LinguEast Estonia(n)


(INTRO:This post was first published on March 03, 2007. I am re-using it today)

Last year, I visited Estonia. Estonia. Estonia – isn’t this the country, where-? Erm, no. And which-? No. So what do I know about it?
OK, so what does Wikipedia know about it? 1,3 million inhabitants. Lovely. But let’s have a look at the language first, must be interesting.

The official language of Estonia is Estonian, they themselves call it eesti keel. Though also one of the EU languages, it is not an Indo-European language. It is Finno-Ugric and thus related to Finnish and Hungarian.

Hm, this could become interesting. Remember the time you thought you could learn Hungarian? I wonder how many vowels and how many grammatical cases they have.

The Estonian alphabet consists of 32 letters. Ouch. Slovenian has only 25. They include Õ, Ä, Ö, Ü among other things. That’s nice. It’s also a funny feeling to be able to pronounce at least three of the Estonian vowels.

A distinctive feature of Estonian is its three degrees of phoneme length: short, long and overlong.

Hm. So I may not be able to say anything resembling Estonian, ever. OK, such is life. Now, what about those cases?

Nouns and pronouns do not have grammatical gender. That’s good! No DER, DIE, DAS in Estonian then. How very modern. Let’s continue. What-?!?

Nouns and adjectives decline in fourteen cases. Fourteen, ladies and gentlemen. And you thought Slovenian was difficult.

The cases are called nominative, genitive, partitive, illative, inessive, elative, allative, adessive, ablative, translative, terminative, essive, abessive, and comitative.

I just have to have a closer look at their meaning. I’ve never heard of them before!

Partitive denotes partialness, being without result or without special identity.

Illative basically means INTO (into the house).

Inessive basically stands for IN (in the house).

Elative means OUT OF (out of the house).

Allative means ONTO (onto the table).

Adessive basically means ON (on the table).

Ablative describes motion AWAY FROM something.

Translative describes a change in the state of a noun (becoming X).

Terminative indicates to what point, where something will end (as far as the river).

Essive describes a temporary state of being (as a child).

Abessive describes lack or absence of the marked noun (without house, homeless).

Comitative denotes companionship (with a dog).

I think I have to stop here. I’ve worked myself into quite a philosophical mood with this research. I’d love to do some thinking now. But, Estonia, I’ll be back soon!


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