rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

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ml14
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rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by ml14 » Sat Jul 19, 2014 2:48 am

A Finnish speaker once told me that she would translate the sentence

Pöydällä näin rahaa ja auton avaimet. Otin hätäisenä rahat mutta unohdin avaimet.
as
"On the table, I saw some money and the keys to the car. In a hurry, I grabbed the money but forgot the keys."

But if rahat were replaced with rahan, she said that she would translate the second sentence as

"In a hurry, I grabbed a bill/coin but forgot the keys."

[NB -- the Finnish sentences are my paraphrases, so they may contain some mistakes, but I'm mainly interested in the highlighted parts]

Do you agree about this interpretation of rahaa : rahan : rahat, at least in the spoken language?

Thanks



rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

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AldenG
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by AldenG » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:58 am

I don't think there's any profound grammatical principle at work here. It's just convention about this particular word. It's more common to speak of seteli and kolikko if you mean the physical item, but you have the right principle if we only consider raha.

Raha can also be a national currency. Maksatko suomen vai ruotsin rahalla? Millä rahalla maksat? In the context of a trip abroad, both are unambiguously about which currency to use.

Then again, millä rahoilla sinä sen ostit? is asking (a little bit emphatically/incredulously, which is why sinä is included) about where in the heck you found enough money of your own (the mass substance again in this example) to buy the extravagance you just brought home to your wife. It could also be millä rahalla, but depending on context that could be more ambiguous.
As he persisted, I was obliged to tootle him gently at first and then, seeing no improvement, to trumpet him vigorously with my horn.


Jukka Aho
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by Jukka Aho » Sat Jul 19, 2014 5:06 pm

ml14 wrote:Do you agree about this interpretation of rahaa : rahan : rahat, at least in the spoken language?
Yes. Expanding upon AldenG’s answer, it is the difference between interpreting the word as something concrete, tangible, or a known or previously-mentioned set (-n accusative, -t accusative), or referring to an unspecified/uncountable/unknown/indeterminate amount possibly just introduced to the discussion and mentioned the first time (the partitive case.)
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ml14
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by ml14 » Sat Jul 19, 2014 11:00 pm

Jukka Aho wrote:
ml14 wrote:Do you agree about this interpretation of rahaa : rahan : rahat, at least in the spoken language?
Yes. Expanding upon AldenG’s answer, it is the difference between interpreting the word as something concrete, tangible, or a known or previously-mentioned set (-n accusative, -t accusative), or referring to an unspecified/uncountable/unknown/indeterminate amount possibly just introduced to the discussion and mentioned the first time (the partitive case.)
What confuses me is that

1) if rahaa means "some money" in the first sentence (Pöydällä oli rahaa)
then
2) from now on, I'd expect that this particular amount of money will be referred to with raha (if it's the subject) or rahan (if it's the object), since it is no longer new information
and yet
3) according to the speaker I talked to, you have to use the *plural* form rahat in the following sentence (Hätäisenä otin rahat) if you want to refer to the rahaa mentioned earlier. The nom./acc. singular raha(n) will not work, because it will be understood to refer to only a single unit of money, i.e. a banknote or a coin.

Is there something inaccurate about my assumption in #2?


AldenG
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by AldenG » Sun Jul 20, 2014 12:08 am

ml14 wrote: Is there something inaccurate about my assumption in #2?
Yes, there is, but it's not necessarily easy to grasp right away the full implications of what I'm about to write:

(There's a short version highlighted farther down the page.)

You're assuming it is possible to arrive at correct usage by simply applying "rules" about a particular case to a particular word, that you can build (or at least always explain) sentences from scratch from atomistic pieces and rules about the behavior of the atoms.

The truth about language (as about music) -- any language, but it's unusually apparent with Finnish -- is that all you are ever doing is rearranging accepted patterns of words (sentences, clauses, phrases) and plugging different words into them. In music, the rare genius constructs truly new patterns or radical revisions of them and marks the change of an era. In language, if you make a new pattern you just sound "not-from-around-here" at best, illiterate or unintelligible at worst. That applies as much to Finns of one region or class who are out of their element as it does to foreigners learning Finnish. It's just the the contextual errors of the Finn are more subtle and the nuances to which he is compared are richer.

The "rules" about case are only inadequate generalizations or descriptions or rationalizations of how case markers occur in the litany of accepted patterns, and they sometimes struggle to keep up with the reality of general usage. That's why the emphasis needs to be on studying sentences (as you're doing here) and pieces of them more than on learning like an accountant or a bureaucrat or a policeman to master all the rules about cases.

In short, you're asking why the "rule" here changed from one sentence to another. And the short answer is, "Because it's a different sentence, FGS!"

The sentence pattern governs the cases. The case "rules" do not govern the construction of the sentence; they are subservient to the higher power of accepted paradigm.

At some point you accept that the usage is what it is and you move on to the next example. I think that's one reason it's often surprising who masters Finnish the fastest, for it's rarely us analytical eggheads. It's the ones with a good imitative sense.

