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1. Introduction

This paper intends to provide an insight into the current functions of different desiderative markers used in contemporary Meadow Mari. Mari, as many other languages, has more than one way to express wants, desires and intentions. However, a thorough side-by-side comparison of the semantic domains they cover has not yet been carried out. The viewpoint of this study is functional, in the sense that the main emphasis is on the functions these markers fulfil, however, the theoretical principles do not follow those of contemporary functional linguistics (for a detailed discussion of the topic, see Section 2). The aim of the research is to discover semantic differences between two markers that are claimed to express the same intention, as well as to find out about the context and variables that define the usage of either.

In the first section, I briefly introduce the theoretical background of the notions mood and modality, with emphasis on desiderative notions. In Section 2, the Mari desiderative markers in question are introduced, with highlight to their representation and classification in descriptive Mari grammars.

Discussing the contradictions and deficiencies, it becomes clear why further research in the matter was required. In Section 3, I introduce my own research on the matter: the corpus, the methodology and the results. Finally (Section 4), conclusions are drawn, and suggestions on the scope of further research are given.

2. Intentions and desires in mood and modality

Meadow Mari is a language that features the desiderative mood (Bereczki 1990 : 57; Alhoniemi 1993 : 125). Other constructions with a similar semantic domain, however, are also considered to be of modal nature, but not moods.

It is not easy to separate the terms mood and its kin term modality. As the latter is much younger it often overlaps with the former in usage. Kugler (2008) makes a plausible distinction between the two terms based on their universality. She states that mood is a category marked on the verb, which plays a fundamental role in the modal system of the language. As a grammatical feature, it cannot be found in all languages. Modality, on the other hand, is a universal category, whose markers are present in all layers of the language and which semantically belongs to the entire statement, not just the verb. Therefore, many modal features are not grammatically but lexically marked (Kugler 2008 : 106). This definition strongly suggests a formal versus functional approach: mood is a term that can be used to describe a grammatical phenomenon in a given language from a structural point of view, while modality, with its lesser emphasis on the grammatical side, would be used in functional-cognitive analysis. This is the distinction that is followed by most of the existing Mari grammars and textbooks. Thus, mood is part of the verbal paradigm that has the values of indicative, imperative desiderative and, in the case of Hill and Northwestern Mari, marginally conditional, as will be seen in Section 3).

In this paper, the semantic qualities of this verbal paradigm are compared with a periphrastic verbal construction that has a similar modal meaning. The desiderative is considered a mood, the periphrastic construction is (mainly) not (see Section 3). On the other hand, if we accept Kugler's definition of modality as a semantic and universal category, both constructions are equally worthy of investigation if one is studying the language from a function-based perspective.

As regards semantic subdivisions of modality, some frequently cited domains are "dynamic modality", "deontic modality" and "epistemic modality" (Nuyts 2006 : 2). Dynamic modality denotes the "ability", as well as "need" and "necessity", based on the definitions of Palmer (1979) and Goossens (1985), thus describes as an ascription of the capacity or ability to the subject for the verb to realize the action stated in the clause. Deontic modality is defined in terms of "permission" and "obligation", especially on the degree of moral desirability of the state of affairs expressed in the utterance (The Oxford Handbook of Modality and Mood 2016 : 36). The category is frequently subject to debate, though, as the exact borders of "moral obligation" are hard to define. Epistemic modality expresses the likelihood, such as doubt, guess or certainty that the state of affairs expressed in the clause applies to the real world (The Oxford Handbook of Modality and Mood 2016 : 38).

The issue with this classification is that the subject of the current study, the notion of desires, cannot be adequately classified into any of these domains. Some linguists make use of a fourth category, called "boulomaic modality", which indicates the degree of the speaker's liking or disliking of the state of affairs (The Oxford Handbook of Modality and Mood 2016 : 39). Its right to stand alone on its own as a category is subject to some debate, though, since it may frequently overlap with other categories, especially deontic modality (e.g. Palmer 1986). (2) Some scholars strongly argue for this category and question the legitimacy of deontic modality instead (Narrog 2005; Bybee, Perkins, Pagliuca 1994). There is also a terminological confusion: bouletic, boulomaic, volitive and teleological modality are all somewhat overlapping categories used by different scholars. (3) Palmer distinguishes wants from wishes and desires. He classifies the former as a subgroup of dynamic modality (Palmer 2001 : 10), while he views wishes, fears etc. as partly deontic, partly epistemic (Palmer 2001 : 13). Kugler also views it as a distinct subgroup (2008 : 387).

