8.2.18

Summing up 2017

Summing up 2017
I wrote ten blogs during the year 2017. Three of them in March, and three in October. In February, April, November and December I only wrote one blog. All blogs but two I wrote in Finnish; one of the English blogs is a summing up of the blogs I made in 2016, and the other is the poem "When I Was One-and-Twenty" by A.E. Housman. My blogs of 2017 got 540 page views from the visitors. The most popular one was "Pysäytä Aurora 17" (Stop the military manoeuvre Aurora 17), that is, a military event carried out in Sweden from week 37 until week 39. This blog got 242 page views. The second most viewed blog was "Pois tieltä risut ja männynkävyt" (Out of my way twigs and pine cones), which picked 151 page views.
          Those who visited my blogs in 2017 were almost exclusively persons who are natives of some of the non-Romanic European countries or U.S.-Americans. I got delighted, when I saw that Ukrainians and at times Russians so diligently read my blogs. As I mentioned above, I mainly use Finnish in my blogs. It is because it is the language I know best.
         As a matter of fact, I prefer Esperanto to English as a world language, but the number of people who know Esperanto is, regrettably, much smaller than the number of those, who have a command of English. 
 
Blog 1 "Kuulumisia Chilestä" (News from Chile). 22.3.2017 / March 22, 2017. Page views: 25. I went to Chile with my son Illimar to celebrate my sister Liisa Flora, who lives there and who turned 70 on Feb. 28. We and four of our closest relatives stayed there for two weeks.

What is Chile like? A dissenting opinion
In the blog, I first let Mr. Olli Herrala from Finland describe his summer holiday in the country. He makes political points that I do not share but think that they should be heeded. "Audiatur et altera pars" (Let the other party also be heard) is a good old principle. He says that the free market economy based on the economic doctrines of Milton Friedman and put into effect by Augusto Pinochet, the one-time dictator of Chile, has brought wealth and well-being to Chileans instead of the communist misery of the 70's. 
         Herrala admits that there is still poverty in Chile, but accusing capitalism or colonialism for it is a cheap pretext. I disagree. Of course, it is free market economy or "capitalism" that has created the enormous gap between the haves and have nots in Chile as well as in many other places. This issue we could discuss much longer, but let's go on.
My personal impressions of Chile and Chileans
There were many things I got fond of in Chile. I was touched by Chileans' use of colours. It was much more varied than the use of colours in Finland or Sweden. Chileans are easy to talk with, although the only language they seem to know is Spanish (and in certain regions of the country, Mapudungu). In Santiago, there are rich districts and poor ones, that is, barrios bajos. There were a lot of fine cars on the streets, whereas buses were for the most part less modern and full of people.
       The food was fairly expensive, which surprised me. Obviously, Chile is not a low-cost developing country. I enjoyed climbing up hills of Santiago, even if I got quite exhausted of it. It was very warm, and Illimar had more energy than I did; he was the one who led us up the hills. From their tops we had fantastic views over the city. Often there was smog, because the city is surrounded by high mountains except for the Pacific Ocean.
      We celebrated my sister Liisa Flora or Fluu both between us, the close relatives, and with Fluu's Chilean friends. The highpoint was the fiesta at her home. Many inter­esting people came there; we had good food, and atmosphere was warm and homely. Maija, my eldest sister who has studied Spanish, gave a speech to Fluu in Spanish, and so did even I, who has not studied Spanish. Luckily, I have a colleague who knows the language, and I delivered a speech that she had translated from the Swedish original into Spanish. 
      One of the guests came to me afterwards and said that if he could speak Finnish as well as I could speak Spanish, he would be called a native speaker. Chileans seem to be polite people. In honour of the day, we who had come from Europe sang "Gracias a la vida" in Spanish and in Finnish to Fluu. She loves that song, and so do we.
      We visited Valparaiso, saw the magnificent Ocean (but did not swim there) and then we went to Isla Negra to see Pablo Neruda's home, which is now a museum. The Nobel-poet may end this brief report of mine:
 
Cuándo de Chile

Oh Chile, largo pétalo

de mar y vino y nieve,
 

ay cuándo
 

ay cuándo y cuándo
 

ay cuándo
 

me encontraré contigo,
 

enrollarás tu cinta
 

de espuma blanca y negra en mi cintura,
 

desencadenaré mi poesía
 

sobre tu territorio.

