Syntax in transition

Emergence of differential argument marking in Aanaar Saami


  • Jukka Mettovaara University of Oulu



Aanaar Saami, Finnish, differential argument marking, pattern replication, syntax, language contact


This paper is an investigation of a language contact phenomenon currently taking place in Aanaar (Inari) Saami, an indigenous minority language of Finland. Aanaar Saami people have been in contact with Finnish speakers for centuries, so much so that the language community has become bilingual. This has resulted in the borrowing of both numerous Finnish loanwords and even some syntactic constructions into Aanaar Saami and seems to herald a larger change in the language. The present study focuses on a type of syntactic change called differential argument marking, which is examined in three Aanaar Saami clause types: transitive clauses, existential clauses, and passive verb clauses. Finnish exhibits complex argument marking, characterized by a total–partial distinction, whereas traditional Aanaar Saami does not have differential argument marking in subjects or objects. However, new Aanaar Saami shows multiple emergent types of differential argument marking that vary between individual speakers and, while clearly influenced by Finnish, do not always mirror their Finnish equivalents one-to-one. This, and the observation that differential argument marking is non-existent in older language materials, suggests that the phenomenon is recent
Finnish influence.




How to Cite

Mettovaara, J. (2023). Syntax in transition: Emergence of differential argument marking in Aanaar Saami. Finnish Journal of Linguistics, 36, 93–129.