An Abessive Case of Amnesia
The translation of Diego Marani’s NEW FINNISH GRAMMAR – a tale of a WWII veteran overcoming amnesia – has been ten years coming. But meanwhile Marani has been busy as Nicholas Lezard in his Guardian review explained:
Now, the concept of learning languages is something close to Diego Marani’s heart: as well as working as a senior linguist for the EU, he has invented Europanto, a language without rules which can incorporate words from as many European languages as you like in order to help yourself be understood. (You can speak it. “Je suis going für ein walk” is, I gather, perfectly acceptable Europanto.)
We assume it’s panto in the sense of it’s Greek derivation meaning: ‘all’. Although “je suis going für ein walk” has huge comic possibilities. And was ist plus fascinante, Lezard summarised the Finnish use of the abessive case (which is one of fifteen Finnish cases):
There is more than one reason, one comes to realise, why Marani – an Italian – chose Finnish as the lost language of his hero. This is a novel about loss, about not having: asked by a nurse what he likes most about the language, Karjalainen replies: “the abessive . . . a declension for things we haven’t got: koskenkorvsatta, toivatta, no koskenkorva, no hope, both are declined in the abessive. It’s beautiful, it’s like poetry! And also very useful, because there are more things we haven’t got than that we have.