On 19 June at 15 Maria Reile will defend her doctoral thesis „Estonian demonstratives in exophoric use: an experimental approach“.
Professor Renate Pajusalu
Professor emeritus Ritva Laury, University of Helsinki
Demonstratives, words like this and there, get their meaning from context. In spatial reference, i.e., indicating referents in physical space, the distance of the referent from the speaker has been considered the main factor that influences the choice of demonstratives in the world’s languages. In Estonian, however, the use of demonstratives in spatial context has had little research attention. The aim of this thesis is to study the factors that influence the choice of Estonian demonstratives in spatial reference and to explore how these factors differ in the use of Estonian, Russian and Finnish demonstratives. In addition, the study investigates how the use of demonstratives is linked to the use of other referential devices (e.g., bare NPs and personal pronouns). The findings suggest that the choice of Estonian demonstratives is influenced by the distance of the referent, the visual salience of the referent and the need for contrast. The farther the referent is, the more demonstratives too and seal are used, the closer the referent is, the more demonstratives, see and siin are used. The impact of visual salience is manifested in the use of the demonstrative adverb seal, i.e., when a distant referent is hard to detect for the addressee, the speaker starts the utterance with seal after which s/he adds a more detailed description of the referent. For the effects of contrast to occur, the referents have to be far from the speaker and from each other. In terms of distance and contrast effects, the results of Estonian, Russian and Finnish are similar, however these languages differ in their use of other referential devices. In Finnish, demonstratives are preferred, whereas Russian speakers tend to use personal pronouns and bare NPs. Estonian lies between these two languages in terms of its use of other referential devices. To conclude, from the tested factors distance has the strongest effect on the choice of Estonian demonstratives. The use of other referential devices is influenced by the number of demonstrative pronouns that a language has and the functions that these demonstratives fulfil.