Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language*

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JSL,
21 Volume 9 (2013), 21–32
Jun’ichi Sakuma
Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language*
Jun’ichi Sakuma
The Finnish language has a series of so-called reflexive suffixes. When they are attached to a
verbal root, it becomes an intransitive verb. According to the previous studies, intransitive verbs
with a reflexive suffix, reflexive verbs henceforth, can indicate three different kinds of meaning,
i.e. a reflexive, a passive and an automative meaning. There are considerable differences among
these three cases indeed. But the meanings conveyed by different kinds of reflexive verbs are only
apparently different from each other. What is common to all of the instances is that a resultant
state of the referent of a subject is described and a causative event is not an essential part of the
description. This amounts to say that reflexive verbs can be characterized as anti-causatives,
irrespective of their accompanying meaning.
1. Introduction
The Finnish language has a series of so-called reflexive suffixes, i.e. -U-, -tU, -UtU, -(V)
VntU- and some others1. When they are attached to a verbal root, it becomes an intransitive
verb. According to the previous studies, intransitive verbs with a reflexive suffix, reflexive verbs
henceforth, can indicate three different kinds of meaning. One of the meanings they indicate
is a reflexive relation between an agent and a patient. On the other hand, some reflexive verbs
indicate a passive-like meaning. Reflexive verbs can also indicate an automative meaning.
‘Automative’ means that some event occurs or occurred spontaneously. From a semantic point
of view, there are considerable differences among three cases. However, we should not forget
that all of the reflexive verbs have the same reflexive suffix, irrespective of their meaning. Then,
the purpose of this paper is to show that the meanings conveyed by different kinds of reflexive
verbs are only apparently different from each other. I claim that all of the instances of reflexive
verbs can be characterized as anti-causatives.
The order of discussion will be as follows: Section 2 overviews the correspondence
between intransitive and transitive verbs in general in the Finnish language. Section 3
surveys various instances of reflexive verbs and attempts to illustrate that all the instances of
reflexive verbs indicate anti-causativity. Section 4 considers the relationship between reflexive
intransitive verbs and their corresponding transitive ones.
2. Correspondence between intransitive and transitive verbs
2.1 Transitive and intransitive verbs
As has been said above, a reflexive suffix can convert a transitive verb into an intransitive
22
Jun’ichi Sakuma
one. But how should transitive verbs and intransitive ones be defined respectively? Let us begin
with the definition of these two types of verbal predicates.
It is not easy to define them, however, because transitivity they have varies gradually. It
is indeed possible to decide whether a verb is transitive or not, according to its meaning, but
it would be better to define them on the basis of morphological marking, since meanings
verbs have are transitional in nature. Thus, in this paper we define transitive verbs as verbal
predicates taking two arguments. One of the two arguments functions as a subject and it is
usually marked in the nominative case, while the other argument serves as an object, whose
case marking can vary among the partitive, the genitive and the nominative case2. On the other
hand, intransitive verbs can be defined as verbal predicates that have only one argument. The
sole argument of intransitive verbs is usually marked in the nominative case.
2.2 Passive of the Finnish language
The Finnish language has several syntactic ways that can change the valency of verbal
predicates3. Among them, the passivization is the way that reduces their valency. Take the
following for example:
(1) Suome-ssa
puhu-ta-an
hyvin englanti-a.
Finland-INE.SG speak-PASS.PRES well English-PART.SG
English is well spoken in Finland.
This is a passive sentence and it corresponds with the following active sentence. That is:
(2) Suomalaise-t
puhu-vat
hyvin englanti-a.
Finn-NOM.PL speak-3PL.PRES well English-PART.SG
Finns speak English well.
The predicate of these two sentences, puhua ‘to speak’, is a transitive verb, which takes a
nominative subject and a partitive object. The subject of the sentence (2), suomalaiset ‘Finns’,
is not overtly expressed in the sentence (1). It is important to note that the subject in question
is not simply omitted but entirely suppressed. As a matter of fact, a subject argument of a
transitive sentence can never be expressed in a corresponding passive sentence. This means that
Finnish passive sentences do not have a subject and therefore they are impersonal. The object
of the active sentence (2), on the other hand, is left unchanged in the corresponding passive
sentence (1). However, this is not always the case. Take the following for example:
(3a) Joku
mies
kaatoi
puun
kirvee-llä..
some-NOM.SG man-NOM.SG cut-3SG.PST tree-GEN.SG axe-ADE.SG
A man chopped down a tree by an axe.
