Finnic adjectives for ‘tall’

  • Vilja Oja

Abstract

In Finnic languages, the height of a tall person is described by the adjectives pitkä, korkea, suuri, iso and tobie, or their dialectal variants. The first three occur through out the whole language group, carrying several meanings and serving to characterize many different objects, but in a general case their meanings do not coincide. The Finnic iso and the Karelian tobie are synonyms of the adjective suuri. An analysis of their semantic relations and areal distribution has revealed that their areas in the sense of ‘tall’ (of a person) differ considerably from their general areas. The use of the adjectives korkea and suuri seems to be influenced by Indo-European contacts. The word tobie may be a Russian loanword in which a semantic change has taken place. As all of the words mentioned are multifunctional, the simple adjectives are often specified by being used in a compound construction where the final component has the stem kasvu- ‘stature’. This is especially appropriate in the case of the words meaning ‘big’ and referring to either height or adulthood. Such phrases or compounds are more frequent in the eastern part of the Finnic area, but they also occur in Estonian dialects. An analogous form of expression is used in Russian.

Published
2019-06-18