Long consonants in Estonian?

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Woods
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Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Long consonants in Estonian?

Postby Woods » 2019-06-04, 10:49

According to Wikipedia, "[l]ike the vowels, most consonants can be inherently short or long," however, when I look at Estonian texts there don't seem to be many spots with twice the same consonant. Right now I'm looking at something hung at the wall with 17 lines of text and I see one nn and one ss, that's all. I can also see single consonants in place of what would be double in Finnish (oleme), so my first reaction was to assume that there are no long consonants in Estonian, only long stressed vowels. So when do long consonants occur and how often does it happen?

Linguaphile
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Re: Long consonants in Estonian?

Postby Linguaphile » 2019-06-04, 13:41

Woods wrote:According to Wikipedia, "[l]ike the vowels, most consonants can be inherently short or long," however, when I look at Estonian texts there don't seem to be many spots with twice the same consonant. Right now I'm looking at something hung at the wall with 17 lines of text and I see one nn and one ss, that's all. I can also see single consonants in place of what would be double in Finnish (oleme), so my first reaction was to assume that there are no long consonants in Estonian, only long stressed vowels. So when do long consonants occur and how often does it happen?

There are three lengths for consonants (and vowels) in Estonian: short, long, and overlong. In writing, for consonants it looks like this:

ShortLongOverlong
lina "flax" (nom.)linna "town" (gen.)linna "town" (illat.)
kabi "hoof" (nom.)kapi "cabinet" (gen.)kappi "cabinet" (part.)
kade "jealous" (nom.)kate "cover" (nom.)katte "cover" (gen.)
lage "bare" (nom.)lake "slop" (nom.)lakke "ceiling" (illat.)

Long consonants are sometimes written doubled, just as you thought, but not always, and there is also no difference in the written forms of long versus overlong consonants except for k and t. The letter k is the long version of g and kk is the overlong version; t is the long version of d and tt is the overlong version. Monosyllabic words also tend to be overlong (silm "eye", külm "cold" and so on) without being written with doubled consonants. So, you cannot count long consonants simply by looking for double letters.

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Woods
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Re: Long consonants in Estonian?

Postby Woods » 2019-06-04, 22:46

Linguaphile wrote:There are three lengths for consonants (and vowels) in Estonian: short, long, and overlong. In writing, for consonants it looks like this:

ShortLongOverlong
lina "flax" (nom.)linna "town" (gen.)linna "town" (illat.)
kabi "hoof" (nom.)kapi "cabinet" (gen.)kappi "cabinet" (part.)
kade "jealous" (nom.)kate "cover" (nom.)katte "cover" (gen.)
lage "bare" (nom.)lake "slop" (nom.)lakke "ceiling" (illat.)

Long consonants are sometimes written doubled, just as you thought, but not always, and there is also no difference in the written forms of long versus overlong consonants except for k and t. The letter k is the long version of g and kk is the overlong version; t is the long version of d and tt is the overlong version.

Surprise! So it's definitely not what it seemed...

So there are no voiced consonants?


Monosyllabic words also tend to be overlong (silm "eye", külm "cold" and so on) without being written with doubled consonants. So, you cannot count long consonants simply by looking for double letters.

Which consonant is the long one here?

Linguaphile
Posts: 1999
Joined: 2016-09-17, 5:06

Re: Long consonants in Estonian?

Postby Linguaphile » 2019-06-05, 1:54

Linguaphile wrote:there is also no difference in the written forms of long versus overlong consonants except for k and t. The letter k is the long version of g and kk is the overlong version; t is the long version of d and tt is the overlong version.

For some reason, this morning I left off one more set: b p pp. The letter p is the long version of b and pp is the overlong version.

Woods wrote:So there are no voiced consonants?

Well, if you are referring only to the plosives or stops, the short variants (b d g ) are often partially voiced between vowels, but in my experience this seems to depend on the speaker. It doesn't impact meaning.
If you mean voiced consonants in general, yes there are other voiced consonants like v, l, r, m, n, etc.

Woods wrote:Which consonant is the long one here?

The first one in this case, or at least that is how I hear it, but the overlong quantity is suprasegmental, so it affects the entire syllable. In addition to the lengthening, overlong words have what is sometimes described as a very slight pause, or sometimes described as "delayed stress", that occurs between the two consonants. You can hear these words (külm, silm) under the heading Sõnavormid on the top right of the page at those links. On that site it gives the nominative, then genitive, then partitive, and has audio for each. The nominative and partitive forms are overlong, the genitive isn't, so you can hear the contrast between them by listening to those three forms (especially the contrast between genitive and partitive, as they are the same in writing - silma, külma - and the only difference between them is that the partitive (third) form is overlong while the genitive (second) form is not).


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