Keywords: spoken Estonian, emergency call, interactional linguistics, upgrade, downgrade, particle
The aim of the paper is to find out the functions and meanings of the particle lihtsalt ‘just, simply’ in Estonian emergency calls and to find out if callers and call-takers use it for different purposes. For the paper, 75 emergency calls containing 83 particles lihtsalt were analysed following the principles of interactional linguistics. The analysis shows that callers use the particle lihtsalt to downgrade, upgrade or in both functions at once. Call-takers use lihtsalt only to downgrade.
Callers downgrade to express either the accidentality of an incident or to reduce its severity. Callers may also downgrade to contrast with an alternative offered by the call-taker, without reducing the severity of the problem. Callers also downgrade to distance themselves from the incident or to express vagueness. Call-takers use lihtsalt to downgrade in two main cases: a) to mitigate a directive, a long search, or not finding the necessary information, b) to reduce the caller’s problem. In downgrading cases, lihtsalt has a meaning ‘only’ or ‘no reason’.
Callers upgrade with the particle lihtsalt to show the urgency of the need for help, using lihtsalt as an intensifier. Callers also upgrade to make accusations or to persuade. In the case of upgrading, lihtsalt has a meaning ‘really’, ‘no reason’ or ‘self-evident’.
The particle lihtsalt can also be polyfunctional, e.g. downgrading and upgrading at once. For instance, the caller may express that the request is easy to fulfil, yet also showing that the request needs to be fulfilled immediately. The analysis shows that lihtsalt occurs always in either an explicit or an implicit contrastive case. In general, emergency calls always have an implicit contrast with the normal or usual situation. The particle lihtsalt in our data is not used in its direct meaning ‘not complicated’ and it is often phonetically reduced (e.g. lissalt), both indicating that lihtsalt is grammaticalizing.
Andriela Rääbis (b. 1966), PhD, University of Tartu, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics, Research Fellow (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu), firstname.lastname@example.org
Andra Rumm (b. 1991), PhD, University of Tartu, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics, Research Fellow (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu), email@example.com