I've noticed at work that Finnish people sometimes introduce themselves or refer to others with Surname-GEN Name (eg, Halosen Tarja). Does anyone know what the basis of that is? It seems to me like saying "Elizabeth of the Bennets", but I guess that doesn't feel so unusual in Finnish?

(I haven't heard Swedish-speaking Finns say that in Swedish, so I'm guessing it's a linguistic culture, not national culture.)

@thurisaz It's common in German too, but more in regional non-standard varieties.

I guess it's a possessive (kin and part-whole) relation between the family and the member.

@attribot I didn't know that's done in German. In Arabic it's not uncommon to use "from house X" in this way (or just "house X" to refer to a family), but I hadn't come across this genitive construction before.

@attribot @thurisaz Haha, yes, I wanted to write the same thing - it's also done in some regions of Germany. Like, my parents never talk like that about someone from Berlin, but when referring to people from their home regions, it's often something like "Anna told me that Engel's Josef lost his job" or so. :D

@thurisaz i'm not totally sure, but i guess it has its origins in the times when people really didn't have surnames in the modern sense but house and farm names were used as such.

so eg. Halosen Tarja would've literally meant ”Tarja from the place called Halonen”, ie. it's a locative remnant.

@Stoori That makes sense. That explanation hadn't occurred to me even though I know it's common for surnames to develop that way.

@thurisaz Incidentally, Hungarians also have surnames in genitive. And also Japanese used to have this as well historically.

@madmansnest @thurisaz It is part of some surnames, yes, but it's not used with surnames that don't have it built-in (we also don't really have a genitive case, but we do have an adjective-forming suffix that kinda-sorta works like genitive)

@thurisaz This makes me think of Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Not a great book, but we read it in high school. I don't remember why.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Polyglot City

Polyglot City is the right instance for you if you're interested in linguistics, languages, language learning, or translation, or if you're multilingual or polyglot. All languages are allowed to flourish on our timelines, and multilingual puns are welcome. And of course you're also free to talk about other things besides language.