"The development and functions of pragmatic markers in the Estonian language: The case of lt-words"
Supervisors: Senior Lecturer Külli Habicht and Professor Leelo Keevallik, University of Linköping
Opponent Professor Riho Grünthal, University of Helsinki
What would be the result if a language user would have to define words like tegelikult 'actually; in fact', praktiliselt 'virtually; practically', põhimõtteliselt 'basically; in principle', täpselt 'exactly; precisely', loomulikult 'of course; naturally', ilmselt 'visibly; apparently', lihtsalt 'just; simply' etc.? This dissertation in linguistics investigates the use and development of a group of words in Estonian. Using the words above as examples, it is shown how the items with the same written form can be used in different functions. These so-called lt-words are primarily seen as full content adverbs. Yet at the same time they are also used as items that acquire their precise function in a specific context. In case of the latter, they are used to interfere, to repair, to hedge, to intensify, to comment etc. Consider the following illustrative sentences involving the word praktiliselt 'practically; in practice, in reality' in two distinctly different functions: "Ta tunneb oma tööd nii teoreetiliselt kui ka praktiliselt 'He knows his work both theoretically as well as practically'" and "Praktiliselt kõik kohalviibijatest on mehed 'Practically all of those present are men'. In the first sentence, praktiliselt functions as an adverb that carries a meaning 'in reality, in practice'. In the second sentence it is a downtoner meaning that almost all of the people present are men. The language user would most likely not interpret the sentence as in reality all of the people present are men. This thesis is mainly based on data from the corpora of written Estonian, analyzing the use and development of the multifunctional items both qualitatively as well as quantitatively. In this dissertation, the evolutionary path for the lt-words is proposed. The thesis also contributes to a better understanding of language change in general.