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A geolinguistic comparison of some Finnic lexical issues/[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

My paper is based on the analysis of lexical maps of the Atlas Linguarum Fennicarum (ALFE). The ALFE, which is a joint project prepared by Finnish, Estonian and Karelian linguists, is meant to serve parallel mappings of the dialect material of all seven languages of the Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric family. These languages are Estonian, Finnish, Ingrian, Karelian, Livonian, Votic and Veps (Figure 1).

The ALFE is one of the few atlases involving a whole group of cognate languages. ALFE is the first linguistic atlas designed specifially for the Finnic languages. It is also the first lexicographical project in which all Finnic languages are treated by local experts. In addition to traditional lexical atlas information, the ALFE will also include some semantic information. A novel approach has produced maps displaying the distribution areas of one or several phonological words, called formatives, and their meanings.

On the one hand ALFE enables one to concentrate on phenomena specific to the Finnic languages as well as point out the differences and similarities within cognate languages and within dialect groups. On the other hand, it helps the researchers of other languages, in particular of those spoken in the adjoining areas, such as Russian, Saami, Scandinavian and Baltic, decide on the intensity of historical contacts between those languages and the Finnic ones.

In order to illustrate the basic dialectal boundaries that are revealed on onomasiological maps of the Finnic area by mapping the distribution of words with different stems I have chosen ten clear and characteristic examples from Volume 1 of the ALFE. In this report the selected words and their spreading areas are represented by means of generalised isoglosses. On ALFE maps, however, symbols are used to demonstrate the areal distribution of the words in great detail. In addition, the ALFE provides an exact representation of dialectal expressions as well as comments on several nuances relevant to the material or the way of its representation (see Oja 2002).


'sauna whisk' (ALFE, map 29)

A classical example to illustrate the contrast between the East and West Finnish dialects is the word for 'sauna whisk'. On the onomasiological map of all Finnic languages we can see that in Estonian and in Votic the word viht or vihta is used like in West Finnish dialects, while in Ingrian, Karelian, Veps and in East Finnish dialects the word for 'sauna whisk' is vasta (Figure 2). Hence we can argue that these words carry on the boundary between the eastern and western Finnic dialects to the south, where it separates the Votic and the Ingrian languages. Livonian, however, stands alone as in this language the Baltic loan luudo is used to denote the both the broom and the sauna whisk. In the rest of the Finnic languages the word luud or luuta means only 'besom' or 'broom'.



'late' (ALFE, map 47.1)

Adverbs denoting 'late' come from the stem myoha- in Finnish, Karelian, Veps, Ingrian and Votic. The Estonian adverbs are hilja in North Estonian and the Mulgi dialect in the western part of the South Estonian area, and ilda in the Tartu and Voru dialects of South-Eastern Estonia (Figure 3). The same word stem of the North Estonian hilja can be seen in the South-Western Finnish dialects and in the dialects spoken in the northern regions of Finland--in Lansipohja, Perapohjala, Kainuu and Ostrobothnian dialects. In many Finnish dialects the stems hilja- and myoha- exist in parallel. As both are old Finnic stems they may well be eloquent of the old naming motives of the concept 'late' or the remoter semantic source of the words now used to denote this concept.

The original root of the myoh-adverbs is moo- to be recognised in some remoter cognate languages as well (SKES 357-358; SSA II 190). The whole Finnic area features numerous words with that stem, meaning 'past', 'along', 'together with' etc. (e.g. the Finnish and Karelian myota, myoten, Finnish myos, Ingrian and Votic moo, moota, Estonian mooda, Livonian miede etc.). The common Finnic stem hilja-, however, appears in many adverbs meaning 'quietly' or 'slowly', e.g. the Finnish hiljaa, -n, hiljakkaiseen, hiljakseen, hiljalleen, hiljan, hiljoitellen etc. (SMS I 492-504), Ingrian hilja, hiljakaista (Nirvi 1971 : 61), hiljakseen, hiljan (Laanest 1997 : 36), Karelian hil'l'aa, hil'l'ah, hil'l'an, hil'l'oillah etc. (KKS I 269-271), Veps hil'l'ei, hil'l'as, hil'l'asti (SVR 122), Estonian hilja, hilju, hillakesti, hillakesi etc. (EMS I 930--938), Votic iljaa, il'l'aa, il'l'akoo, il'l'aa etc. (VKS I 287--289), Livonian ilig (Kettunen 1938 : 80), as well as adjectives of the same stem.

