ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtudományi és Finnugor Intézet

Leino, Jaakko (Helsinki)

nyomtatható változat

Emerging person inflection in the Finnish infinitival system

Person marking is typically thought of as a property of finite sentences, and finite verb forms in particular. In contrast, non-finite clauses and verb forms are typically thought of as either dependent of the main clause with regard to subject (or actor) marking, or as having an overt subject but no person marking proper. Thus, roughly, finite verb forms typically are and non-finite verb forms typically are not marked for person in languages with morphological person marking. This dichotomy also applies to Finnish verb forms in that finite verb forms obligatorily have a person affix (or passive morphology), whereas infinitives and participles never do.
This basic picture is complicated by the fact that a number of Finnish non-finite verb forms (all participles and some infinitives) may have a possessive suffix, morphologically identical to the possessive suffixes found in nouns, and semantically corresponding to person marking in finite verbs. In specific contexts, such combinations of non-finite verb forms and possessive suffixes show great similarity to person-inflected finite verb forms:

(1)        Nukkuessani/nukkuessasi/nukkuessamme on        satanut   lunta.
sleep-inf2-ine-1sg/2sg/1pl                               be-3sg rain-ppc snow-par
’It has snowed while I/you/we slept.’

(2)        Kalle kävi            lavalla    meidän nähtemme /      teidän        nähtenne.
Kalle visit-pst-3sg stage-ade we-gen  see-inf2-ins-1pl / you(pl)-gen see-inf2-ins-2pl
’Kalle went on stage while we/you were watching.’

Not all infinitive forms take the possessive suffix, however. Its use is limited to five infinitive forms, and centers around a set of conventionalized expression types. The use of the possessive suffix in these contexts may be explained through analogy of nouns, on the one hand, and participial verb forms, on the other. Yet, the expression types containing an infinitive with a possessive suffix show developments, specific to these expression types, which go well beyond these analogies and, in some respects, resemble finite verb inflection more than nominal affixation.
The paper assumes two somewhat different points of view. First, a “subsystemic” point of view looks at the issue on the level of specific infinitive construction and aims at explaining the use of passive morphology and possessive suffixes one context at a time. This approach looks for emerging subsystems, constructions, in which infinitives show properties reminiscent of person inflection, but does not necessarily assume a developing overall system. Second, the paper generalizes over such subsystems and aims at a “systemic” point of view which addresses the general question as to whether infinitives in Finnish are becoming more finite-like, and whether the possessive suffix infinitive paradigm is developing into a non-finite person inflection system.
In all, the paper presents a case where linguistic and extralinguistic context “conspire”, so to speak, to provide motivation for an emerging paradigm, and seeks answer to the question as to whether or not that paradigm is, or is about to become, a conventional part of the Finnish grammar.

Language of presentation: English