This morning’s initial excitement soon wore out: There are no online sources of simple information about the Estonian verb system, all I found were highly specialised linguistic papers I’m going to read if I have time. So while waiting for the book to arrive, I could share some interesting bits about the Estonian vocabulary instead. Courtesy of Wikipedia, among others.
First, some technical speech: Estonian is an agglutinating language, gradually changing into a fusional language. ??? Yes, exactly, the word agglutinating is closely related to glue, meaning that you make words by gluing pieces together. What pieces? Well, first you take a word with a meaning, like kool (school; no gender in Estonian, remember?). If your word needs plural, you glue the little word (called morpheme in the world of linguists) expressing plural to it. If you need to talk about little schools, you glue the word meaning “diminutive” to the schools, etc. You will have to learn the language itself to find out in which order you can attach these pieces of grammatical information. The good news is: those little bits that you glue to the real words are always the same.
And fusional? What is fusional about a language? Fusional simply means you do not have one morpheme for plural, one for masculine, one for little – you rather have one morpheme (= ending), meaning all three: many, little, masculine. A good example of a fused morpheme can be taken from Slovenian: šola not only means school, it also means (via –a at the end): one, feminine, normal size, nominative case.
Estonian is gradually changing from one type into the other. And changes mean trouble. 🙂
End of technical speech.
Estonian vocabulary has been influenced by many different cultures and languages, among others German and English. Before I name some older loan words, resembling these two Germanic languages, let me tell you something about:
A Moose. It is called põder in Estonian and the word is of Baltic-Finnic origin. Sounds terrible.
Now for some lovely Estonian words (of Low Saxon origin), some of them are quite telling:
kool ‘school’ / torm ‘storm’ / salat ‘salad’ / loorber ‘laurel’ / roos ‘rose’ / hunt ‘wolf; hound’ / köök ‘kitchen’ / pannkook ‘pancake’ / vorst ‘sausage’ / lühter ‘chandelier’ / muda ‘mud’ / ruum ‘room’ / saal ‘hall’ / tool ‘stool’ / trepp ‘stairs’ / vall ‘wall, ridge’ / jaht ‘hunt’ / vaht ‘watch’ / altar ‘altar’ / ingel ‘angel’ / jünger ‘disciple’ / psalm ‘psalm’ / sant ‘beggar, cripple’ / preili ‘miss, maiden’ / memm ‘old woman’ / härra ‘gentleman’ / naaber ‘neighbour’ / saks ‘german, nobleman’ / arst ‘doctor’ / paar ‘pair’ / tosin ‘dozen’ / veerand ‘quarter’ / näärid ‘new year’ / reede ‘friday’ / tund ‘hour’ / kool ‘school’ / kunst ‘art’ / maaler ‘painter’ / just ‘just, namely’ / topelt ‘double’ / väärt ‘valuable’…
An English-Estonian dictionary is to be found here.