The West European profile by HC120930164427


									How exotic is Finnish?

       Östen Dahl
           The received view
• Genealogically, Finnish belongs to the
  Uralic languages
• Typologically, Uralic (and also Altaic)
  languages differ radically from Indo-
  European languages by being
  agglutinative rather than flectional/fusional
        Testing the received view
          on data from WALS
• The World Atlas of
  Language Structures
  (2005) contains 142
  maps of the distribution of
  grammatical and lexical
  phenomena in the
  languages in the world
   What the received view predicts
• The data in WALS can be used to construct typological
  profiles and measure typological distances between
• Finnish, Hungarian and Turkish belong to the core
  sample in WALS
• The received view suggests that these agglutinative
  languages should form a tight cluster in the WALS data
• Let’s look at the 222 best represented languages in
 Finnish and Hungarian do not cluster
                              Languages typologically closest to Finnish
• Most of the languages    Armenian (Eastern)       IE              22
  typologically closest    Polish                   IE              25
  to Finnish are in fact   Latvian                  IE              25
  Indo-European            Nenets                   Uralic          25
                           Bulgarian                IE              26
• Turkish and              Lithuanian               IE              26
  Hungarian are ranked     Russian                  IE              27
  after these              Kashmiri                 IE              27
                           Evenki                   Altaic          28
                           Brahui                   Dravidian       28
                           Turkish                  Altaic          29
                           Hungarian                Uralic          29
 Classical morphological typology
• The languages of the world are said to all
  belong to one of four types:
  – isolating
  – agglutinative
  – fusional (inflecting, flectional)
  – polysynthetic
  Agglutinative languages (Wikipedia)

• Agglutinative languages have words containing
  several morphemes that are always clearly
  differentiable from one other in that each
  morpheme represents only one grammatical
  meaning and the boundaries between those
  morphemes are easily demarcated; that is, the
  bound morphemes are affixes, and they may be
  individually identified.
• Agglutinative languages tend to have a high
  number of morphemes per word, and their
  morphology is highly regular.
  Fusional languages (Wikipedia)
• Morphemes in fusional languages are not readily
  distinguishable from the root or among
  themselves. Several grammatical bits of
  meaning may be fused into one affix.
• Morphemes may also be expressed by internal
  phonological changes in the root (i.e.
  morphophonology), such as consonant
  gradation and vowel gradation, or by
  suprasegmental features such as stress or tone,
  which are of course inseparable from the root.
  Which language is agglutinative?
Nominative        Illative sg   Illative pl
vesi              veteen        vesiin              ‘water’

hund-ar-na-s             svans-ar             kupera-de-s
dog-PL-DEF-GEN           tail-PL              dock-PST-PASS
’the dogs’ tails were docked’

             It is not so difficult to find Finnish examples
             that look fusional and Swedish examples that
             look agglutinative
          Bell curve parameters
• Typological parameters are continua rather than
• Typological distributions tend to be ”normal Bell
  curves” rather than ”inverted Bell curves”
Inflectional synthesis of the verb




                 2-3     4-5 6-7    8-9
   10                                            12-
                                           10-   13
           0-1                             11
        Finnish does not seem to have very complex verb
 Number of finite forms in Finnish and
• Finnish             • French (written)
  –   present           –   présent ind.
  –   past              –   présent subj.
  –   conditional       –   imparfait ind.
  –   (potential)       –   imparfait subj.
                        –   passé simple
Indeed, Finnish has     –   futur
fewer finite verb       –   conditionnel
forms than e.g.
      Number of case forms (WALS)



                                                       The richness of the
60                                                        Finnish case
                                                         system is quite
50                                                           unusual
40                                                        typologically
30                                  6-7
10           2                      8-9         10-     12-13
                                5                10-
                 3      4                       11
 Finnish as an agglutinative language

