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Estonian - a language in European periphery. Helle Metslang Firenze, April 2010. Euroversals, Europemes, SAE (Standard Average European), etc. Two approaches: linguistic properties found in most or all the European languages (and uncommon elsewhere)

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estonian a language in european periphery

Estonian - a language in European periphery

Helle Metslang

Firenze, April 2010

euroversals europemes sae standard average european etc
Euroversals, Europemes, SAE (Standard Average European), etc.

Two approaches:

  • linguistic properties found in most or all the European languages (and uncommon elsewhere)
  • linguistic properties found in most or all the European languages (but may be found in other languages too)
standard average european
Standard Average European
  • B.L. Whorf (the concept of SAE developed by comparing Native American languages with the well-known European languages)
standard average european specific features of european languages
Standard Average European: specific features of European languages
  • M. Haspelmath 1998, 2001: list of typical structural features (they occur in most European languages but are usually missing elsewhere)
sae features haspelmath 2001
SAE features (Haspelmath 2001)
  • 12 major SAE features from different parts of language structure, e.g.
    • Definite and indefinite articles
    • Relative clauses with relative pronouns
    • ‘have’-perfect
  • Some further likely SAE features, e.g.
    • Verb fronting in polar interrogatives
    • Comitative-instructive syncretism
sae sprachbund haspelmath 2001
SAE-Sprachbund(Haspelmath 2001)
  • Degree of membership in SAE is a matter of degree. Number of features of nine SAE features present in a language:
    • 9 – German, French (core of SAE)
    • 8 – Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Albanian...
    • 7 – English
    • 6 – Swedish, Norwegian, Czech…
    • 5 – Hungarian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Lithuanian…
  • SAE languages with 5–9 features: Romance, Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic languages, Albanian, Greek, Hungarian
  • The remainig languages have 2 or less features (Basque, Welsh, Estonian, Finnish…)
  • The approach is based on the static description of standard / written languages
  • Alternative constructions are ignored
  • Discrete categorization (the language has or has not the property)
  • Cross-linguistic structural equivalences are not always clear-cut

(Heine & Kuteva 2006)

dynamic typology
Dynamic typology
  • “… cross-linguistic classification of grammatical categories according to salient structural properties, which can be related in a principled way to the evolution of these categories.” (Heine & Kuteva 2006)
  • Ongoing grammaticalization processes, replication of structures, etc.
developments towards sae in europe s periphery heine kuteva 2006
Developments towards SAE in Europe’s periphery (Heine & Kuteva 2006)
  • Basque: contacts with Romance languages, contact-induced grammaticalizations, incl. SAE-features, not mentioned in Haspelmath 2001: indefinite article, ‘have’-perfect, relative clauses with pronoun
  • Slavic minorities in central Europe (Sorbian, Slovincian, Kashubian): contacts with German, developments of articles, ‘have’-perfect, passive construction
developments towards sae estonian and finnish metslang 2009
Developments towards SAE : Estonian and Finnish (Metslang 2009)
  • Both languages have 3 (not 2) SAE-features of 12
  • Developments in the direction of SAE-like features (Estonian 5, Finnish 4)

Main contact languages in the course of history:

  • Estonian: German varieties, Russian, Finnish, Latvian, English
  • Finnish: Swedish, Estonian, English
sae features haspelmath 20011
SAE features (Haspelmath 2001)

1) Definite and indefinite article (-),

cf. article-like use of E see ‘this’, üks ‘one’; in Finnish, too, se functions as an article

Ma ei jaksa täna seda ajalugu őppida

‘Today I have no energy to study the history’

Üks tüdruk tõi sulle ühe raamatu

‘A girl brought you a book’

sae features 2
SAE features 2

2) Relative clauses follow the noun; the clause opens with a declinable relative pronoun (e.g. (der/die/das/welcher/welche/welches;who, whose, whom) (+)

E raamat, mida(P) ma lugesin

F kirja, jota(P) luin

‘the book that I read’

sae features 3
SAE features 3

3) have-perfect (-)

Estonian and Finnish have the olema-perfect (‘be-perfect’). Nevertheless, possessive syntactic structures with the impersonal / passive perfect are spreading in Estonian

E Mul on õpitud

I-AD is learn:IMPS:PTCP

‘I’m done with my homework’

Cf. possessive: Mul on õpik ‘I have a textbook’

F Olen lukenut läksyni

be:1SG read:PTCP homework:1SG

sae features 4
SAE features 4

4) Nominative experiencer prevails (-).