As can be seen, in the functional framework it is unclear how to classify the notion of desires and intentions, since it is exactly there where most opinions differ, and different viewpoints part ways from one another. Mainstream classification even questions the notion's modal nature, and even the scholars arguing in its favor have trouble categorizing it as a subcategory of deontic modality, or one covered by boulomaic modality, or something else. It is not up to this paper to resolve the ongoing contradictions, or even take a stand, but it is important to highlight the subject's problematic nature.

3. Markers with desiderative meaning in Mari

In this section, two markers with desiderative/volitive meaning will be introduced, both of which are widely common in Meadow Mari, and are well documented.

3.1. -ne

The desiderative suffix -ne in Meadow Mari is used to express 'to want/intend to (do something)' (Riese, Bradley, Yakimova, Krylova 2017 : 157, based on [phrase omitted], [phrase omitted] 1990). A verb in the desiderative mood is composed of a verbal stem, the desiderative suffix, and an appropriate personal suffix.

(1) Tace [phrase omitted] (4) today town-ILL go-DES-1SG 'Today I want to go to town'

This part of the paradigm, called desiderative mood, is listed in almost all Mari grammars and textbooks (e.g. Beke 1911; Alhoniemi 1985; [phrase omitted] 1964; Bereczki 1990; 2002; Pomozi 2002; Riese, Bradley, Yakimova, Krylova 2017; etc.), along with the other basic moods: indicative, imperative, and (more controversially) conditional. Bereczki 2002 also lists several other constructions which he calls "moods", such as "simulative", "assumptive", "promissory", "determinative" and "necessive", although all of them are compound structures (Bereczki 2002 : 106-110). While Bereczki (2002) is generous with the term, some scholars like Galkin ([phrase omitted] 1964) and Sebeok and Ingemann (1961) do not count the conditional as a mood. This is probably because its morphological realization -[gamma]ec(e)/-[gamma]ec(e) is only found in Hill and Northwestern Mari, and even in those areas its use is sporadic and primarily restricted to the verb 'to be'. It is usually substituted by the compound past tense I (Alhoniemi 1985 : 123; Bereczki 2002 : 100).

(2) Ti [phrase omitted], Andrej sola-[phrase omitted]-z-at this girl NEG Andrey village-ILL-3SG-too a-k ke [phrase omitted] (5) (Alhoniemi 1985 : 123) NEG-3SG walk.CNG was.PST1.3SG

'If it wasn't for this girl, Andrey wouldn't be walking in the village'

Joskar uz[gamma]a-m ur[gamma]-en pu-et [gamma] [phrase omitted], [phrase omitted] red fur.coat-ACc sew-CVB give-2SG was.PST1.3SG if I you-ACC kol-mesk-em o-m mondo [phrase omitted] (Alhoniemi 1985 : 123-124) die-PTCP.PRI-1SG neg-1SG forget.CNG was.PST1.3SG

'If you sew me a red fur coat, I' will not forget you until I die'

The desiderative mood discussed above was called "conjunctive" or "potential" by Budenz (1864; see Beke 1911 : 353), as in Hungarian the (etymologically related) suffix -ne denotes both the desiderative and conditional.

(3) Szeret-ne-k alma-t en-ni (Kugler 2000 : 107) like-COND-1SG apple-ACC eat-INF 'I would like to eat an apple'

(4) Ha a kutya-m lo le-nne, nek-em nagyon jo If det dog-PX.1SG horse be-COND DAT-PX.1SG very good len-ne (MNSZ2 doc#1722) be-COND.3SG 'If my dog was a horse, it would be very good for me'

2.2. -mE (+ Px) + suas

There is another construction that denotes desiderative intention in Mari. It consists of the passive participle -mE, optionally marked with a possessive suffix, and the third person singular form of suas 'to arrive, to get somewhere', acting somewhat like an auxiliary (Alhoniemi 1985 : 138). The person can be indicated by the possessive suffix and/or a nominal in the genitive case.

