Reviewed by Katrin Hiietam, Manchester, UK
Throughout history, the study of morphosyntactic features of Uralic languages has proven to be problematic. In this volume, Ago Künnap explores some features that have been especially challenging. In contrast to traditional methods that study a language in isolation, K argues that it is important to consider archaeology, genetics, and language contact to research the history of a language.
Ch. 1 explores the origin of the Finno-Ugric-speaking population. K challenges the view that Finno-Ugrians came from the East, and instead proposes that their ancestry is primarily European: the Altaic-speaking migration, which left traces of Mongoloid features within the Finno-Ugric area, is a relatively recent phenomenon (9). Here, K also argues that some of the structural features characteristic of the proposed Proto-Uralic are found not only in the present day Finno-Ugric languages but also in non-Uralic languages.
In Ch. 2, K examines the *n genitive as the object case marker, verbal personal markers –s and –k, and possessive suffixes in Uralic. He argues that the suffix –n marked one of the earliest Finnic object cases (18). In Ch. 3, K proposes a link between Livonian and Eastern Uralic languages based on several linguistic features, such as their similar formation of the negative, which he argues cannot be mere coincidence. Finally, in Ch. 4, K investigates the origin of the Ugric t-locative and l-ablative as well as the Hungarian k-plural. Reluctant to assign all these phenomena a common Finno-Ugric background, K admits that their origin is unknown.
This book is full of insight into the history and development of various Uralic languages. Although K provides his explanation of the facts, he remains modest as to whether his view represents the ultimate truth. This volume will be worthwhile reading for any Uralist.