From the point of view of language history the hilja- and ilda stems have been considered cognates interpretable as the Genitive (hilja-) and the Illative or Partitive (ilda) Singular forms (Wiedemann 1923 : 115; EEW 499--500). The ALFE, however, treats them as two separate stems; the same approach has been taken by the Finnish etymological dictionary (see SSA I 163, 225). Phonetically, the South Estonian adverb ilda 'late' corresponds to the noun ilta 'evening' used in Karelian, Ingrian and Finnish (except South-Eastern Finnish) dialects (see ALFE, map 65). As the concepts 'late' and 'evening' are pretty close semantically the map seems suggestive of a connection between the South Estonian dialects and the Northern and Eastern groups of the Finnic languages. In the Livonian language the concept 'late' is expressed by means of the adverb o'bbo.

'to rinse' (ALFE, map 42)

On the map depicting the distribution of verbs meaning 'to rinse' the contrast between the Western and Eastern Finnic dialects in general is revealed again. A verb with the huuhto-, (h)uhto- stem denotes this concept in East Finnish dialects, in Ingrian, Karelian and Veps, while the uhta : uha- is used in South Estonian dialects (Figure 4). Here too, we can see a similarity between the South Estonian dialects and the Eastern Finnic languages, as the stems huuhto-, (h)uhto- and uhta : uha- come from the same root (SKES 98; Itkonen 1987 : 169).

A word with the virut- or verot- stem is used in West Finnish dialects, in Votic, Livonian and in some Estonian dialects. In addition the North Estonian dialects have taken another, descriptive verb loputama or lopetama.

The Karelian Djorza (1) subdialect differs from the rest of the Finnic area by using pess for 'rinse'. Generally, the Finnic verbs with a pese-, (pess-, pess-) stem denote the concept 'to wash' (see ALFE, maps 41.1, 41.2).

'key' (ALFE, map 8)

The Finnic words for 'key' come from two verbs: avada, which means 'to open' and votta, with the meaning 'to take'. The nouns with an ava-stem are used in Finnish, Ingrian, Karelian, Veps and Kukkusi dialect of Votic, while the word voti or its phonetic variants characterise Estonian, Votic (exept the Kukkusi dialect) and Livonian (Figure 5). The respective areas where the nouns of the two roots occur coincide with what have traditionally been called the Northern (ava-) and Southern (voti, utim etc.) Finnic groups. For most of northern Finnish territories no dialect word for a 'key' has been recorded. This might mean that in the early 20th century, when the material was collected, key was either unknown or a rather new concept for the informants who lived along the Oulu-Joensuu line and north of it.



'early' (ALFE, map 48.1)

Adverbs for the concept 'early' have come from two stems: varha- and aika-, the first of which is probably a Baltic loan (< *varas 'old'; SSA III 409), while the other has been derived from the word aika 'time' (?< Old Germ. *aiwa-z; GL 10--11; SSA I 57). Words with the stem varha- we meet in Finnish, Estonian, Ingrian, Votic and Livonian, while aika- occurs in Finnish, Karelian and Veps. Both are used in parallel in a majority of Finnish dialects. Accordingly, we can see words on the map separated by two distributional boundaries (Figure 6). One of the boundaries separates Karelian and Veps dialects from the rest of the Finnic languages. The other boundary runs along the Gulf of Finland, while in this case the usage in Ingermanland is similar to that of the Southern Finnic group.

'year' (ALFE, map 69)

More or less similar boundaries are apparent on the map where the spread of two different words for the concept 'year' is shown. The aasta- or ajasta-stem is found in the Western Finnic area, whereas vuosi is spread over the Northern Finnic area (Figure 7). So there are two words meaning 'year' in Finnish, while a parallel usage of both is more frequent in the southern and western regions of Finland. As the two synonyms can also be found in the North-Eastern Coastal dialect of Estonian and in the Votic Kukkusi dialect, the boundary between the Western and Southern Finnic groups appears a little further south than in the previous example.



'summer' (ALFE, map 67)

The onomasiologic map for 'summer' shows a similarity between South-West Finnish dialects and the Southern Finnic language group (Estonian, Livonian and Votic). In the latter group the word suvi is used for 'summer' (Figure 8), while kesa is used throughout the rest of the Finnic area. Two words, kesa and suvi are used for 'summer' only in a few Finnish dialects on the boundary of the distribution area of both words, in the Votic and and in Vaivara, which is the north-easternmost Estonian subdialect. Both nouns exist in most Finnic dialects, but their meanings differ. In the South-West Finnish and Estonian dialects kesa or kesa is usually understood as 'fallow' (SMS VI 898-899; EMS II 1039-1940). In the eastern Finnic area (Karelia, Veps, South-Eastern Finland) suvi means 'south' (see ALFE, map 82.1), whereas in northern Finland it means 'winter thaw, a mild winter day' (SSA III 228).