(3b) Puu
kaade-tti-in kirvee-llä.
tree-NOM.SG fall-PASS.PST axe-ADE.SG
The tree was chopped down by an axe.
The morphological cases used to mark the object of these two sentences are different from each
Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language
23
other. In the impersonal passive sentence (3b) the object is marked not in the genitive case but
in the nominative case. One may notice that the nominative is the case that indicates most
typically a subject of a sentence. Then, one might wonder whether the nominative argument
in (3b) is promoted to a subject or not. In the Finnish language, however, the nominative case
is available not only for a subject but also for an object. Moreover, the nominative argument in
(3b) does not agree in person and number with the predicate. This means that the argument
in question cannot be interpreted as a subject, although it is marked in the nominative case.
Thus, it is reasonable to say that the passivization of the Finnish language is a syntactic process
that reduces the valency by suppressing a subject of the corresponding active sentence.
It should not be overlooked that even an intransitive sentence can be converted into a
corresponding impersonal passive sentence. This is because passive predicates are impersonal.
If they are personal, an object of corresponding active predicates should be promoted to a
subject in order to fulfill the requirement that they agree in person and number with their
subject. This amounts to say that a personal passive sentence cannot be made from an
intransitive sentence. But such a restriction does not apply to the Finnish language, since the
Finnish passive is impersonal. The following serves as an example.
(4a) Juhannukse-na
suomalaise-t tanssi-vat
myöhään yö-hön
asti.
Midsummer-ESS.SG Finn-NOM.PL dance-3PL.PRES late
night-ILL.SG until
At Midsummer Finns dance until late at night.
(4b) Juhannukse-na
tanssi-ta-an
myöhään yö-hön
asti.
Midsummer-ESS.SG dance-PASS.PRES late
night-ILL.SG until
At Midsummer people dance until late at night.
The predicate of these sentences is tanssia ‘to dance’, which is an intransitive predicate.
2.3 Causative of the Finnish language
Contrary to the passivization, the causativization is a process that increases the valency
of predicates. Verbs which undergo the causativization can be either transitive or intransitive.
Take the following for example:
(5a) Keisari
raken-si
temppeli-n.
emperor-NOM.SG build-3SG.PST temple-GEN.SG
The emperor built a temple.
(5b) Kesari
rakennu-tt-i
orj-i-lla
temppeli-n.
emperor-NOM.SG make someone build-3SG.PST slave-ADE.PL temple-GEN.SG
The emperor commanded the slaves to build a temple.
(5c) Keisari
pan-i
orja-t
rakenta-ma-an
temppeli-n.
emperor-NOM.SG make-3SG.PST slave-NOM.PL build-INF(MA).ILL temple-GEN.SG
The emperor made the slaves build a temple.
Both the sentences (5b) and (5c) are derived from the sentence (5a), which has two arguments,
24
Jun’ichi Sakuma
keisari ‘emperor’ in the nominative case and temppeli ‘temple’ in the genitive case. On the
other hand, in the causative sentences (5b) and (5c) there are one more argument, orja ‘slave’,
in addition to the original arguments. This newly introduced argument is, however, indicated
differently, in the adessive case in (5b) and in the nominative case in (5c). In the former way of
causativization, a causative predicate is derived from a corresponding non-causative predicate
by adding a suffix -ttA- to its stem. Such a predicate is called a curative verb (teettoverbi in
Finnish). On the other hand, in the latter way of causativization, the causativity is expressed by
introducing an additional predicate. The newly introduced predicate in (5c) is a causative verb
panna ‘to make’ and it agrees in person and number with the subject. In addition, the noncausative predicate in (5a) is converted into a third infinitive in (5c). The newly introduced
argument, orja ‘slave’, can be interpreted semantically as a subject of the third infinitive
rakentamaan indeed. But it should be regarded as an object of the causative verb panna. This is
the reason the newly introduced argument is marked in the nominative case, which is available
also for the object.
