Mäetagused vol. 69


About emotions, figuratively

Ene Vainik
Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lexicographer, Institute of the Estonian Language

Keywords: Cognitive Metaphor Theory, emotion, Estonian, hyperbole, metaphor, metonymy

The aim of the article is to increase awareness of conceptual metaphors and their role in reflecting emotional life. The article presents a systematic overview, based on the cognitive metaphor theory, of the images (metaphor, metonymy) used in Estonian to conceptualise emotions, also highlighting the use of hyperbole and absurdity. The most significant aspects in figurative descriptions are intensity, cyclic character, existence inside the experiencer, bodily changes, complicated controllability, coping, subjective suffering, usefulness. One of the main aims of the article is to highlight the diversity of cognitive projections about emotions, occurring in Estonian in a latent state, which enables the speakers to relate to emotions in different ways. The author argues that when describing feelings and emotions, many more aspects can be observed than just good and bad, which makes it possible to understand a phenomenon more diversely.

About figurative words in Estonian phraseology

Asta Õim
Linguist, Mother Tongue Society

Keywords: cognitive linguistics, Estonian language, figurative word, metaphor, phraseology

The material that the article is based on is comprised of phraseologisms (in all 20,749) included in the electronic base dictionary of Estonian idiomatic expressions. The theoretical basis is the idea that in case a linguistic unit – be it a word in its literal meaning, a phrase, or a sentence – is understood metaphorically, the metaphor is related to the literal meaning on the basis of a relationship or certain rules. This function is usually fulfilled by a trope.

The article focuses on the ontological nature of analysing figurative words in Estonian phraseologisms. For this purpose, the author presents the ontological characterisation of a hundred most frequent figurative words in Estonian phraseologisms, and, based on this, makes the following conclusions about Estonian phraseology: 1) The source of the image is related to Estonians’ everyday life – the top hundred of figurative words cover the human sphere and zoology; 2) A remarkable number of phraseologisms are based on lexemes covering everyday domains, which characterise our beliefs, understandings, and everyday activities – the things needed for survival are essential; 3) Zipf’s law applies – there is a plethora of figurative words with extremely low frequency of occurrence (in one or two expressions), and a very small number of figurative words with extremely high frequency of occurrence (in a hundred or more expressions); 4) By its nature, Estonian phraseology is very commonplace and vernacular. One of the reasons for this is probably that the researched archival material mainly originates from oral speech notations.

Loan idiom phrases: Estonian and Finnish translation strategies

Pirkko Muikku-Werner
University of Eastern Finland

Keywords: Estonian, Finnish, domestication, foreignisation, idiomatic phrases, translation

Even rather similar proverbs and idiomatic phrases can have national nuances. They reflect the view of life and cultural reality typical for the nation in question. They give information about history, religion, manners, ethics, feelings, etc., of a country. However, the interaction between neighbours is a part of culture, and has contributed to cultural exchange. Because the ideas appearing in proverbs and phrases are in many respects universal, their globalisation happens naturally.

Idiomatic phrases are challenging to translate because their meaning is not compositionally derived from their parts. This article demonstrates and compares the strategies that have been used for Estonian and Finnish (TL) in idiomatic phrase translations. The source languages (SL) are German and English.

Two main translation strategies are presented: domesticating and foreignising. Domestication refers to the strategy in which the translator tries to reduce potential SL-specific elements by substituting them with corresponding TL-specific cultural elements. When using foreignisation as a strategy, translators refrain from making any changes, although cultural elements are divergent in the SL and TL, and they are retained in translations as close to the original as possible.

The meaning of the idiom can be divided into two: the core meaning and additional meaning. Using this dichotomy helps, above all, to describe what kind of changes take place in the domesticating process. Idiomatic phrases carry a package of cultural values associated with the SL, and it is not an easy task to discover which culture-specific and language-specific features, and how, are translatable into the TL. In addition, idiomatic phrases can contain various more or less “poetic” elements, like uncommon words, exceptional word order, alliteration or rhyme. Transferring all these qualities to the TL is difficult but would contribute to maintaining the original expressive power, which is an important component of the idiomatic phrase in its native language.

The results indicate that domestication strategies have a very important role in translation. Estonian and Finnish translators favour, for instance, substitution. They also add some expressive constituents like alliteration. Very old loan idioms are not domesticated. Particularly older people prefer established translations, even though they can encompass culturally unfamiliar elements. An interesting new phenomenon is direct, word-for-word translation. This kind of foreignising may be due to the speakers’ wish to show their English skills or their expertise. The use of this strategy stresses something special, like belonging to a certain in-group.

