The position and function of locative demonstrative adverbs in Estonian

A case study on motion clauses

Keywords: locative demonstrative adverbs, reference, spatial semantics, syntax, motion, Estonian

Demonstratives are extremely important in all languages due to them having various pragmatic, semantic, and syntactic functions. For this reason, they are frequently studied and our current knowledge of demonstratives is also comparatively rich. However, research into demonstratives tends to concentrate mainly on demonstrative pronouns, while demonstrative adverbs have received much less attention. The same applies to Estonian linguistic tradition in that demonstrative pronouns are much more exhaustively investigated than demonstrative adverbs. The current study aims to fill this gap by analysing the use and function of locative demonstrative adverbs in Estonian. The analysis of locative demonstrative adverbs is based on 229 clauses that represent the semantic domain of actual motion (e.g., ta jooksis seal ‘(s)he was running there’). The analysis is primarily qualitative and focuses on the placement of demonstrative adverbs with respect to the other spatial expressions and the predicate in motion clauses. It also describes the syntactic, pragmatic, and semantic functions that demonstrative adverbs may have in discourse. The analysis reveals many patterns for Estonian locative demonstrative adverbs. Firstly, a demonstrative adverb in Estonian may be used as a single non-verb spatial expression in a clause (e.g., ta jooksis seal ‘(s)he was running there’), but it can also be used in combination with other spatial expressions (e.g., ta jooksis seal metsas ‘lit. (s)he was running there in the forest’). Secondly, demonstrative adverbs tend to occur immediately before the spatial expression (see above), but they can also occur after the spatial expression (e.g., ta jooksis metsas seal ‘(s)he was running in the forest there’). Thirdly, they can be separated from the spatial expression by other syntactic units (e.g., seal ta jooksis metsas ‘there (s)he was running in the forest’). Furthermore, when a demonstrative adverb and spatial expression are adjacent, they tend to refer to the same spatial region (e.g., ta jooksis sinna [GOAL] majja [GOAL] lit. ‘(s)he ran thereinto the house’). When they are not adjacent, they tend to refer to different spatial regions (e.g., seal [LOCATION] ta jooksis majja [GOAL] ‘there (s)he ran into the house’). As for their syntactic functions, locative demonstrative adverbs can be described as locative adverbials, articles, or apposition-like units. They also help to create textual coherence and they clearly stand for many referential tasks, while also setting the spatial background of a depicted event. As such, the analysis of Estonian locative demonstrative adverbs indicates their rich and intricate structural and functional variability.

Piia Taremaa (b. 1982), PhD, University of Tartu, Research Fellow in General Linguistics,


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