Sunday, 23 January 2011

To Have and To Have Not

This week's posting is based on one of my new 2011 activities of learning Finnish - to be ultimately able to read the epic works like the Kalevala. One of my "text books" for this is the actual grammar J.R.R. Tolkien used when he discovered Finnish - C. N. Eliot's Finnish Grammar. In a letter to W.H. Auden in 1955 Tolkien described his discovery of Finnish “It was like discovering a complete wine-filled cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavor never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me. . .”

Well, I am currently enjoying the same intoxication - it is indeed the Everest of language learning!

One of the things I most enjoy about learning and trying to "live inside" languages - is looking at parallels and patterns among seemingly disparate languages. And I have discovered a shared pattern in three of the languages I am studying/have studied over the years - Welsh, Russian and now Finnish and that is there is no seperate verb "to have" in these languages.

In Finnish one forms the the concept of "to have" with the verb to be (olla) together with the endings -lla/-lla which is the ending for the adessive case added to the word which indicates what the person has. So to say "I have" it would be Minulla on (lit There is to me....)

Meilla on nelja viikoa lomaa - We have four week's holiday

In Welsh, the construction is very similar...

Mae car gyda fi - I have a car (Lit - There is a car to me)
Mae digon o datws gyda fi - I have got pleny of potatoes

In Welsh, the possession is expressed by the word -gyda (in North Wales it is gan) which mean "with"

In Russian, the verb to be is again used in the construction to expressed the idea of "to have" - with the translation essentially being "by you there is...")

У брата есть машина - (My) brother has a car (lit By brother is a car)
У вас есть чаи? Do you have tea? (By you is there tea)

So three languages no specific verb to have and each using a construction with the verb to be and either an ending or preposition construction.

Three languages each sharing a similar pattern and I am sure there are more (I believe Persian has a similar construction!). This is an ongoing investigation and like Bogie above I will be sleuthing out more connections in this exciting web of language!!! Suggestions please!!!!

Posted from Andrew Higgins IPAD

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