Discussion in 'Suomi (Finnish)' started by esise, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. esise New Member

    British English
    Just started learning Finnish. I have looked a little at conjugation and declension, haven't really moved onto digesting vocabulary yet. Also, this will be my first agglutinative language! I am getting the hang of vowel harmony and consonant gradation, however...

    Why is the illatiivi form of olkapää: olkapäässä, and not olkapäässa?

    The way I see it, the harmony of the word is dictated by the vowel of the initial syllable, which is "ol". "O" is a back vowel, so the word has back vowel harmony.
    So, why is the illative suffix "-ssä", where "ä" is a front vowel, and not "-ssa", because "a" is a back vowel and is in line with the entire word's harmony?

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  2. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    Welcome to the Finnish forum, Esise!

    I'm glad that you have learned the Finnish vowel harmony that is so-o-o difficult to many native Finnish speakers.

    Your idea is correct but you're missing one point: olka-pää is a compound. The vowel harmony works only for the last part of a compound: pää - päässä.

    But don't worry; most native Finnish speakers usually make mistakes with four-syllable words like illatiivi. They decline it illatiiviä, as if it were a compound illa-tiivi. But it's not a compound.
  3. esise New Member

    British English
    Ah, I know that rule, the one about compounds! It was playing at the back of my mind, but for some reason I didn't reason that the word "shoulder" could possibly be a compound. If it was some word like "distribution", I might have made an attempt to break it up into chunks. I simply don't know enough Finnish vocabulary to distinguish compound words at the moment.
    Also, that part about the word illatiivi, is that the partitive case? Furthermore, am I right in saying that the "a" is ensuring back vowel harmony for the entire word due to the initial "i" in the first syllable being neutral? So it should be illatiivia?

    Thanks for the help!
  4. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    Yes, it should be illatiivia.

    It's not about the first syllable but about everything before the declination ending: if there is a back vowel (a, o, u), the ending will have "a"; if there are only front vowels ä and ö the ending will have "ä". Front vowels e and i can exist both with other front vowels and with back vowels, so they don't determine the vowel harmony.

    Maybe some professional Finnish can explain it more clearly, more scientifically. But this is how it works.
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    illatiivi is a recently adopted term that diverges from normal Finnish word structure: as far as I know, all older Finnish words with 4 or more syllables can be broken up into smaller parts (e.g., pujottelu = pujo- + -tte- + -lu) that can be used as a guide for vowel harmony. With this in mind, I wonder if it might be a little unfair to Finnish speakers to call illatiiviä a "mistake". :)
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
  6. Maabdreo

    Maabdreo Member

    English - USA
    Isn't olkapäässä in the inessive?
  7. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Yes, it is (inessive singular). The illative of this word would be olkapäähän (sing.) / olkapäihin (pl.).

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