(5) Ola-ske [phrase omitted]-m-em su-es (Alhoniemi 1985 : 138) town-ILL I-GEN go-PTCP.PASS-PX.1SG arrive-3SG 'Today I want to go to town'

Given their traditional form-based approach, not all Mari grammars take this construction into account. It is missing from the earlier works, (e.g. Castren 1845; Wiedemann 1847; Beke 1911; Sebeok, Ingemann 1961), and is discussed in completely different sections than the -ne desiderative marker in Alhoniemi 1985 and Riese, Bradley, Schotschel, Yefremova 2018 (though coreferenced and compared with the desiderative in the latter).

A similar situation can be met in Mari necessitive clauses, since there are a wide range of ways to express necessivity, for example:

(6) Ola-s [phrase omitted] ulo (Wichmann 1978 : 202) town-LAT go-PTCP.FUT-PX.1SG 'I need to go to town'

(7) Taae keae gya aram ilyman ogyl ([phrase omitted] 1964 : 161) Tace kece [phrase omitted] [ni[gamma]o-lan] aram [phrase omitted] this day from [nobody-DAT] in.vain live-INF.NEC NEG 'From this day on, one must not live aimlessly'

(8) Joca-[beta]lak-lan [phrase omitted] child-PL-DAT homework-ACC do-INF kul-es (Riese, Bradley, Yakimova, Krylova 2017 : 102) need-3SG 'The children need to do homework'

In Example (6), the clause is composed with the future participle -sas followed by ulo 'there is'. A possessive suffix on the participle can indicate person and number. In (7), the so-called necessitive infinitive formed with the suffix -man is used (without possessive suffixes) with the person needing to do something indicated by a dative-marked nominal. The dative is also used in (8); necessivity is indicated through a periphrastic construction with the infinitive and kulas 'to be necessary' in the third person singular, acting as an auxiliary.

The complex interplay between semantic facets and dialectal, diachronic, and stylistic variation that determine the exact division between these different necessitive forms is beyond this paper. Returning to the two desiderative constructions, information on differences in usage can hardly be found, as none but one descriptive grammar compares the two. The one that does, Vasil'jev ([phrase omitted] 1958) (and later Bereczki 2002 citing him) states that the suas construction expresses more a wish, and -ne more an intention--so the suas construction is called 'desiderative', and the -ne construction 'intentional'. Vasil'jev ([phrase omitted] 1958 : 55) uses the following sentence to accentuate the difference:

(9) Koamem ouao, sadlan koanem koc-m-em su-es, [phrase omitted] koc-ne-m eat-PTCP.PASS-PX.1SG arrive-3SG so eat-DES-1SG 'I feel like eating, so I intend to eat'

Similar conclusions are drawn in Pomozi 1997. Bereczki 2002 and [phrase omitted] 1958 are the only works that regard the suas construction as a verbal mood, instead of a "compound periphrastic verbal construction with a modal meaning", as most scholars define similar constructions existing in Tatar, Chuvash and Ottoman Turkish (Bereczki 2002 : 105; Landmann 2014 : 81, 90; 2015 : 58, 83). However, this distinction and example appears rather vague, as it is not supported by any other academic fieldwork, nor is it quoted in more recent publications, so further research was necessary.

4. Desiderative markers in contemporary written Mari

The research was based on a sample of texts aiming to be representative of contemporary literary Mari with approximately 300 000 words published no earlier than 2007. The texts were selected by the following parameters: 1) contemporaneity, 2) authors whose first language is Mari, 3) a relatively high chance to find modal clauses. The final corpus of the research consisted of contemporary Mari literature and written online press, 6 especially blogs, written and maintained by native Mari speakers. In the corpus I manually examined, a total of 321 occurrences with desiderative meaning were found: 265 uses of -ne and 56 uses -mE (+ Px) + suas. Affirmative and negative, as well as present and past tense examples were taken into account. The number of the findings appears small given the size of the corpus, but the subject of the research itself (sentences expressing desire or intention) determines the low representation in any given text, especially in online sources such as news sites and blogs. The examined corpus consists of many different genres (interviews, biographies, user comments, novel dialogues), thus representing both formal and informal registers. With a corpus of this size and nature, this paper may not be able to pinpoint the exact distinction between the two markers. However, some promising patterns have been revealed.

5. The distribution of the markers in various genres
                         -ne  -mE (+ Px) + suas  Total

Online media              39  17                  56
Contemporary literature  226  39                 265
Total                    265  56                 321

The results show that -ne was twice as common in online sources, but six times more common in contemporary literature than the periphrastic construction with suas. The possible explanation can be found in the typical usage of these structures.

