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1. Is Estonian inflected? ‎

Estonian nouns and adjectives have no genders, but almost all words are inflected according to their roles in the sentence: verbs, nouns, pronouns, numerals, ‎adjectives, and some particles.‎ There are 14 cases. Each noun, adjective, pronoun, and numeral has 14 cases – 3 main grammatical ‎cases: nominative, genitive, partitive; 3 inner locative cases: illative, inessive, elative; 3 outer locative ‎cases: allative, adessive, ablative; and 5 additional cases: translative, terminative, essive, abessive, ‎and comitative. The cases (except for the 3 main grammatical cases) are formed by adding case endings to ‎the genitive case form, and often serve the same purpose as prepositions in English.‎ Despite having many cases, the Estonian language lacks the ordinary object case, the accusative, which ‎is common among the Indo-European languages. The direct object in Estonian is expressed by the ‎nominative, genitive or partitive, in the singular, and by the nominative or the partitive in the plural. Using ‎the genitive object (in singular) and the nominative object (in plural) marks a completion of an action ‎directed at that object, and that all of the object is involved. The usage of the partitive case expresses ‎unfinished nature of the action, and the partiality of an object.‎

‎2. How flexible is word order?

The standard word order in Estonian is Subject-Verb-Object, but can be changed to stress some parts of ‎the sentence. Normally, the stressed part is moved to the end of the sentence, especially when the ‎sentence starts with an adverb or object. In that case, the word order can also be Object-Verb-Subject, or Verb-‎Subject-Object. An adjective precedes the noun it modifies. An adverb of time precedes an adverb of ‎place.‎

3. How are questions asked? Does Estonian use auxiliary verbs to form questions?

Questions begin with a question word (who, what, etc) followed by the subject, verb and object. ‎Intonation rises on the word that is being emphasized and falls at the end.‎
Questions can also begin with an interrogative word such as kas (‘yes’/’no’-question), eks (‘yes’-question), ‎ega (‘no’-question), followed by Subject-Verb-Object. In spoken language, interrogative words are ‎sometimes left out, but instead there is either a change in intonation or word order to Verb-Subject-‎Object. ‎

‎4. Are there sounds that are hard to pronounce for English native speakers?

There are a few sounds in Estonian uncommon in English: Ä, pronounced as the ‘a’ in ‘cat’; Ö, sometimes ‎pronounced as the ‘i’ in ‘girl’; Õ, pronounced somewhat as ‘oa’ in ‘loan’; and Ü pronounced somewhat like ‘y’ in ‎‎‘physical’. In addition to pronunciation, a greater challenge is presented by the three degrees of vowel ‎length, e.g., short degree: jama – ‘rubbish talk’; long degree: jaama – genitive case form, i.e. ‘station’s’; ‎and overlong degree: jaama – short illative form, i.e. ‘to the station’, having double the duration of the ‎already long ‘aa’.‎

5. Are Estonian words longer, shorter or about the same as in English?‎

The average Estonian word is longer than its English translation. There are numerous compound words in ‎Estonian.‎

‎6. What happens to loan words when they are imported into Estonian?

The so called “foreign words” in Estonian often have similar stems to English words, but may change a ‎little across the 3 main grammatical cases (nominative, genitive, and partitive). Some examples of ‎English–Estonian equivalents in the 3 main cases: ‘auto’ – auto, auto, autot; ‘banana’ – banaan banaani, ‎banaani; ‘lamp’ – lamp, lambi, lampi; ‘theater’ – teater, teatri, teatrit; ‘deficit’ – defitsiit, defitsiidi, defitsiiti; ‎‎‘barbaric’ – barbaarne, barbaarse, barbaarset; ‘politics’ – poliitika, poliitika, poliitikat. It is quite possible to ‎develop a feel for turning those “foreign words” into Estonian equivalents.‎

‎7. What language family does Estonian belong to?

Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic languages family. It’s closest larger relative is ‎Finnish, while another distant relative in the Finno-Ugric group is Hungarian.‎

‎8. Does Estonian use more or fewer words than English?

An average Estonian sentence contains fewer words than English. However, because Estonian words are generally longer than English, the total number ‎of characters in a sentence may be the same or higher than English.‎

‎10. Are there any special characters or accents?

Estonian uses the same script as English with some additional characters, e.g. õ, ä, ö, ü. Some ‎letters are referred to as foreign letters, most of which are commonly used in English (b, d, c, f, g, š, z, ‎ž). Foreign letters are only seen in “foreign words”. There are no special accents.‎

11. Are there short and long vowels?

Yes, the vowels occur in short, long, and overlong form, and so do the consonants. The Estonian ‎language is rich in vowels: the vowel-consonant rate in Estonian is 45:55. As many as 36 diphthongs can ‎be formed from vowels that offer interesting combinations (e.g. the compound word kõueööaimdus ‎‎’anticipation of the thundery night’). Vowels on their own can also carry a meaning: öö ‘night’, õu ‎‎’backyard’, ei ‘no’. Some Estonian compounds may even have quadruplicate vowels, for example: ‎Kuuuurijate töööö jäääärel, ‘A moon researchers’ work-night at the edge of the ice’.‎

12. On the average, do people in your country speak faster than Americans?

Yes, people speak faster; significant contrast can be seen in typical TV anchors’ speech.‎

‎13. Is each letter of the alphabet pronounced always in the same way?

Yes, it is very important to pronounce each letter with the same length in order to be understood. Slight ‎changes in degrees of pronunciation often change both the meanings and grammatical relations of the ‎words.‎

14. Are all words stressed more or less on the same syllable?‎

Yes, the stress in Estonian words is almost always on the first syllable. However, there is frequently a ‎secondary stress on odd, non-final syllables.‎

‎15. Does Estonian Use the So-Called Title Case?‎

There is no ‘Title’ case in Estonian. Only the first letter of the first word is capitalized in headings.‎


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