In fact, fad expressions often become popular precisely because they sound "off" or "wrong" in some sense and yet the offness feels so right, or at least so stimulating, to the group deciding what's acceptable and what isn't.

All the rules ever written about Finnish cases are not enough for a machine (or a human) to write good everyday Finnish. Any set of rules that would ever accomplish that feat would be founded on larger units of expression and how to adapt them.
As he persisted, I was obliged to tootle him gently at first and then, seeing no improvement, to trumpet him vigorously with my horn.


Rekkari
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by Rekkari » Sun Jul 20, 2014 1:51 am

I think 'raha' is just one of those rare exceptions to the rule, probably because of its etymology.

Obsolete now, 'raha' comes from some old unspecified Germanic language and originally meant 'fur of squirrel'. Finnish adopted it but altered its meaning to 'squirrel pelt'. Apparently, it was a form of payment way back in the day. Anyway, it's interesting to note that the original meaning was an uncountable substance (fur) while the later meaning was a countable object (pelt). So, 'raha' seems to have acquired characteristics of both a countable object and an uncountable substance.

Viewed this way,

Pöydällä näin rahaa ja auton avaimet. Otin hätäisenä rahat mutta unohdin avaimet.

could be translated as

On the table, I saw some squirrel fur and the keys to the car. In a hurry, I grabbed the squirrel fur but forgot the keys.

If one instead used 'rahan' as the object, then only a single squirrel pelt is understood to have been taken.

Finnish grammar is surprisingly consistent (especially compared to English) but of course it's not 100% perfect.


Jukka Aho
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by Jukka Aho » Sun Jul 20, 2014 2:25 am

Rekkari wrote:So, 'raha' seems to have acquired characteristics of both a countable object and an uncountable substance.
Not really all that unusual. Many words behave the same way, both in Finnish and English.

For example, “milk” (the raw substance) vs. “a milk” (a poured/prepackaged portion).
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ml14
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by ml14 » Sun Jul 20, 2014 3:11 am

Jukka Aho wrote:
Rekkari wrote:So, 'raha' seems to have acquired characteristics of both a countable object and an uncountable substance.
Not really all that unusual. Many words behave the same way, both in Finnish and English.

For example, “milk” (the raw substance) vs. “a milk” (a poured/prepackaged portion).
Just FYI, "a milk" is not something that people widely say in English (at least not in the United States). For a packaged portion, we normally say "a carton of milk", "a bottle of milk", "a glass of milk", etc.

Compared to English, Finnish seems to have more everyday nouns which can be treated as both a substance and a unit: puu means both "wood" and "tree", paperi means both the material "paper" and "a sheet of paper", raha means money or a bill/coin. Maybe the contrast between partitive vs. nominative/accusative allows for more fluidity in terms of whether a given noun is seen as countable or uncountable.


AldenG
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by AldenG » Sun Jul 20, 2014 3:48 am

At least at a fast food counter, I think "a milk", "two milks" probably outnumbers any other way of saying it. In a regular restaurant one might say simply "milk."
As he persisted, I was obliged to tootle him gently at first and then, seeing no improvement, to trumpet him vigorously with my horn.


ml14
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by ml14 » Sun Jul 20, 2014 4:18 am

AldenG wrote:At least at a fast food counter, I think "a milk", "two milks" probably outnumbers any other way of saying it.
You may be right, but I think I'd lean towards saying "Can I get some milk?" even at a fast food counter. The point is that "a milk" is not a general-purpose term for a carton/glass/cup(/etc.) of milk, at least not in my form of English (American).

About your last post:
The sentence pattern governs the cases. The case "rules" do not govern the construction of the sentence; they are subservient to the higher power of accepted paradigm.
I generally agree with this, but I think that the pattern we're talking about (rahaa/rahan/rahat) is influenced by the semantics of raha itself -- i.e., the fact that it functions both as a countable and an uncountable noun -- and therefore I would expect to see something similar happen with nouns like paperi, to disambiguate between the meanings "sheet of paper" vs. "paper (as a material)". However, because of different usage frequencies, maybe this pattern is not as strong or visible with paperi or other nouns as it is with raha.

More generally, there seems to be a tendency in modern-day spoken Finnish to use the t-plural form of mass nouns (vedet, hiekat, rahat, etc.) to indicate a known or previously-mentioned quantity of an item, even when the antecedent appears in the singular. For example, the same speaker I mentioned in the original post seemed to prefer vedet rather than veden in a sentence like this:

Käveltyäni muutaman kilometrin huomasin, että saappaani olivat täynnä vettä, siis otin saappaat jaloistani ja kaadoin vedet pois.
"After I had walked a few km, I noticed that my boots were full of water, so I took the boots off and poured the water out."


AldenG
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by AldenG » Sun Jul 20, 2014 6:09 am

Now is vedet mirroring the natural pair of saappat (silmät, kaiuttimet) or is something else going on?

FWIW (which is variable), it wouldn't occur to me to use vedet about one bucket. But three buckets, or even two, as they're not a natural pair? I guess I might. Whether I'd be right or wrong is a separate question. But Kaadoin veden pois saappaistani also feels OK, just a bit less emphasizing that both of them were wet.

