University of Oulu

Ylikoski, Jussi (2019) The distributive “dwarf case” in Estonian. Finnisch-ugrische mitteilungen 43: 89-139.

The distributive “dwarf case” in Estonian

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Author: Ylikoski, Jussi1
Organizations: 1Oulu
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Buske, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-12-01


The article discusses the borderland between nominal case inflection and adverb deri­vation in Estonian. Estonian grammars customarily present a case system consisting of fourteen cases. The present article takes a step outside the traditional paradigm. The main focus of the study is on certain formations traditionally regarded as denominal adverbs. The previously underdescribed formations in -ti have a distributive meaning (e.g., hommikuti ‘in the mornings’, riigiti ‘across countries; by country’, keeliti ‘across languages’). Based on data drawn from billions of words of modern written Estonian on the Internet, the distributive in -ti turns out to be a rather productive morphological category. Special attention is given to the syntactic properties of these formations, as the data show that the distributive differs starkly from ordinary adverbs. It is argued that the distributives are not fully denominal forms, but rather show many features characteristic of nouns: they may be accompanied by postmodifying relative clauses as well as genitives, adjectival modifiers and pronominal determiners. The article shows that the inflection–derivation interface of the Estonian noun is far from clear-cut. On the basis of the findings presented in this study, it is proposed that our understanding of the Estonian case system can be advanced by introducing a concept of “dwarf case” in analogy with dwarf planets, which are members of the Solar System and share many features with planets despite not being proper planets in and of themselves. The Estonian distributive in -ti can therefore be characterized as a “dwarf case”, an entity that comes quite close to being potentially considered the fifteenth case o f the language.

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Series: Finnisch-Ugrische Mitteilungen
ISSN: 0341-7816
ISSN-L: 0341-7816
Volume: 43
Pages: 89 - 139
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 6121 Languages
Copyright information: © 2019 Finnisch-ugrische mitteilunge.