Another difference between two types of causative sentence is that in the former a newly
introduced argument can be omitted, while it should be overtly expressed in the latter type of
sentence. What is important to note is that the nominative subject, keisari ‘emperor’, of both of
the sentences (5b) and (5c) is a causer rather than an agent. In other words, the referent of the
nominative subject did not ‘construct a temple’ by himself. What functions as an agent is the
newly introduced argument. But it is not a volitional agent, since it functions also as a causee
by contrast with a nominative causer argument.
2.4 Alternation between intransitive and transitive verbs
The causative suffix -ttA- mentioned above can also be used to convert an intransitive
verb into a transitive one. Compare the following two sentences:
(6a) Hän
herä-si
herätyskello-n
soitto-on.
he-NOM wake up-3SG.PST alarm-clock-GEN.SG ringing-ILL.SG
He was woken by the alarm-clock.
(6b) Herätyskello
herä-tt-i
häne-t kuude-lta.
alarm-clock-NOM.SG wake up-3SG.PST he-ACC six-ABL.SG
The alarm-clock woke him up at six.
The verb herätä ‘to wake up’ in (6a) is intransitive and corresponds with the verb herättää,
which is transitive and contains the causative suffix -ttA-. In this case a transitive verb is derived
from an intransitive verb by adding the causative suffix to the stem of the latter.
On the other hand, there are cases where an intransitive verb is derived from a transitive
one. In this case what is attached to the stem of a transitive verb is a reflexive suffix. Take the
following for example:
(7a) Hän
ava-si
nopeasti ove-n
ja sulk-i
se-n
he-NOM open-3SG.PST quickly door-GEN.SG and close-3SG.PST it-GEN.SG
Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language
25
pamahta-e-n.
bang-INF(E).INS
He opened the door quickly and closed it with a bang.
(7b) Ovi
sulke-utu-i
pamaahta-e-n
häne-n
jälkee-nsä.
door-NOM.SG close-3SG.PST bang-INF(E).INS he-3SG.GEN. after-3SG.PX
The door closed with a bang behind him.
The verb sulkeutua ‘to close’ in (7b) is intransitive and is derived from a corresponding
transitive verb sulkea in (7a) by adding -utu- to the stem of the latter.
Thus, as regards the alternation between intransitive and transitive verbs, the Finnish
language has derivational processes in both directions. According to Haspelmath (1993) and
Nichols et al. (2004), the world languages are different from each other as to the derivational
direction they have. For example, most European languages have a strong preference for a
derivation from a transitive verb to an intransitive one. Unlike these languages, Finnish can
derive verbs in both directions almost equally, although the derivation of transitive verbs from
intransitive ones is slightly more prevalent.
3. Reflexive verbs in the Finnish language
3.1 Classification of reflexive verbs
Let us now turn to the main topic of this paper, that is to say, reflexive verbs in the Finnish
language. Reflexive verbs contain one of the reflexive suffixes, which convert a transitive verb
into an intransitive one. Therefore, reflexive verbs are intransitive by definition. According to
Kulonen-Korhonen (1985), Koivisto (1991), Siitonen (1999) and Hakulinen et al. (2004:
330–333), reflexive verbs can be classified into three sub-groups according to their meaning4.
The three sub-groups are reflexive, passive and automative. The following are a few random
examples:
(8) Tyttö
pese-yty-i
nopeasti.
girl-NOM.SG wash oneself-3SG.PST quickly
The girl washed herself quickly.
(9) Tyttö
siirt-y-i
toise-lle
tuoli-lle.
girl-NOM.SG move-3SG.PST other-ALL.SG chair-ALL.SG
The girl moved to another chair. (Siitonen 1999: 89)
(10) Vesi
tunke-utu-u
venee-seen.
water-NOM.SG force one’s way-3SG.PRES boat-ILL.SG
Water rashes into the boat. (Koivisto 1995: 42)
(11) Vene
tempa-utu-i
virra-n
vie-tä-vä-ksi.
boat-NOM.SG be carried away-3SG.PST current-GEN.SG bring-PASS-PTCP(VA)-TRA
The boat was carried away by the current. (Ibid.)
