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Uralic Essive and the Expression of Impermanent State.

Uralic Essive and the Expression of Impermanent State. Ed. Casper de Groot, Amsterdam--Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2017 (Typological Studies in Language 119). 555 p.

1. According to Leon Stassen (2001 : 508), coding the impermanent, or changeinclined, state is a typical property of languages on the border of the Indo-European area. Even more, as Casper de Groot, the initiator and editor of the volume under discussion, remarks, sporting a dedicated case form for this function, namely the essive case, is a characteristic of the Uralic languages in particular (Chapter 1, p. 8). The function addressed to by the volume is the expression of nonverbal predication, a notion which includes primary predication by nominal predicates like e.g. she is ill, or she is a teacher, as well as secondary predication with depictives like e.g. she eats the fish raw, or she works there as a teacher, with predicative complements like e.g. she considers the boys intelligent, and with adverbial phrases as e.g. in she came home first. Having a closer look at how the expression of (some of) these predicates relies on a particular essive case, the actual picture across Uralic is--as often --quite diverse:

(1) The essive case of Finnic and Saamic is considered a continuation of the Proto-Uralic locative case in *-nA. While the locative meaning is still present in adverbials like e.g. Finnish kotona 'at home', otherwise location had been diversified into an inner locative (the inessive in *-s-nA) and an outer locative (the adessive in *-l-nA), and the simplex suffix functions as an essive case as e.g. in Estonian oleva-na 'as (the) essive'. The Proto-Uralic locative is also part of an unproductive essive formation in Mari (-nek), which can be used in secondary predication only (Saarinen, Chapter 11, p. 280). Other outcomes of the Proto-Uralic locative are the inessive and the instrumental cases in Permic, the superessive in Hungarian, the locative/instrumental/essive in Khanty, and the locative in Tundra Nenets--see Table 2 in Chapter 1 (p. 5) of the volume under discussion.

(2) In Permic, there is no essive case, but the instrumental case, and partly also the inessive case, can express this function, e.g. Komi predsedateli-on 'as a/the chairman' (instrumental), Udm. gruzsik-yn 'as a loader' (inessive). As the Permic inessive and instrumental cases are both built on the locative (Serebrennikov 1963 : 54-57), there is an etymological connection with the essive case of Finnic and Saamic. (3) In Hungarian, essive functions are distributed over three different adverbial case forms: the essive-formal in -kent, the essive-modal in -Ul, and the modalessive in -(A)n. In addition the preposition mint 'as' must be taken into account. (4) In North Samoyed languages, different converbs of the copula verb 'be' in different stages of grammaticalization function as essives.

(5) Some languages have in addition a translative case, others have only the translative case, but no essive case, and the translative may cover the essive meanings; e.g. Erzya, Mansi and others. Table 3 in Chapter 1 (pp. 7-8), lists the languages which have a translative case in addition to and different from the essive case, namely Finnic, Mordvin, Hungarian, and (Eastern-)Khanty. The two minuses for Mari (no essive, no translative) may be reconsidered once an older idea concerning the nature and origin of the Mari so called lative in -(e)s gains acceptance: as recently eloboratedly discussed and suggested by Jussi Ylikoski (2017), it is supposedly a continuation of a Proto-Uralic translative in *-ksi.

As this rough and incomplete survey may reveal, starting from an essive as a member of the case paradigm of certain languages, describing its functions against a typologically well informed background, and then continuing with investigating how those functions are otherwise expressed in the different languages, leads to a range of relevant morphosyntactic elements. The distribution of the essive, its exact functions, and how this case and its equivalents are used in more than twenty Uralic languages, this investigates the book under discussion, and one may state that it does it in quite a successful way.

2. The essive book consists of twenty one chapters plus an appendix. The first chapter (pp. 1-28) provides an introduction into the research on the subject, and informs how the questionnaire underlying each chapter had been developed. The last chapter (pp. 497-549) summarizes the results and presents in conclusion a typology of the essive in Uralic. The chapter is followed by an appendix, which contains a typological essive questionnaire for future research, targeting at languages outside the Uralic language family. Any reader interested in the results of the book may well start with the last chapter and read the first chapter later. Both framing chapters are authored by the initiator of the research project, Casper de Groot, well known among Uralicists for his work on Hungarian (e.g. de Groot 1989; 1994; 2010). "Several puzzling elements" of this language (Preface, p. XIX), namely the four different essive formations of Hungarian, were his initial motivation to sort out the function and distribution of essives in a broader perspective. Inbetween run nineteen chapters on individual Uralic languages, from West to East, the usual way, all written by experienced experts on the language(s) in question.

