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Re: Ant: Re: Most challenging features of languages?

From:Rob Haden <magwich78@...>
Date:Thursday, June 23, 2005, 18:01
On Thu, 23 Jun 2005 12:22:05 +0300, Julia "Schnecki" Simon
<helicula@...> wrote:

>A friend of mine brought back an interesting anecdote from a general >linguistics class, where the professor, who was apparently not >familiar with Finnish, had claimed that in all languages, verbs >contain aspect information on some level (or something like that). My >friend pointed out that in Finnish, aspect is encoded on the object, >if anywhere: _söin omenan_ (accsg) "I ate an apple" (the whole of it), >_söin omenat_ (accpl) "I ate the apples" (specific apples, e.g. "the >apples you bought yesterday", and I ate all of them completely); but >_söin omenaa_ (partsg) "I ate some apple/apples" (could be an >unspecified/unimportant number of apples, for example, or just part of >an apple, or a number of apple slices or wedges without any way of >determining the number of actual apples involved). _Söin_ "I ate" >always has the same form here, but the sentences seem to contain some >sort of aspect information, which therefore must be encoded in some >place outside the verb. Which only leaves the noun. Right? ;-)
Well, there are all kinds of things that delimit the meaning of the verb without being considered a part of the verb. Prepositional phrases come to mind.
>Similarly, when dealing with books instead of apples: _luin kirjan_ >(accsg) means "I read the book" (in its entirety, probably even in the >right order), but _luin kirjaa_ (partsg) means either "I read some >part of the book" or "I browsed the book". (My Russian is quite rusty, >but I'm pretty sure that these two sentences would be _ya prochitala >knigu_ resp. _ya chitala knigu_, i.e. "I read.PERF book.ACC" resp. "I >read.IMPERF book.ACC". Voilà, aspect.) > >Another friend, a native speaker of Finnish and a computer geek, >explained to me once that when you talk about reading Usenet news, you >can't use the accusative case when referring to entire newsgroups; the >accusative would imply that you've read the whole of the thing, but >since people keep posting new articles, that would be impossible, so >the partitive is your only option. I assume similar rules apply to >reading mailing lists, watching (infamously endless) telenovelas, and >so on. > >Now I'm not sure if I feel comfortable claiming that Finnish shows >aspect marking in nouns; but at the very least, it's probably a nice >mnemonic trick for speakers of an aspect language who want to learn a >language that has such partitive constructions, or vice versa.
I wonder if, at some point in the future, Finnish will abandon the "definite accusative" (identical to the genitive) and employ the partitive as *the* accusative affix. Then, of course, a new partitive would have to be formed... hmm... ;) - Rob