26
Jun’ichi Sakuma
(12) Puu
kaat-u-i
myrsky-ssä.
tree-NOM.SG fall-3SG.PST storm-INE.SG
The tree fell down in the storm.
(13) Puu
kaat-u-i
kirvee-llä.
tree-NOM.SG fall-3SG.PST axe-ADE.SG
The tree was chopped down by an axe. (Siitonen 1999: 89)
(14) Kirja
käänt-y-y
suome-sta
ruotsi-ksi.
book-NOM.SG turn-3SG.PRES Finnish-ELA.SG Swedish-TRA.SG
The book is translated from Finnish into Swedish. (Koivisto 1995: 44)
The sentences (8) and (9) are instances having a reflexive meaning. The sentences (10)–(12)
are automative, while the sentences (13)–(14) have a passive-like meaning. Among these three
sub-groups there are some differences. According to Siitonen (1999) the differences can be
schematized as follows:
subject
agent
volitionality of agent
reflexive
mostly animate
= subject
volitional
automative
mostly inanimate
doesn’t exist
passive
mostly inanimate
not overtly expressed
mostly volitional
We will take up below these sub-groups one by one.
3.2 Reflexive verbs having an automative meaning
Let us start with reflexive verbs that have an automative meaning. The sentences (10)–
(12) above are a few random examples of the automative usage. ‘Automative’ means that some
event occurs or occurred spontaneously. Just like in the passive-like usage treated below, the
subject of reflexive verbs in this usage is a patient. But no volitional agent is entailed in this
case. The described event is brought about by some natural force, for example, rather than
caused by some volitional agent.
This usage has been called ‘automative’ in the traditional grammar of the Finnish
language. However, what the term ‘automative’ means is almost the same as what is referred to
by the term ‘anti-causative’ (Koivisto 1995: 38). The anti-causativization is a reverse process
of the causativization. It has long been discussed since Nedjalkov and Sil’nickij (1969) first
introduced this term. According to Kulikov (2001), the anti-causative can be defined as
follows:
(15) The label anticausative is used to refer to the non-causative member of the
opposition in the case where the directions of semantic (‘Vo’ → ‘cause Vo’) and
formal derivation do not match, i.e. in those instances where the non-causative is
morphologically more complex than the causative. (Kulikov 2001: 888)
The anti-causativization reduces the valency of transitive predicates. Then, anti-causatives are
Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language
27
intransitive predicates by definition.
3.3 Reflexive verbs having a reflexive meaning
Let’s now turn to another usage. As the term ‘reflexive’ suggests, some reflexive verbs have
naturally a reflexive meaning. Take the sentence (8), repeated here as the sentence (16) for
convenience, for example:
(16) Tyttö
pese-yty-i
nopeasti.
girl-NOM.SG wash oneself-3SG.PST quickly
The girl washed herself quickly.
A reflexive verb having a reflexive meaning indicates a reflexive relation between an agent and a
patient. For example, in the sentence (16), the agent of ‘washing’ is the referent of the subject,
tyttö ‘girl’, and the patient of ‘washing’ is the same entity. In other words, in this sentence,
the subject of the verb in question functions not only as an agent but also as a patient. What
should be noticed here is that the patient itself is not overtly expressed, although its existence
is strongly entailed. Then, the verb in question is not transitive but intransitive.
As the referent of a subject in this usage is usually an animate entity, the described event
seems to be an action caused by a volitional agent. However, a closer examination reveals that
this is not always the case. For example:
(17) Kun normaali-ihoinen
pese-yty-y
saippua-n
kera,
when normal-skinned-NOM.SG wash oneself-3SG.PRES soap-GEN.SG with
ihon
rasva-t
pese-yty-vät
osittain pois.
skin-GEN.SG fat-NOM.PL wash oneself-3SG.PRES partly off
When a normal-skinned person washes himself with soap, skin fats are partly washed
off. (Hakulinen et al. 2004: 330)
In this sentence the verb peseytyä ‘to wash oneself ’ is used twice. In the subordinate clause
the subject of the verb is animate indeed, but the matrix subject is inanimate. Then, the
second instance of the verb peseytyä should be interpreted to be automative rather than to be
reflexive. It is important to note that what the subordinate clause of this sentence describes is
prerequisite for the content described in the matrix clause. This means that the subordinate
clause is describing a resultant state rather than an action by an animate volitional agent.
