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The functions of des- and mata-converb constructions

Keywords: syntax, semantics, grammatical semantics, constructional meaning, Estonian des-construction, Estonian mata-construction

 

The Estonian des- and mata-constructions operate as free modifiers of event constructions, thus qualifying for the typological definition of a converb construction. The des-converb construction modifies the main clause by expressing the occurrence of an event, whereas the mata-converb construction does the same by expressing the non-occurrence of an event. The adverbial function of the converb construction varies depending on context. As previous research has shown, the variation of the function of the des- and mata-converb construction is quite extensive. The article suggests some semantic-pragmatic categories forming a framework to describe this variation. The framework inloves two base functions and eight secondary ones. The base functions of a converb construction are c o n c o m i t a n c e and t i m e ; its secondary functions are cause, manner, instrument, comparison, result, concession, contrast and c o n d i t i o n. Each des- and mata-converb construction has a fixed base function, which may either perform as the lone function of the construction or co-exist with one or more secondary functions.

As shown by qualitative corpus analysis, a des-converb may have either c o n c o m i t a n c e or t i m e as its base function, whereas a mata-converb construction always features c o n c o m i t a n c e as its base function, never t i m e. The secondary functions c a u s e, i n s t r u m e n t, c o n c e s s i o n and condition can co-exist with both c o n c o m i t a n c e and t i m e as base functions, whereas the secondary functions m a n n e r, c o m p a r i s o n, r e s u l t/c o n s e q u e n c e and c o n t r a s t only coexist with c o n c o m i t a n c e as their base function. In the corpus data analysed there was not a single mata-converb construction with the secondary function c o m p a r i s o n, and only two mata-converb constructions had the secondary function i n s t r u m e n t. The des-converb construction can present all secondary functions, but the secondary functions c o n c e s s i o n and c o n t r a s t occur more seldom with the des-converb construction than with the mata-converb construction. There are both des- and mata-converb constructions combining several secondary functions. The combinations of the secondary functions c a u s e - c o n d i t i o n and c o n c e s s i o n - c o n d i t i o n occur with both converb constructions, but the des-converb construction also accepts combinations of the secondary functions c a u s e - m a n n e r, i n s t r u m e n t - c o n c e s s i o n and i n s t r u m e n t - c o n d i t i o n, while the mata-construction also accepts the combinations of m a n n e r - r e s u l t, m a n n e r - c o n c e s s i o n, r e s u l t - c o n t r a s t and manner-condition.

 

Carl Eric Simmul (b. 1991), PhD Student, University of Tartu, simmulman@gmail.com

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