Clause structure in Skolt Saami

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This article gives an overview of the Syntax of simple and complex clauses in the Skolt Saami language.

Contents

Constituent Order

Predominant Word Order

The predominant word order in Skolt Saami is not clear-cut. According to Miestamo (2011), the word order is SVO [1]. Moshnikoff (2009) is cited as the source for this claim in „Skolt saami: a typological profile“ [2]. There are many example sentences in Moshnikoff's school grammar (2009) where the verb comes in the second position. However, if only pragmatically neutral texts are analysed and subordinate, interrogative and negative sentences are not taken into consideration, Feist believes that an SOV order is predominantly used.


Feist cites two sentences which show this order; here is one of them:

neezzan suâjjkååutid kuårru
woman.PL.NOM protection.SG.NOM+skirt.PL.ACC sew.PST.3PL  
S O V

the women sewed protective skirts[3]


Even considering sentences without subjects or objects, the verb mainly comes at the end.

Example without a subject:


nueʹtteeʹl võõrâs kueʹl kšiʹlle
fish.with.seine.net.INSTR fresh fish.SG.ACC catch.PST.4
O V

by fishing with seine net one caught fresh fish[4]


Example without an object:


jääuʹr kâʹlmme
lake.PL.NOM freeze.PRS.3PL
S V

the lakes freeze[5]


Subordinate Claues

This is also the case for subordinate clauses, both finite and infinite.

Here is an example for an infinite subordinate clause:

pâi õõlǥi kueʹl poorrâd
just have.to.PST.3SG fish.SG.ACC eat.INF
V FINITE O V NON-FINITE

one just had to eat fish[6]


According to Feist the examples above support the claim that the predominant word order is SOV. He does achknowledge, however, that other word orders do appear in Skolt Saami.

In this example the verb is right at the begiinning of the sentence as well as at the end.

Kaaupše kueʹlid di tieʹǧǧid puk juõʹǩǩe peällõõžži
sell.PST.3PL fish.PL.ACC and then money.PL.ACC all divide.PST.3PL in.half
V O 1 O V NON-FINITE V 2

they sold the fish and then divided all the money in half[7]


Topicalisation

There are also sentences, where the object comes in first place. This is known as topicalisation and is used to emphasise the object.


Lääʹddǩiõl mon jiõm fiʹtte ni mõõn
Finnish.SG.ACC 1SG.NOM NEG 1SG. understand nothing.SG.ACC
O S V AUX:NEG V CONNEGATIVE

Finnish, I don't understand at all[8]

Auxiliary Verbs and the V2 principle

The majority of the verbs above, which come at the end are lexical verbs (or main verbs). According to the examples which are available, it seems as though auxiliary verbs, unlike lexical verbs, do not come at the end of a sentence.

kuuskõõzz leʹjje ääld poorrâm
aurora.borealis.PL.NOM be.PST.3PL female.reindeer.SG.ACC eat.PST.PTCP
S V AUX O V LEX

the northern lights had eaten the female reindeer[9]

This reminds us of the V2 Prinzip, whereby the verb appears in second position; this principle is particularly common in Germanic languages. If there are two verbs in a sentence, the auxiliary verb occupies the second positions whilst the lexical verb comes at the end. Despite similarities in Skolt Saami, most lexical verbs tend to come at the end and in subordinate clauses auxiliary verbs come in third place.

sij vueʹlǧǧe ǩiččâd tõn pueʹrr jânnam koʹst siʹjjid eeunaž leäi mainstam
3PL.NOM leave.PRS.3PL see.INF DIST.SG.ACC good land.SG.ACC REL.LOC 3PL.ILL spider be.PST.3SG tell.PST.PTCP
OBL S V AUX V LEX

they left to see that good land, which Spider had told them about[10]


Conclusion

Word order in Skolt Saami is not conclusive as grammatical relations are expressed through case. Therefore word order is rather unimportant.

According to Sammallahti (1998) Skolt Saami is: „Largly free from formal restrictions and guided by pragmatic principles“.

Feist claims that the predominant word order is SOV whilst Sammallahti and Miestamo assume an SVO order. Feist (2010) and Wilbur (2012) both mention the possible influence of scandinavian languages, used as meta langauges for research, as they are SVO. Therefore it is possible that scandinavian languages have an influence on the word order in Skolt Saami.

Skolt Saami displays some aspects of the V2 Principle, but not as many as in most Germanic languages.

Bibliography

Feist, T. 2010. A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Ph.D. thesis, University of Manchester.

Miestamo, M. 2011. Skolt Saami: a typological profile. In: Journal de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 93. 111–145.

Moshnikoff, S., Moshnikoff, J. & Koponen, E. 2009. Koltansaamen koulukielioppi. Sää´mkv iõl kiõllvuä´ppes vskoou´li vääras. Inari/Aanar: Saamelaiskäräjät/Sää´mte´ǧǧ.

Sammallahti, P. 1998. The Saami languages. Kárášjohka: Davvi Girji.

Wilbur, J. 2012. A Grammar of Pite Saami. Unveröffentlichtes Manuskript.

Quotes

  1. Miestamo, 2011.
  2. Moshnikoff, 2009.
  3. Feist 2010.
  4. Feist 2010.
  5. Feist 2010.
  6. Feist 2010.
  7. Feist 2010.
  8. Feist 2010.
  9. Feist 2010.
  10. Feist 2010.

See also

Other languages