Multidimensional similarity: Estonians and comprehension of Finnish text Cover Image

Monitasoinen samankaltaisuus: virolaiset ja suomenkielisen tekstin ymmärtäminen
Multidimensional similarity: Estonians and comprehension of Finnish text

Author(s): Pirkko Muikku-Werner
Subject(s): Foreign languages learning, Semantics, Finno-Ugrian studies
Published by: Eesti Rakenduslingvistika Ühing (ERÜ)
Keywords: receptivemultilingualism; context; semantic priming; phraselogical unit; Finnish; Estonian;

Summary/Abstract: Previous studies have proven that Finns reading an Estonian text use many different strategies to and the meanings of cognate words. In this article, the factors aspecting the Estonians’ ability to understand Finnish are described. It is well known that external similarity promotes intelligibility, but on the other hand, “false friends” can cause misinterpretations if the context does not prevent them. On the other hand, certain concepts connected on the basis of different semantic relationships can contribute to the emergence of correct translation. When dealing with phraseology units the first word primes the occurrence of the second word (target). It is assumed that in the foreign language text the prime, if recognizable in L1, helps to infer the target. In order to test these assumptions, Estonian informants had to translate a short Finnish text into Estonian and explain their choices of translation equivalents for certain words. Most test participants are aged over 20, some of them were 1st-year high school students. None of them had had formal instruction in Finnish. The results show that, on the one hand, the relation between hyponyms and hypernyms and, on the other hand, the chain of cause and consequence facilitates the finding of the meaning of the unknown word. However, the translation is mostly based on external similarity of unconnected lexical items which can result in success or failure. The informants justify their proposals for translation equivalents with that kind of similarity but they also rely on the structure of semantic fields and conceptions of coherent texts. The qualities of semantic relations are not bound to the affinity of Estonian and Finnish but to some universal “regularities”, another sort of similarity.

  • Issue Year: 2016
  • Issue No: 26
  • Page Range: 311-338
  • Page Count: 28
  • Language: Finnish