Epäillä-verbin polaarinen kaksihahmotteisuus merkitysmuutoksena

Translated title of the contribution: The polar ambiguity of the Finnish verb epäillä as evidenced through meaning development

Jutta Maaria Salminen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The Finnish verb epäillä has two opposite interpretations: ’doubt’ (negation-inclining) and ’suspect/suppose’ (affirmation-inclining). This paper investigates the diachronic development behind the current variation in polarity. The analysis is based on the tripartite diachronic data encompassing Old Finnish (from the 16th to the 18th centuries), Early Modern Finnish (the 19th century), and Modern Finnish (from the 20th century to present).

The data indicates that, during the period of Early Modern Finnish, the typical reading has undergone a change from negation-inclining to affirmation-inclining in two complement constructions, namely with a finite että (’that’) clause and a non-finite complement. With embedded questions, however, the typical reading has remained negation-inclining due to the fact that a question itself usually implies negation.

The reanalysis is suggested to have happened with the finite että clause, due to the possibility of expressing negation overtly in the complement clause. As soon as negation is overtly marked, it is possible to conclude that the verb epäillä does not contain inherent negation on its own. This reanalysis of the inner semantic structure enables such affirmation-inclining use in which negation exists neither in the verb nor in the complement.

The analysis reveals that, though not extinct in Modern Finnish, the negation-inclining uses of epäillä constructions have been more frequent in the past. The effects of language contact as an explanation for the former interpretation are also discussed in this paper.
Original languageFinnish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)37-66
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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