Linguistics and language planning in Estonia on the example of case selection patterns of verbs

(Views on the development of Estonian language planning)


Keywords: usage-based linguistics, corpus linguistics, language planning, corpus planning, verb government, Estonian

For over a century, attempts have been made in Estonian language planning to standardize the oblique case selection of verbs (traditionally: verb government), but variation persists in actual language use. In this paper we look at the case selection patterns of a number of verbs, with which variation is said to occur without any semantic difference.

We look at the historical process of how corpus planning has decided on the “right” case-selection and compare it to actual language use from 1900–1939 and 2019–2021. Our analysis shows that variation is still present in the 2019–2021 data. A detailed multifactorial analysis of variation between comitative or allative marking of the oblique argument of the verb sarnanema ‘to resemble’ reveals that the most important factor affecting the choice between the two is in fact semantic, which has remained unnoticed by language planners for over a century. Language planners should therefore systematically take into account the results of linguistic research (based on actual language use), and linguists, in turn, should pay attention to variations in Standard Estonian in order to provide new input for language planners.


Lydia Risberg (b. 1988), MA, Institute of the Estonian Language, Junior Researcher, Language Planner (Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu); University of Tartu, Doctoral Student, lydia.risberg@eki.ee

Liina Lindström (b. 1973), PhD, University of Tartu, Professor of Modern Estonian Lan­guage (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu), liina.lindstrom@ut.ee