• Seeing Finnish as a language which is
  fundamentally different from other
  European languages because of its
  agglutinative character
  – gives too much prominence to the
    agglutinative:fusional dimension
  – is misleading since Finnish is rather far from
    the extreme end of that dimension
      The Finnish case system
• What is really special about Finnish (in
  particular in comparison to Germanic and
  Romance languages) is the rich case
• Interestingly, even if Finnish finite verb
  morphology is relatively poor there is a
  complex set of non-finite forms which is
  enhanced by case inflections (cf. Anne
  Tamm’s paper at this conference)
    Importance of areal influence
• The typological profile of a language is
  often predicted better by its geographical
  location than by its genealogical affiliation
• Finnish is in many respects more similar to
  its European neighbours than to more
  closely related Uralic languages
               OV/VO vs. PostP/PreP

                          Asia: mainly
                            OV and

 mainly VO
Indo-European word order

                  The border between
                  VO/PreP and
                  OV/PostP cuts
                  straight through the IE
 Uralic word order

Uralic languages are all postpositional (or
almost), but western Uralic languages are VO
rather than OV
Harmonic vs. disharmonic types

             The disharmonic
         combination of VO and
        postpositions is found in a
        ”buffer zone” between the
             harmonic options
          The West European profile
German           Europe   Indo-European   -133
French           Europe   Indo-European   -125   languages in
                                                 the WALS
Spanish          Europe   Indo-European   -120   database fit
English          Europe   Indo-European   -119   best the profile
                                                 of European
Greek (Modern)   Europe   Indo-European    -96   languages west
                                                 of 20° E?
Russian          Europe   Indo-European    -68
Latvian          Europe   Indo-European    -60
Irish            Europe   Indo-European    -58
Finnish          Europe   Uralic           -51
Georgian         Asia     Kartvelian       -38
            Features that are
   over-represented in western Europe
• Perfect from possessive
• Interrogative word order marks polar questions
• Negative indefinites show mixed behaviour w.r.t.
  predicate negation
• The language has markers that can code both
  situational and epistemic modality, both for
  possibility and for necessity.
• ‘First’ and a small set of consecutive higher ordinal
  numerals are suppletive
• Relative pronoun used for relativization on objects
• Distributive numeral marked by preceding word
• Relative pronoun used for relativization on subjects
• Other action nominal construction
                                     Boldface features are
                                     represented in Finnish
Distribution of some ”European”
  Finnish as a European language
• Finnish is not quite a ”Standard Average
  European” (SAE) language…
• …but comes fairly close to it
 Euronormativity makes Finnish seem
• However, in linguistics we tend to find a strong
  tendency towards ”euronormativity”
• SAE is taken as the normal way for languages to
• In this perspective, differences between SAE
  and Finnish become salient
• …and Finnish is ”exoticized” and seen as unique
• …which of course may be regarded as a highly
  desirable property
 Sometimes it is SAE that is exotic
• An option that seems ”exotic” in a European
  context may not at all be so globally
• For example, ”pro-drop”, i.e. omission of
  pronominal subjects, is not usually possible in
  SAE languages (Germanic, Romance)
• Globally, however, ”pro-drop” is the normal case
Expression of non-lexical subjects

Finnish:                     Minority option
”mixed”                         (11%):
           Majority option     pronouns
              (61%) :
           subject affixes
             on verbs
 Everything may be equally exotic
• Sometimes, both SAE and Finnish
  represent minority options
• Consider predicative possession: how
  does a language express ’I have a cow’?
  – SAE – a transitive verb ’to have’
  – Finnish – a locative construction ’minulla on
      Predicative possession

In Stassen’s
’have’ is the
    most                  The locational
  common                 option is almost
 option but              equally common
    still a
minority one
   Is definiteness an Indo-European
• Paradoxically, euronormativity sometimes
  leads researchers to see bias where there
  is none
• Consider this quotation from an earlier
  plenary lecture (re definiteness in Finnish):
  – ”…is resolutely against importing categories
    from Indo-European linguistics for describing
    languages characterised by different
    structures and pragmatics”
          Definite articles in Europe
If we look at
Europe definite
articles may
indeed seem like
an Indo-
               Definite articles globally

but in a global perspective they   blue dots – definite
are definitely  not!              articles (237 lgs)
• ”Malliesimerkkejä agglutinoivista
  kieliryhmistä ovat uralilaiset ja altailaiset
  kielet. ”

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