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  1. The main characteristics of Finnish - in comparison with German and English Language and Culture SoSe 2006 Katariina Laitinen

  2. Finnish • A member of the Finno-Ugric language family Finnish Estonian Sámi (Lapp) Mordvin Komi (Zyryan) Hanti (Ostyak) Karelian Mari (Cheremis) Udmurt(Votyak) Mansi (Vogul) Vepsian Hungarian Ludian Votian Livonian >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>increasing distance from Finnish>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> (Table from Karlsson 1999:1) • English and German belong to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family together with Swedish, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian etc.

  3. Pronunciation and spelling • The pronunciation of English and German is nowadays very distant from the spelling and basically follows certain rules for letter-phoneme conversion • Finnish is pronounced approximately the same way it is spelled - each letter corresponds to one phoneme, and each phoneme corresponds to one letter Eurooppa /euro:p:a/ ‘Europe’, ‘Europa’ - exception: there is no separate letter for the phoneme [ŋ] kenkä /keŋkä/ ‘shoe’, kengät /keŋŋät/ ‘shoes’

  4. Long and short sounds are used to distinguish meaning • Both vowels and consonants can be doubled - tuli ‘fire’, tuuli ‘wind’, tulli ‘customs’ • ä: like the vowel in British English shall, rat ö: like [ö] in German schön y: like German [ü] å: like [o], Åbo (Fin. Turku), Åland (Fin. Ahvenanmaa) Stress: • In Finnish the main stress is always on the first syllable - Helsinki, not Helsinki - Tampere, not Tampere

  5. Vowel harmony • front (y,ä,ö) and back (u,a,o) vowels cannot appear in the same word • The vowels i and e are neutral • Vowel harmony does not concern compound words kesä-loma ‘summer vacation’ • Because of vowel harmony, many endings have two forms -ssa/-ssä, -ko/-kö, -nut/-nyt • When the stem of a word has at least one back vowel, the ending with a back vowel is used; otherwise the ending with a front vowel is chosen kirjassa ‘in the book’, kynäkö? ‘a pen(cil)?’, on tehnyt ‘has done’

  6. Personal pronouns 1st person: minä ‘I’ me ‘we’ 2nd person: sinä ‘you’/’du’ te ‘you’/’Sie’ 3rd person: hän ‘he/she’ he ‘they’ • In Finnish there is only one pronoun for 3rd person singular: hän is used to refer both to men and women • If the sex needs to be mentioned, a different construction is used: Hän on mukava. ‘He/she is nice.’ Tuo nainen on mukava. ‘She is nice.’ (lit. ‘That lady is nice.’)

  7. Nominals (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals) • Finnish is an agglutinative language: different endings are added to basic words to create new meanings • Finnish does not have articles or gender marking in nouns - definite/indefinite reference is expressed by word order: Kadulla on auto. 'There is a car in the street.' vs. Auto on kadulla. 'The car is in the street.' • Nominals are inflected in 15 cases, which usually correspond to prepositions in English and German - there are prepositions in Finnish, but they are very rare ilman rahaa 'without money', ennen huomista 'before tomorrow' - more common in Finnish are postpositions pöydän alla 'under the table', kadun yli 'across the street'

  8. The Finnish case system Case Function Example Nominative (basic form) koira 'dog', koirat 'dogs' Genitive possession koiran 'of the dog' Accusative object koiran 'dog', hänet 'him/her' Partitive indefinite vettä 'some water', quantity maitoa '(some) milk' Inessive inside autossa 'in the car' Elative out of autosta 'out of the car' Illative into autoon 'into the car' Adessive on; instrument katolla 'on the roof', vasaralla 'with a hammer' Ablative off katolta 'off the roof' Allative onto katolle 'onto the roof'

  9. Essive state äitinä 'as a mother' Translative change of äidiksi '(to become) a mother' state Abessive without syyttä 'without a reason' Comitative accompanying vaimoineni 'with my wife(s)' Instructive (idiomatic) jalan 'on foot' (Table freely from Karlsson 1999:19) Concord of attributes: • Pienessä punaisessa talossa 'in a/the little red house' • Tässä pienessä punaisessa talossa 'in this little red house’ • Noissa kolmessa vihreässä autossa 'in those three green cars'

