Potential, hypothetical or counterfactual roles? Essive-case predicative adverbials expressing uncertain or counterfactual status in Finnish
In Finnish, the essive-case predicative adverbial expresses primarily a temporary status of an entity: Paula o-n opettaja-na [Paula be-PRESENT.3SG teacher-ESSIVE] ‘Paula is (working as) a teacher’. In most occasions, the status expressed by the adverbial is represented as real, i.e. the speaker expresses commitment to its validity, but there are certain types of expressions in which the status is either hypothetical, uncertain or even counterfactual. The uncertainty or the falsity is expressed implicitly.
One of the most essential functions of the essive-case predicative adverbial is to express an opinion: Pidä-n hän-tä hölmö-nä [consider-PRESENT.1SG he-PARTITIVE fool-ESSIVE] ‘I consider him a fool’. This opinion-based expression is not factive in the sense that it does not tell if the status expressed by the essive-case adverbial is valid or not, in the other words if he in the sentence is really, as objectively as this definition can be made, a fool or not. In addition to this, the expression usually provides an implication that the status expressed by the essive-case predicative adverbial can be subjectively evaluated and therefore also challenged.
The uncertainty plays a significant role in the interpretation when the essive-case predicative adverbial expresses a status that cannot be subjectively evaluated: Hän ost-i helme-n aito-na [he buy-PAST.3SG pearl-ACCUSATIVE genuine-ESSIVE] ‘He bought the pearl having the impression it is genuine’. Without any context, the sentence does not tell if the pearl is genuine or not, but it elicits the speaker’s assumption of the status of the pearl and implies that there has been a change in the assumption. This sub-function superimposes two of the important functions of the essive-case predicative adverbial. The first one is the fundamental function of almost all predicatively used essive-case adverbials, expressing temporary status, and the second is the opinion-expressing function.
On the other hand, there are sentences in which the status expressed by the essive-case predicative adverbial is clearly irreal. In these expressions, the referent of the entity about which the role is predicated cannot have the status expressed by the adverbial: Leo ampu-i leija-a sorsa-na [Leo shoot-PAST.3SG kite-PARTITIVE duck-ESSIVE] ‘Leo shot a kite as a duck’ (i.e. under the impression that it was a duck). In this sentence, the essive-case predicative adverbial expresses an assumed status that has been proved to be false.
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ONIKKI-RANTAJÄÄSKÖ, TIINA 2001: Sarjoja: nykysuomen paikallissijaiset olotilanilmaukset kielen analogisuuden ilmentäjinä. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran toimituksia 817. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki.