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Päivitetty 1.1.2002  –  Palautteet

Virittäjä-lehti  >  Hakemistot  >  Kirjoitukset ja tiivistelmät: 4/1998 (102)

Marjatta Palander  (marjatta.palander@joensuu.fi)

NON-REFLEXIVE USE OF THE THIRD PERSON POSSESSIVE SUFFIX

Guardians of the Finnish language have from time to time advised against the type of use of the 3rd person possessive suffix whereby the suffix refers to a parallel sentence constituent of the same type, e.g. Äsken oli pääministerin ja avovaimonsa puheenvuoro (avovaimo+3rd pers. poss. suff.; 'A moment ago it was the prime minister's and [his] common-law wife's turn to speak'); Elina ja miehensä tulivat (mies+3rd pers. poss. suff.; 'Elina and [her] husband arrived'). In standard Finnish, this possessive construction would include hänen or heidän, the genitive form of the 3rd person singular and plural personal pronouns (– – pääministerin ja hänen avovaimonsa puheenvuoro; Elina ja hänen miehensä – –). Pronounless use, i.e. non-reflexive use, of the 3rd person possessive suffix to refer to other than the subject of the sentence is especially common in newspaper and magazine picture captions and headlines, where it has presumably become established on account of its brevity. In addition to these cases of parallel sentence constituents, non-reflexive use of the 3rd person possessive suffix that deviates from standard Finnish is also found in cases where the suffix refers to a constituent in a previous clause or sentence, even several clauses previously, e.g. Vuosia myöhemmin sama laivapoika on kapteenina ja mukana on poikansa ('hänen poikansa'; 'Years later the same cabin boy is now captain and he has [his] son with him').

In the vernacular, the non-reflexive 3rd person possessive suffix is widely recognised in Finnish dialectal constructions in which it is included in a word that expresses membership of the immediate family or other family relationships (e.g. isä, äiti, poika, tyttö, veli, sisko, mies, vaimo, täti, eno) and refers to the previous clause or even further back (Karkku parish: katteli siälä ku se veljensät talo palo; 'was there watching as [his] brother's house burned'). Such examples are particularly abundant in the Savo and Häme dialects, but the construction is also found in the Ostrobothnian, Northern and Southeastern dialects. By contrast, with other types of words, the 3rd person possessive suffix is used non-reflexively only in the central Häme dialects (e.g. Viljakkala parish: hän aatteli että lähteekö sormensap poikki; 'he thought [his] finger would break'). In the Häme dialects this phenomenon has also expanded syntactically. Whereas elsewhere the suffix is normally with the subject, in the Häme dialects, in particular, it can appear with other sentence constituents: adverbials, complements and objects, or their modifiers. Use of the suffix with parallel sentence constituents as in the Elina ja miehensä type of clause is not, however, typical of the vernacular. This construction is, in fact, an innovation based on the dialectal non-reflexive manner of reference connected with family-related terms.

In nineteenth-century written Finnish the use of possessive suffixes had not yet become established. The non-reflexive use of the 3rd person possessive suffix appears to have been favoured most of all by writers in the Häme and other western dialects. Amongst those involved in developing the written language, it was especially the Savo-born August Ahlqvist who sought to discourage this non-reflexive use. There were still examples of the non-reflexive use of the suffix in E. N. Setälä's Finnish grammar Lauseoppi (e.g. in the 1919 edition), but these were dropped from the edition revised by Sadeniemi. According to Eeva Lindén (1959: 306-307), the reason for removal of the examples was probably the influence of Swedish. However, it seems that another influential factor behind this was that the non-reflexive use of the suffix has been most widespread lexically and syntactically in only a comparatively small area covering the Häme dialects.

Directions from guardians of the language have had little impact on deterring the non-reflexive use of the suffix with parallel sentence constituents as in the Elina ja miehensä type of clause, even though the construction can sometimes create ambiguity of meaning. The popularity of this type of construction in newspapers and magazines may also be due to the fact that it is not directly based on any regional dialect.