Volume 17, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375



Finnish nouns are characterized by rich inflectional variation, with obligatory marking of case and number, with optional possessive suffixes and with the possibility of further cliticization. We present a model for the conceptualization of Finnish inflected nouns, using pre-compiled fasttext embeddings (300-dimensional semantic vectors that approximate words’ meanings). Instead of deriving the semantic vector of an inflected word from another word in its paradigm, we propose that an inflected word is conceptualized by means of summation of latent vectors representing the meanings of its lexeme and its inflectional features. We tested this model on the 2,000 most frequent Finnish nouns and their inflected word forms from a corpus of Finnish (84 million tokens). Visualization of the semantic space of Finnish using t-SNE clarified that a ‘main effects’ additive model does not do justice to the semantics of inflection. In Finnish, how number is realized turns out to vary substantially with case. Further interactions emerged with the possessive suffixes and the clitics. By taking these interactions into account, the accuracy of our model, evaluated with the fasttext embeddings as gold standard, improved from 76% to 89%. Analyses of the errors made by the model clarified that 7.5% of errors are due to overabundance (and hence not true errors), and that 16.5% of the errors involved exchanges of semantically highly similar stems (lexemes). Our results indicate, first, that the semantics of Finnish noun inflection are more intricate than assumed thus far, and second, that these intricacies can be captured with surprisingly high accuracy by a simple generating model based on imputed semantic vectors for lexemes, inflectional features, and interactions of inflectional features.

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