It's not waters like "And he stilled the waters" or "the waters of the Amazon" IMO, it's just multiple quantities of water.
As he persisted, I was obliged to tootle him gently at first and then, seeing no improvement, to trumpet him vigorously with my horn.


Jukka Aho
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by Jukka Aho » Sun Jul 20, 2014 12:11 pm

ml14 wrote:
AldenG wrote:At least at a fast food counter, I think "a milk", "two milks" probably outnumbers any other way of saying it.
You may be right, but I think I'd lean towards saying "Can I get some milk?" even at a fast food counter. The point is that "a milk" is not a general-purpose term for a carton/glass/cup(/etc.) of milk, at least not in my form of English (American).
I would rather let native speakers speak for themselves. But as far as I have gathered, AldenG not only lives in the US but also speaks “your form of English” as his mother tongue. ;)

You can find some usage of “A milk, please!” (533,000 hits) in the wild via this Google search:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22a%20milk%20please%22

But in case that was a controversial example, here’s another: “beer” vs. “a beer”.
ml14 wrote:I generally agree with this, but I think that the pattern we're talking about (rahaa/rahan/rahat) is influenced by the semantics of raha itself -- i.e., the fact that it functions both as a countable and an uncountable noun -- and therefore I would expect to see something similar happen with nouns like paperi, to disambiguate between the meanings "sheet of paper" vs. "paper (as a material)". However, because of different usage frequencies, maybe this pattern is not as strong or visible with paperi or other nouns as it is with raha.
I see it pretty much the same. Raha, maito, paperi, vesi, mehu, olut, puu; they all can be treated either as uncountables (when talking about the substance and amounts in a general or abstract sense) or as countables (when referring to set portions or physical instances.)

Tässä talossa tuhlataan aivan liikaa paperia!
Nostaisitko nuo paperit lattialta?

Heck, it even works for some things for which the physical instance is the primary frame of reference, such as omena.

Poimin puusta omenan.

But:

Paljonko laitoit tähän piirakkaan omenaa?

The above question could refer to the amount of sliced apple, pulped apple mush, etc. found in the pie, but the expected answer could still be the number of individual apples consumed when making it. (In a sense, the question functions as a logical bridge from the uncountable mess to the original countable objects; you can refer to both at once.) But the same phrasing could just as well be used for an inquiry about jam, juice, concentrate, etc., where determining the count of individual apples is no longer relevant and where stating the weight or volume would be a more appropriate answer.
ml14 wrote:More generally, there seems to be a tendency in modern-day spoken Finnish to use the t-plural form of mass nouns (vedet, hiekat, rahat, etc.) to indicate a known or previously-mentioned quantity of an item, even when the antecedent appears in the singular. For example, the same speaker I mentioned in the original post seemed to prefer vedet rather than veden in a sentence like this:

Käveltyäni muutaman kilometrin huomasin, että saappaani olivat täynnä vettä, siis otin saappaat jaloistani ja kaadoin vedet pois.
"After I had walked a few km, I noticed that my boots were full of water, so I took the boots off and poured the water out."
You might want to check out this thread as well:

https://www.finlandforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=52202
Last edited by Jukka Aho on Sun Jul 20, 2014 6:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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ml14
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by ml14 » Sun Jul 20, 2014 4:16 pm

Jukka Aho wrote:
ml14 wrote:
AldenG wrote:At least at a fast food counter, I think "a milk", "two milks" probably outnumbers any other way of saying it.
You may be right, but I think I'd lean towards saying "Can I get some milk?" even at a fast food counter. The point is that "a milk" is not a general-purpose term for a carton/glass/cup(/etc.) of milk, at least not in my form of English (American).
I would rather let native speakers speak for themselves. But as far as I have gathered, AldenG not only lives in the US but also speaks “your form of English” as his mother tongue. ;)
I don't dispute that "a milk" can sometimes be used for ordering milk at a restaurant/cafe, as AldenG said. The disagreement was only about how commonly it is used in the restaurant context.


Upphew
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by Upphew » Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:08 pm

ml14 wrote:I don't dispute that "a milk" can sometimes be used for ordering milk at a restaurant/cafe, as AldenG said. The disagreement was only about how commonly it is used in the restaurant context.
Does anyone order a milk in McD in new world? I thought it was a giant mug of coke/soda/pop/etc.
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AldenG
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Re: rahaa ~ rahan ~ rahat

Post by AldenG » Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:20 pm

Upphew wrote:
ml14 wrote:I don't dispute that "a milk" can sometimes be used for ordering milk at a restaurant/cafe, as AldenG said. The disagreement was only about how commonly it is used in the restaurant context.
Does anyone order a milk in McD in new world? I thought it was a giant mug of coke/soda/pop/etc.

"Things go better with Coke" but maybe "Milk makes the whole thing healthy."

Got McD?
As he persisted, I was obliged to tootle him gently at first and then, seeing no improvement, to trumpet him vigorously with my horn.


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