Appendix:Finnic telic and atelic verbs

The Finnic languages (such as Finnish and Estonian) distinguish between telic and atelic verbs. Understanding this distinction is necessary in order to speak and write in a grammatically correct way, because the Finnic languages indicate telicity by means of the object's case.

The accusative case is only used for total objects of telic verbs, while atelic and partial objects are expressed in the partitive case. Thus, for atelic verbs, the object is always in the partitive case, while for telic verbs it may be in the accusative case. Negative sentences always use the partitive case for the object.

As an example, in Finnish, the verb rakastaa (to love) is often atelic. Thus, to say "I love you", the partitive is used for the object:

I loveyou.


I love×you.

However, the verb may also be used with an accusative, if there is a 'target' or 'goal':

He/shelovesmeto death
"She's going to love me to death. [She loves me so much that it will end up killing me.]"

Some of the verbs that are usually atelic on their own can be used in telic contexts relatively often:

Hän hoiti minut kuntoon. (telic)She nursed me to health.
Hän löi maljakkoa. (atelic)He hit the vase.
Hän löi maljakon rikki. (telic)He hit the vase and it broke.
Olen innostanut hänet opiskelemaan historiaa. (telic)I have inspired him to study history.

Some verbs can be both telic or atelic, often depending on whether the action is completed or not:

Ammuin hirven. (accusative)I shot (and killed) a moose.
Ammuin hirveä. (partitive)I shot (at) a moose.
Kirjoitan kirjan. (accusative)I (will) write a book.
Kirjoitan kirjaa. (partitive)I am writing a book.
Kirjoitin kirjan. (accusative)I wrote a book.
Kirjoitin kirjaa. (partitive)I was writing a book.

There are even some verbs which are practically always telic:

Heitin sen. (accusative)I threw it.
Heitin sitä. (partitive)I threw some of it. (Both verbs are telic, but the former has a total object and latter a partial object.)
Huomasin sen. (accusative)I noticed it.
×Huomasin sitä. (partitive) (A partial object makes no sense here.)

In English, telicity for simple past verb phrases is distinguished by whether the duration is expressed with in or for.

I built two houses in an hour. (telic)
I built two houses for an hour. (atelic, the houses were not finished)
I loved you for an hour. (atelic)
*I loved you in an hour. (ungrammatical)
She loved him to death in an hour. (telic)

The telicity of a verb and its equivalent is usually the same in English and the Finnic languages, but there are also differences.

Examples edit

Language Telic (accusative) Atelic (partitive)
"I found you." "Did he take it?" "I love you!" "What do you see?"
Estonian Ma leidsin sind (üles). Kas ta võttis selle? Ma armastan sind! Mida sa näed?
Finnish Löysin sinut. Ottiko hän sen? Minä rakastan sinua! Mitä näet?
Ingrian Löysin siun. Ottik hää sen? Miä suvvaan sinnua! Mitä näät?
Karelian Löyvin sinun. Ottiko hiän sen? Minä suvaičen sinuu! Mitä näet?
Livonian Ma līediz si’n. Või ta sīe võtīz? Ma ārmaztõb sīnda! Midā sa nǟ’d?
Veps Löuzin sinun. Otigo hän sen? Minä armastan sindai! Midä näged?
Votic Leüzin sinu. Võttiko tämä sene? Miä suvvan sinnua! Mitä siä näed?
Võro Ma lövvi suq. Kas tää võt' seo? Ma armasta sinno! Midä sa näet?

Notes edit

  • The accusative case does not exist as a distinct case in most Finnic languages, and even in those that have it, distinct accusative forms only exist for a small number of words (often just the personal pronouns, or only some of them).
    • Instead, the accusative form corresponds to either the nominative or the genitive form in the singular (which one is used depends on the rules of the specific language, although there are broad similarities) and the nominative form in the plural.
    • In the table above, all 'accusative' forms are genitive singular forms (except for Finnish sinut and Estonian sind).
  • Standard Estonian accusative forms for the first-person or second-person pronouns are indistinguishable from the partitive forms. The distinction is however preserved with other nominals.