Use of syntactic patterns with the nominative experiencer is becoming more frequent in Estonian

Peeter (NOM) armastab teatrit

Peetrile (ALLAT) meeldib teater

‘Peeter likes the theatre’

Peeter(NOM) vajab puhkust

Peetril (ADESS) on vaja puhkust

‘Peeter needs some rest’

sae features 5
SAE features 5

5) Participial passive (-)

is spreading in Estonian.

E Te olete külla kutsutud

‘You have been invited to visit us’

Fpuukirkoista,jotka ovat sisältä leikkauksin koristellut(ISK)

\'from wooden churches that are decorated inside with woodcuts\'

sae features 6
SAE features 6

6) Prevalence of anti-causative (intransitive) verb derivation over causative derivation (-) It’s true that causative derivation is more common in Estonian and also in Finnish

intransitive transitive

E loobuma ‘to give up’> loovutama‘to surrender sth’

sööma ‘to eat’> söötma ‘to feed’

jätkuma ‘to continue’ <jätkama ‘to continue sth’

F luopua > luovuttaa

peseytyä ‘to wash oneself’ < pestä ‘to wash’

sae features 7
SAE features 7

7) Dative external possessors (Die Mutter wäscht dem Kind die Haare ‘Mother is washing the hair of her child’) (-)

Three ways to express the possessor: 1) dative(Die Mutter wäscht dem Kind die Haare), 2) locative, 3) NP-internal (English).

Estonian: locative, NP

Ema peseb lapsel (AD) juukseid / lapse (G) juukseid

‘Mother is washing the hair of her child’)

Tüdrukul (AD) suri vanaisa

‘The girl’s grandpa died’

Finnish: NP, ablative

Äiti pesee lapsen(G) hiuksia

Tytöltä(ABL) kuoli isoäiti

sae features 8
SAE features 8

8) Negative indefinite pronouns and lack of verbal negation (Niemandkommt, nobody comes) (-)

Two form types: 1) V + NI (Niemandkommt), 2) NV + NI

Estonian, Finnish NV + NI

E (Mitte) keegi ei tule

F Kukaan ei tule

nobody NEG come

sae features 9
SAE features 9

9) Comparative constructions with a particle (+)

Types of the comparative construction: 1) locative (‘bigger from / to / at X‘), 2) the exceed comparative (‘Y is bigger exceeding X‘), 3) the conjoining comparative (‘Y is big, Y is little‘), 4) the particle comparative (bigger than X).

Estonian: particle, locative

Ema on noorem kui isa

Ema on isast(EL) noorem

‘Mother is younger than father‘

Finnish: particle, partitive (<locative)

Äiti on nuorempi kuin isä.

Äiti on isää(P) nuorempi

sae features 10
SAE features 10

10) relative-based equative constructions (-): so groβ wie einElefant

nii suur kui elevant

‘as big as an elephant’

niin iso kuin norsu

sae features 11
SAE features 11

11) Subject person affixes as strict agreement markers (-). The verb has personal forms and the subject is obligatory: du kommst, wir kommen

It does not occur in Estonian and Finnish:

E tuled, ei tule

F tulet, et tule

‘you come, you don’t come’

sae features 12
SAE features 12

12) Intensifier-reflexive differentiation (-): different pronouns used as intensifiers (G selbst, R sam) and reflexives (G sich, R sebja)

E intensifier ise; enda(declinable, G enda, P ennast etc.)

Minister ise (N) tuleb

‘The minister himself will come’

Oodatakse ministrit ennast(P)

‘The minister himself is expected to come’

reflexive enda, iseenda

Minister kiitis ennast/ iseennast (P)

‘The minister praised himself’

sae features 13
SAE features 13

F intensifier itse, itse+PSx (declinable)

Ministeri itse tulee

Odotetaan ministeria itseään

reflexive itse+PSx

Ministeri kehui itseään

some further likely sae features 1
Some further likely SAE features 1

Because of insufficient data Haspelmath did not include on his list, for example,

  • AND-coordination (vs WITH-coordination)

E isa ja ema, F isä ja äiti

‘father and mother’

also WITH-coordination: E isa emaga, F isä äidin kanssa ‘father with mother’

some further likely sae features 2
Some further likely SAE features 2
  • Verb fronting in polar interrogatives (inversion)

E Tuled sa koju? ‘Will you come home?’

interrogative particle: Kas sa tuled koju?

F particle: Tuletko kotiin?

Spoken language reveals also inversion: Tulet sä kotiin?