Chile, part of the modern world
My Chile-blog ends with the article written by Maria Kuchen. She assaults the market liberalism, and the inequality it has created. Who has the political and economic power, and who possesses the means to use them. Her criticism applies to Chile, and we may be certain that the enormous gap there is between the very rich and the poor majority that I mentioned above will not disappear, not even diminish, not in Chile, not anywhere else either.

Blog 2. "Pysäytä Aurora 17" (Stop the military manoeuvre Aurora 17). 23.3.2017. Page views: 242.
This blog is a description of the big military manoeuvre arranged in Sweden in the autumn 2017. About 20 000 people took part in it; they were not only military but even authority persons from various civil service institutes and departments. Apart from Swedish participants there were military units from other Western countries such as Finland, France, Norway, and the U.S..
         The blog draws on the information material I had got from a Swedish peace organization. We thought that the manoeuvre should have been stopped, since its target was Russia pictured as the main enemy of Sweden and other Western countries. This attitude does not reduce but increases the prevailing tension between the countries in the Baltic Sea region. Moreover, the tension has grown as a consequence of the arms buildup not only in Russia and the States but also in smaller countries like Sweden. Saying this I do not mean to support Russia's occupation of Krim and its participation in the low level war raging in the Eastern parts of Ukraina.

Blog 3. "Kansalaisten sielu ja yhteiskunnan muuttaminen". I translated Paul Logat Loeb's text "Soul of a Citizen: Living With Connection in challenging times", and placed it in my blogs. Published: 31.3.2017. Page views: 30. The blog is published with the consent of its writer. It concerns an excerpt from Loeb's book with the same title. The book has sold over 165 000 exemplars and it is said to be a classic guide as regards engagement in the social change movement.
         I translated the excerpt, because I wanted to learn, how anti-capitalist movements are doing in the U.S., which is the scientific, economic, military and cultural superpower of our time.
         The relations between people are at issue in the beginning of the article. Loeb says that "increasingly, a wall separates each of us from the world outside", and he asks "How can we renew the public participation that's the very soul of democratic citizenship?" Loeb maintains that "certainly we need to decide for ourselves whether particular causes are wise or foolish. But we also need to believe that our individual involvement is worthwhile."
        The article gives good arguments to anyone who is burning to make the world around us a better place to live. Loeb provides his readers with apposite examples. He points out that the practical situation is of great importance in social activism. Rosa Parks who wouldn't go to the back of the bus set in motion a yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery. Loeb puts forth that "Depicting Parks as a lone pioneer reinforces the romantic but ultimately false myth that anyone who takes a committed public stand has to be a larger-than-life figure..." 
       Briefly put, if the world is to be changed, we must do it together, realizing that we all are persons of imperfect character. As Loeb states:"Imperfection may not be saintly, but wielding it in the service of justice is a virtue."

Blog 4. "Pois tieltä risut ja männynkävyt" (Out of my way twigs and pine cones). Published: 14.4.2017. Page views: 151. 
One of the most unforgettable experiences that I had in my childhood was when I had a role in a play written by the Fenno-Swedish writer Zachris Topelius (1818 - 1898). The play is included in a book with the title "Lukemisia lapsille, osa 6" (Reader for children, part 6).        
       The play is about the dispute between the North Wind and the Sun in regard to which one of them was the stronger. In one version of the play, the challenge was to make a passing traveler remove his cloak. The Sun won the dispute, because the traveler was over-come with its heat and forced to take his cloak off. In Topelius' version the traveler is an old woman, and the adversaries keep pressing her to remove her fur coat. Finally, the Sun gets the best of it.
       The play has a long history. I was told that it was included in Aesop's (ca. 620 – 564 BCE) Fables, and it also appears in Jean de Fontaine's (1621 – 1695) Fables under the title "Phébus et Borée" (the gods of the Sun and the North, respectively).
       I did not start thinking of the dispute only because of literary reasons, but also because of the practical reason that I had to put books in order on shelves in my parents-in-law's house. I was glad to find the reader of Topelius, since it made me think of the role I had in the play – I was the ill-tempered North Wind – and of the dispute itself between the North Wind and the warm-hearted (or "heat-hearted"?) Sun. I was so sorry for the awkward situation the old woman had got into because of the North Wind. Luckily, the Sun managed to break through the North Wind's gloomy clouds, and made the traveler's day.