The results show that -ne was twice as common in online sources, but six times more common in contemporary literature than the periphrastic construction with suas. The possible explanation can be found in the typical usage of these structures.

(10) Tidyn nergen mutym joroeo lukmem [phrase omitted] ner[gamma]en [phrase omitted] jorses luk-m-em this-GEN about word-ACC at.all release-PTCP.PASS-PX.1SG ok ou (MariUver 02.11.2016) ok su NEG.3SG arrive.CNG 'I would not like to talk about this at all'

(11) [phrase omitted] korneo kon kodmywo [phrase omitted] (MK 12) [phrase omitted] korn-es ko-n [phrase omitted] su-es? night-DAT road-LAT who-GEN stay-PTCP.PASS-PX.3SG arrive-3SG 'Who would want to stay by the road for the night?'

(12) Tygaj tamle, ookoo [phrase omitted] nolteo, upoynaat da [phrase omitted] tamle, sokso juz nolt-es, [phrase omitted] such sweet warm scent rise-3SG smell-2SG and ilymet vele [phrase omitted] (?K 114) [phrase omitted] [beta]ele su-es live-PTCP.PASS-PX.3SG just arrive-3SG 'Such sweet, warm air rises, you smell it and instantly feel like living'

(13) [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] literature wealth-PX.1PL about again and again [phrase omitted] (MariUver 02.12.2015) [phrase omitted] speak-PTCP.PASS arrive-3SG 'Again and again (we) want to talk about the richness of our literature'

(14) [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] big thanks-ACC tell-PTCP.PASS arrive-3SG individual [phrase omitted] (MariUver 14.07.2015) [phrase omitted] person-PL-DAT '(We) would like to say thank you very much to individual people'

(15) [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] this.way tell-PTCP.PASS arrive-3SG Mari [phrase omitted] (MariUver 02.02.2015) [phrase omitted] read-PTCP.ACT-DAT 'This is how (we) would like to talk to Mari readers'

Although the -ne suffix is universally common, the -mE + (Px) + suas is preferred when the subject is general or unknown, and thus unnecessary to specify. In these cases, the possessive suffix is usually absent, see Examples (13)-(15). (Note that person marking cannot be omitted in the case of the structure with -ne.) This could explain why this structure is much more common in online media: it is easy and natural to admit that journalistic genres require way more general and impersonal acts of speech than fiction. Of the 17 clauses with suas found in online media, only three contained a Px. Neither Alhoniemi (1985) nor Bereczki (2002) specify that Px can be omitted from this construction. It follows from conceivable real-life speech situations that Px is often absent in a similar context (when the subject is general or unimportant or already clear from context), and thus the phenomenon comes as no surprise. But it might as well have gained more popularity in the twentieth century due to Russian influence, since there are fewer examples of the elimination of Px in traditional folklore texts (e.g. Beke 1957; 1961; 1995). The usage and meaning of these constructions concurs with the Russian [phrase omitted], which denotes a general or impersonal intention --the slight necessitive tone seen in the English translations comes from the difficulty of proper rendering of the original meaning.

Based on consultations with native speakers, in most cases -ne can universally substitute suas. However, the results show a further pattern of situations where suas is preferred. These are:

(I) Informal, even intimate situations, such as conversations with family and close friends, even self-talk, see Examples (11) and (8)

(II) Sudden, emotion-driven wishes or intentions, as well as urges and needs caused by outside impulses, with lesser control from the subject, see (10)-(12)

(III) Suggestions and pieces of advice, especially regarding others, as seen in Examples (13)-(15). It is noteworthy that in all cases the grammatical subject of the clause is either general, or an unspecified person or group of people.

A closer look at the -ne desiderative reveals that it has opposing qualities in terms of preference. The main difference is its closer link to the speaker, as the verb inflection always agrees with them, and the agent is obligatorily specified. It typically occurs in interviews and dialogues, as well as narratives describing a certain person or institution's behaviour. It generally has a more formal tone, and can express more of an intention than a wish, as stated by Vasil'jev ([phrase omitted] 1958).

