ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtudományi és Finnugor Intézet

Kittilä, Seppo (Helsinki)

nyomtatható változat

Remarks on the grammar of caused motion and caused possession in Finnish

In this presentation, we will examine the coding of Goals/Recipients in Finnish (examples will be provided also from other Uralic languages). The notion will be discussed in light of semantic roles, verbal semantics and marking of the Goal arguments. The latter includes case marking (allative vs. illative) and postpositions coding similar meanings (e.g. sisään ‘into’ and päälle ‘onto’). Postpositions expressing more specific meanings (such alle ‘to under’ and taakse ‘to behind’) will be considered only occasionally.
    The semantic roles examined in this paper include recipient and goal. Beneficiaries are not taken into consideration. Recipients are in this paper defined as animate endpoints of transfer whose sphere of control or domain of possession the theme enters. Goals, in turn, are mere endpoints of transfer. Goals are typically inanimate participants, but animate Goals are also possible (even though they can be considered less typical than inanimate Goals).
    First, verbs differ radically with according to their selection of semantic roles (or caused motion/possession). Verbs like ‘give’ and ‘donate’ necessarily involve caused possession, while caused reception is an optional part of their semantics. Verbs like ‘send’, for their part, necessarily involve caused motion, while caused possession constitutes an optional feature of them (which is very strong with an animate Goal). Verbs like ‘throw’, ‘kick’ and ‘put’ are characterized solely by caused motion. However, these verbs can be divided into two based on whether a recipient participant can be present or not. Verbs like ‘throw’ and ‘kick’ can involve a recipient participant if the Goal argument is animate, as in cases like ‘the teacher threw the ball to the student’. This is not with verbs like ‘put’, which involve only caused motion. The discussed verbs thus form a kind of continuum ranging from verbs involving only recipient (‘give’) to verbs involving only a Goal (‘put’).
    Our study will show that of the two examined semantic roles, recipients can be coded only by the allative case. The coding of Goals displays much more variation, and goals can be coded by allative and illative, in addition to which an array of adpositions (mostly postpositions in Finnish/Uralic languages) can be employed for this purpose. This distribution of marking is rather expected. First, allative case codes more abstract motion, typically to the vicinity of something. It is therefore only natural that the allative, rather than the illative, codes the role of recipient. Second, it is not unduly surprising that there is more formal variation in the coding of Goals. This follows, because Goal is a more heterogeneous notion than Recipient; there is, for example, variation in animacy of the Goal and also in the nature of the denoted act of motion.