Print

Print


Rob Haden wrote:
>I'm wondering how much of a conlang
>Modern Standard Finnish is.  From what I understand so far, the language
>was cobbled together out of several major dialects around the late 1800s.
>What I'm wondering is, how many Standard Finnish words and inflections are
>synthetic (and, thus, ultimately unetymological) compromises between the
>different regional dialects.

I can't think of any completely original ones off the top of my head, but 
much standardized vocabulary is definitely based on dialectally rare forms, 
shortenings, and stretched analogy. The same applies to /d ts/, which used 
to be /D T:/ and had dialectally decayed to a variety of forms, /r ht/ for 
instance. The current pronounciation is essentially imported from German, 
after the 17th century spellings <d tz>. (BTW ... I have [4] for /d/, which 
leads to all four of [4] [4r] [r:] [r] being distinct, a little like the 
Dutch [X]<>[XR]<>[R] contrast mentioned recently. Can't think of a minimal 
quartet right now.)

There's, however, so much complicated and unexpected derivation in the field 
of "civilization words" that Standard Finnish would definitely count as a 
mildly a posteriori conlang. Some examples:

- "Lisko" (lizard), perceived as a root word in modern Finnish, was set in 
stone by biologists in the 1600s as a shortening of "sisilisko" (common 
lizard), which originates from the animal's old Finno-Ugric name "sisal" and 
the nowadays unproductive "-sko" affix (I think it used to be diminutive...) 
As a folk etymology, the beginning of the word had however often been 
re-analyzed as related to "sisar" (sister), so assigning a spesific meaning 
to the other half, too, was not really that much of a stretch.

- "Luokka" (class) was originally used in parts of Ostrobothnia to refer to 
a bent twig used for measuring wood shavings to be burned for lighting. This 
meaning had somehow developed from "luokki", a part of a horse's harness.

- "Sähkö" (electricity) is conracted from "sähistä säkenöiden" (to hiss 
sparkingly)

- "Suure" (variable) is "suuri" + "-e" (big + nominalizer)

This trend was in no way limited to the Swedish-speaking fennophiles of the 
1800s; words were coined and derived in similar irregular fashion ever since 
the birth of written Finnish, and public contests/polls to form native 
alternatives for foreign loanwords have been held for at least the latest 
hundred years.


>Also, does spoken Finnish (where it differs from the standard language)
>more accurately reflect the true evolution of the language?
>
>Thanks in advance. :)
>
>- Rob

What exatly do you mean by "the true evolution"? Standard spoken Finnish has 
naturally been influenced by the written language, while the dialects have 
evolved to a kajillion different directions...

John Vertical