Supervisors: dotsent Ilona Tragel ja dr Dagmar Divjak (University of Sheffield)
Opponent: prof Ewa Dąbrowska (Northumbria University)
The dissertation studies the alternation between the adessive case and the adposition peal 'on' in present-day written Estonian. Both constructions can be used to describe a spatial scene, where, a Figure (e.g. a vase) is placed on top of a Ground (e.g. a table): vaas on laual (the adessive construction) and vaas on laua peal (the peal-construction), both meaning "The vase is on the table". The thesis has two aims: first, to examine which semantic and morphosyntactic variables play a role in the choice between the two constructions; and second, to assess the usefulness of different methodologies in studying grammatical synonymy. The dissertation is a first large-scale quantitative study that looks at an alternation phenomenon which is typologically different from the English word order alternations and employs a combination of both corpus and experimental methodologies with an emphasis on advanced statistical analysis. The main conclusion is that the theoretical description of any linguistic phenomenon benefits from methodological pluralism. The results of two corpus studies and two experimental studies are reported. The results indicate that the various semantic properties of the Ground play a role (e.g. type and mobility). In addition, the morphosyntactic variables of length and complexity of the Ground phrase, word class of the Ground and Figure, and word order affect the choice. The adessive case construction is preferred with large, static Grounds (e.g. turg 'market') and with Ground phrases that are longer and more complex (e.g. kirjutuslaud 'writing desk'). The peal-construction is preferred with smaller, movable Grounds (e.g. kapp 'cupboard') and with Ground phrases that are shorter and less complex, especially with pronouns (e.g. see 'this'). The results reported in the dissertation confirm the prediction that the Estonian adessive case and the adposition peal 'on' are not absolute synonyms and that several semantic and morphosyntactic variables play a role in the alternation between the two constructions in present day written-Estonian.