in a wide range of other functions, such as temporal adverbials and in constructions with body part nouns.
Linking in with the case marking of adpositional phrases, the author also pays attention to case marking in grammatical relations in Finnic and considers two often-debated topics, namely subject and object marking and the existence of the accusative. In regard to bare (i.e. nominative) subjects and objects in Livonian, Grünthal (2003:91) draws a parallel with non-case marking Germanic languages, such as English, Swedish and French and states that 'it is simply logical that they (i.e. nominative subjects and objects) should be located in different sides of the verb'. Yet, considering the fact that Estonian, a closely related Finnic language, allows nominative subjects and objects on the same side of the verb in a focused construction (e.g. in 1), this claim would need some reconsideration.
1) Õues hammustasid koerad lapsed vigaseks. outside.INE bite.PAST.3.PL dog.PL.NOM child.PL.NOM cripple.TRANSL 'Outside the dogs bit the children so that the children became cripple'
2) Õues hammustasid lapsed koerad vigaseks. outside.INE bite.PAST.3.PL child.PL.NOM dog.PL.NOM cripple.TRANSL 'Outside the children bite the dogs so that the dogs became cripple.'
What Grünthal probably refers to here must be the word order in basic sentences which is different from that in SOV and VSO languages. What would be interesting to know is whether, and if yes, to what extent Livonian allows word order permutations.
The second controversial topic is the existence of the accusative in Finnic. Grünthal (2003:27, Table 2.2, 28) equates the morphological accusative case in Estonian and Livonian with the genitive in both the singular and the plural. However, this contradicts the most recent research findings in the same area, which either do not acknowledge the existence of the accusative in Estonian at all (Erelt, Ed. 2003) or equate it with genitive forms in the singular and nominative ones in the plural (e.g. Hiietam 2003). A similar pattern emerges in Finnish (Sulkala & Karjalainen 1992) and it would be beneficial to expand this study in comparing a wider range of Finnic languages. This, however, excedes the limitations of the present monograph and will provide a topic for future research.
This book is a valuable source of information on less commonly studied varieties of Finnic. However, the author seems to presuppose the readers to have knowledge about the different varieties of Finnic and Ugric. This becomes apparent in the way in which the author presents the example sentences. Often he does not specify which language a given example comes from. (e.g. on page 104 where a paragraph on Estonian is followed by an example (55) which is not from Estonian, or on page 113 where the main chapter deals with Livonian but the preceding section mentions both Estonian and Livonian and thus for a non-specialist it might not be clear which languages examples (65) and (66) represent). On the other hand, the language of the examples is stated explicitly on pages 166, 185 and 187 which enables the reader to follow the discussion easily. In terms of individual adpositions, no English translations are given for the Estonian 'seltsis' and 'tagapool' on pages 69 and 102, or insufficient translations are provided for the Finnish 'jälkeen' and 'jäljessä' on page 67 and the Estonian 'sisse' on page 69 and 'kõige' on page 83, as well as a few other adpositions on page 81. By the same token, on page 170 Grünthal discusses morphological marking on Udmurt nouns but does not provide appropriate glossing for the example sentence (16). Similarly, the reader's knowledge of German is taken for granted and English equivalents are not provided for translations of examples which typically originate from older work on Finnic (e.g. on pages 54, 61, 81, 102, 192).
Moving on to linguistic argumentation, what I missed in this book was a syntactic characterisation of what distinguishes and defines subjects and objects in the Finnic languages under observation. Instead, the author uses criteria such as 'interpretation as the subject, because otherwise there would not be any subject', 'indication by the context' and valency of the verb (Grünthal 2003:98, 99). I found this method to be far from satisfactory for an empirically motivated analysis.
Furthermore, the nature of the data used raised some questions. Firstly, the data for Livonian and Veps is collected almost a hundred years ago. In contrast, the data for Finnish and Estonian represents contemporary language. The author gives a plausible explanation to the historical nature of his Livonian and Veps data in terms of maximal geographical distribution. Nevertheless, the question still comes up whether the observed differences between Livonian and Veps on the one hand and Finnish and Estonian on the other would be different if Grünthal had used data for Finnish and Estonian from the same historical period.
In the same vein, I would like to question some of the Estonian data. Although the author claims to have checked the examples with native speakers, several native speakers I consulted found various examples either unnatural or ungrammatical. Also, some of the constructions analysed in the book did not occur in the online corpus of contemporary Estonian (available at: www.eki.ee/corpus/). Yet, this does not interfere with the overall conclusions drawn in the book, rather, it is likely to reflect disagreements among native speakers and a relatively low frequency of the constructions analysed.
The book contains some typographical errors but they do not interfere with conveying the message. Also, a more consistent reference system would have made the book easier to follow. One was often left to wonder why certain publications appeared in the main text by the titles rather than reference to authors and publication year (e.g. 'Erzyan kel', page 210) or why some works referred to did not appear in the list of references (e.g. 'a forthcoming Finnish descriptive grammar' on page 69, and the 'Standard Estonian Dictionary' on page 71).
Despite the criticism in the preceding paragraphs, overall this book represents a unique addition to the study of Finnic languages. Generally, studies on Finnic are mainly published in languages other than English, such as Finnish, Estonian or Russian and might thus be less accessible for the wider linguistic audience. Therefore, Grünthal's monograph represents a valuable addition to the stock of typological literature on an area which has received relatively little attention at the international level. It concentrates on two severely endangered varieties of Finnic and through this also contributes to the preservation of these languages.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Katrin Hiietam is currently an unaffiliated scholar. She recently completed her PhD thesis at the University of Manchester. Her research interests include Finno-Ugric morpho-syntax, transitivity and especially valency reduction operations and her main research concentrates on Baltic-Finnic languages, (Estonian, Izhorian and Votic). She has conducted fieldwork in Western Russia (Izhorian and Votic), Estonia and Finland (Izhorian and Romani).