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Between Finnic and Indo-European

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Abstract

In the Estonian experiencer-object construction the experiencer bears typical object marking, and the stimulus is marked as a subject. Unlike most other Finnic languages, in Estonian the stimulus is an obligatory part of this construction. In this, the Estonian experiencer-object construction is more similar to surrounding Indo-European languages. The process through which the stimulus has become an obligatory part of the construction in Estonian has entailed some changes concerning the subject properties of the experiencer argument. Comparing Estonian data to data from other Finnic languages as well as Latvian and Russian, we observe that the experiencer argument in Estonian has fewer subject properties in this construction than in other Finnic languages, but more than in Latvian. Thus we conclude that Estonian has lost some of its Finnic inheritance, due to contact with Indo-European. Some properties of the construction connected to the agentivity or non-agentivity of the stimulus are also investigated in this paper: the use of the construction in impersonals and passives, restrictions on the use of imperatives, and variation in word order.

References

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