Finnish morphosyntax

This is one of many documents describing linguistic aspects of omorfi’s morphological analysis part. I have written it as an FAQ related to common discussions about certain tags or word-forms in omorfi analyses. It is meant to complement the more computational / hacker documentation in this site. Other references you might find interesting include ISO suomen kielioppi, verkkoversion “Finnish reference grammar” and Universal dependencies for Finnish, which are two facets of the omorfi’s linguistic analysis form. However, omorfi’s analyses are meant to be inclusive for all applications and traditions of analysing language, so while this document argues for certain options, there will be analysers with different versions in omorfi’s source tree for most of the things (added on as-needed basis).

Lemma form: valid database ID, pretty-printed dictionary entry, or ?

Morphological analysers will always refer to lexical units in some way, typically it is a lemma or a dictionary form, but sometimes more machine readable id string/number. For many traditional applications, users expect to see a kind of an pretty-printed lemma: e.g. even when word is not in a dictionary and found by a long chain of derivations and compounding, the analyser acts as if it was any other word in the dictionary: kissatarkoirabanaanisalaatinkastikekulho should work as well as linja-auto.

Omorfi by default uses a word id’s composed of what is pretty much classical lemmas and optional homonym number (greater than 1) to denote a word-form that is in the lexical database, and tags to denote derivation, furthermore each lexeme in compound gets their own id.

> talon
> mies
> talonmies

This will tell us that all three words are in the dictionary: talo “house”, mies (man) and talonmies (janitor), as well as the fact that the compound is made of just talo+mies (man of the house).

If you use legacy application automata, you will get more traditional style readings, but these are not supported / tested by me (flammie), and depend on user contributions.

> talonmies
talon#mies N Nom Sg
talon#mies N Nom Sg

To systematically get specific form of analyses for the lemma, consider submitting a test set, automata building rules or a formatter module in programming language of your choice. The most developed examples can be found in the python/ directories, e.g. conllu / Universal dependencies support.

Adverb or adposition?

Adverbs and adpositions are quite heterogeneous set of words altogether. The main difference in syntax is that adpositions will have nominal complements, adverbs may have verb, adjective, adverb or even sentence complements, or no clear complements at all. Adpositions’ complements are typically genitives or partitives, often found nearby, but not necessarily. Adpositions’ complements may be encoded with possessive suffix attached to adposition itself. Adverbs typically would not have possessive suffixes, but some actually do.

Participle or derivation?

Participles are verb forms, that become derivations when they turn into adjectives. A participle is a participle if it is part of a verb chain, phrase or structure, that cannot be replaced with an adjective, e.g., syntactic tense or such construction. A participle can also be a past connegative form, dependent of negation verb. While participle can only appear in singular and plural, the derived adjective can appear in all case and comparative forms.

Infinitive or derivation?

The three basic infinitives, i.e. first to third infinitive, or A, E, and MA infinitives, do not have derivational use, they cannot replace nouns in syntactic construction. While some grammars have taken the stance that previously fourth infinitive is only a noun derivation, it retains some use that cannot syntactically be replaced by any non-verbal noun, specifically as a complement of negated equative clause. It would be quite difficult indeed to syntactically analyse such structure without an infinitive reading.


The word particle has had different uses in different grammars of Finnish, none of them particularly well-defined. The current grammar will use it as a catch-all class for non-major parts-of-speech. This reading can be used in some versions of omorfi as well. In universal parts-of-speech scheme, particle is not used for Finnish and that practice has been followed in omorfi UPOS readings as well.

I don’t like this word or compound!!

One of the most common feedbacks I receive is: what does this word mean, it breaks my application, please stop adding rubbish words. Omorfi’s word database is build on inclusionist principle, the mere fact that tai is not only a rather common conjunction, but also the most widespread and best known of the Kadai family of languages is not basis of excluding the noun reading. There are plenty of methods to deal with this kind of ambiguity: statistical, rule-based, …

Sometimes words do get misclassified and out of order, if you find yourself wondering a word-form, and cannot find it in finnwordnet or Wiktionary, or finally: Google, you may report it to me.

There is an ongoing work to list particularly suspicious words to produce limited vocabulary analysers.

Adjective or noun?

There are groups of words that can be used both as adjectives and nouns. The most common examples of this include inhabitants of region: suomalainen (a Finn, Finnish), helsinkiläinen (from Helsinki), etc. Also many colour words have this duality: punainen (red), purppura (purple), but some have more or less strict divide between a noun lexeme and adjectival one: sini (blue N) ~ sininen (blue N/A), kulta (gold N), kultainen (golden A). To recognise adjectives, …

Proper noun as noun too?

There are also groups of proper nouns that systematically double as nouns. Most commonly, names of languages: Kiina (China) and kiina (chinese), Suomi (Finland) and suomi (Finnish). It is also true, that in the world at large, pretty much any combination of characters will be used as a proper noun, and many of these found their way to omorfi database. We have some manual annotations for worst overlaps, but it is always a good thing to keep in mind, that most words can be proper nouns, especially when they end in title-case position (however, some modern proper nouns are not even title-cased!).

Adposition or adverb?

There is a large number of adpositions that can be treated as adverb, and vice versa. The rules for telling the two apart are not too clear in the end. The main test should be, an adposition has a compulsory nominal complement, and you should be able to tell what its case is, e.g. usually genitive or partitive, but some take other cases. Many adpositions can also have their possessive suffix as a complement, however, some lexemes with obvious possessive suffixes that could not be imagined as a noun complement must be adverbs. It is especially important when changing and adding ADV or ADP lexemes to document the rationale with example sentence and the description. These examples can be found in [TODO]