linguoboy wrote:Sorry, but this is all nonsense.
First of all, there's nothing unique about Estonian compounding. English forms nonce compounds at least as freely as Estonian does.
I still disagree on that point. As this article
(written for second-generation Estonian emigres by a women who has lived in both Canada and Estonia) says, a simple way to explain it is that in Estonian "one specific and integrated concept = one word". She also points out that although English does have compound words (she mentions flashlight and snowblower), Estonian takes it quite a bit further, with common words like hapukapsasupp
(sourcabbagesoup) and allmaaraudteejaam
(undergroundironroadstation = subway station). German does this quite a bit, too, but English really doesn't do so nearly as often as either of those languages do. Finding links for the nonce compounds is harder due to their very nature of being used only once or only a few times, but I can cite a few random ones from books I have here: tembuvennamüks
(prank-brother-poke, "a brotherly jab"), juusturattapale
(cheese-wheel-face, "a face that is round like a wheel of cheese"), saagikoristusmosaiik
(crop-collection-mosaic, "a mosaic depicting a harvest"). Of course you can say all of those things in English perfectly clearly, but in English you don't do it with a compound word.
linguoboy wrote:You've essentially proved that with your glosses below; "war bread", "hostility cake", and "story-telling blanket" are all perfectly understandable and unremarkable English coinages. (In fact, they've all already been used, as a quick Google search will demonstrate.)
But in English these aren't words, they're pairs of words that form descriptive phrases. This goes back to my original statement - Estonian uses compounding the way many other languages (including English) might use circumlocution or descriptions. "Story-telling blanket" might be unremarkable in English, but that's not the same as saying *storytellingblanket
is an unremarkable English word.
"abso-bloody-lutely" and "abso-bloody-exactly" are examples of an infix that doesn't change the meaning of concept of a word at all
As I'm sure a lot of morphemes in Estonian are, too.
Not sure what you mean here, so... maybe?
and internet hashtags are only compound words because of technical limitations, and thus don't really count. It's not the same as an ad-hoc compound to name a new concept.
I think this point may be a bit debatable. It may be true of the vast majority of hashtags, but hashtags are sometimes deliberately created, in contexts where they don't technically need to be, as a new way of expressing a point relatively succinctly.
Yes, but it's a recent innovation (languages do change!) and still limited to hashtags. Even when you see one in a place where it's not necessary, it still has the hashtag symbol before it to indicate that it's this unique type of word. To see #storytellingblanket with its hashtag is unremarkable in today's world, but again, to suddenly see storytellingblanket
mid-sentence in a newspaper or novel would still seem out of place and either whimsical or incorrect.
linguoboy wrote:You remember that I was talking about the words being anachronistic in English, because that's the language I'm reading the book in, right? I even said "I imagine these words are less jarring in Estonian[.]"
Sorry if I am too far off topic, then, because I thought you had also asked about how it sounded in languages besides English and I thought that you wanted to know if it's true that they're "less jarring" in Estonian. You had also posted on the Estonian forum that you were interested in the Estonian language so I had (incorrectly, it seems) jumped to the conclusion that you were asking. (And back when you had posted on the Estonian forum that you were reading Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu
, I actually did
initially think you meant you were reading it in Estonian. But I figured it out.) Our discussion here seems to have gone down a bit of a rabbit hole. I don't usually post on this subforum, so to be honest I had lost sight of the fact that this thread is meant to focus on "what you are currently reading" rather than linguistics.
linguoboy wrote:His central conceit is that there exists a language taught to humanity by snakes which allows them to command animals and I'm perfectly willing to accept that. I'm actually disappointed there wasn't more Estonian folklore in the book. The first chapter led me to expect that he would be incorporating a panoply of traditional folktales into his setting and narrative in interesting ways and he didn't make good on that early promise. I can understand why he's a sensation in Estonian, but I don't see that the rest of the world is missing much by not having access to his works.
Ouch. Well, I'm thinking the book may have more basis in folklore and history than you realize, though. The part about people knowing the language of snakes is absolutely a common theme in folklore; usually it involves people who can whisper, hiss, and whistle to snakes and the snakes will come when called, cure snakebites when instructed to, and avoid populated areas if commanded to leave. The language gives its speakers command over snakes and in some cases other aspects of the natural world. The folktales usually include mention of the fact that most people no longer know this language and that once the language is lost it won't be possible to control snakes anymore. And, in several books of folktales that I have, the tale even has the exact same title: Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu
(or in one case, Jutt mehest, kes teadis ussisõnu
). Anyway, the theme of some people choosing to live in the forest or in the country while others living in a village also goes back a long ways in history and folklore. In Estonian history usually people from elsewhere lived in cities (Germans, Swedes, Danes, depending on the time period and location) and their languages were spoken there; in the countryside and forests Estonians spoke their own language and lived a more traditional lifestyle without the conveniences that the "foreigners" had brought with them. Based on your description, I suspect that Kivirähk is alluding to this in the book. Depending on the timeline (and I'm still unsure of the time period of this book), they probably lived either in barn-dwellings with large stone ovens (rehetare
) or in chimneyless huts (suitsutare
). You also mentioned living in caves, and that too may be allegory, because throughout history Estonians have sometimes fled into the forest to escape oppression from outsiders, and lived in hidden dwellings there. Even as recently as the 1940's and the years after, there were Estonian soldiers (metsavennad
: "forest brothers") who lived in caves and tunnels in the forest to hide after the Soviet occupation, sometimes for years or decades. So the idea of living in a forest cave is probably a lot more recent than you are imaging, or at least its existence in the novel doesn't in and of itself identify a particular time period. It may be that there is no specific time period envisioned for this book (does it ever name a timeline?) but rather a mesh of folklore and history from various periods. There is very little you've mentioned from the book that couldn't be connected to either folklore or historic themes. And combining elements like that is very common in Estonian literature; even the Estonian "national epic", Kalevipoeg
, was a combination of authentic centuries-old folk poetry, and fantasy created by its author/compiler in the mid-1800's.