Blog 5. "Keinosanat, kirousko?" (Artificial words, a curse?). Published: 18.10. 2017. Page views: 20. The blog discusses neologisms in Finnish, and I wrote it, because I happened to read an article by professor Matti Klinge, a well-known Finnish historian. He criticizes Finnish linguists, who have been eager to develop the Finnish language by inventing new words. This has been one of their important tasks and duties since the early 19th century
          Finland became a grand duchy ruled by the Russian Czar as its Grand Duke in 1809. This era of Finland's history lasted from 1809 until 1917. The Finnish language was not an official language in the beginning of this period; it didn't get that status until the year 1863, when the Czar Alexander II issued the law that prescribed that Finnish is an official language in the grand duchy beside the Swedish language.
         Developing the Finnish language was a demanding task, since its vocabulary lacked words for modern administration, legislation, education, etc. Matti Klinge describes, how the Finnish linguists carried out this task:"They took a vernacular word, added derivational endings to them, and accomplished a lexical creation, which they declared corresponded to a certain word in another language, best of all, a principal European language. In this way, they had made up a Finnish word, which in spite of its vernacular form had a European meaning." 
       An example of the above is the word "puhelin" 'telephone', which was created in the year 1897. It replaced the word "telehvooni" 'telephone', which some speakers of Finnish had borrowed from Swedish, where the word is "telefon". "Puhelin" combines the verb "puhel-" (stem) 'keep talking' and the derivation-al ending "-in" 'tool; instrument'.1
      Klinge would like the Finnish standard language draw on the lexical sources of the main European languages. However, confronting Finnish words with words of other European languages such as Swedish, German and English gives a false picture of how things really are. The fact is that both Finnish vernaculars or dialects and the Finnish standard language have lots of lone words. They have been integrated into Finnish and its related languages in the course of hundreds of years – in some cases, back thousands of years ago.
     First loans Finnish and its cognate languages took from the Proto-Indo-European language, then from Baltic languages, various Germanic dialects, Russian and its varieties, from old and modern varieties of Swedish, from Latin, French, Arabic and lately especially from English. Approximately 30% of the Finnish vocabulary consists of loans, some of which are very old such as "orpo", which is "orphan" in English and probably derives from the Proto-Indo-European word *orbho- 'bereft of father.2 
   Note that loan translations are not included in the above-mentioned loans. For instance, the Swedish word "träd-gård" lit. "tree-yard", in English "garden", is "puu-tarha" in Finnish, which is an exact loan translation from Swedish.
     The Institute for the languages of Finland functions as the centre that takes care of Finnish and other domestic languages of the country. Of course, languages change constantly and in many different ways. It is utterly important that the expressive power of the Finnish language will be preserved. Finnish linguists and other people to whom language matters should not repel foreign influence but welcome it, especially if it brings with it that the language becomes semantically ever more variegated. 
      We may keep in mind, however, that in the first place, language is not only vocabulary; I think that the Finnish writer Lauri Viita (1916–1965) ex-pressed the gist of the matter best of all when he said that "language is not a mere store of words but the instrument of expressing one's feelings and thoughts".

Blog 6. "Isoisä, rotuhygieenikkoko?" (Was my granfather a eugenicist?). Published: 22.10.2017. Page views: 22. I met an old friend in a party last summer and got quite surprised, when he gave me a book. Its title was very special "Kansankodin pimeämpi puoli" (The darker side of the People's home (Swedish: folkhemmet)). Well, I guess that my friend gave me the book, because it tells critical things about one of my two home-lands, Sweden.
    The author of the book is culture anthropologist Tapio Tamminen. In the book, he deals with the period, when eugenics was a popular subject of scientific research and social policy in Sweden, that is, from the 19th century until the latter part of the 20th century.
     Tamminen mentions my grandfather Väinö Voionmaa (1869– 1947), when he discusses the scientific status of eugenics. Here, we need some background information. It is important to acknowledge that many highly regarded persons such as John Maynard Keynes, Winston Churchill, and Woodrow Wilson supported eugenics as did many scientists. Eugenics was a widely accepted idea both among right-wing and among left-wing politicians. And my grandfather belonged to them who supported eugenics. He was one of the leading socialdemocrats in Finland before World War 2, a professor in history at the Helsinki university, very active in the adult education movement, and a keen advocate of temperance.
     Tamminen does not take notice of my grandfather's political, educational and scientific work as such but says that he without a qualification supported "the creation of a new human being". In the blog, I argue that being a devoted advocate of temperance my grandfather acted against prevalence of alcoholism and deadly violence that were burning issues in Finland in the 20s and 30s. Like the majority of the Finnish parliament and as a member of the parliament, my grandfather seconded the law of sterili-zation, which was enacted in 1935.
     Eugenics was a humanely wrong idea, it was not a right answer to counter and cure the concrete social problems of crimi-nality, misery of all kinds and alcoholism. Unfortunately, eugenic measures did not disappear after World War 2, but in one shape or another they were practised in Finland as well as in Sweden a long time after the war. In Finland, from 1935 until 1970, more than 7500 persons were sterilized for eugenic reasons, and over 3000 on the basis of social reasons. The major part of the sterilized persons were women, some of whom were single parents with small children. After 1970, sterilization has been possible in Finland only at the request of the person concerned.3
     My grandfather thought positively about eugenics, but that was not something he actively advocated. His main interest was, apart from his scientific interests, to promote public education (Swedish: folkbildning) and civilized conditions of living for everyone. In this connection, we have to keep in mind that the calamities of the Finnish Civil War in the spring1918 were in fresh memory of the Finnish people. Before World War 2, Finland was developing a functioning democracy but the social and political tensions between winners and losers of the war were still big and deep.