'door' (ALFE, map 10)

On the map for 'door' there are two word-stems: ovi in Finnish, Ingrian and dialects of Proper Karelian and uks(i) or its phonetic equivalents in Estonian, Livonian, Votic, Ingrian, Veps, in South-East Finnish dialects and the neighbouring Karelian dialects as well as the Lude and Olonec Karelian dialects (Figure 9). Here the distribution of the two stems shows the contacts between the Southern Finnic and Eastern Finnic languages.

Tentatively, uks has been considered a Baltic loan (SSA III 369). Looking for etymological equivalents for the Uralic word ovi south of the Gulf of Finland we find the North Estonian ou(e), ovv and the Votic ovvi 'yard' (Magiste 1929 : 10-11; 1982--83 : 4037-4038). (2) The interior local cases of the North Estonian and Votic ou(e)/ovvi have developed into separate adverbs meaning 'out', 'outside', 'from outside', the same development as in the South Estonian uss (< uksi) (see ALFE map 78).

The next two examples illustrate such cases where words deriving from one and the same root can be found in all Finnic languages, but in a certain sphere the word usage stands out as different from the rest of the Finnic region.

'warm' (ALFE, map 31.1)

All Finnic languages use an adjective with the stem lamm- or lamp- in the meaning 'warm', but in North Estonian dialects only a few such examples have been recorded as lammi leib 'warm bread' or lammi ilm 'warm weather', while the words lamm, lamb, lambe mean 'sultry; stuffy; stifling'.The common adjective for 'warm' is soe or suoja in North Estonian dialects and the Votic, Ingrian and South East Finnish dialects spoken in the vicinity (Figure 10).The same word suoja occurs in Finnish and Karelian in its primary meaning, which is 'protection'; 'building for shelter' etc. The meaning 'warm', spread the widest in North Estonian dialects, let alone standard Estonian, has been attached to the word later (Saareste 1924 : 259).

'morning' (ALFE, map 64)

The concept 'morning' is expressed by the word aamu in Finnish and Ingrian dialects. In the rest of the Finnic languages a word with hoom-, or hommstem is used (Figure 11), for instance in Estonian dialects 'morning' is ommik, oomik, ommuk, hummog, oming etc. In Ingrian dialects aamu is used in parallel with a synonym that has come from the hoom- or homm-stem. In Finnish words with a huom-stem meaning 'morning' have been recorded in South-Western Finland mainly. The greeting huomenta 'good morning' is used more frequently than the noun in Finnish (see SMS IV 88). Besides, the hoom-/homm-stem lies in the origin of adverbs for 'tomorrow' that are used throughout the whole Finnish area except in East Livonian (ALFE, map 55).


Even on the basis of the few examples given above, we could see that the boundaries of dialects in the Finnic region do not coincide with the boundaries of languages. In most cases the Western Finnic group contrasts with the Eastern group (Figures 2--4, 6, 7), or the Southern group with the Northern group (Figures 5-8).

At the same time the lexical comparison revealed, on the one hand, the contacts between the South-West Finnish and North Estonian dialects (Figures 3, 8, 11), and, on the other hand, the historical ties between the Eastern Finnic language group and the South Estonian dialects or the whole Southern Finnic group (Figures 4, 9, 10).

Of bigger dialect groups, differences more often appear in the periphery: e.g. Livonian uses a different word for 'sauna whisk'; 'to rinse' is denoted by a different word in the Djorza subdialect of Karelian; the words for 'late' differ in two peripheral usages, one of which occurs in South Estonian subdialects and the other in Livonian.



If an expression exceptional to the other Finnic dialects occurs in Finnish or North Estonian dialects, its isogloss often approximates the boundary of the language, e.g. the Finnish aamu 'morning' (Figure 11), the North Estonian loputama 'to rinse' (Figure 4), soe 'warm' (Figure 10). This may be indicative of an influence of literary languages. (3)

This was a short review of the most general geolinguistic tendencies of Finnic lexis. A more detailed look would reveal much more complicated lexical relations. It is interesting, for example, to follow the integral map of a formative, or the spread of loans borrowed into the Finnic languages in different periods (see Laanest 1995).