  10. The most important cases are the nominative and the partitive • Non-divisible (countable) subject nouns are in the nominative, divisible (non-countable) in the partitive Talo on punainen. 'The house is red.' Jääkaapissa on maitoa. 'There is (some) milk in the fridge.' • Divisible subject nouns can appear in the nominative, if they express a definite quantity Ruoka maistuu pahalta. 'The food tastes bad.' • Non-divisible object nouns are in the accusative, divisible in the partitive Ostan auton. 'I (will) buy a/the car.' Juon maitoa. 'I drink milk.'

  11. With non-divisible objects, using the partitive changes the meaning Luin kirjan. 'I read a/the book.' (the whole book) Luin kirjaa. 'I was reading a/the book.' (I didn't finish) Plural formation • In nominative and accusative plural the words have the ending –t; in other cases the ending is –i- (-j- between two vowels) pullo 'a/the bottle', pullot '(the) bottles' pulloa 'bottle'(part.), pulloja 'bottles'(part.) pullossa 'in the bottle', pulloissa ‘in the bottles’

  12. Possessive suffixes • In Finnish possession is expressed by the genitive forms of personal pronouns • Words also take a possessive suffix, which is inflected in person (minun) kirja-ni 'my book(s)' (sinun) kirja-si 'your book(s)' hänen kirja-nsa 'his/her book(s)' (meidän) kirja-mme 'our book(s)' (teidän) kirja-nne 'your book(s)' heidän kirja-nsa 'their book(s)'

  13. Verbs Present tense mennä ‘to go’/ olla ‘to be’ (minä) menen/olen ‘I go/am’ (me) menemme/olemme (sinä) menet/olet ‘you go/are’ (te) menette/olette hänmenee/on ‘he/she goes/is’ hemenevät/ovat Past tense: menin/olin, menit/olit, meni/oli etc. Perfect tense: olen mennyt/ollut, olet mennyt/ollut etc. Pluperfect tense: olin mennyt/ollut, olit mennyt/ollut etc.

  14. Four moods: indicative: löydän ‘I find’ conditional: löytäisin ‘I would find’ imperative: Löydä! ‘Find!’ potential: löytänen ‘I will probably find’ lienen ‘I will probably be’ (from olla) • There is no future tense in Finnish Menen kaupunkiin. ‘I go to the city.’ (pres.) Menen huomenna kaupunkiin. ‘I will go to the city tomorrow.’ (pres. + time adverb) • Tulen katumaan tätä. ‘I will regret this.’ (lit. ‘I come to regret this.’)

  15. The passive • Unlike in English or German, in Finnish it is not possible to form an agent construction in the passive - instead, an active sentence has to be used ‘The man was eaten by a lion.’ >> Leijona söi miehen. (or Miehen söi leijona.) • Mies syötiin. ‘The man was eaten.’ Mies syötiin leijonan toimesta. (stylistically not good Finnish)

  16. Word order • In English the word order is pretty fixed The lion ate the man. ≠ The man ate the lion. • In Finnish the word order is flexible Leijona söi miehen. ‘A/the lion ate a/the man.’ Miehen söi leijona. ‘The man was eaten by a lion.’ Söi miehen leijona. (poetic) Söi leijona miehen. ‘A/the lion ATE the man.’ Leijona miehen söi. ‘It was a/the lion that ate the man.’ Miehen leijona söi. ‘It was a/the man that the lion ate.’ • Mies söi leijonan. ‘A/the man ate a/the lion.’