There are some differences between Estonian and Finnish translations. Sometimes the Finnish translators advance further in the direction of the target language and culture than the Estonian ones. However, this solution seems to be arbitrary, not regular. Finns are keen on using a new calque translation which not necessarily adds to the intelligibility of the text. Some typically Finnish idiomatic phrases, popular especially among the young people, have not crossed the ocean. It would be very interesting to find out if the Finns living or studying in Estonia have absorbed local idioms.

Evolution of the Estonian term kõnekäänd

Anneli Baran
Senior Research Fellow Department of Folkloristics, Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: dictionary, German language, proverb, saying, short forms of folklore, textbooks, written language

Phrasemes that represent a short folklore genre are found in all languages. They can be used to enrich both the spoken and written language, and the ability to use them shows a skilful mastery of the language. The term kõnekäänd [speech + turn > turn of phrase], which marks instances of figurative language, first appeared in Estonian a couple of centuries ago. The present article explores written Estonian sources (dictionaries, grammars, textbooks, handbooks, and monographs, but also correspondence and handwritten collections) from the 17th century up to the 1920s, to find out how this term evolved and why it came into use. In so doing, some insights into German terms are also offered to explain the influence other languages had on the written language that was still developing back then.

‘The national sport of Estonia’: From big narratives to variegated and humorous/ironic colloquial rhetoric

Piret Voolaid
Senior Research Fellow / Executive Manager of the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies Department of Folkloristics, Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: colloquial language, ethnic stereotypes, figurative language, irony, national identity, national sport of Estonia, sport lore

The paper focuses on the usage of phrases connected to both the serious and humorous representation of (new) Estonian national sports in Estonian online media in the past few years. I suggest to differentiate between official/formal/serious and unofficial/informal/humorous fields of sport, where at one end of the scale there are sports that are based on long historical, cultural, and geographical traditions (wrestling, cross-country skiing, etc.), in which Estonian sportsmen have received international recognition and which have always attracted a big number of amateurs, professionals, and fans. At the other end, there are those “pseudo-sports” that are, above all, expressions of folk creativity; these appear as elements of linguistic-folkloric communication. Within this discourse, a new national sport may be throwing oneself in front of a moving car, picking mushrooms, cursing politicians, laying off workers, spotting speeders in unmarked police vehicles, drinking oneself to death, etc. These are used to bring out the local, stereotypical features of the nation. The tendency of linking specific fields of sport to the ethnic dimension is motivated by the mechanisms of identity creation. At the same time, it points to the cultural importance of sports. Such ironic rhetoric may have a universal dimension. The purpose of the article is to describe and explain these fields of meaning, focusing on the variations and humorous aspects in the data. Sports as such loses its significance in the process and the emotional, stereotype-based and self-ironical point of view prevails.

The source data of this study were collected by employing various methods and study environments. The main source comprises 250 responses to a short questionnaire carried out in spring 2017 via forms or handwritten pages. The main result of the analysis reveals how differently Estonians feel about the national sport of their country. The variegated palette of opinions from the responses received pursuant to the survey plan is enriched by the usage traditions established via Internet media. Statistically it is possible to determine the most popular sport among serious or humorous sport disciplines, but there will most likely never be consensus about a favourite sport. Any attempts to forcefully establish a discipline of this kind are clearly useless.

In rhetorical discourse the conjuring up of new elements is the aim. Here the general denomination of the ‘national sport of Estonia’ works as a cliché that is constantly being reloaded with new and humorous subject matter in compliance with new socio-cultural conditions. Ethnic self-ridicule becomes a source of abundant improvisation. The favourites in ironic discourse are armchair sport, going to the sauna, and consuming alcohol. Negative addictive behaviour (be it drinking, being a workaholic, violating traffic regulations or something else) stands out as a separate sub-form of national sport. Negative forms of communication (being jealous of your neighbour, intolerance of others, etc.) and personal characteristics that are considered to be stereotypically ethnic (desperation, worrying, bearing a grudge) form an independent subgroup of ethnic self-ridicule. At the same time, there are also neutral (sometimes even positive) activities among humorous elements, such as seasonal activities, e.g. mushrooming and photographing icicles. The great variety of the cliché “The national sport of Estonia is...”, which is so relevant and popular, is testament to the potential of the linguistic creative processes of Estonians, accompanied by playful and entertaining goals driven by joy and merriment.

