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Two syntax questions - UniLang

Two syntax questions

Moderator: Varislintu

Cruzverde
Posts: 2
Joined: 2014-06-18, 9:59

Two syntax questions

Postby Cruzverde » 2014-06-18, 11:25

I recently started learning finnish. Searching for learning material over the web, I came across the Selko Uutiset section of yle.fi, and especially its Toisi Selko subsection, which is even better : finally some written material I can fully understand at once ! Well, almost...
I stumbled upon two minor difficulties :

1/ In this article about automated driving car (http://yle.fi/selkouutiset/index.php?id=9977), there is that one sentence of which I don't fully get the syntax and the meaning :
Ihmiset voivat ostaa autoon uudenlaista tekniikkaa jo nyt.

My problem is with "autoon" : why an illative here ? I get the general meaning : People can already buy new technology "related" to cars. I would have expected a plural inessive (autoissa : new technology in cars), or a genitive (auton : new technology of the car (car as a general notion)). But why an illative ?


2/ In that other article about snakes you might meet in Spring (http://yle.fi/selkouutiset/index.php?id=9979), I am quite lost with that sentence :
Käärmeitä on kotien lähellä vain lyhyen aikaa.

Considering those words put altogether, I guess it means something like : «Snakes stay quite close to their home.», but I'm not sure. Could someone help me breakdown this sentence in smaller meaningful units ? For now, I get :
    -Käärmeitä = Snakes (plural partitive, so «snakes in general» or «unspecified number of snakes»)
    -on = are (but is it ok with «on» in the singular ? Or is the grammatical subjet of «on» somewhereelse in the sentence ?)
    -kotien lähellä = close to home (actually «homes», genitive plural)
    -vain lyhyen aikaa = vain is an adverb («only»). Lyhyen is the genitive of lyhyt («short») ? And then aikaa is, I guess, aika (time) in the singular partitive, because of «lyhyen» (same as vähän + partitive, or monta/paljon + partitive). So «only for short time» ? But why is lyhyt in the genitive ?

If someone can tell me what I still don't get, that'll be much appreciated !

User avatar
Naava
Posts: 84
Joined: 2012-01-17, 20:24
Gender: female
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Two syntax questions

Postby Naava » 2014-06-18, 14:02

My problem is with "autoon" : why an illative here ?

Because the technology that you buy will be inside your car; not on or under it. It's like "technology-going-inside-the-car". :D
If it were "ihmiset voivat ostaa autoissa", it'd mean "people can buy stuff inside cars".
If it were "ihmiset voivat ostaa auton tekniikkaa", it'd be just "car technology". The illative kind of stresses that the technology will be for the cars, not just related to them.

Käärmeitä on kotien lähellä vain lyhyen aikaa.

Snakes will be near homes only for a short time.
Käärmeitä - snakes, plural partitive
on - is
kotien - homes', plural genetive
lähellä - near
vain - only
lyhyen - short, genetive (I guess?)
aikaa - time, partitive

It's not "käärmeitä ovat", because käärmeet is not the subject: kotien lähellä on käärmeitä. There are snakes near homes. I guess there's no subject at all...? Käärmeitä is the object, kotien lähellä is like a location and on is the verb.

I think that "lyhyt" is an attributive or something. They're usually in genetive: kauniin sininen (beautiful blue), hyvin iso (very big), toisen värinen (of another colour).

I hope this helps. Good luck with Finnish! :)
native:  (fi)
speaks more or less fluently:  (en)
can talk about weird topics in:  (sv)
learning process started:  (ru) &  (et)

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Virankannos
Posts: 110
Joined: 2008-07-08, 10:07
Real Name: J M
Gender: male
Location: Uloa
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Two syntax questions

Postby Virankannos » 2014-06-18, 16:32

Käärmeitä on kotien lähellä vain lyhyen aikaa.
Actually käärmeitä is the subject here, not the object (there is never an object with olla). It is a so-called "existential subject" so it functions a bit differently from normal subjects. For example, it can be in partitive to denote, as Cruzverde suggested, an unspecified or indefinite number of snakes. If the subject is in partitive (even plural), the verb is in 3rd person singular like on here.

Lyhyen aikaa is a type of a fixed adverbial construction, where the first and the second word don't agree. Here are some more examples of such phrases: vähän aikaa 'for a while, little time' pitkäksi aikaa 'for a long time', tällä erää 'for now', hyvillä mielin 'in good spirits', sillä välin 'meanwhile', tällä tavoin 'in this way', missä kohtaa 'where (exactly)'

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Naava
Posts: 84
Joined: 2012-01-17, 20:24
Gender: female
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Two syntax questions

Postby Naava » 2014-06-18, 19:35

Virankannos wrote:
Käärmeitä on kotien lähellä vain lyhyen aikaa.
Actually käärmeitä is the subject here, not the object (there is never an object with olla). It is a so-called "existential subject" so it functions a bit differently from normal subjects.

I didn't know this! My school grammar failed now.
So does this mean that in a sentence like "talon lähellä on kissoja, koiria, käärmeitä, peltoja ja metsää" these all would be subjects?
native:  (fi)
speaks more or less fluently:  (en)
can talk about weird topics in:  (sv)
learning process started:  (ru) &  (et)

Cruzverde
Posts: 2
Joined: 2014-06-18, 9:59

Re: Two syntax questions

Postby Cruzverde » 2014-06-19, 6:36

Thanks everyone, that really helps !

So does this mean that in a sentence like "talon lähellä on kissoja, koiria, käärmeitä, peltoja ja metsää" these all would be subjects?


I guess so ! Your backyard looks crowded... :-)

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Virankannos
Posts: 110
Joined: 2008-07-08, 10:07
Real Name: J M
Gender: male
Location: Uloa
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Two syntax questions

Postby Virankannos » 2014-06-19, 11:46

Naava wrote:I didn't know this! My school grammar failed now.
So does this mean that in a sentence like "talon lähellä on kissoja, koiria, käärmeitä, peltoja ja metsää" these all would be subjects?
Yes. I'm not sure how they teach these things in primary and secondary school, but I don't remember hearing about existential subjects until I went to the university to study Finnish. If you get past the linguistic jargon, you might be interested to take a look at sections 893894 of Iso suomen kielioppi.


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