Are main clauses really ‘main’ clauses? The case of relative clauses in spoken Estonian and Finnish




relative clause, clause type, free NP, main clause, subordination, relativizer, relatiivlause, lausetüüp, vaba NP, pealause, alistus, relativeerija


The article concerns relative clause constructions and their main clauses in Estonian and Finnish conversation. The study shows that copula clauses and existential clauses predominate in the corpus data: these two clause types accounted for more than half of the main clauses. Such main clauses serve simply to introduce a referent which is then predicated upon in the relative clause and is likely to be subsequently discussed in the conversation. In addition, relative clauses are also used without any main clauses, headed with just a nominal, a free NP. The article thus shows that the main clauses of relative clauses in Estonian and Finnish conversation tend to be syntactically light. They are also pragmatically light, since it is the relative clause, and not the main clause, which contains the main information in the clause combination. This raises a question about the subordinate status of the relative clause.

Kokkuvõte. Ritva Laury, Renate Pajusalu, Marja-Liisa Helasvuo: Kas pealause on tõesti „pea”lause? Relatiivlaused eesti ja soome suulises keeles. Artikkel tegeleb relatiivlausete konstruktsioonide pealausetega eesti ja soome suulistes vestlustes. Uurimus näitab, et predikatiivlaused ja eksistentsiaallaused on suulises kõnes kõige tavalisemad, nendesse lausetüüpidesse kuulus üle poole meie materjali pealausetest. Sellised pealaused ainult esitlevad referenti, mille kohta just relatiivlause annab olulist informatsiooni. Relatiivlause konstruktsiooniga vestlusesse toodud referent on hiljem tihti edasise vestluse oluline teema. Lisaks kasutatakse relatiivlauseid tihti ilma pealauseteta, nii et nad laiendavad vaba nimisõnafraasi. Artikkel näitab seega, et eesti ja soome vestluste relatiivlausete pealaused on süntaktiliselt kerged. Nad on kerged ka pragmaatiliselt, kuna just relatiivlause, mitte aga pealause, annab põhilise informatsiooni. Siit tekib küsimus relatiivlause kui kõrvallause staatusest ja selle alistatusest.


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Author Biographies

Ritva Laury, University of Helsinki

Professor emerita of Finnish, Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies

Renate Pajusalu, University of Tartu

Professor of General Linguistics, Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics

Marja-Liisa Helasvuo, University of Turku

Professor of Finnish, Department of Finnish and Finno-Ugric Languages




How to Cite

Laury, R., Pajusalu, R., & Helasvuo, M.-L. (2024). Are main clauses really ‘main’ clauses? The case of relative clauses in spoken Estonian and Finnish. Eesti Ja Soome-Ugri Keeleteaduse Ajakiri. Journal of Estonian and Finno-Ugric Linguistics, 15(1), 101–126.

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