Six chapters are on Finnic languages, namely on Finnish by Emmi Hynonen, who has recently defended a dissertation on the Finnish essive (Hynonen 2016), on Estonian by Helle Metslang and Liina Lindstrom, on Votic and on Ingrian, both chapters by Elena Markus and Fedor Rozhanskiy, on Veps by Riho Grunthal, and on Karelian by Vesa Koivisto. Saamic is covered by three chapters: South Saami by Florian Siegl, North Saami by Jussi Ylikoski, and Skolt Saami by Timothy Feist. Mari is treated in one chapter written by Sirkka Saarinen, the Permic languages have two chapters, namely Komi by Galina Nekrasova and Marja Leinonen, and Udmurt by Svetlana Edygarova. The chapter on Hungarian has, of course, been written by Casper de Groot himself. The Ob-Ugric branch is covered by Andrey Filchenko's chapter on East Khanty and by Katalin Sipocz' chapter on Mansi. Finally there are four Samoyed chapters, one on Tundra Nenets by Lotta Jalava, one on Forest Enets and Tundra Enets by Florian Siegl, one on Nganasan by Sandor Szeverenyi and Beata Wagner-Nagy, and one on Selkup and Kamas by Beata Wagner-Nagy (with the Kamas data contributed by Gerson Klumpp). The chapters vary in length between 15 and 34 pages, the shortest chapter is the one on Udmurt, the longest chapters are the ones on Estonian and on the Enets languages.

With the exception of Mordvin, Livonian, Northern Khanty and Forest Nenets, more or less all Uralic branches and subgroups are covered by a chapter, thus the word Uralic in the title of the book must be deemed fully appropriate. The absence of a Mordvin chapter is nowhere explicitly commented, but Erzya data (e.g. with its translative case in -ks) do figure in the questionnaire introduced in Chapter 1, and also the summarizing Chapter 21 provides systematically information on Erzya. The Erzya data has been collected by Rigina Ajanki (formerly Turunen), who is listed also as a member of the research group introduced in Chapter 1 (pp. 10-11). Information on Moksha, however, is missing. Also Livonian, North Khanty, and Forest Nenets fall under the table, maybe because no authors were available for these languages. Note that their absence from the book can hardly be ascribed to the absence of an essive or translative case, as may be concluded from chapters like the ones on Komi, or Udmurt, languages which have neither of them. Livonian would certainly have been relevant (see Viitso 2016).

3. All chapters are written on the basis of a "Uralic essive typological questionnaire". This instrument was developed and improved in several meetings of the research group, among them a theme session "Uralic Essive" at the conference "Grammar and Context" in June 2013 in Tartu. Its final version was ready in 2013 (Chapter 1, pp. 12-25). It targets specifically at (1) the case system of a particular language, (2) its non-verbal predicates and copula constructions (she is sick/a teacher), (3) secondary predication strategies (she eats the fish raw/works there as a teacher), (4) predicative complements and ditransitive constructions (she considers the boys intelligent), (5) adverbials (she went away angrily/first), (6) temporality and location (she will make sauna on saturday/drive faraway), (7) comparative and simile expressions (she is bigger than Janos/free as a bird), (8) the essive case versus the translative case (she is a teacher/became a teacher) and (9) word order and focus issues. The questionnaire ensures the structural and terminological coherence of the volume, which is very welcome because, as already stated above, the research addresses not only the whereabouts of essive (and translative) cases found in several Uralic languages, but also other morphosyntactic means expressing typical essive meanings. The book unites thus various perspectives on the subject, and these different perspectives require a consequent structure for each language chapter. All authors, one may say, have done a great job in following this structure.

