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Estonian verb paradigm



The article deals with the problem how to represent the morphological composition of the paradigmatic simple forms of the Estonian verb with a view to good theoretical justification and practical suitability for computer and corpus linguistics. The major issue here is systematic homonymy and underspecification. The article discusses the possible influence of paradigmatic representation on the understanding of the system of categories, comments on the imperative and jussive moods, makes an original suggestion of how to place certain morphological forms in the paradigmatic table, and points out some forms ending in -kse, which do not fit in the traditional framework.

The article argues that there are some finite verb forms in the Estonian verb paradigm that are not specified as to the category of conjugation. Underspecification also applies to the imperative form ending in -gu, which is a fact enabling an explanation of the semantic heterogeneity of the imperative forms as well as an interpretation of those forms without postulating the jussive mood despite the absence of a distinctive morphological marker. 

In word forms, the morphological categories of Estonian simple verbs are manifested as assemblies, which belong to a rather regular system and function as building blocks in the structure of agglutinative word forms. This regularity is visible to an observant eye when following the intra-word order of the marker morphemes. Note that the paradigm is almost gapless, while underspecification applies to those categories whose marker morphemes are positioned at word edge, either preceding the verb (like negation words ei or ära) orword-finally (personal ending). Even some forms traditionally not included in the simple verb paradigm, such as the past imperative or the forms ärnud and ärdagu of the negation word ära, fit well in a paradigm based on grouped marker morphemes.