Blog 7. "Jippii – valloitamme maailman" (Yippee – we'll conquer the world). Published: 26.11.2017. Page views: 19. I was sitting on a sofa at my parents-in-law's living room in Helsinki watching the Finnish TV, and happened to see a song concert in a church. The title of the concert was "Ristin maa" or "The Land of the Cross". A choir consisting of young children, girls and boys, stood in the front of the altar singing Christian songs, and a group standing beside the church benches was pantomiming the choir's songs. The children of the choir were dressed in yellow short-sleeved shirts decorated with the picture of the globe and the word "Jippii" / Yippee / in red letters. The pantomiming group had blue shirts on them.
      The concert was well performed, a real show. It declared the message that was easy to get:"Yippee, we shall conquer the world with our good Christian tidings", or with the words of one of the songs:"The country of the Cross rings the glory of the God." I realized that it concerned a large Christian revival movement, where adults take care of the organization and children are the messengers.
     While watching the concert, I came to think of three things. First, this "Yippee" movement makes effectfull use of modern communication techniques. Secondly, it continues the long tradition of revivalist movements; nowadays there are many similar revivalist groups in Finland. The Yippee-movement has really had air under its wings. Moreover, it has been successfull in spreading its message to other countries such as Estonia and Russia. 
      Thirdly, I kept thinking of this movement in its historic context. Historical data indicate that a crusade called "Children's Crusade" probably took place in the year 1212. Yippee-movement has points in common with this medieval crusade, when it engages children to spread the Christian tidings. (See https://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_Crusade.)
    The Yippee-movement and its activists will most certainly encounter people who do not share their Christian ideology. Undeniably, the Christian music is often enjoyable and mentally nourishing. However, the music itself and well-performed concerts do not give us God, who could save the world and solve the huge problems that haunt the humanity at the very moment. For a better world we need human beings who are ready to act together whatever religion or political doctrine they happen to have or believe in.

