Lexicalization of case markers

Jussi Ylikoski jylikosk at SUN3.OULU.FI
Thu Jan 4 16:06:26 UTC 2007

Dear colleagues,

On Thu, 4 Jan 2007, Stefan Georg wrote:

> And PS: on a somewhat less serious note: There is of course (english,
> etc.) ³Bus², which is etymologically a shortening of Latin ³omnibus²,
> only the original Dative marker surviving as this neologism ­ thought I
> mention it for completeness¹ sake, though it certainly is not much more
> a curio item for linguistics...

On Thu, 4 Jan 2007, Johanna Laakso wrote:

> But does anyone know examples of a "core grammatical" case marker (such as
> genitive or accusative) being degrammaticalized? (In Finno-Ugric, these are
> typically too short to be used as word stems.) Is this what Kazuha Watanabe
> originally meant?

Here is an example possibly from somewhere between the "bus" example and
the examples of "core degrammaticalization":

The partitive case "-ta/-tä" in Finnish (< the separative case in
Proto-Uralic) is a core grammatical case used mostly in subject and object
positions. As a large part of the question words in the language consist
of the interrogative stem "mi-" (nominative "mikä" 'what') followed by
a case suffix (e.g. "mi-ksi" [Q-TRANSL] 'why = for what', "mi-ssä"
[Q-INESS] 'where'), one of the most frequent question words is the
partitive "mi-tä" 'what'.

However, in colloquial Finnish, it is not uncommon to hear a form "tä"
instead - i.e., a morpheme that formally originates in the partitive case
suffix. It is important to note that functional range of "tä" is not at
all identical to that of the original "mitä", but seems to be used
mainly (if not only) as a kind of sentential interrogative in contexts
where it could often be translated as 'what did you say?' or 'huh?' as in
the example from the dictionary of Helsinki slang by Paunonen & Paunonen
2000 (s.v. "tä", thus an indication of a lexeme status of the morpheme):

 Tä? On-ks    kundi Manse-sta    vai?
 Q   be.3SG-Q guy   Tampere-ELAT or
 'Huh? What'd you say? Are you from Tampere?'

True, a degrammaticalization like this brings to mind some other
colloquial aphetic word forms such as "tos" for "kiitos" 'thank you',
but the word "tä" originates in the partitive case suffix anyhow.

Best regards,


Jussi Ylikoski

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