  • Comparative marking of adjectives

(E suure-m, F suure-mpi ‘bigger’)

some further likely sae features 3
Some further likely SAE features 3
  • Comitative-instrumental syncretism

Comitative: E jalutab lapsega (COM)’is walking with the child’, kirjutab pliiatsiga (COM) ‘writes in pencil’

Syncretism is absent in Finnish: kävelee lapsen kanssa (POSTP), kirjoittaa kynällä (AD)

  • Suppletive second ordinal numeral: E kaks – teine, F kaksi – toinen‚ zwei – zweite‘ (vgl. two – second)
some typical european developments heine kuteva 2006
Some typical European developments (Heine & Kuteva 2006)
  • Development of articles
  • Development of possessive perfects
  • From comitative to instrumental
  • Grammaticalization of the verbs threaten and promise to modals
estonian hvardama threaten
Estonian: ähvardama ‘threaten’

All four stages of the development into modal verbs

stage 3:

G Das Hochwasser droht die Altstadt zu überschwemmen

E Suurvesi ähvardab vanalinna üle ujutada

‘The flood threatens to flood the old city’

stage 4:

G Mein Mann droht krank zu werden

E Mu mees ähvardab haigeks jääda

‘My husband is likely to fall ill’

estonian t otama promise stage 3
Estonian: tõotama ‘promise’, stage 3

Järjekordseks katsumuseks tõotab kujuneda tänavu detsembris toimuv WTO ministrite kohtumine Singapuris(NEWS)

‘The meeting of WTO ministers in Singapur in December this year promises to become another ordeal’

estonian t otama promise stage 4
Estonian: tõotama ‘promise’, stage 4

Kui koera esikäpa kõrgus on vähemalt pool turja kõrgusest ning käpad ja rind 1-2 kuu vanuselt on hästi tugevad, tõotab sellisest kutsikast keskmisest suurem koer kasvada(NEWS)

‘If the height of the front paw of a dog is at least half of the height of the withers and the chest is very strong at the age of 1-2 months, this kind of puppy promises to grow into a larger than average dog’

finnish uhata threaten
Finnish: uhata ‘threaten’

stage 3

F USA:n ja E-Korean vapaakauppasopimus uhkaakariutua (HS)

‘The treaty of free commerce between the USA and South-Korea threatens to fall through’

No evidence of the auxiliarization of ‘promise’

An interim conclusion concerning European-like features and developments in Estonian and Finnish: noun
  • Nominal categories
    • Development of articles
    • Comparative marking of adjectives
    • Comitative-instructive syncretism (E)
  • Nominal syntax
    • Comparative constructions with a particle
    • Equative constructions
    • Intensifier-reflexive differentiation (partially)
    • And-coordination
european like features in estonian and finnish the verb
European-like features in Estonian and Finnish: the verb
  • Verbal categories
    • Auxiliarization of ‘threaten’ and ‘promise’
  • Verbal syntax
    • Development of the possessive perfect (E)
    • Spread of the participial passive
european like features in estonian and finnish syntax lexicon
European-like features in Estonian and Finnish: syntax, lexicon
  • Syntax
    • Spread of the nominative experiencer
    • Verb-initial interrogatives
    • Relative clauses
  • Lexicon
    • Suppletive ordinals
changeable periphery
Changeable periphery

The main characteristics of SAE are represented modestly in both Estonian and Finnish; at the same time both languages, especially Estonian, reveal some shifts towards European features.

estonian in comparison with other european languages
Estonian in comparison with other European languages
  • WALS features about which there is Estonian data: to what extent are the same values represented in other languages?
  • Following Ö. Dahl (2008) who measured typological distance from the perspective of Finnish (142 maps, comparisons with 222 languages)
  • The study is not confined to specifically European values
languages that are typologically close to finnish dahl
Languages that are typologically close to Finnish (Ö. Dahl)

Typological distance between two languages: how many of the 142 WALS features are represented in these languages?

Close languages include:

  • Slavic and Baltic languages spoken in the Circum-Baltic area
  • Genetically related languages
  • Probably some accidentally close languages (e.g. Armenian)
comparison of estonian with other european languages on the basis of wals
Comparison of Estonian with other European languages on the basis of WALS
  • Mini-study: 40 maps, comparisons with 10 languages
  • The languages represent more or less central SAE languages and non-SAE languages; Indo-European and Finno-Ugric languages
  • SAE status – the figure that shows how many features out of nine of SAE are represented in the language (less than 5 means outside SAE)
  • Distance from Estonian – the figure that shows how many out of 40 features of WALS reveal values that are different from Estonian
estonian in comparison with other european languages on the basis of wals 5
Estonian in comparison with other European languages on the basis of WALS 5
  • Genetically related and geographically close languages share some common features
  • All over Europe languages have rather similar structures
  • Nuclear SAE languages are more distant; less central and peripheral languages are closer to Estonian
  • Although Estonian has a lot of German influences, the basics of their structures are relatively distant
Some common features between Estonian and other European languages on the basis of WALS: phonetics and grammar
  • Trochaic rhythm (7 languages of 10)
  • Strongly suffixing (and not prefixing) morphology (9)
  • Encoding of nominal plurality with suffix (8)
  • Tense-aspect suffixes (8)
  • Negative particle (9)
Some common features between Estonian and other European languages on the basis of WALS: word order and lexis
  • SV (7)
  • Demonstrative-noun (9)
  • Numeral-noun (10)
  • Noun – relative clause (9)
  • Initial adverbial subordinator in clause (10)
  • Ordinal numerals: first, second, three-rd (8)
  • ‘tea’ derived from Min Nan Chinese te
typological profile of west european languages dahl 2008
Typological profile of West-European languages(Dahl 2008)
  • Values of WALS parameters that are overwhelmingly represented in Western Europe in comparison with the rest of the world. Ranking of languages according to conformity to the typological profile of Western Europe:

German, French, Spanish, Greek, Russian, Latvian, Irish, Finnish, Georgian

typological profile of west european languages and estonia n 1
Typological profile of West-European languages and Estonian 1

Some features of the profile:

  • The perfect is based on the possessive construction (Estonian reveals some development in that direction)
  • Polar questions with special word order (they exist in Estonian)
  • Both negative and affirmative verbs forms are used with negative indefinite pronouns
typological profile of west european languages and estonia n 2
Typological profile of West-European languages and Estonian 2
  • Overlap between situational and epistemical modal marking (occurs in Finnish and Estonian, e.g. Sa võid koju minna ‘you may go home’, Ma võin eksida ‘I may be wrong’)
  • Few first ordinals are suppletive (F, E)
  • Object relativization with pronoun (F, E)
  • Subject relativization with pronoun (F, E)
changeable periphery 2
Changeable periphery 2
  • The selection of features is always limited in comparison with the richness of the language system – 12 SAE features, 47 Estonian features in WALS, as well as all 142 WALS features constitute a selection; the picture could be different when the selection is expanded.
changeable periphery 3
Changeable periphery 3
  • The basic structure of Estonian (parts of speech, syntax, categories) is similar to other European languages.
  • The main typological peculiarity of Estonian, as well as Finnish and Hungarian, is the large number of cases.
changeable periphery 31
Changeable periphery 3

Estonian, similarly to Finnish, belongs to the periphery with regard to the European languages; both those features that are unique in Europe and other features of the European languages are less represented in those languages. At the same time they share some features and developments with the other European languages.

changeable periphery 4
Changeable periphery 4

During the co-existence that spans over several millennia the Uralic and Indo-European languages around the Baltic Sea have converged while there has been divergence from their genetically related eastern languages. (Dahl 2008)

references 1
References 1

Dahl, Östen 2008, Kuinka eksoottinen suomen kieli on? - Virittäjä 4: 545–559.

Erelt, Mati 1996, Relative words in Estonian relative clauses - Erelt, Mati (ed.), Estonian: Typological Studies I. (Publications of the Department of Estonian of the University of Tartu 4.) Tartu: Tartu University Press, 9–23.

Erelt, Mati & Helle Metslang 2006, Estonian clause patterns — from Finno-Ugric to SAE. – Linguistica Uralica 2006, nr. 4,254–266

Haspelmath, Martin 1998, How young is standard average European? in: Linguistic Sciences, 20.3: 272287.

references 2
References 2

Haspelmath, Martin 2001,The European linguistic area: Standard Average European, in: Haspelmath, Martin; König, Ekkehard; Oesterreicher, König & Raible, Wolfgang (eds.), Language typology and language universals: An international handbook. Vol. 2. (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikations-wissenschaft, 20.2.) New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1492–1510

Heine, Bernd & Kuteva, Tania 2006, The changing languages of Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lindström, Liina & Tragel, Ilona 2007, Eesti keele impersonaali ja seisundipassiivi vahekorrast adessiivargumendi kasutuse põhjal. – Keel ja Kirjandus 7.

references 3
References 3

Metslang, Helle2009, Estonian grammar between Finnic and SAE: some comparisons. – Linguistic Typology and Universals (STUF) 1/2, 2009: 49−71.

Märtson, Hellemari 2009, Verbi tõotama abiverbistumisest eesti kirjakeeles viimase sajandi jooksul. Bachelor thesis. University of Tartu

Pajusalu, Renate 1997, Is there an article in (spoken) Estonian? – Estonian: typological studies II. Ed. by Mati Erelt. (Tartu Ülikooli eesti keele õppetooli toimetised 8.) Tartu: 146-177.

references 4
References 4

WALS = Haspelmath, Martin; Dryer, Matthew, Gil, David; Comrie, Bernhard (eds.) 2005, The World atlas of language structures. Oxford: Oxford University press. [http//]