(16) [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] now trick-CVB-trick-CVB 3PL-GEN at.expense again-too power-LAT [phrase omitted] (MariUver 08.28.2015) [phrase omitted] stay-DES-3PL 'Now by cheating and cheating, they again want to stay in power at their expense'

(17) [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] 1SG doctor become-DES-1SG person-PL-DAT [phrase omitted] (Kidsher 03.29.2016) [phrase omitted] help-DES-1SG 'I want to become a doctor and help people'

(18) [phrase omitted] Tatar-[beta]lak toze latin [phrase omitted] Tatar-PL also latin alphabet-ILL transfer-DES-3PL [phrase omitted] (MariUver 02.11.2016) [phrase omitted] was.PST1.3SG 'The Tatars also wanted to transfer to the Latin alphabet'

(19) [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] everyone-PX.3SG-DAT work dear everyone-PX.3SG new like [phrase omitted] (Kidsher 01.31.2016) [phrase omitted] try-DES-3SG 'Work is important for everybody, everybody wants to try a new way'

However, all these findings do not point to sharp boundaries between the domains of usage of the two constructions. The -ne desiderative can be found in general speech as well. The usage depends largely on the context, especially in terms of the speaker's conscious involvement in the action. Similar conclusions are drawn in Riese, Bradley, Schotschel, Yefremova 2018.7

With this study, I came to similar conclusions as those drawn by Vasil'jev ([phrase omitted] 1958) and Bereczki (2002), but a few more viewpoints were added as well. My corpus-based research shows the preference of -mE (+ Px) + suas when having an unknown or general subject, and also the possibility of the elimination of the Px. Naturally, the next step would be to back up these statements with qualitative research. Initial studies with Yoshkar-Ola based and Eastern Mari speakers (Timar 2016), though by far not representative yet, have backed up this study's results, and also suggest areal differences in the usage. However, inclusion of further informants, as well as the addition of a spoken data corpus is required.

6. Conclusion

In this paper, I examined different markers with a desiderative/volitive meaning. The usage of the verbal -ne and the periphrastic construction -mE + Px + suas were compared in contemporary Mari online media and literature. The findings showed a general preference for the usage of -ne, the usage of which overlapped, but was not completely equivalent with those of -mE (+ Px) + suas. Various patterns could be observed in the choice of either marker, which supports the findings in the existing literature on the matter, but opens up new perspectives as well, both for functional and formal analysis. However, those markers are only the core grammatical realizations of the expression of volition. There are numerous other ways, both grammatical and lexical, that express wants and desires, many of them merging into other notions such as obligation or attitude. In order to fully understand the expression of volition in Meadow Mari, more markers, as well as spoken data have to be taken into account in further research.


ACC--accusative; CVB--converb; DAT--dative; DES--desiderative; GEN --genitive; ILL--illative; INF--infinitive; INF.NEC--necessitive infinitive; LAT --lative; NEG--negative; PL--plural; PTCP.FUT--future participle; PTCP.PASS --past participle; PX--possessive suffix; SG--singular.

Kidsher--; MariUver-; MNSZ2--Magyar Nemzeti Szovegtar 2.; [phrase omitted]. [phrase omitted] 2007.


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[phrase omitted] B. M. 1958, [phrase omitted].

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(1) In this contribution, E is used to represent the vowel-harmonic alternation e ~ o ~ o.

(2) "Volition [--] is less clearly related to permissions and obligations, but rather relates to the realm of desires. [--] The discussions boil down to the question whether "action plans" and desires still count as modal notions." (The Oxford Handbook of Modality and Mood 2016 : 37).

(3) "[--] deontic subsumes at least deontic (pertaining to rules and obligations), teleological (pertaining to goals) and bouletic (pertaining to what is desired) modalities. [--] Boulomaic modality ("want"-type modality) pertains to intentions." (The Oxford Handbook of Modality and Mood, Oxford 2016 : 89).

(4) Example provided by a native speaker.

(5) This example is in Hill Mari, all other examples are in Meadow Mari.

(8) The sites examined were the following:;;;

(7) "The wish expressed like this is often of an emotional, inner, involuntary nature. It to some degree contrasts with the desiderative--see 7.1.3-page 242-which is as a tendency more used to express concrete, controlled intentions. Usage situations of these two constructs do, however, overlap." (Riese, Bradley, Schotschel, Yefremova 2018).

BOGaTA TIMaR (Budapest)


Bogata Timar

Eotvos Lorand University

Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies


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Author:Timar, Bogata
Publication:Linguistica Uralica
Article Type:Report
Date:Dec 1, 2018
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