When a verb is reflexive, an agent and a patient should refer to an identical entity. But this
is not true of the following sentence. That is:
(18) Kärppä
pure-utu-i
saalii-nsa
kurkku-un.
ermine-NOM.SG bite firmly on-3SG.PST prey-GEN.SG-3PX throat-ILL.SG
The ermine bit firmly on the throat of a prey. (Koivisto 1995: 41)
In this sentence the subject, kärppä ‘ermine’, is animate and ‘to bite firmly on the throat of a
prey’ can be regarded as a volitional action of the referent of the subject. However, the patient
of this action is not the referent of the subject itself. Then, the question is why the reflexive
verb, pureutua ‘to bite firmly on’, is used in this sentence. As a matter of fact, what is described
28
Jun’ichi Sakuma
in this sentence is not the ‘ermine’s biting’. The ‘ermine clung to the throat of a prey’ as a
consequence of ‘biting’ by the ‘ermine’ itself. In other words, this sentence describes a resultant
state of the referent of the subject after it ‘had bitten on the throat of a prey’.
From what has been said above, it follows that reflexive verbs having a reflexive meaning
do not necessarily mean an action by a volitional agent. At least in some instances what is
described is a resultant state brought about by some action of the referent of a subject. In fact,
this observation can also be applied to more typical instances of this usage. For example, the
sentence (16) can be interpreted to be expressing a resultant state, since it cannot co-occur with
a purposive clause and its predicate cannot express a progressive meaning. If one must express
an action itself by a volitional agent, one should use the reflexive pronoun, as is exemplified in
the following sentence:
(19) Tyttö
pes-i
itse-nsä
nopeasti.
girl-NOM.SG wash-3SG.PST oneself-GEN.SG-3PX quickly
The girl washed herself quickly.
In this sentence the patient of ‘washing’ is overtly expressed by the reflexive pronoun. If what
reflexive verbs having a reflexive meaning express is a resultant state in fact, the difference
between this usage and automative usage is much smaller than it seems to be. Rather, they are
common in that both of them express a resultant state brought about by a preceding causal
event.
3.4 Reflexive verbs having a passive meaning
Let us now consider the third usage of reflexive verbs. Some reflexive verbs can indicate
a passive-like meaning, as is shown from the sentence (13), repeated here as the sentence (20)
for convenience. That is:
(20) Puu
kaat-u-i
kirvee-llä.
tree-NOM.SG fall-3SG.PST axe-ADE.SG
The tree was chopped down by an axe. (Siitonen 1999: 89)
In this sentence the subject, puu ‘tree’, is not an agent but a patient. In traditional grammar
sentences like (20) are sometimes treated as personal passive sentences, since their subject
corresponds to an object of active sentences and agrees in person and number with a reflexive
predicate. Moreover, what is described in sentences like (20) is a resultant state brought about
by an action described in corresponding active sentences. Thus, there seem to be good reasons
to say sentences like (20) are personal passive sentences.
However, the Finnish language has impersonal passive sentences. Then, we should first
compare sentences like (20) with impersonal passive sentences. Take the following for example:
(21) Puu
kaade-tti-in kirvee-llä.
tree-NOM.SG fall-PASS.PST axe-ADE.SG
The tree was chopped down by an axe. (=(3b))
This sentence is an impersonal passive sentence. In impersonal passive sentences an agent of
Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language
29
a preceding action cannot be expressed overtly, but the existence of a human agent is strongly
entailed. This entailment is kept unchanged even without kirveellä ‘by axe’.
On the other hand, reflexive verbs in a passive-like meaning do not have such a strong
entailment. Reflexive verbs having a passive-like meaning cannot co-occur with an agent,
either5. But the existence of a human agent is not prerequisite for the passive-like usage of
reflexive predicates. If kirveellä ‘by axe’ is omitted from the sentence (20), for example, it
has more room for interpretation. That ‘the tree fell down because someone had cut it’ is a
possible interpretation indeed. But it is an equally possible interpretation that ‘the tree fell
down because of a strong storm’. This means that an agent of a preceding action as well as an
action itself is irrelevant to reflexive verbs in a passive-like meaning. Moreover, reflexive verbs
in a passive-like meaning cannot co-occur with a purposive clause. If this is the case, it is not
appropriate to regard sentences like (20) as personal passive sentences. They merely express a
resultant state, irrespective of the nature of a preceding causal event.
