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Get to the point: learning to communicate in the Finnish zone. Elizabeth Peterson University of Helsinki. my very own Fulbright project, 2000-2001 (Peterson 2004, my PhD) a few key findings about linguistic politeness in Finnish metalinguistic data from Finnish speakers

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Get to the point learning to communicate in the finnish zone

Get to the point: learning to communicate in the Finnish zone

Elizabeth Peterson

University of Helsinki


Overview

overview

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Linguistic politeness

PhD)ettiquette

≠ manners

≠ ‘please’ and ‘thank you’

not entirely, anyway

for a linguist, politeness = a specific culture’s behavioral norms (House 2005)

  • there is no such thing as an “impolite” culture

  • we do not say that one culture is “more polite” than another

  • each culture has its own culturally specific ways of encoding politeness

linguistic politeness

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Questions in my research

  • What kind of factors are Finnish people sensitive to in a communicative event?

     traditional values of power, distance, and rate of imposition (of requests) (Brown and Levinson 1978, 1987)

  • Are there signs of variation?

  • if yes, then we know that there are specific rules of politeness in Finnish

Questions in my research

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


What linguistic tools help show politeness or mitigation
what linguistic tools help show politeness? communicative event? (or mitigation?)

English

Finnish

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Method

method

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Communication in Finnish -- Peterson with 68 native speakers of Finnish


Communication in Finnish -- Peterson with 68 native speakers of Finnish


Communication in Finnish -- Peterson with 68 native speakers of Finnish


Communication in Finnish -- Peterson with 68 native speakers of Finnish


Communication in Finnish -- Peterson with 68 native speakers of Finnish


Round up

  • What kind of factors are Finnish people sensitive to in a communicative event?

     distance is important, power seems to throw them off, and rate of imposition (of requests) leads them to all sorts of extra verbiage they would be quick to deny…

  • Are there signs of variation?

  • oh yes

  • What do we know then?

     that Finnish has culturally-specific rules of politeness

Round up

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Politeness in finland yli vakkuri 2006 evasion at all costs

  • Finnish politeness is withdrawing and evasive communicative event?

  • modesty, a wish to remain inconspicuous

  • may even mistrust or be embarrassed by overt politeness or flattery

  • conversation begins only after formal introductions

  • politeness forms are based mostly on loans from other languages; therefore ”common” people may consider them artificial or humiliating (hegemenous)

politeness in Finland(Yli-Vakkuri, 2006) ”Evasion at all costs”

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Part 2 of my dissertation research

Part 2 of my dissertation research

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


1 finnish honestly precludes small talk and other such frivolities

  • “I think that in Finnish we go straight to the point. In English you have all these words that might make it softer, but they don’t mean anything. But our culture is maybe such that we don’t have such little chat … but it depends on the way you were raised, what sort of family you come from, what sort of manners you have.” (51-year-old female)

1. Finnish honestly precludes small-talk and other such frivolities

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


2 finns are law abiding

“We are used to obeying all sorts of rules. All sorts of these regulations and directives that the EU makes, Finland is always the first to do them, and on time! In all the media, it is reported how Finns did this without any criticism at all! Sometimes I feel like the whole EU is just laughing at Finns and how they go and do all the things without even questioning.” (29-year-old female)

2. Finns are Law-abiding

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


3 the times they are a changing and so is our language

“I would say that we in Helsinki are less cordial than most people in Europe … Politeness has grown in the last 10 to 25 years, maybe because we want to be more European. More … sivistynyt (‘civilized’). I think Finnish people try to treat strangers better than they treat other Finns. They try to be more polite.” (27-year-old male)

3. the times they are a –changing ... and so is our language

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


4 the lack of importance of linguistic politeness

“[In Finland], when you bump into somebody, you don’t say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)

4. The (lack of) Importance of Linguistic Politeness

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Language vs language use politeness

  • “In Finnish, if you say say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)kiitos, it really means ‘please.’ You can’t use it all the time like you do in English. Or maybe I could say ‘Voisitko olla hiljaa?’ [‘Could you be quiet?’], and the please is in the conditional verb.”  (31-year-old female)

    • backs up quantitative results

  • criticism of the use of please in English: “you use it all the time.”

Language vs. Language Use: Politeness

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


My most current research

my most current research

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


pliis say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)‘please’

Paunonen & Paunonen (2000):

  • pliis first used in 1944

  • Suomisen Olli rakastuu (‘Olli Suominen falls in love’), by OrvoSaarikivi

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


an index of say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)

popular~youth culture engagement

Yeah, put on some hot music, please!