A short history of research on Estonian inflection

Annika Viht
Lecturer of Estonian Tallinn University, School of Humanities

Keywords: grammar, history of linguistics, inflection, linguistic theory, research fields

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Estonian inflection was described in the traditional framework of Latin grammar. Grammars still differed from one another. For example, Johann Gutslaff observed that the case forms which were traditionally included in the Latinized case paradigm and other Estonian word forms were actually formed the same way. Johann Hornung’s grammar started a new era by offering a more vernacular-based description of Estonian inflection than in previous grammars.

An active search for alternative ways to describe Estonian inflection took place in the first half of the 19th century. Both verbal and nominal paradigms received novel interpretations, and mutation was for the first time treated systematically. The nature of case and the contents of the case paradigm were the most popular topics. The first complete overview of the Estonian inflectional system which followed the new ideas was compiled by Eduard Ahrens.

In the second half of the 19th century, the thorough descriptive grammar by Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann and the first grammars in the Estonian language were published.

The first disciplines of emerging Estonian linguistics, historical linguistics and dialectology evolved during the 1920s–1930s under the leadership of Andrus Saareste, Julius Mägiste and others.

The 1940s–1950s were shadowed by war and the beginning of the Soviet occupation. Linguistic research was neither particularly productive nor novel, and the fields and methods remained largely the same as before. Arnold Kask began his thorough studies on the history of literary Estonian, which in time developed into a fruitful research discipline under his influence.

The 1960s–1990s was a period characterized by intensive attention to inflection theory. First, Estonian word forms were described using the internationally well-known IA and IP models. Then, Ülle Viks, Toomas Help, Henn Saari and Martin Ehala all developed their own morphological models. Research was influenced by novel methods and insights, e.g. the theory of natural morphology and the center-periphery view of linguistic phenomena. Huno Rätsep suggested a new interpretation of Estonian moods, giving evidentiality a distinctive role. Toomas Help and Joel Nevis examined some case morphemes as clitics instead of the traditional interpretation as case affixes. A thorough descriptive grammar was compiled (1993-1995). Its inflection chapter, authored by Kristiina Ross, differed radically from the previous grammars and relied on the morphological classification of Ülle Viks and the model of regular and irregular morphology by Toomas Help. Some new disciplines emerged: first-language acquisition, the study of colloquial language and computational linguistics. The research of Mati Hint, in particular, revealed major systematic differences between formal and colloquial inflection. Traditional disciplines flourished as well. Among other works, many important general treatments were published: a history of the noun paradigm by Huno Rätsep, a history of literary Estonian by Arnold Kask, a systematic overview of contemporary inflection by Jaak Peebo and comprehensive overviews of several Estonian dialects.

The most important theoretical works of the new millennium include the descriptions of Estonian verb and noun inflection using the WP model by James Blevins. Studies on colloquial Estonian have revealed some ongoing changes in morphological paradigms. Second-language acquisition and the study of language disorders have developed into full-fledged research areas. Of the existent disciplines, first-language acquisition, dialectology, the history of literary Estonian and research on colloquial Estonian have been productive. Diachronic inflection, on the other hand, has received less attention than before. Recently, research on morphosyntax has prevailed over the study of inflection.

Expansion of partitive case in the Estonian language into a counterpart of Indo-European accusative

Mati Hint
Estonian linguist
10152 Tallinn, Narva mnt 25, Tallinn University

Keywords: expansion of partitive as a common case for object, expressing the aspect in Estonian, language change, the rules covering the usage of object in Estonian, typology of morphosyntax

The language-specific rules for expressing grammatical aspect in Estonian by the use of case forms of grammatical object were first described by Eduard Ahrens (1803–1863) in his “Grammatik der Ehstnischen Sprache Revalschen Dialektes” (1853). In the Estonian language the perfective aspect is expressed by the nominative and genitive cases of the object, and imperfective aspect by the partitive case of the object.

During the last 150 years since Ahrens’s grammar, and later a grammar by Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann (“Grammatik der Ehstnischen Sprache ...”, 1875) the rules covering the usage of these cases for expressing aspect have been elaborated into a detailed syntactic theory.

Nowadays, however, the situation is gradually changing: under the influence of Indo-European languages the partitive case seems to occupy more and more the role of Indo-European accusative as a common case for grammatical object, leaving aside and neutralizing the expression of aspect.

Diachronic language changes in usage patterns of belletristic Estonian in 1890s–1990s

Jekaterina Trainis
PhD student of linguistics at the Tallinn University

Keywords: diachronic language change, Estonian belletristic language, corpus linguistics, linguistic cluster analysis, morphosyntactic patterns, statistics

This paper compares the morphosyntactic usage patterns of Estonian belletristic language in the 1890s and 1990s. A program called Cluster Catcher (developed at the Tallinn University) is applied to find similar n-grams, i.e. sequences of words, on the basis of morphological and syntactic tags, taking into account the frequency of use. The appropriateness of this statistics-based program has been proven previously and the results have opened a new view to the usage-based grammar of Estonian.

