Friday, April 23, 2010

Locative cases


Estonian nouns and adjectives decline for two numbers (singular, plural) and up to 14 cases (14 for nouns and 10 for adjectives).

These 14 cases can be broken down into two main types: Grammatical cases and Semantic cases.

There are three grammatical cases in Estonian: Nominative, Genitive and Partitive.

The Semantic cases are the 3 Inner Locative cases: Illative, Inessive, Elative; the 3 Outer Locative cases: Allative, Adessive, Ablative; and 5 others: Translative, Terminative, Essive, Abessive, and Cominative.

In today's post we are going to take a look at the 6 locative cases. For some reason, the mention of cases seems to freak out learners whose mother tongue lacks a large case system. However, it shouldn't. It could be said that Estonian really only has three true cases and four case forms: Nominative, Genitive and Partitive (both Singular and Plural). The other 11 cases in the singular are merely suffixes that attach to the genitive singular. These suffixes are perfectly regular as is their attaching to the genitive form. The system is largely agglutinating rather than fusional (in the case of Latin). In this way, you might go as far as saying that these 11 suffixs are rather like prepositions that are widespread in the Germanic and Romance languages. Personally, I find the Estonian system of suffixes rather than extensive use of prepositions in English to be far more transparent and easier to follow. (That is not to say that Estonian doesn't also have its own array of adpositions, but those will be the topic of another day).

Overview of Locative Cases

So, back to focusing on the locative cases.

Inner Locatives
Illative: sisseütlev 'into-saying' -sse ; answers questions: kuhu? 'whither?', kellesse? 'into whom?', millesse? 'into what'
Inessive: seesütlev 'in-saying' -s ; answers questions: kus? 'where?', kelles? 'in whom?', milles? 'in(side) what?'
Elative: seestütlev 'in-saying' -st ; answers questions: kust? 'whence?', kellest? '(out) of whom?', millest? '(out) of what?'

Outer Locatives
Allative: alaleütlev 'onto-saying' -le ; answers questions: kuhu? 'whither?', kellele? '(on)to whom?', millele? '(on)to what'
Adessive: alalütlev 'on-saying' -l ; answers questions: kus? 'where?', kellel? 'on (top of) whom?', millel? 'on (top of) what?'
Ablative: alaltütlev 'off-saying' -lt ; answers questions: kust? 'whence?', kellelt? 'off/ away from whom?', millelt? 'off/ away from what?'

I plan to give an overview of all the locative cases, case by case. In this post we will look at the illative and the other locative cases will follow in later posts.

Formation of the Illative

As mentioned above, the illative is the case that indicates the space, object or person to which a motion occurs. It can translated as 'to' or 'into'. The ending for the illative is -sse and this is, like all locative cases, attached to the genitive form of the noun or adjective in question.

Nominative:  -------- Genitive -------- Illative
maja 'house' -------- maja    -------- maja/sse
voodi 'bed'   -------- voodi   -------- voodi/sse
sadam 'harbour'   --- sadama-------- sadama/sse
süda 'heart'   ------- südame-------- südame/sse

Some words that end in -se in the genitive have a shortened illative where this -se syllable is dropped.

õpilane 'student' -------- õpila/se -------- õpila/se/sse or õpila/sse
lühikene 'short' -------- lühike/se -------- lühike/se/sse or lühike/sse
küsimus 'question' -------- küsimu/se -------- küsimu/se/sse or küsimu/sse
võitlus 'struggle' -------- võitlu/se -------- võitlu/se/sse or võitlu/sse


Most often translated by 'to' or 'into':

Me sõidame homme Tallinnasse 'We are going to Tallinn tomorrow'.
Ma lähen täna õhtul teatrisse 'I am going to the theatre this evening'.
Laps hüppas karbisse 'The child hopped into the box'

[aabram: ----- 'laps hüppas karbisse' is unnatural, while 'laps hüppas karpi' is normal.]

It can also serve other purposes as the examples below show:

Ta ei usu Jumalasse 'She doesn't believe in God'
Naine armus mehesse 'The woman fell in love with the man'
See ei puutu minusse 'It does not concern (involve) me'

'Short' Illative

As well as the usual illative forms shown above, nouns can also take a shorter illative form. These 'short' illative forms end in -de, -te, -he, -hu or simply a vowel.

Over the words shown above, two have short illative forms:

maja -------- majja
mina -------- musse

Here are some more words:

Nominative      ----------------- Illative
keel 'language' ----------------- keelesse / keelde
meel 'sense, mood, mind' ------ meelesse / meelde
suur 'big'           --------------- suuresse / suurde
uus 'new'            --------------- uuesse / uude
käsi 'hand'           --------------- käesse / kätte
vesi 'water'          --------------- veesse / vette
pea 'head'          --------------- peasse / pähe
suu 'water'          --------------- suusse / suhu

Often, but not always, the short illative form ends in the same vowel as that of the genitive:

Nominative      ----------------- Illative
linn 'town' ----------------- linnasse / `linna
kool 'school' ----------------- koolisse / `kooli
küla 'village'    --------------- külasse / `külla
maja 'house'    --------------- majasse / `majja
tuba 'room'      --------------- toasse / `tuppa
tuli 'fire, light'   --------------- tulesse / `tulle

Note that the preceding consonant or vowel is often lengthened to the third degree. `Linna is pronounced with an extra-long 'n' and `kooli is pronounced with an extra 'o'.

