Wednesday, 20 April 2011

YetMoreGiantWordFormations

A Finnish colleague of mine went on an English copywriting course in London a couple of weeks ago. Upon her return, she told me that she had been advised that to write good business English copy for an international audience, sentences should not contain words of over 3 syllables.

The thought immediately sprung to my mind that this would be impossible in her native language!

Yes folks, it's time for me to have another dig at the ridiculous length of Finnish words...

I have already mentioned that the Finnish language allows words to be concatenated virtually endlessly to create giant word formations. I have also explained that Finnish has 15 cases, which are appended to words to create even bigger words.

But actually, it doesn't stop there. Oh no, because Finns have a whole raft of things they can add at the end of words to make their words longer still.

There is the suffix “-ko”, which turns a sentence into a question. There are suffixes to indicate possession (“-ni” = my, “-si” = your, “-nsa” = his/her/their, etc.). The suffix “-kin” means “also” or “as well”, while “-kaan” means “not either” or “neither”. If you put “-ton” at the end of a word, it means there isn't any of that word, the equivalent of the “-less” ending in English. The ending “-ja” often denotes a person who does something, e.g. opettaa (“to teach”) leads to opettaja (“teacher”). The ending “-la” can be used a place, so “ravintola” (restaurant) is a place of nourishment (“ravinto”). The suffix “-lainen” describes someone from a place, e.g. “englantilainen” is an Englishman or Englishwoman...

And the list goes on... and on... and on...

So put all that together, and you have bizarre words like:

luotaanpäästämättömydestäänsäkään

a somewhat theoretical word, which means roughly “despite even of his/her tendency of not letting go”, which I have seen explained as follows:

luota
from

luotaan
from him

päästä
to be let

päästämätön
that does not let

luotaanpäästämätön
one-who-does-not-let-get-away-from-him

luotaanpäästämättömyys
one-who-does-not-let-get-away-from-him-ness

luotaanpäästämättömydestä
regarding-one-who-does-not-let-get-away-from-him-ness

luotaanpäästämättömyydestään
regarding-his-one-who-does-not-let-get-away-from-him-ness

luotaanpäästämättömydestäänsä
of-regarding-his-one-who-does-not-let-get-away-from-him-ness

luotaanpäästämättömydestäänsäkään
despite-of-regarding-his-one-who-does-not-let-get-away-from-him-ness

Is it any surprise that Finnish never became the international lingua franca? Try writing good copy for an international audience with word formations like that!

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