What should be noticed here is that the difference between this usage and automative one
is also small again. If one likes to specify a cause of ‘falling of the tree’, one can say as follows:
(22) Puu
kaat-u-i
myrsky-ssä.
tree-NOM.SG fall-3SG.PST storm-INE.SG
The tree fell down in the storm. (=(12))
In this sentence what counts as a cause of a resultant state is not a human agent but a natural
force. Then, the sentence (22) should be classified into an automative sub-group rather than
into a passive-like one.
3.5 Reflexive verbs and anti-causativization
From what has been said above, it follows that there are considerable differences among
three cases. However, the meanings conveyed by different kinds of reflexive verbs are only
apparently different from each other. First of all, what is described by reflexive verbs indicating
a reflexive relation is not an action caused by a volitional agent but a resultant state brought
about by the same action. Thus, the subject of these verbs is a patient rather than an agent.
If this is the case, the differences among three cases are much smaller than they seem to
be. Moreover, whether or not a described event is caused by a volitional agent is essentially
irrelevant to reflexive verbs, as is evident from the discussion above. What is common to all of
the three cases discussed above is that a resultant state of the referent of a subject is described
and a causative event is not an essential part of the description. This amounts to say that
reflexive verbs can be characterized as anti-causatives.
According to Haspelmath (2003), the concept ‘anti-causative’ can be mapped among
other neighboring concepts, such as ‘reflexive’, ‘passive’ and so on. The semantic map
Haspelmath (2003) proposed is as follows:
30
Jun’ichi Sakuma
(23)
full ― grooming/ ―
reflexive
body motion
|
naturally reciprocal
anticausative ―
|
deobjective
potential ― passive
passive
(Haspelmath 2003: 225)
It is not always the case where each concept is represented by a unique form. This means that
one and the same form can represent some neighboring concepts. For example, the reflexive
pronoun of the Russian language can be used not only in an anti-causative meaning but also
in many other meanings like a passive and a reciprocal meaning. Based upon a traditional
interpretation, it is possible to say that reflexive verbs in the Finnish language can also refer to
some neighboring concepts, such as ‘body action’ and ‘passive’, besides ‘anti-causative’, though
the range of the meaning reflexive verbs can represent is much narrower than the Russian
reflexive pronoun, for example. However, as has been mentioned above, various usages of
reflexive verbs can be interpreted equally as an instance of anti-causative. If this is the case, the
range of the meaning reflexive verbs express is even narrower than it seems to be.
4. Reflexive verbs and corresponding transitive verbs
Reflexive verbs are anti-causative, and therefore intransitive by definition. Each of them
has a corresponding transitive verb. However, there is much debate as to the way an anticausative verb is derived from a corresponding transitive one.
According to Koontz-Garboden (2009), for example, anti-causative verbs are potentially
transitive, since they contain a causative predicate in their lexical conceptual structure. That is:
(24) [x=y cause [y become [y be at-z]]]
In this lexical conceptual structure, the existence of a causer (x) of a causative predicate (cause)
is entailed, even if it is not overtly expressed and it refers to the same entity as an agent (y) of
a subordinate predicate (become). On the other hand, Levin & Rappaport-Hovav (1995), for
example, argues that a causer of a causative predicate is totally suppressed, as is shown in (25).
That is:
(25) [x cause [y become [y be at-z]]]
ϕ
Therefore, according to this hypothesis, anti-causative verbs are substantially intransitive.
One of the arguments which supports the former hypothesis is that anti-causative
predicates can co-occur with a reflexive expression. As a reflexive expression requires a coreferential antecedent, a causer argument should exist in the lexical conceptual structure of
anti-causative predicates. For example:
(26) Katulamppu
kaat-u-i
itse-stä-än
auto-n
pää-lle.
street lamp-NOM.SG fall-3SG.PST REFL-ELA.SG-3PX car-GEN.SG on
The street lamp fell down on a car by itself.