The above discussion addressed the mutual relations of the Finnic languages mainly from one aspect, which is the areal distribution of words denoting one and the same object, but having different stems. More or less similar dialect boundaries have been revealed by a geolinguistic comparison of the phonetic changes in the common Finnic vocabulary (Viitso 2000) and the semantics of the Finnic words (Oja 2003).

On the basis of ALFE information, it is possible to study developments in lexical semantics, morphological and phonetic changes, relicts and innovations, as well as various issues of the Finnic cultural and settlement history. Part One of the ALFE contains 213 linguistic maps. Besides onomasiological maps there are phonetic maps, morphophonological maps, semantic maps, motive maps etc. The whole atlas is envisaged as consisting of three volumes.


ALFE--Atlas Linguarum Fennicarum (ALFE) I (manuscript); EMS--Eesti murrete sonaraamat, Tallinn 1994-; GL-A. D. Kylstra, S. -L. Hahmo, T. Hofstra, O. Nikkila, Lexikon der alteren germanischen Lehnworter in den ostseefinnischen Sprachen I. A-J, Amsterdam--Atlanta 1991; KKS--Karjalan kielen sanakirja 1-5, Helsinki 1968-1997 (LSFU XVI. Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskuksen julkaisuja 25); SMS--Suomen murteiden sanakirja 1-6, Helsinki 1985-1999 (Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskuksen julkaisuja 36); VKS-Vadja keele sonaraamat 1-4. Toimetanud E. Adler ja M. Leppik, Tallinn 1990-2000; [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], 1972.


I t k o n e n, T. 1987, Eraan vokaalivyyhden selvittelya. Pitkan vokaalin lyhenemista vai lyhyen pitenemista h-loppuisessa ensi tavussa.--Vir, 164--208.

Kettunen, L. 1938, Livisches Worterbuch mit grammatischer Einleitung, Helsinki (LSFU V).

Laanest, A. 1995. Relikte und Innovationen im ostseefinnischen Wortschatz. --Itamerensuomalaisen kielikartaston symposiumi. FU 8 Jyvaskyla 12. 8. 1995, Helsinki, 81--105.

--1997, Isuri keele Hevaha murde sonastik, Tallinn.

Magiste, J. 1929, Etumoloogilisi markmeid.--EK, 10-11.

Nirvi, R.E.1971, Inkeroismurteiden sanakirja, Helsinki (LSFU XVIII).

Oja, V. 2002, The Commentaries to the Lexical Maps of the Atlas Linguarum Fennicarum.--Dialectologia et Geolinguistica (DiG) 10, 77-85.

--2003, Semantic maps in Atlas Linguarum Fennicarum.--Proceedings of the 3rd International Congress of Dialectologists and Geolinguists. Lublin, July 24--29, 2000. (In press).

Saareste, A. 1924, Leksikaalseist vahekordadest eesti murretes I, Tartu (ACUT B VI, 1).

Viitso, T. -R. 2000, Finnic Affinity.--CIFU IX, Pars I, 153-178.

Wiedemann, F. J . 1923, Eesti-saksa sonaraamat. Kolmas muutmatu trukk teisest, Jakob Hurda redigeeritud valjaandest, Tartu.

* The study has been supported by Estonian Science Foundation grant No. 4193.

(1) The South Karelian linguistic enclaves of Djorza, Tolmaccc cu, Valdai, Tihvin and Vesjegonsk are located outside the territory depicted in the figures presented here.

(2) According to another theory the Estonian ou, ovv (gen. -e) and Votic ovvi 'yard' are German loans of hof and thus should not be associated with the Finnish-Karelian-Veps word ovi (SKES 82, 446). J. Magiste's hypothesis seems more likely, though. A similar paradigm can be observed in other words of this phonetic type, e.g. 'breast' or 'bosom' sounds in Finnish, Karelian and Ingrian povi (gen. poven), in Estonian pou, povv (gen. -e), in Votic povvi, in Livonian po'i (SKES 616; SSA II 408).

(3) Two of the Finnic languages--Finnish and Estonian--have a literary standard. Up to the mid-19th century Estonian had two literary standards--North Estonian and South Estonian, of which modern literary Estonian is closer to the former one.

VILJA OJA (Tallinn)
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Author:Oja, Vilja
Publication:Linguistica Uralica
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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