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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are diminutives and how are they formed in Finnish?
Anni: And are they commonly used?
Michael: At FinnishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, Kati Koski points out a cute kitten to her daughter, Katri Koski. She says,
"Look what a small kitten!"
Kati Koski: Katso miten pieni kissanpoikanen!
Kati Koski: Katso miten pieni kissanpoikanen!
Katri Koski: Söpö!
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Kati Koski: Katso miten pieni kissanpoikanen!
Michael: "Look what a small kitten!"
Katri Koski: Söpö!
Michael: "Cute!"

Lesson focus

Michael: Did you notice how Kati replaces the word,
Anni: kissanpoika
Michael: with
Anni: kissanpoikanen?
Michael: She attaches the suffix,
Anni: -nen
Michael: to create what is called a diminutive, or,
Anni: diminutiivi.
Michael: A diminutive is a word that has been modified to convey the smallness of its root meaning. In Finnish, it is also used to express one's affection towards something, or, in some cases, it may be used to ridicule something. Thus, in Finnish, diminutives are often used for affectionate names. Diminutives are created by attaching certain affixes to nouns, and in some cases, adjectives and verbs.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Kati Koski says "Look what a small kitten?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Päivi as Kati Koski: Katso miten pieni kissanpoikanen!
Michael: Here, Kati attaches the suffix
Anni: -nen
Michael: to the word,
Anni: kissanpoika
Michael: which is one word for a "kitten" in Finnish. The whole word,
Anni: poikanen,
Michael: which means "puppy" or "cub" in Finnish, is a diminutive for the word
Anni: poika
Michael: which means "son" or "boy." The purpose of the suffix
Anni: -nen
Michael: is in this case to identify the name it is attached to as a small animal, or in this case, the offspring of a cat.
Anni: -nen
Michael: ..is a very common suffix used to form Finnish diminutives, such as the word,
Anni: hiirulainen
Michael: which means "small mouse" or "cute mouse." This suffix is used not only for animal names, but for just about any object. For instance, it's also used in the diminutive,
Anni: lehtinen
Michael: which refers to a "small sheet of paper," from the root word,
Anni: lehti
Michael: referring to a sheet of paper from a book or magazine. One interesting Finnish diminutive that uses this suffix is the word,
Anni: palanen
Michael: which is used to describe a small piece of just about any object. It's from the root word,
Anni: pala,
Michael: which means "piece."
Michael: So far, we have learned that diminutives are words that have been modified to convey the smallness of their root meaning. In Finnish, one of the most common suffixes used to form diminutives is
Anni: -nen
Michael: Another common suffix is
Anni: -kka
Michael: which is used for example in the word for ‘blueberry':
Anni: mustikka
Michael: This word is derived from the adjective ‘black,'
Anni: musta
Michael: Then, we have a double diminutive, which is using both of the previously mentioned suffixes,
Anni: -kka
Michael: and
Anni: -nen
Michael: A mother could, for example, tenderly call her child
Anni: lapsukainen
Michael: which means a small, dear child. A child in Finnish is
Anni: lapsi
Michael: One more diminutive is
Anni: -ke
Michael: which is the equivalent of the English diminutive suffix "-let." For instance, we have the word,
Anni: linnake
Michael: which means "a fort" or a "bastion," and comes from the word
Anni: linna
Michael: which means "castle." There's also the word,
Anni: levyke
Michael: or "floppy disk" which refers to a little "disc" or "record."
Yet another diminutive suffix used in Finnish is
Anni: -le
Michael: such as in the word
Anni: viipale
Michael: which means "a slice." It's derived from the verb,
Anni: viipaloida
Michael: which means "to slice." This suffix doesn't only connote smallness but also poorness of quality. A good example would be the word
Anni: tekele
Michael: which is used to describe a low-quality product.
Michael: In Finnish, diminutives are not only formed by simple derivation with the help of affixes. Some Finnish diminutives come in the form of compound words. For instance, there's the word
Anni: pienaakkonen
Michael: which means "lowercase." It's the compounding of the words,
Anni: pien
Michael: which means "small," and
Michael: aakkonen
Anni: which means "letter."
Michael: Another example is the word
Anni: pieneliö
Michael: or "microorganism." This time, we have the compounding of the words,
Anni: pien-
Michael: "small," and,
Anni: eliö
Michael: "organism." All three examples were formed with the Finnish word for "small." In many instances, the Finnish word for "little" is used. For example, we have the diminutive
Anni: pikkumies
Michael: which means "little man," a term that obviously refers to a boy. And then there's the word
Anni: pikkubussi
Michael: which means "little bus," or more appropriately, "minibus."
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: Besides smallness, diminutives also express intimacy. They are especially used to express warm feelings toward a family member. For instance, "father" or
Anni: isä
Michael: may be modified to form the diminutive
Anni: isi
Michael: or "daddy." The term "sister" or
Anni: sisko
Michael: may be modified too to form the diminutive,
Anni: pikkusisko
Michael: or "little sister." In this case, a prefix was added instead of a suffix. The same thing is done with the word
Anni: pikkuveli
Michael: which means "little brother," and a diminutive of
Anni: veli
Michael: or "brother."
Michael: Be careful though, as sometimes the diminutives can also be used to express ridicule or contempt. For example, the word
Anni: naikkonen
Michael: from the word
Anni: nainen
Michael: meaning "woman," actually means an ill-mannered woman with a bad reputation. Likewise, there is a diminutive word for the word "man"
Anni: mies
Michael: too, which is
Anni: miekkonen
Michael: This word describes a man who is not so serious, but more of a playful dandy.
Finally, like in other languages, diminutive names also exist in Finnish. For instance, there's the name,
Anni: Arska
Michael: which is a diminutive of the male given name,
Anni: Ari
Michael: Then, there's the name
Anni: Ritu
Michael: which is a diminutive of the female given names,
Anni: Ritva and Riitta


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