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Some recent observations 2014 more than a million google hits on pliis
Some recent say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)observations2014: more than a million google hits on ’pliis’

adcampaign for Helsinki Transit 2012

unlike jees ’yes,’

notyet in officialFinnishdictionaries

  • “Keep minimum wage, pliiiiiis”

  • University student demonstration in downtown Helsinki, March 18, 2010

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


New vs old politeness markers in finnish

kiitos say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female) and pliis: (Peterson & Vaattovaara 2014)

  • syntactically: pliispreferredclausemedially; kiitosclausefinally

  • semantically/pragmatically: differenttypes of utterances/intention

  • regionally and socially: pliis is associated with young, urban women

    • but is used to a significant extent by men, as well

  • kiitosserves as a marker of negative politeness, whereas pliisserves as a marker of positive politeness

    • a gap in the pragmatic system of Finnish?

“new” vs “old” politeness markers in Finnish

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


About about

  • preposition, adverb say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)

  • semantic overlap in Finnish with standard form noin

  • about also behaves in ways that do not overlap with English ’about’ or Finnish noin

    (Nykopp 2013)

about‘about’

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Oh my god

  • standard Finnish form say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)herranjumala, minun luojani

    • BUT, the forms are pragmatically and semantically distinct from each other; NOT variants

  • like in English, semantically bleached

  • less integrated than pliis and about?

    • but, note [omg]

      (Antturi 2104)

Oh my god!

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Oh my god say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female), must tuntuu et joku tulee tonne huoneeseen jat sit se on silleenomg te tapoitte hänet.

’oh my god, I feel like someone is going to walk into that room and he’ll be like, ’omg, you killed her.’

(Antturi 2014)

Janice, a character from the American TV series Friends

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


What workload do these forms share in finnish

social: say ‘excuse me.’ You say, ‘oh-ho!’ – and that’s already a lot! It doesn’t matter.” (38-year-old female)young, global, urban

pragmatic: low social distance, solidarity, informality

What workload do these forms share in Finnish?

A wrongly parked car caused a tram traffic jam in Helsinki six times yesterday. Pliis, remember to leave 80 cm between the side mirror and the rails!

example 1: Deputy Mayor of Helsinki (December 2012)

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


“The burgers were quite all right, but who ever heard of being charged 1.50 euros for water in Finland without even being told in advance?”

“Yeah, and the staff that brings you the glass costs nothing? You can and may complain, but you have to have a reason. At home it’s free. Not in a restaurant.”

example 2: Finnish celebrity chef, June 2013: ”Watergate”

Anglicisms in Finnish -- Peterson


What is the trajectory
What is the trajectory? being charged 1.50

codeswitch?

borrowing

further adaptation

urbanness, globalism,

youth

urbanness, globalism,

youth

grammatically Finnish;

pragmatically Finnish

Anglicisms in Finnish -- Peterson


Take home message

  • it’s a different country, with different cultural norms. Their aptitude in English might throw you off, but for many people, knowledge of English does not equal knowledge of American or English cultural norms.

  • for many Finns, even their English can be used in a ”Finnish” way when it comes to conversational norms, pragmatics and politeness

take-home message

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Thank you! Their aptitude in English might throw you off, but for many people, knowledge of English does not equal knowledge of American or English cultural norms.

my contact information:

[email protected]

Downtown campus, Metsätalo, 6th floor, B wing, room 626

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


Antturi Their aptitude in English might throw you off, but for many people, knowledge of English does not equal knowledge of American or English cultural norms. , S. (2014). "Oh my god oh my god oh my god! mä en saahenkee!" English interjection in Finnish discourse. University of Helsinki: Department of Modern Languages.

Brown, P. and S. Levinson. (1987) Politeness: Some universals. Cambridge.

Nykopp, L. (2013). "Sanamuoto about näin": the use of about in Finnish discourse. University of Helsinki: Department of Modern Languages.

Paunonen, H.;& Paunonen , M. (2000). TsennaaksStadii, bonjaaksslangii. Stadinslanginsuursanakirja. [The dictionary of Helsinki slang]. Helsinki: WSOY.

Peterson, Elizabeth. 2010. Perspective and politeness in Finnish requests. Pragmatics 20 (3). 401–423.

Peterson, E. (2009). “It’s Just Different”: Emotions and Observations about Finnish and English. Helsinki English studies : electronic journal of the Department of English at the University of Helsinki. 5

Peterson, E.;& Vaattovaara, J. (2014). Kiitos and pliis: the relationship of native and borrowed politeness markers in Finnish. Journal of Politeness Research

Yli-Vakkuri, Valma. 2005. Politeness in Finland: Evasion at all costs. In Leo Hickey and Miranda Stewart (eds.), Politeness in Europe. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Communication in Finnish -- Peterson


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