Telicity in Finnish (Partitive verbs)

盲人瞎馬

Senior Member
Brazilian Portuguese
Hello, I wrote a piece about the concept of telicity and how it is used the Finnish verbs. However, I'm not a linguist and I got no background in the field so I'm wondering if there's someone here who is who could tell me whether what I wrote makes sense or not. Keep in mind that this discussion only applies to transitive verbs. Whether the object of a Finnish verb should be in the accusative case (telic) or partitive case (atelic). Intransitive verbs don't mean anything in this discussion. Also, there is a contextual element to this. Some telic verbs can be atelic and vice-versa, but that would really complicate the discussion so I'm keeping the two separate.


Thanks.

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The three requirements of a partitive (i.e. atelic) verb in Finnish.

1. Uncountableness =The action of the verb can't counted
2. Infiniteness = The action of the verb doesn't culminate in something easily definable
3. Unthoroughness = The action of the verb can't be done until it can't be done anymore



First, what would a telic verb look like so we can compare it against one that is atelic?

By this definition, a telic verb's action is countable, finite and thorough. For example: to throw

1. The action of the verb "to throw" can be counted. I.e. I threw it once, twice etc.

2. It's also finite, which means its culmination can be easily defined. I.e. when an object is no longer in contact with your hand and is traveling in a direction that you thrusted it towards. The moment the last atom of the thrown object is no longer touching the last atom of your hand (or of whatever threw it), the act of throwing in complete. It is a binary action. Either it was thrown or not.

3. It's thorough, meaning you can throw an object in a way it can't be thrown again. Sure, you can pick it from the floor and throw it again, but it will be a different instance of throwing. It will be "a new instance of throwing". The action will be executed again from scratch because it is countable.



Now, how would an atelic verb behave? Such as rakastaa (to love).

1. The action of loving isn't countable. Nobody ever says "I loved you three times just this month". Loving is constant.

2. Loving is also infinite. Sure, your love towards someone can cease to be, but the key element here is the ease with which the ceasing of loving is definable. It is not as binary as throwing. The act of "ceasing to love" is not easily reproducible, tangible or observable.

3. It's also unthorough. Meaning it's impossible to love someone to the extent they can't be loved anymore. Compare "to love" with "to kill". It's perfectly possible to kill someone to the extent they can't be killed anymore. Once they're dead, the action can't be performed again. Dying and killing are telic actions. Sure, the dead can be resuscitated, but killing them again would incur in just another instance of killing. You'd be killing twice, hence countable, hence telic.
 
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  • ocelot

    Senior Member
    Hello, I wrote a piece about the concept of telicity and how it is used the Finnish verbs. However, I'm not a linguist and I got no background in the field so I'm wondering if there's someone here who is who could tell me whether what I wrote makes sense or not. Keep in mind that this discussion only applies to transitive verbs. Whether the object of a Finnish verb should be in the accusative case (telic) or partitive case (atelic). Intransitive verbs don't mean anything in this discussion. Also, there is a contextual element to this. Some telic verbs can be atelic and vice-versa, but that would really complicate the discussion so I'm keeping the two separate.


    Thanks.

    --

    The three requirements of a partitive (i.e. atelic) verb in Finnish.

    1. Uncountableness =The action of the verb can't counted
    2. Infiniteness = The action of the verb doesn't culminate in something easily definable
    3. Unthoroughness = The action of the verb can't be done until it can't be done anymore



    First, what would a telic verb look like so we can compare it against one that is atelic?

    By this definition, a telic verb's action is countable, finite and thorough. For example: to throw

    1. The action of the verb "to throw" can be counted. I.e. I threw it once, twice etc.

    2. It's also finite, which means its culmination can be easily defined. I.e. when an object is no longer in contact with your hand and is traveling in a direction that you thrusted it towards. The moment the last atom of the thrown object is no longer touching the last atom of your hand (or of whatever threw it), the act of throwing in complete. It is a binary action. Either it was thrown or not.

    3. It's thorough, meaning you can throw an object in a way it can't be thrown again. Sure, you can pick it from the floor and throw it again, but it will be a different instance of throwing. It will be "a new instance of throwing". The action will be executed again from scratch because it is countable.



    Now, how would an atelic verb behave? Such as rakastaa (to love).

    1. The action of loving isn't countable. Nobody ever says "I loved you three times just this month". Loving is constant.

    2. Loving is also infinite. Sure, your love towards someone can cease to be, but the key element here is the ease with which the ceasing of loving is definable. It is not as binary as throwing. The act of "ceasing to love" is not easily reproducible, tangible or observable.

    3. It's also unthorough. Meaning it's impossible to love someone to the extent they can't be loved anymore. Compare "to love" with "to kill". It's perfectly possible to kill someone to the extent they can't be killed anymore. Once they're dead, the action can't be performed again. Dying and killing are telic actions. Sure, the dead can be resuscitated, but killing them again would incur in just another instance of killing. You'd be killing twice, hence countable, hence telic.
    Your criteria 2 and 3 look fine to me -- that's precisely how telicity is usually defined. But I would drop criterion 1. In my view, it's not about whether the action can be counted -- it's about whether the action produces a result beyond which it cannot continue -- at least by the same name. You can say Ammuin karhua kolmesti and that's partitive, atelic and countable, meaning I fired upon the bear three times. It is vague about whether the bear survived or not.

    Throwing is also frequently used with partitive objects. As in Heitin keihästä kaksi tuntia (=I threw the javelin for three hours), which sounds completely natural as a description of a training session.
     
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