Irrallinen genetiivi ja omistusrakenteen ongelma

  • Tuomas Huumo
  • Nobufumi Inaba
Avainsanat: genetiivi, mari, mordva, omistusmuodot, sijasyntaksi, syntaksi


Loose genitives and the problem of possessive constructions (englanti)

1/1997 (101)

Tuomas Huumo ( Nobufumi Inaba (


An oft-repeated assumption in diachronic studies of Finno-Ugric languages is that the Finno-Ugric proto-language possessed a genitive case with the ending *-n. The genitive supposedly served an adnominal syntactic function as the case of noun modifiers (genitive attributes). It has also been assumed that the proto-language possessed another case with a similar ending (*-n), the lative, the syntactic function of which was adverbal, i.e. verb-modifying. The picture is further complicated by the existence of the formally identical instructive case, which has been etymologically connected with the genitive but nevertheless served a verb-modifying function. In Korhonen (1991), this traditional view was questioned and an alternative explanation offered, which proposed that the genitive in fact developed from the lative case via an intermediate stage where its function was that of dative; only later did it acquire the function of genitive and change from an adverbal into an adnominal case.

The article examines the genitive case from the viewpoint of possessive constructions. In the present-day Finno-Ugric languages, the function of the genitive in indicating possession is twofold. On the one hand, it has the adnominal function of genitive attribute (directly connected with the old *-n genitive) in the Baltic-Finnic languages and in Lapp (Sami), Mordvin and Mari; on the other hand, it has special uses in verbal possessive constructions where a noun in the genitive case, indicating possessor, is separated by other constituents of the sentence from the noun indicating possessee. The writers refer to the latter type as the 'loose genitive'. To illustrate the loose genitive construction, consider the following Finnish examples: (a) Elmeri+n lompakko putosi jrve+en [Elmer+GENITIVE wallet fell lake+ILLATIVE], (b) Elmeri+n putosi lompakko jrve+en [Elmeri+GENITIVE fell wallet lake+ILLATIVE]. Both are possible expressions for 'Elmer's wallet fell into the lake'. In (b), the genitive is separated from its supposed head by the verb and is thus a loose genitive. In modern Finnish, the construction used in (b) is not perfectly productive because it is primarily used with the external locative cases (the adessive, the ablative and the allative). Furthermore, the genitive in this function is considered archaic and its use is constrained. It cannot, for instance, be used in expressing the most prototypical of possessive relations, the possession of a concrete entity: *Elmeri+n on talo [Elmer+GENITIVE is house] is impossible and has to be expressed as Elmeri+ll on talo [Elmer+ADESSIVE is house], 'Elmer has a house'.

The article examines the uses of the loose genitive in Finnish, Mari and Mordvin. Evidence is produced in support of the argument that both the adnominal and the adverbal uses of the genitive are historically old, and the writers present an argument against the traditional view that the loose genitive is a historically young variant of the genitive attribute construction. According to this traditional view, the loose genitive came into being as a consequence of subject-verb inversion, where the verb was moved into the position between the genitive attribute and its head, the subject. It is shown, however, that the loose genitive is not always semantically connected with the subject of the sentence but is instead often connected with other nominal elements. Furthermore, the use of the loose genitive is semantically constrained to complex expressions of proper possession where the genitive ending is connected to an animate noun. The genitive attribute, on the other hand, can serve a much wider range of semantic functions, not all of which can be classified as possessive.

The situation is similar in Mordvin and Mari, where the genitive form, indicating possessor, can either be located next to the word indicating possessee, or be separated from it. In these two languages the loose genitive is more productive than in Finnish: it is the primary way of indicating possession in both adnominal and adverbal possessive constructions. Moreover, unlike Finnish, in these languages the loose genitive is used even in the most prototypical possessive constructions where only possession of a concrete entity is indicated. The article adopts the view that this duality of uses for the genitive is evidence of its adverbal background, and supports Korhonen's hypothesis that the origin of the genitive was as an adverbal case.

tammi 1, 1997
Huumo, T., & Inaba, N. (1997). Irrallinen genetiivi ja omistusrakenteen ongelma. Virittäjä, 101(1), 27. Noudettu osoitteesta