The Eesti keele süntesaator will give you all the forms of the declined noun that you request. Thus you'll be given both the normal and the the short illative. Entering in pood 'shop', jõgi 'river', you'll be returned with both poesse and poodijõesse and jõkke. Given the choice between the two forms (i.e. if the 'short' form exists), the short form will win out, so much that you'll even forget that there is a longer form. It also has an effect on what word will be used for a given entity. The two most common words for 'shop' are pood and kauplus. They both tend to be used as much as each other in the nominative but in the illative, the short illative form of pood (poodi) will win out over the long illative (poesse) and both forms of kauplus (kauplusse, kauplusesse).

[aabram: ------ Some short illatives are never used for 'into ...' and almost exclusively for 'concerns ...'. For example you never say 'ma läksin poesse', you say 'ma läksin poodi'. But you can say 'mis sellesse poesse puutub, siis...'. In the same vein 'laps hüppas karbisse' is unnatural, while 'laps hüppas karpi' is normal.]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eesti keel ja meel

I said when I started this blog that I would not just concern myself with grammar and vocabulary but also discuss resources available to learn this beautiful language of Estonian.

One of the best resources that I have come across for learning Estonian is Eesti keel ja meel (Estonian language and mind). The idea of the course is to introduce the foreigner to the language, culture, people and places of Estonia. The course is available to buy on DVD, or to use free online. All you need to do is register and you get an email with a log-in and password in less than a minute.

The website includes: an hour long introductory video in Estonian; a gallery of photographs; a basic grammar, grammar exercises; a lexicon, and audio training using the scenes and dialogues taken from the film. You can use the site to practise all linguistic skills.

Eesti keel ja meel is available in 9 languages. These are English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Hugarian, Greek, Romanian and Russian (though, strangely not in Spanish, Finnish nor Swedish).

What I like about the website is that it is free and fun. The video is interesting and entertaining and the grammar information gives an excellent overview of the language for those who want to pursue Estonian past the basic conversational phrases.

I would say that this website should be used in conjunction with another course. While the video is interesting it can be a little overwhleming for the beginner who is normally more interesting in building up from basic phrases such as greetings and then moving on to talking about oneself and ones home and family. Eesti keel ja meel will give you an excellent introduction to quick-paced conversational and colloquial Estonian and thus compliments nicely, rather than replaces, a more traditional beginner's course.

So, if you haven't used the website before, you should definetly check it out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

clothes and putting them on

The Estonian phrase riidesse panema means 'to put on clothes'. Estonian has two words for clothes: riided and rõivad. The former is the general word for clothes whilst the latter tends to be reserved for fashionable or formal wear.

The command Put on clothes! / Get dressed! is Pane riidesse! using the 2nd person singular imperative form of panema 'put' and the illative (sisseütlev) of riided. In a hurry you may hear someone say: Pane kiiresti riidesse 'get dressed quickly'; or in winter: Pane paksult riidesse! ‘dress warmly [lit. fatly/ thickly]’.

When making a statement about what item of clothing we are putting on, we use the genitive case (omastav). When giving an order to someone as to what item of clothing to put on, we use the nomative form (nimetav). In the case of plural nouns (shoes, gloves, trousers etc.) we use the nominative form in both instances. It is normal in Estonian to also mention the body part to which the item of clothing is put, i.e. put your scarf on your neck instead of simply put your scarf on. This body part takes the illative case. Below you can find common body parts in their nomative and illative case forms as well as common items of clothing in their nomative and genitive forms [plural nouns are just listed in their nominative form].

Don't forget  that you can make use of the excellent tool Eesti keele süntesaator to get the singular and plural case forms of nouns and the conjugation of verbs [input in their -ma form].

Body Parts

selg, -a 'back' [ill. same as gen.]
kael, -a  'neck' [ill. same as gen.]
jalg, -a 'foot, leg'
pea, pähe 'head'
käsi, kätte 'hand, arm'

Items of Clothing

mantel, mantli 'coat'
jope, - 'jacket'
kampsun, -i 'cardigan, jumper, pull-over'
särk, särgi 'shirt'
sall, -i 'scarf'
müts, -i 'hat'
püksid 'trousers'
kingad 'shoes'
kindad 'gloves'
kleit, kleidi 'dress'
seelik, -u 'skirt'
pluus, -i 'blouse'
sokid 'socks'
sukad 'stockings'


Note that in Estonian we don't use possessive adjectives as we do in English.

Ma panen jope selga 'I am putting on my jacket' [lit. I put the jacket to the back]
Pane jope selga! 'Put on your jacket!' [lit. Put the jacket to the back]

Ma panen kampsuni selga. 'I am putting on my jumper'
Pane kiiresti kampsun selga! 'Put on your jumper quickly!'

Me paneme särgid selga 'We are putting on our shirts'
Paneme särgid selga! 'Let's put on our shirts!'

Te panete paksult riidesse 'Ye are getting dressed warmly'

Pange paksult riidesse! '(Ye) get dressed warmly!'

Ta paneb salli kaela 'He is putting on her scarf'
Pane sall kaela! 'Put on your scarf!'

Ta paneb kleidi/ seeliku selga 'She is putting on a dress/ skirt'
Las ta panna kleidi/ seeliku selga 'Let/ Leave her put on her dress/ skirt'

Ta paneb kiiresti sukad jalga 'She is putting on her stockings quickly'
Pane kiiresti sokid jalga 'Put on your socks quickly'

Ma panen kindad kätte 'I am putting on my gloves'
Sa paned kingad jalga 'You are putting on your shoes'

Ta panen mütsi pähe 'He is putting on his hat'
Pane müts pähe! 'Put on your hat!'