The problem of paronyms in Estonian

Keywords: corpus planning, lexis planning, language change, literary language, paronyms

Sometimes different dictionaries face the user with contradicting information. An example of such contradiction is the treatment of paronyms in Estonian. Traditionally, descriptive and prescriptive dictionaries have been separate sources in Estonia, but the new EKI Combined Dictionary (available in the language portal Sõnaveeb ‘Wordweb’) presents both descriptive and prescriptive information, which may enhance the risk of user confusion. In this article, we analyse five Estonian paronym nests, firstly, providing an overview of their treatment in Estonian dictionaries since the beginning of the 20th century and earlier, and secondly, describing the results of a corpus-based research on their use in modern Estonian. Finally, we present some suggestions for updating the principles of lexis planning.


Lydia Risberg (b. 1988), MA, Institute of the Estonian Language, Junior Researcher (Roosikrantsi 6, 10119 Tallinn); University of Tartu, doctoral student,

Margit Langemets (b. 1961), PhD, Institute of the Estonian Language, Leading Lexicographer (Roosikrantsi 6, 10119 Tallinn),