Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: Is it common to omit the subject in Finnish sentences?
Kati: And why?
Michael: At FinnishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, Noora Nylund is in a bookstore with her friend, Sasha Lee. She points to a book and says,
"[Do you] see that book?"
Noora Nylund: Näetkö tuon kirjan?
Dialogue
Noora Nylund: Näetkö tuon kirjan?
Sasha Lee: Onko se mielenkiintoinen?
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Noora Nylund: Näetkö tuon kirjan?
Michael: "[Do you] see that book?"
Sasha Lee: Onko se mielenkiintoinen?
Michael: "Is it interesting?"

Lesson focus

Michael: Omitting the subject or the pronoun is possible in so-called "pro-drop languages." Pro-drop-languages are languages where omitting the pronoun, or the subject, doesn't affect the information conveyed by the sentence. This is not possible in the English language, but you can observe this in Romance and Slavic languages. In the Finnish language, dropping the subject or pronoun in a sentence is also practiced depending on the context.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Noora Nylund says "[Do you] see that book?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Kati as Noora Nylund: Näetkö tuon kirjan?
Michael: If we're going to translate "Do you see that book?" in Finnish, we would do so by saying,
Kati: Näetkö sinä tuon kirjan?
Michael: Here, we have the word
Kati: näetkö
Michael: which is derived from the words
Kati: nähdä
Michael: which means "to see," and the interrogative clitic
Kati: kö
Michael: We also have the word,
Kati: sinä
Michael: or "you," and
Kati: tuon
Michael: which is the genitive singular or accusative for "that,"
Kati: tuo
Michael: And finally, we have the object,
Kati: kirjan
Michael: which is the genitive singular for "book." However, in this scenario, it is clear that the speakers are talking to each other. The context is obvious too. They are inside a bookstore together, and Noora Nylund is addressing no other person but Sasha Lee. In this case, Noora didn't have to mention
Kati: sinä
Michael: or "you." Thus, it's sufficient for Noora to just say,
Kati: Näetkö tuon kirjan?
Michael: or "See that book?"
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Sasha Lee says "Is it interesting?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Kati as Sasha Lee: Onko se mielenkiintoinen?
Michael: In this case, we see that the pronoun "it," or
Kati: se
Michael: is retained. That's because Finnish is a partial pro-drop language. While pronouns in the first and second persons can be dropped, pronouns in the third person cannot. However, in the right context, Finnish allows third person pro-drop, particularly where the pronoun is optional. Let's take this sentence, as an example: "Leila didn't say where she was going." In translating this to Finnish, the pronoun for "she," or
Kati: hän
Michael: is not necessary, so we get
Kati: Leila ei sanonut minne oli menossa.
Michael: instead of
Kati: Leila ei sanonut minne hän oli menossa.
[Summary]
Michael: We've learned in this lesson that Finnish is a partial pro-drop language. This means that there are instances when subjects and objects can be dropped in a sentence without the message losing its meaning. Let's take a look at more examples where the subject can be dropped:
Kati: Kaikki luulevat, että osaan englantia.
Michael: This literally means "Everybody thinks that I know English," without the pronoun "I," or,
Kati: minä
Michael: mentioned in the Finnish example. Another way to say this in Finnish would therefore be
Kati: Kaikki luulevat, että minä osaan englantia.
Expansion/Contrast
Michael: Like in many languages, the presence of the subject in an imperative sentence is also not necessary in Finnish. If you're going to use an imperative sentence either for second person singular or second person plural, there is no need for you to add the subject because the sentence already implies it. For instance, if you want to tell someone to stop doing something, you can simply say,
Kati: Lopeta!
Michael: or "Stop!." If you want to tell someone to go and read a book, you say,
Kati: Lue kirjaa.
Michael: or "Read a book." Want to tell your friend to clean their room? Just say,
Kati: Siivoa huoneesi.
Michael: which means "Clean your room." In all these instances, it's understood that the message is directed to a second person, rendering the pronoun or the subject unnecessary.
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: Another instance when the pronoun can be dropped in a sentence is when the pronoun in the sentence refers to people in general, including the speaker. Let's take this example:
Kati: Tässä tuolissa istuu mukavasti.
Michael: Literally, this would mean, "In this chair sits comfortably," which does not make sense. The proper translation is "One can sit comfortably in a chair," but the generic subject pronoun "one" is dropped. Here's another example:
Kati: Kesällä herää aikaisin.
Michael: This is literally "In the summer wake early." The proper translation would be "In the summer you wake up early." In generic sentences like this, the subject pronoun is considered to be an indeterminate "someone," "some," "many" or "various."
Michael: You also omit the subject in Finnish sentences, when you talk about the weather or your own feelings or ailments. For example:
Kati: Yöllä satoi lunta.
Michael: "It snowed during the night." This sentence literally means "in the night rained snow." In Finnish, the subject is not needed or used when talking about the weather. There also isn't a verb for "to snow," while on the other hand the language has weather related words that don't exist in English, like
Kati: Ulkona tuulee!
Michael: Literally, "It winds outside!," where the "winds" is a verb, "to wind."
Let's hear another example:
Kati: Päätäni särkee.
Michael: My head hurts. In this sentence, "my head,"
Kati: päätäni
Michael: is an object, but also expressing possession. The pronoun/subject "my"
Kati: minun
Michael: is unnecessary, as we already understand that
Kati: päätäni
Michael: means "my head."
Michael: Let's listen to one last example, this time about feelings and emotions:
Kati: Väsyttää
Michael: which means, "I'm tired."
Kati: "Tunnekausatiiviverbit"
Michael: are a group of "feeling verbs," which cause emotions; they cause someone to feel a certain way. The Finnish terms for these verbs,
Kati: "tunneverbit," "tuntemusverbit" or "tunnekausatiiviverbit,"
Michael: don't really have official equivalents in English, but the direct translation for the terms are "feeling verbs" or "causative emotion verbs."
Sentences where the causative emotion verbs are used will include the person feeling or experiencing an emotion in the partitive case. Regardless of who is feeling the emotion, the verb will always be in third person singular.
When the person who speaks expresses that he or she is feeling something, the subject can be omitted. Let's hear the first example again, this time with the subject:
Kati: Minua väsyttää
Michael: I'm tired.
Let's hear another example.
Kati: Naurattaa!
Michael: "I feel like laughing!" Yes, that's what this one word means. So, basically, this one word expresses a feeling, a verb, and the subject all in one. We understand that the person who is speaking is the one feeling the emotion, therefore it is unnecessary to repeat the subject. If you wanted to include it, however, the example here would be:
Kati: Minua naurattaa!
Michael: I feel like laughing!
Other examples of these feeling verbs in the first singular are:
Kati: ujostuttaa
Michael: I feel shy
Kati: suututtaa
Michael: I feel angry
Kati: pelottaa
Michael: I'm afraid
Kati: yskittää
Michael: I feel like coughing or I need to cough
Kati: hymyilyttää
Michael: I feel like smiling

Outro

Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Kati: Hei hei!
Michael: See you soon!

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