4. Instead of discussing the individual chapters here some of the 19 general conclusions, which are presented as an outcome of the project in Chapter 21 (pp. 543-548), are mentioned in the following. Some are more or less expected, so e.g. the first two conclusions according to which the study of the Uralic essive is meaningful only in combination with the translative, and in languages like Mansi, which has only a "translative" (in -?), the designation of this case could equally well be "essive-translative" or "translative-essive" (see the chapter on Mansi by Sipocz, p. 382). More surprising may be the conclusion that the essive, translative, or essive-translative markers actually "may hardly be considered case markers", but "predicative markers" instead (Chapter 21, p. 501). Whatever position one may take in this discussion, the present book offers the best material in preparing an argument. Note that despite its weak case status, the idea of an origin of the essive from the Proto-Uralic locative case in *-nA (see e.g. Laanest 1982 : 168-169 with references) is nowhere challenged in the volume. Considering, however, forms like the Finnic deverbal noun in -nA (Laanest 1982 : 212) and the fact that in North Samoyed essives origin from converbs of the copula verb (Conclusion 8, p. 546), one may, alternatively, also think of an ultimately verbal origin of the essive. Converbal genesis of an essive marker is also observed in modern literary Udmurt, e.g. konuh luysa 'working (lit. being) a hostler' (Edygarova, p. 316). In the conclusions (p. 517) this form is ascribed to Russian influence, however, in the chapter of Udmurt such a contact based explanation is absent. Actual historical notes and considerations, that must be stated, are rare in the book. An exception is Siegl who provides such a paragraph in his chapter on South Saami (pp. 210-212).

The title of the book contains the expression impermanent state, i.e. the meaning the essive and its equivalents mark differentially in non-verbal main predication, alternating thereby with other encodings (e.g. nominative), which do not imply such a meaning. Again, such marking contrasts vary to different degrees across Uralic. In non-verbal secondary predication, the distinction "permanent : impermanent" is maintained, to some degree, only in Hungarian as e.g. in tanarkent ~ mint tanar 'as a (permanent ~ impermanent) teacher' (Chapter 21, p. 502).

The title of the book contains the expression impermanent state, i.e. the meaning the essive and its equivalents mark differentially in non-verbal main predication, alternating thereby with other encodings (e.g. nominative), which do not imply such a meaning. Again, such marking contrasts vary to different degrees across Uralic. In non-verbal secondary predication, the distinction "permanent : impermanent" is maintained, to some degree, only in Hungarian as e.g. in tanarkent ~ mint tanar 'as a (permanent ~ impermanent) teacher' (Chapter 21, p. 502).

Some results of the book are not neces sarily available in the summarizing chapter. So e.g. the highly interesting threefold distinction in Votic, which shows an essive in -n(n(?)), a translative in -ssi, and an "excessive" in -nt. The authors, however, note that functionally the system has basically collapsed (Mar kus and Rozhanskiy, Chapter 4, pp. 94-96). Still, while havening entered the Uralic questionnaire (see p. 15), this morpho logical distinction is neither mentioned in the general conclusions of the final chapter (understandably, Votic seems to be an exception), nor in the typological questionnaire in the appendix, despite the fact that it might certainly be worth to look for an excessive in a cross-linguistic perspective.

5. Summarizing one can say that the volume offers a splendid overview on the aforementioned non-verbal predication types in Uralic languages. It contributes also substantially to the description of Uralic languages. Hardly any grammar devotes so much space and details to impermanent state predications, depictives etc. The editor may be thanked for assembling such an excellent group of researchers for this project, in which modern linguistic typology and Uralic disciplinal knowledge have met in a fruitful way. A very detailed table of contents makes it convenient to navigate in the book. References are listed for each chapter separately. Across all chapters, lots of tables present information in a clear way. Typos and formatting mistakes are neglectable. There is no index, but it is not missed. Last but not least, the book provides also useful up-to-date information on speaker numbers and sociolinguistic background for the treated Uralic languages.


de Groot, C. 1989, Predicate Structure in a Functional Grammer of Hungarian, Dordrecht.

--1994, Hungarian.--Typological Studies in Negation, Amsterdam, 143--162.

--2010, Mood in Hungarian. --Mood in the Languages of Europe. Vol. II. Slavic and Other European Languages, Amsterdam, 235--252.

Hynonen, E. 2016, Suomen essiivi, Turku (Annales Universitatis Turkuensis C 425).

Laanest, A. 1982, Einfuhrung in die ostseefinnischen Sprachen, Hamburg.

Stassen, L. 2001, Non-Verbal Predication in Circum-Baltic Languages.

-- The Circum-Baltic Languages. Typology and Contact 1, Amsterdam --Philadelphia (Studies in Language Companion Series 54), 569--590.

Viitso, T.-R. 2016, The Essive in Livonian.--ESUKA--JEFUL 7:1, 145--175.

Ylikoski, J. 2017, On the Tracks of the Proto-Uralic Suffix *-ksi --a New but Old Perspective on the Origin of the Mari Lative. --JSFOu 96, 369--419.

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Gerson Klumpp

University of Tartu


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Author:Klumpp, Gerson
Publication:Linguistica Uralica
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2018

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