In this case, trigrams are grouped into morphological clusters (part of speech sequences) which are, in turn, classified into morphological classes based on the part of speech of their first component, and divided into subclasses based on the first and final component, so that the middle component varies.

Remarkable statistical shifts that have taken place during the period are revealed in this corpus-driven research. Based on the distribution of morphological classes, I put forward hypotheses about possible diachronic changes. After that, step by step I find evidence on the level of subclasses, clusters and trigrams.

It can be suggested that analyticity has been on the rise in Estonian (formation of multi-word units in relation to the widening of patterns consisting of adverbs by the 1990s). Open and closed parts of speech have different functional adeptness and constraints in texts (e.g. two closed parts of speech – conjunction and adposition – have differences in usage; while the usage of conjuctions is widening thanks to the rise of coordinative-correlative words, the usage of adpositsions is declining due to the decreasing number of adpositions and narrowing of functions). Background factors, such as text creation (type of text, coherence, wholeness of text, pragmatics) and also the target of language reform towards more expressive Estonian, can be taken into consideration.

Usage-based language description: Linguistic cluster analysis and it’s perspectives for pedagogical purposes

Pille Eslon
Tallinn University, School of Digital Technologies, associate professor

Keywords: corpus linguistics, Estonian studies, linguistic cluster analysis, usage-based language study

Linking Estonian linguistic proficiency to reference levels of the CEFR and different educational stages does not rely on research but is based on deep-rooted perceptions. More veracious data can be obtained by comparing a native speaker’s language usage patterns to morphological and lexical preferences characteristic to speakers of every language level. For this purpose, tools for automatic text processing (which are mainly created on the basis of English) and different techniques for data analysis are needed. The article introduces an original computer program called Cluster Catcher that has been developed in the Tallinn University for finding usage patterns from Estonian written language texts.

The journey of language learners from perceiving cross-linguistic similarity to target-like language use

Annekatrin Kaivapalu
Professor of Finnish, University of Turku editor-in-chief of the journal Lähivõrdlusi / Lähivertailuja [Close Comparisons]

Keywords: cross-linguistic influence, Estonian, Finnish, inflectional morphology, perceived cross-linguistic similarity, second language acquisition

Most SLA theories and models have recognised cross-linguistic influence (CLI) as an important or even the major factor determining the second language acquisition, which, in interaction with other factors, determines the likelihood of the transferability of a given structure in a given context. Interlingual identifications made by learners between the first (L1) or formerly learned (Ln) and target language (TL) enable both positive and negative transfer from the L1/Ln, depending on the learners’ perceptions of the convergence or divergence of the L1/Ln and TL patterns. However, largely due to the visibility of non-target like language usage, the majority of studies on the CLI have focused on the negative outcomes of the issue or dealt with the CLI without separately tackling the positive and negative influence. In closely related languages like Finnish and Estonian with their rich inflectional morphology, the L1 influence is clearly seen in bound morphology, and its outcomes are considerably more often positive than negative.

The paper aims to explore how and why learners’ perceptions of similarity do or do not get realised as positive CLI in inflectional morphology, on the basis of the following two databases: 1) thinking aloud protocols and retrospective interviews on an experimental inflection test of Estonian high school students learning Finnish as a foreign language; 2) longitudinal video-taped data of Estonian primary school children learning Finnish as a second language in a preparatory class.

The results indicate that both second and foreign language learners benefit from similar inflectional patterns when they perceive cross-linguistic similarity and then apply a pattern similar to L1 and TL. For foreign language learners, the two main reasons of rejecting the converging morphological patterns of L1 and TL are: 1) a psychological barrier, avoiding “too” similar patterns in Estonian and Finnish, causing the repetition of the pattern during analogical processing; 2) competition between analogical and rule-based production, which is supported by foreign language instruction. In learning closely related inflectional morphology, system learning for production precedes item learning for production both in second and foreign language learners.

News, overviews   

Birthday Greetings!

Olli (Olga Ottilie) Kõiva (85), Tiiu Salasoo (85), Mall Hiiemäe (80), Luule Krikmann (80), Kristi Salve (75), Igor Tõnurist (70), Rein Saukas (70), Janīna Kursīte (65), Merike Kiipus (60), Vilve Asmer (60), Ülo Valk (55), Mari Sarv (45), Andreas Kalkun (40)


A brief summary of the events of Estonian folklorists from from April to July 2017.