Blog 8. "Kielellistä ticitystä" (Linguistic ticing). Published: 16.12.2017. Page views: 10. 
There are people who cannot but do the same things over and over again. This irresistible need to repeat can be physical, and then it is called "tic", but I am fairly certain that it can also be mental. I came to think of my compulsive need to speak about language in all kinds of situations. I call it "my linguistic tic". To be more precise, I have been eager to compare languages relative to the length of their words and sentences. If you wonder why, I have only one good answer: It is because I have thought that the best language of them all is Finnish, my mother tongue.
        After a while, to defend Finnish did not go too well. Then, I gradually understood that there were natural explanations, why Finnish words were quite often quite long. One of the reasons is the fact that in Finnish, there are less sounds (i.e. phonemes) than e.g. in Swedish. In Finnish, there are 8 vowels and 13 consonants, that is, 21 phonemes all together.4 In Swedish, on the other hand, there are 9 vowels (without quantity) and 18 consonants, that is, 27 phonemes put together.5
        Secondly, there are restrictions as regards how the phonemes combine. In Finnish, words typically begin with one or two vowels but just one consonant; in the end of the words there are almost never two or more consonants. The phonematic differences between Finnish and Swedish are visible in words that Finnish has borrowed from Swedish. An example: the Swedish word "frakt" 'freight' appears as "rahti" in Finnish. We notice that two initial consonants /fr/ of Swedish have lost /f/, and that in the end of the word Finnish has the vowel /i/ and Swedish two consonants /kt/.
         A third major reason why Finnish words are at times so long is due to the fact that there are lots of endings.6 
       The phrase "I wonder if I should write (a story)" can be translated into Finnish with one long word; here the stem has been underlined:"kirjoi-tta-isi-n-ko-han (tarinan). Fourthly, and fairly close to how things are in Swedish, it is easy to make compounds in Finnish. They are handy, but at times very long formations. In the lexicon of modern standard Finnish som 40% of the entries are compounds. To take an example:"collection of manuscripts" translates as one compound "käsi-kirjoitus-kokoelma" (lit. hand-writing-collection).
        In the blog, I ask whether it takes a longer time to put one's thoughts into words in Finnish than what it takes in English, where words are shorter. There is some linguistic research on this problem. In one study, seven languages were compared with respect to whether it took equally long time to read a given text in them. There were 59 readers, and the researchers calculated what the information density was per syllable in each word. E.g. "give", pronounced as [gɪv], is a dense syllable because it carries information, while "mul" of "multi" [mʌl-ti] is not a dense syllable.
        To make a long story short, the result of the study was that in the main, in all these languages concerned one could convey the same amount of information within an equally long time. The syllables of Spanish were less dense than English syllables, and consequently, when people speak Spanish, it may often sound faster than English, because a Spanish speaker puts more syllables in his expressions than a speaker of English does to convey the same meaning.7
         Compared with other languages such as Swedish and English, it may be that it does not take longer to utter a given thought in Finnish, but still, it may also be the case that we express our ideas in relation to a given object or phenomenon in different ways. If this is the case, comparing languages with one another becomes a more difficult task. In the blog, I compare the gospel translations of Finnish, Swedish and English. I come to the conclusion that they differ in their ways of dealing with one and the same event.
         I made the comparative exercise in the following way: I took a passage from the book of Luke chapter 2, verse 1. There we can read the following sentence in English:"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed."
         If we only look at the passage "there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus", we find that the Finnish translation follows it extremely well:"... keisari Augustukselta kävi käsky..." (lit. "from Caesar Augustus went command/decree"). In the Swedish example, however, we have the following passage:"[Vid den tiden] utfärdade kejsar August en förordning" (lit."[At that time] promulgated Caesar Augustus a decree". Both in English and in Finnish the subject of the phrase is "decree", which is given by the Caesar. In Swedish, on the other, the subject is "August", who gave the decree.
      The difference between English and Finnish on the one hand and Swedish on the other is very small but not insignificant, since it concerns the perspective from which a given phenomenon or event is looked at. In English and Finnish, the emphasis is on "decree", while in Swedish it is on "August".
       Differences of expression in different languages is a fascinating object to study, and there are a plethora of examples of them. For example, in English "we miss the train ", whereas in Finnish "we "late-ourselves" from-train" ("myöhästymme junasta"). 'To be late' or 'to come too late' is "myöhästyä" in Finnish; it is based on the word "myöhä" 'late'. 
     There is one more interesting difference in these examples, which is that in English "miss the train" is a verb phrase, where "train" is an object. In Finnish, on the other hand, the verb phrase "myöhästymme junasta", contains the word "junasta" 'from-train', which is not an object but an adverbial. "Myöhästymme" is not a transitive verb like "miss" but an intransitive verb. So, these languages express one and the same event quite differently.
      I conclude the blog by noting that my "linguistic tic" has taken me quite far from the defensive reaction on behalf of my first language Finnish. I have understood that languages are different not only in terms of phonetic features, phonemes, syllables, lexical units and syntactic constructions but also in terms of semantic and cultural contents they give us means to think and talk about.              
      Learning a language we do not only learn to say what we think and feel but we also come to realize how endlessly multifaceted the world is when looked through the lens of languages. Languages are gifts we should lovingly and attentively take a good care of. 
 
Footnotes
1 Lauri Hakulinen:Suomen kielen rakenne ja kehitys (Structure and development of the Finnish language). 1979. P. 466.
2In the proto-Indo-European language variety the word was most likely *orbho- 'bereft of father'. Cf. etymonline
3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Civil_War
4 See Fred Karlsson Finsk grammatik. 1981:21.
5 Cf. Olle Engstreand Fonetikens grunder. 2004:95-172.
6 Cf. Leila White A Grammar Book of Finnish. 2008:12–15.
7 See Jeffrey Kluger "Slow Down! Why Some Languages Sound So Fast?". Time Sept. O8, 2011.

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