The problem of the Old Finnish passive
Old Finnish (1540–1809) shows variation between non-promotional and promotional passives. Historically, there is reason to suppose that the Finnic passive was originally promotional and that a shift to a non-promotional passive already took place during Proto-Finnic times. At first sight, the Old Finnish promotional passive could be based on contact with German, Swedish, and the classical languages — but it could also be a Proto-Finnic remnant conserved partially through these language contacts. To ascertain which is the case, I apply the notion advanced by Timberlake (1977)
that a syntactic process of reanalysis and extension will first proceed in contexts which are least marked from the viewpoint of the new analysis, to a corpus of Old Finnish texts. The result is that some texts do indeed exhibit a stepwise generalization of non-promotional passives with, for example, indefinite and divisible arguments. This generalization is restricted to non-periphrastic passives: periphrastic passives are generally promotional. I argue that this state of affairs is best explained by assuming that a Proto-Finnic promotional passive remained in use in the language of the Finnish educated elite until early Old Finnish times, and that the non-promotional passive of Old Finnish is innovative.
- 2.The Finnish passive
- 2.1The historical background of the Finnish passive
- 2.2The passive in Old Finnish
- 3.The study
- 3.1The corpus
- 3.2General remarks
- 3.3Definiteness and referentiality
- 3.6Interim summary
- 4.1General remarks
- 4.2Subject or object?