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Emakeele Seltsi aastaraamat
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
ISSN 2228-1215 (electronic)   ISSN 0206-3735 (print)

Emakeele Seltsi aastaraamat
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
ISSN 2228-1215 (electronic)   ISSN 0206-3735 (print)

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Vol. 58, Issue 1
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(Full article in PDF format) doi:10.3176/esa58.01


Martin Ehala


Limits for language renewal and analogy
The article analyses, on the example of Johannes Aavik’s language renewal, the structural limits for intentional language changes and whether the analysis of language renewal can reveal the limits of possible changes in language in general. Traditionally in historical linguistics, an understanding has prevailed that intentional language changes are superficial, and more substantial structural changes cannot be introduced at will. Over the past half-century, this position has been called into question, presenting examples to the contrary. Also, Aavik’s language renewal supports the latter view. Based on the model of analogical modelling by Royal Skousen, the article hypothesizes that these changes, for which there is no analogy in the language, are not possible and cannot be introduced. To test the hypothesis, the successful innovations by Aavik and others are analysed. For all successful changes introduced in the course of language renewal, there is a clear and powerful analogical pattern in the Estonian language. The hypothesis is also supported by the fact that some of the failed innovations, such as the -nue and -tue constructions and the no-genitive, lack analogy in Estonian, which can help to explain why they were not successful. Thus, the analysis supports the hypothesis that changes that have no analogy pattern in the language are impossible, but the limited scope of the material analysed does not allow a conclusive answer.


language renewal, impossible language changes, analogy


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