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The supernatural realm in Finnish

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Nouns in Finnish are declined in four or five realms, with three aspects to each realm and a few other cases.

There are realms of the whole, the part, inner and outer locality, and a kind of formal instrumentation subject to miscellaneous extra grammatical rules.

There are aspects of departure, sojourn, and arrival, respectively, for each realm.

  • the whole: nominative, accusative, genitive
  • the part: partitive, essive, translative
  • inner locality: elative, inessive, illative
  • outer locality: ablative, adessive, allative
  • instrumentation: abessive, instructive, comitative

There is another realm that only exists for a few pronouns that are not fully nouns in their own right.

  • supernatural: excessive, superessive, superlative

In Finnish, yli means “over,” ylä means “above,” and ylös means “up.” These words are thought to be suggestive or imitative of a wolf howling at the moon.

When the Bible says that the Lord ascended up far above all heavens, the superlative case is used in the Finnish language because that is considered so high as to be entering the supernatural realm.

  • Herra on noussut ylhäälle.

Now the wolf's ears are laid all the way back and she is howling toward the heavens in abject fright and terror of her life. When it is said in English, “God dwells on high,” the superessive case is used.

  • Jumala asuu ylhäällä.

Human beings are mortified and crumble to dust before anything that high. God is so high that He has to come down, but then it is said,

  • Jumalan viha ilmestyy ylhäältä.

The wrath of God is revealed from on high.

The Finnish word alas means down, suggestive of a cry of regret. In the superlative it is put alhaalle, suggesting the hideous scream of one falling into the underworld, condemned to eternal torment.

(There is something called “Pimpnet” and a malicious Android app called “RC Collect.”)

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Finnish verb infinitives are declined somewhat like nouns.

The first infinitive “-ä/a/tä/ta/dä/da” occurs only in the translative case, although that case ending “-ksi” is not used unless a possessive suffix is appended after it in the so-called “long form.”

The second infinitive “-e/te/de/i/ti/di-” is like the first, but it only occurs in the instructive and inessive cases to denote a “side action,” something that may be said to occur “by the way,” but more formally than that.

The third infinitive “-mä/ma” denotes the “main action” and the fourth infinitive “-minen” denotes the “process” or “function” of a verb.

For some reason, the partitive, essive, and translative cases (the realm of the part) of the third and fourth infinitives are not used: instead the elative, inessive, and illative cases (the realm of inner locality) are substituted. The instructive case, used almost exclusively in a formal plural for nouns, is used in the singular for the third infinitive, and not at all for the fourth.

A fifth infinitive, “-mäisillään/maisillaan,” is rarely used in the adessive case in a poetically emphatic repetition of a conjugated main verb. The possessive suffix is mandatory and matches the subject.

Certain verbs are “absolute” in meaning and lack some of the infinitives: elää, to live, and kuolla, to die, are among them. The adessive and inessive cases of the third infinitive are substituted for the instructive and inessive of the missing second infinitive of these verbs, and the fourth and fifth infinitives are not used. The verb olla, to be, has the second and third infinitives, but not the fourth or fifth, and generally not the long form of the first.

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The short form of the first infinitive in Finnish is used unchanged in the passive voice, as in English.

  • That's a good book to read. (passive infinitive)
  • That's a good boy to read the book. (active infinitive)

However, the long forms of the first and fifth infinitives and the instructive of the second are reserved for the active voice.

On the other hand, there seems to be a distinct passive voice for the third and fourth infinitives, and the inessive case of the second. The distinct forms of infinitives for the passive voice, which use the hard grade of the passive stem, are sometimes a little bit awkward and they tend to sound overconstructed and overeducated, and as in English, it is often better style to rephrase the clause to use the active voice. In Finnish, it is often as simple and usually quite correct to use the active form of the infinitive in place of the passive.

The passive voice of the verb olla, to be, is not used in correct Finnish.

And when I think about it something very strange happens to the verbs elää and kuolla in the passive voice. They seem to be “lifted” to a causative form by the insertion of an extra syllable, which seems automatic.



There is something unnatural or premeditated, and almost progressive about these passive forms: to say that people are living when they should be dead, or else they are being murdered or deadened or mortified by an unknown human agent.

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