Andres Tennus

Doctoral defence: Milda Kurpniece "The Livonian Jussive in the context of the Central Baltic Area"

On 20 December 2023 at 12:15 Milda Kurpniece will defend her doctoral thesis "The Livonian Jussive in the Context of the Central Baltic Area" for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Finnic languages).

Professor Birute Klaas-Lang and PhD Miina Norvik

Professor Axel Holvoet (Vilniuse University)


Every language globally possesses methods for conveying information, posing questions, or issuing commands. These communications often utilise specific sentence structures and moods. Declarative clauses and the indicative mood are commonly employed for sharing information, while imperative clauses and the imperative mood are utilised for giving commands. Some languages, like English, use the imperative mood exclusively for addressing the listener and employ alternative methods when commanding someone else (e.g., "go!" vs. "let him go!"). Conversely, languages such as Finnish use the same imperative paradigm for both the listener and others.

Livonian, an endangered South Finnic language native to modern Latvia, has developed a distinct imperative paradigm known as the "jussive". This paradigm conveys indirect commands, where there is no direct interaction between the commander and the addressee. Such commands are reported or directed towards a third party not involved in the conversation. Remarkably, the Livonian jussive serves not only to issue commands or requests but also to express purpose and introduce questions, similar to the English construction "what shall I do?" In Livonian this would be phrased using the jussive: "mis laz ma tīeg?".

It is intriguing to note that while many linguists posit that third person imperative forms typically express wishes or similar sentiments, the Livonian jussive defies this trend by being highly effective in conveying commands through its third person forms. This uniqueness of the Livonian jussive holds significant insights into the interactions between Livonian and Latvian speakers, and potentially broader connections between Finnic and Baltic languages. Furthermore, the Livonian jussive sheds light on various linguistic enigmas that have yet to be unravelled by scholars.

The defence can be followed in Zoom (Meeting ID: 981 1427 4382, Passcode: 779797).

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