Olema + Vmine constructions in Estonian dialects


In most of the available descriptions of Estonian, action nominals regularly derived from verbs via mine-suffixation have been classified among nouns, thus being typically addressed from their word class perspective, with the main focus on intraphrasal aspects. However, according to some studies of literary Estonian, certain semantic properties as well as the syntactic distribution of action nominals suggest describing them via the constructions in which they appear. This article investigates one of such hitherto little discussed constructions, namely, a combination of a finite verb olema ‘tobe’ and an action nominal in the nominative or partitive case, based on spontaneous dialect speech drawn from the Estonian Dialect Corpus. As action nominals and the corresponding constructions are relatively rare in the corpus material their usage fails to discriminate between Estonian dialect areas. The construction olema + VmineNOM/PAR, being formally reminiscent of an existential or possessive clause, is found in all Estonian dialects. Its main function is to emphasise process over agent either by omission of the latter or by forcing it to the position of an adessive experiencer or a genitive attribute. Some of such constructions, however, have an additional modal meaning enabling the constructions to express not only impersonalisation but also a judgement of obligation, permission or necessity concerning the process referred to by the action nominal. This creates an association with similar constructions of necessity used, for example, in Finnish and Livonian, as well as with some other more archaic constructions known from the Finnic area.