Reflexive Verbs and Anti-causativity in the Finnish Language
31
But the reflexive pronoun of the Finnish language can co-occur with verbs other than anticausative ones. Take the following for example:
(27) Tämä
auto
osa-a
hätätilantee-ssa
aja-a
this-NOM.SG car-NOM.SG can-3SG.PRES emergency-INE.SG drive-INF(A)
itse-stä-än.
REFL-ELA.SG-3PX
This car can drive by itself in emergency.
Then, it is difficult to decide which is a better hypothesis based solely upon the fact that
reflexive verbs can co-occur with a reflexive expression.
Moreover, there is another possibility. Both of the two hypotheses mentioned above
presuppose that there is a derivational relation between an anti-causative predicate and a
corresponding transitive one. However, it is also possible that the relation between them is
not so simple that the former cannot be simply derived from the latter by a morpho-syntactic
procedure. What should be noticed here is that the semantic role of the sole argument of an
anti-causative predicate may be a theme rather than a patient, since sentences containing an
anti-causative predicate express a resultant state. On the other hand, the argument in question
functions as a patient in corresponding transitive sentences. If this is the case, sentences
containing an anti-causative predicate are not direct equivalents of corresponding transitive
sentences.
5. Concluding remarks
In this paper we have surveyed various usages of reflexive verbs of the Finnish language.
Through this survey it becomes clear that reflexive verbs express primarily the anti-causativity,
even though some of the instances may entail a reflexive relation. What is described in
sentences containing a reflexive verb is not an action by some agent but a resultant state of
that action. Therefore, the sole argument of these sentences functions as a theme rather than
an agent or a patient. In many languages a form indicating the anti-causativity can also mean
some neighboring concepts. But the range of the meaning reflexive verbs of the Finnish
language can indicate is much narrower than other languages.
Notes
*
This research was supported by a grant-in-aid for scientific research (C): 2009–2012, No. 21520435, from the
Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Government of Japan.
1 Cognate reflexive suffixes have a wide distribution among Baltic-Finnic languages. The Estonian language has
similar suffixes, too. However, they are not native to it but were introduced from the Finnish language at around
the beginning of the 20th century. For further details of reflexive suffixes of the Finnish language, see KulonenKorhonen (1985), Koivisto (1991), Hakulinen et al. (2004: 329–347) for example. On reflexive suffixes in
Baltic-Finnic languages, see Koivisto (1995). For the development of reflexive suffixes in the Estonian language,
see Huhta (2004).
2 As regards nominals other than personal pronouns, the so-called accusative case is identical in form with the
genitive case in the singular and the nominative case in the plural. Then, in this paper, I do not regard the
accusative case as one of the morphological cases of the Finnish language.
32
3
4
5
Jun’ichi Sakuma
For further details of syntactic processes changing the valency in the Finnish language, see Pylkkänen (2008) for
example.
For a more elaborated classification of various meanings conveyed by reflexive verbs, see Koivisto (1995) for
example.
A reflexive verb having a passive-like meaning can co-occur with an agent indeed. But it is always indicated in an
oblique case. Take the following for example:
i) Mei-ltä hoit-u-vat
iso-t
ja piene-t
tilaisuude-t
kokemukse-lla.
we-ABL be handled-3PL.PRES big-NOM.PL and small-NOM.PL occasion-NOM.PL experience-ADE.SG
Big and small occasions can be handled by our experience. (Hakulinen et al. 2004: 1279)
In this sentence the agent is marked in the ablative case, which is not the case available for a subject and an object.
Abbreviations
“1,2,3”—person
ALL—allative
ILL—illative
INF(MA)—MA-infinitive
PASS—impersonal passive
PX—possessive suffix
PTCP(VA)—VA-participle
ABL—ablative
ELA—elative
INE—inessive
INS—instrumental
PL—plural
REFL—reflexive pronoun
ACC—accusative
ESS—essive
INF(A)—A-infinitive
NOM—nominative
PRES—present
SG—singular
ADE—adessive
GEN—genitive
INF(E)—E-infinitive
PART—partitive
PST—past
TRA—translative
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