Thesis release, DIY edition

One would think finishing a thesis were enough to stop needing to worry about it, but sometimes not.

Earlier this year I finished my Master’s thesis on the origin of the long vowels in Finnic languages (after about three years, three advisors and three downsizes in coverage). The topic has been for long under debate, but seems to now have settled on a new fairly economical solution. This hinges on what I call Lehtinen’s Law: in early Finnic, *a *ä lengthen under fairly specific conditions and are then raised to *oo *ee. What I have ended up covering is a detailed overview of the earlier research and what the big picture looks like currently, including several new details: e.g. the observation that several loanwords from Indo-European, such as *soola ‘salt’, provide corroborating evidence for a development *aa > *oo in Finnic. (This will be, I hope, a prelude to a string of papers where I aim to rework the phonological reconstruction of Proto-Uralic into a less Finnocentric mold.)

Unfortunately something in the University of Helsinki thesis repository backend has been broken for several months now, with no ETA for a fix, and new Master’s theses have not been uploaded since March. Until recently all I have offered interested colleagues asking is that the thesis “will be coming” online at some undefined point (edit Jan 2019: official release now here). Over at this blog, I don’t think I’ve more than passingly alluded to it being finished.

The time is ripe to do something about this myself though. I’ve recently put together a slightly fixed version (mainly inserted missing references, or the details of some that were still “forthcoming” by the time I left it in) and just emailed a copy to some people. On the weekend I’ve also uploaded the work on for public access. If you’d rather download it right away, I also have a direct download link.

I am thinking of putting together an English summary of this at some point, since the topic is likely of interest also beyond people who read Finnish. For starters, however, you can already check out e.g. the various vowel correspondence tables: p. 58 (a rough outline of the default development of Proto-Uralic non-close vowels *e, *ä, *ë, *a, *o), p. 77 (the cognates elsewhere in Uralic of Finnic *oo) and p. 88 (same for *ee).

(Edit Apr 2019: a summary in English is now up.)

Comments and questions are welcome, on this post or through other channels (email, PMs, etc.)

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Posted in News, Reconstruction
5 comments on “Thesis release, DIY edition
  1. David Marjanović says:


    I am thinking of putting together an English summary of this at some point, since the topic is likely of interest also beyond people who read Finnish.

    Yes, please! I scrolled through it last night, trying and failing to figure out what you were saying about *ë, *ï and *ə around pp. 15–20. :-)

    I do think I got the allusion in the headline “Kantauraliin asti?”. :-þ

    • j. says:

      pp. 15–17 just covers the debate on vowel harmony in Proto-Finnic. It’s still not really settled if Proto-Finnic should be reconstructed with Votic and South Estonian-type e/õ harmony, or Finnish-type harmony-neutral e; there is also a decent bunch of evidence that similarly, *i comes partly from *ï, though this shift must’ve happened already in the prehistory of Finnic. Around p. 20 I instead talk about the similarly unsettled reconstruction of PU unstressed syllables, with no relation to the previous (within my thesis at least).

      Not sure what you mean by “allusion”: N.Iʟʟᴀᴛ + asti is a perfectly normal Finnish expression for “all the way to N”.

      • David Marjanović says:


        No allusion? Oh, good, because making fun of some very unpleasant people is a risky business. :-) To be fair, it was too late at night for me.

        • j. says:

          Oh. Right, I’ve definitely heard of that… No reference intended, but I’m not sure if I can rule out unconscious influence.

          (Edit: really it would also make an appropriate reference for the most highly Finnocentric point reached in the reconstruction of the PU vowel system.)

          • David Marjanović says:

            That parenthesis has me laughing, so your unintentional joke has been successful. X-D

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