Epistemically reinforced kyl(lä)/küll-responses in Estonian and Finnish: word order and social action

Leelo Keevallik, Auli Hakulinen

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This paper looks at responsive actions built with different word orders, targeting the epistemic element kyl(lä) in Finnish and küll in Estonian. Historically the same lexical item, meaning roughly ‘abundance’, kyl(lä)/küll currently occurs in conventionalized patterns, which reveal the interface of word order and social action, and corresponding semantic developments. In both languages, kyl(lä)/küll initiates reactive assessments. In Finnish, it is also used as a particle to initiate affirmative answers, while in unit-final positions it is an epistemic adverb. In Estonian, it initially formats consoling answers, while in unit-final positions, it is a regular part of a formulaic (dis)affirmation and functions almost like a clitic. In Finnish, both the initial and the final kyllä preferably occur in modally marked or otherwise expanded utterances whereas in Estonian, küll tends to occur in succinct, almost formulaic clauses and phrases. The paper argues that word order regarding what have traditionally been seen as peripheral syntactic elements, such as adverbs and particles, can be constitutive of units implementing social actions. It suggests that the sequential analysis of action is a perfect method for revealing subtle semantic and pragmatic differences in related languages.
Translated title of the contributionViron ja suomen episteemisesti vahvistetut kyllä-vastaukset: Sanajärjestys ja sosiaalinen toiminta
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue numberJan 2018
Pages (from-to)121-138
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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