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  5. "Is that Estonian or Finnish?"

"Is that Estonian or Finnish?"

Translation:Onko tuo viroa vai suomea?

July 6, 2020



Why viroa and suomea, and not just viro or suomi?


Because the speaker is probably not referring to the languages as a whole.


The speaker may or may not refer to the languages as a whole, so both variants should be accepted.


I'm not even sure what that context could look like. Maybe a huge opera house packed full of people saying every word in Finnish/Estonian simultaneously? In any case, it seems like an extremely unlikely situation. I can't imagine how one could point to a language in its entirety because it's abstract and massive.


Suppose they are looking at a language tree and a couple of branches under “Finno-Ugric” are not marked very well, so pointing to one of these they ask this question. Since the branch woukd represent the language in its entirety I would suppose nominative should be used.


Yes, that would make sense.


Uncountable nouns take on the partitive form, in this case.


What are the rules on when to use "vai" or "tai"?


KarenAntti - vai is or (eg hot or cold) and tai is and/or (eg milk and/or sugar).


Place -> language (partitive)

Viro -> viroa

Eesti (sometimes used) -> eestia?

EDIT: thanks for the vowel harmony which I had forgotten. But I will rephrase my question:

Talking about the Estonian language, is "eestiä" correct like viroa is?

I never heard it, but since Viro is sometimes also referred to as "Eesti", I wondered if the language itself could also change the same way in the partitive form (viro/viroa, eesti/eestiä). Vowel harmony on.


The partitive singular of eesti is eestiä. It's because of something called vowel harmony which separates Finnish vowels into three groups:

  • back vowels A, O, U
  • front vowels Y, Ä, Ö
  • neutral (front) vowels E I

Front vowels and back vowels cannot appear in the same word. This also applies to case endings. :)

  • If a word has one or more back vowels (A, O, U) in it, it gets the ending with a back vowel in the partitive singular: A viro + a = viroa (Estonian language)
  • If a word has one or more front vowels (Y, Ä, Ö) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel in the partitive singular: Ä kymri + ä = kymriä (Welsh language)
  • If a word has one only neutral vowels (E ,I) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel in the partitive singular: Ä eesti +ä = eestiä (Estonian language)
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