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The story of Palanumäe and a language

The article examines the language use, with related cultural attitudes and identity manifestations, in the novel series Minge üles mägedele („Over the Mountains”) by Mats Traat. Most of the character speech in the novels represents South Estonian, more specifically, the Tartu language. The narrator’s speech, however, is in standard Estonian, which is largely based on North Estonian dialects. Such division is typical of South Estonian prose, although not absolute. Notably, this novel series by Traat stands out in Estonian literary history as the most voluminous text of fiction where the Tartu language is consistently used. Moreover, the fate of the Tartu language develops into a side topic constantly cultivated. The language use of Traat’s characters has been most wittingly designed and also used as a means of character individuation, with frequent language conflicts and attempts at self-definition on language basis. The story of the language becomes increasingly related to that of a place called Palanumäe ’Burnt Hill’ in the novel. The image of a hill or mountain actualising the vertical dimension the novel can as well be perceived as a plexus of discordant up and down movements.