Suomen ja viron kyl(lä)/küll ja kieltolauseen sanajärjestys

Auli Hakulinen, Leelo Keevallik


Finnish and Estonian kyl(lä)/küll and the word order of negative clauses 

This paper looks comparatively at the Finnish kyl(lä) and Estonian küll, which function as an epistemic adverb and a particle in both languages, and have a common origin in the noun ‘abundance’. Even though the word is mostly used to formulate positive answers, it also occurs in negative utterances. This is the focus of the current paper, which at the same time touches on the complex area of word order. 

Even though both languages feature more or less free pragmatic word order, the patterns for negative utterances which contain both the negation word ei and kyl(lä)/küll are varied, especially regarding the placement of adverbs and particles. On the basis of conversational data the study establishes four patterns for Finnish((X+)ei,en+X+kyl(lä);ei+X+kyllä#;ei+V+kyl(lä)+Y;X+ei+ kyl(lä) +Y, where X denotes one or several noun phrases and Y an adverbial) and three patterns for Estonian (X + ei + V (+X) + küll + other; ei + V + küll# (+ other); X/Y + küll + ei + V + other), where only the last one is frequent. Accordingly, Finnish reveals more flexibility in word order and negation-initial patterns, while in Estonian ei regularly follows küll, which is impossible in Finnish. The negation word and the finite verb have to occur near each other in Estonian but not in Finnish.

In order to analyze the interactional functions of these patterns, the conversation analytic method is used which makes it possible to reveal participants’ local understanding of each prior action. The study shows that there are two relatively small functional areas where the word order patterns coincide in Finnish and Estonian: in a concessive use ((X+) ei, en + V + kyl(lä)/küll), and when kyl(lä)/küll is used as an utterance-final epistemic marker. The latter pattern, however, is extremely rare in Estonian, and has developed a special implication of ‘as a matter of fact’ in Finnish. 

In other functions, the word order is different. In particular, in answers to polar questions the ordering of the negation word and kyl(lä) or küll is the opposite, with negation preceding kyl(lä) in Finnish and following küll in Estonian. While in Finnish the word kyl(lä) functions as an epistemic reassurance for the recipient, in Estonian the küll + ei pattern is typically used for building contrast with the prior and setting the initial element into focus. Regardless of the phonological and historical similarity, the syntactic patterns for this adverb/ particle are different, which may reflect more overarching differences in word order between the two languages – something that remains to be explored. At least when it comes to kyl(lä) and küll, Finnish word order is more flexible, while Estonian displays a distinct grammaticalized pattern. Accordingly, the function of the “same” epistemic word emerges in a more content-related manner in Finnish, where it expresses speaker certainty, and as more of a syntactic device in Estonian, where it marks another element in the clause as being contrasted. This illustrates the decisive role of interactional and syntactic context in (the development of) word meaning. 


contrastive syntax; negation; word order; adverb syntax; interactional linguistics; epistemic particle

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Copyright (c) 2016 Auli Hakulinen, Leelo Keevallik

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ISSN 1736-9290 (print)
ISSN 2228-3854 (online)