  17. Sound alternations Consonant gradation (p, t, k): • In many cases attaching an ending to a word causes a change in its stem • Quantitative changes: kukka ‘flower’ >>kukan ‘of the flower’ kk >> k portti ‘gate’ >> portilla ‘at the gate’ tt >> t • Qualitative changes: katu ‘street’ >> kadun ‘of the street’ t >> d jalka ‘foot’ >> jalat ‘feet’ k >> ø ilta ‘evening’ >> illalla ‘in the evening’ lt >> ll

  18. There is a set of rules which determine if a change occurs katto ‘roof’, ‘ceiling’ katolla ‘on the roof’: ending begins with two consonants katot ‘(the) roofs’: ending consists of one consonant kattoon ‘to the ceiling’: a long vowel kattoa ‘roof’/’ceiling’ (part.): ending does not consist of one consonant or begin with two • Exceptions to the long vowel rule tehdas ‘factory’ >> tehtaan ‘of the factory’ hd >> ht hylje ‘a seal’ >> hylkeet ‘seals’ lj >> lk • In verbs the alternations are governed by additional rules kertoa ‘to tell’ > kerrotaan ‘is told’, Kerro! ‘Tell!’ (pass., imp.) kertoisin ‘I would tell’ (cond.)

  19. Further examples: helppo ‘easy’ >> helpompi ‘easier’ koti ‘home’ >> koditon ‘homeless’ tasku ‘pocket’ >> taskussa ‘in the pocket’ combination sk auto ‘car’ >> autolla ‘by car’ loanword Vowel changes: • Before some endings beginning with –i- the preceding vowels change yö ‘night’ >> öitä ‘nights’ (part.) plural –i- kiltti ‘nice’ >> kiltein ‘nicest’ superlative –in jäädä ‘to stay’ >> jäisi ‘would stay’ conditional –isi- viedä ‘to take’ >> vei ‘took’ past tense –i-

  20. Nominal stems • A nominal may have different stems for different cases kivi ‘stone’: kive-n ‘of the stone’ vesi ‘water’: vede-n ‘of the water’, vet-tä ‘water’ (part.), vete-nä ‘as water’ ihminen ‘a person’: ihmis-et ‘people’ avain ‘key’: avaim-et ‘keys’ • Many words resembling each other are also inflected the same way kirjain ‘letter’: kirjaim-et ‘letters’ • However, this is not always true vastaus ‘answer’: vastauk-sen ‘of the answer’ kauneus ‘beauty’: kauneu-den ‘of beauty’

  21. Negation • The negation word is ei ‘no’, which is inflected in person - en, et, ei, emme, ette, eivät - luemme ‘we read’ >> emme lue ‘we don’t read’ - ei ole ‘is not’, en mene ‘I don’t/won’t go’ • Imperative forms are negated by the word älä/älkää ‘do not’ Osta! ‘Buy!’ >> Älä osta! ‘Don’t buy!’ Tulkaa! ‘Come!’ (pl.) >> Älkää tulko! ‘Don’t come!’ (pl.)

  22. Enclitic particles • enclitic particles are very common in Finnish - in many cases a direct translation is not possible • Examples: -ko/-kö forms direct questions: Tuletko? ‘Will you come?’ (lit. ‘you come’ + question) -kin ‘also’, ‘too’ Tuletko sinäkin? ‘Will you come too?’ -kaan/-kään is the negative correspondent of –kin Etkö sinäkään tule? ‘Won’t you come either?’ -han/-hän emphasis or familiarity, -pa/-pä emphasis

  23. Vocabulary • The vocabulary of Finnish differs greatly from that of the Indo-European (or Germanic) languages - many internationalisms have been replaced by words composed of own-language elements - tietokone ‘computer’ (lit. information machine), puhelin ‘telephone’ (from puhua ‘to speak’), kännykkä ‘mobile phone’ (from käsi ‘hand’), sähköposti ‘e-mail’ (electric mail) - compare: televisio ‘television’, kamera ‘camera’ • Some Finnish words: Suomi ‘Finland’, suomi ‘Finnish’ Hyvää päivää! ‘How do you do!’ (lit. ‘Good day!’)

  24. Kiitos! Thank you!

  25. References Karlsson, Fred: Finnish: An Essential Grammar (Routledge 1999)