In Estonian, some objects of verbs show an alternation in case-marking that seems to be conditioned by morphological number: genitive when singular, nominative when plural. According to traditional descriptions (Erelt et al. 1993, 2000) and some recent research (Miljan & Cann 2013), these objects are genitive/nominative syntactically and morphologically. This paper argues against this approach, proposing instead that these cases are the morphological realization of a non-autonomous syntactic accusative case, on the basis of two novel arguments. First, although isolated words in the language have no unique accusative form, the pseudopartitive construction does exhibit a unique form in would-be accusative contexts. Second, the genitive form of the inanimate relative pronoun (mille) can be replaced by nominative/unmarked mis, but only when it is in an object position. Though it has been proposed in the literature that Estonian has an accusative case (Hiietam 2003, 2005, Caha 2009), neither of these arguments has been discussed, and they provide compelling morphosyntactic evidence in favor of the proposal. Possible paths to an analysis of the accusative’s pervasive syncretism are discussed in the framework of Distributed Morphology. It is proposed that an analysis making use of Impoverishment is superior to one without. The investigation here constitutes an additional case study in the divide between syntactic case and morphological case (Deal 2016, Goddard 1982, Legate 2008, 2014, Spencer 2006).
Keywords: Estonian, case, syncretism, pseudopartitives, Impoverishment
This paper presents an outlook on ‘inherent case’ that ties it consistently to the category P, in either of two ways: the inherent case particle is either an autonomous spell-out of P or, in Emonds’ (1985, 1987) term, an alternative realisation of a silent P (i.e., a case morpheme on P’s nominal complement that licenses the silence of P). The paper also unfolds a perspective on case concord that analyses it as the copying of morphological material rather than the matching of morphological features. These proposals are put to the test in a detailed analysis of the case facts of Estonian, with particular emphasis on the distinction, within its eleven ‘semantic’ cases, between the seven spatial cases (analysed as alternative realisations of a null P) and the last four cases (treated as autonomous realisations of postpositions). This analysis of the Estonian case system has repercussions for the status of genitive case (structural vs inherent), and for the analysis of (the distribution of ) case concord. It also prompts a novel, purely syntactic outlook on case distribution in pseudo-partitives, exploiting a key contrast between Agree and the Spec-Head relation: when agreement involves the Spec-Head relation, it is subject to a total match condition.
Keywords: adposition, alternative realisation, case, concord, exponence, pseudo-partitive
Abstract: Eesti keele süntaks, edited by Mati Erelt and Helle Metslang, contains 23 articles written by scholars at the University of Tartu, collectively describing all areas of Estonian syntax. It is the largest description of Estonian syntax ever compiled. The volume is distinctively modern, relying heavily on recent studies and employing example sentences taken from various Estonian language corpora that were not available to the writers of previous Estonian reference grammars. It draws inspiration from older Estonian grammars as well as the comprehensive Finnish grammar Iso suomen kielioppi, but it makes numerous classification choices that differ from those made in its predecessors. The book is intended to aid in all kinds of activity related to the Estonian language, whether language instruction, language planning, or academic research. It is a welcome addition to the library of anyone studying the grammar of Estonian and/or related languages.
Keywords: Estonian, syntax, reference grammar, descriptive
This contribution provides an overview of the main works on the syntactic structure of Finnish and Estonian, sketching the main achievements of the research on these languages, characterizing the main topics of the research, and guiding the readers to further topics, sources and authors. The history of generative linguistics and the development of ideas has followed quite different paths in Estonia and Finland, largely due to the divergent political situation. This is sketched in the paper.
Keywords: Estonian, Finnish, syntax, social networking in academia, politics and academia, Generative Grammar Group