Anders Holmberg (Newcastle University) & Klaus Kurki (University of Turku)

When ’we with Anna’ means ’me and Anna’ in Finnish, Fenno-Swedish and other languages

Some languages, including Finnish and dialects of Swedish spoken in Finland, have a construction where a plural pronoun combined with a comitative adposition and a DP, as in ‘we with Anna’, is interpreted as ‘Anna and I’ (Holmberg & Kurki 2019).

(1) Me Annan kanssa ei olla käyty Berliinissä (Finnish)
we Anna.GEN with not have visited Berlin.INE
‘Anna and I haven’t been to Berlin.’

Normally the pronoun ‘we’ refers to the speaker and some other person(s), where the identification of the other person(s) is a matter of situational context. In (1), the other person is identified syntactically, in the DP headed by ‘we’, so that (informally speaking) all that ‘we’ refers to is the speaker (Vassilieva & Larson 2005).
The construction is an areal feature, found in most languages of Eastern Europe, including Finland, but in no languages further west in Europe, except that Icelandic has a related construction without adposition (Sigurðsson & Wood 2020). We will discuss the syntax of the construction as found in Finnish and Fenno-Swedish. The construction is colloquial, and has not previously been investigated in these languages. Our data come in part from a grammaticality judgment experiment with 810 speakers of Finnish and 618 speakers of Fenno-Swedish.
A characteristic feature of the construction is that the PP can form a constituent with the plural pronoun or can occur separated from it. A feature of both Finnish and Fenno-Swedish is that the PP preferably occurs separated from the pronoun. In Fenno-Swedish this is near- compulsory. Its placement in the sentence is otherwise quite free.

(2) Vi (??med Anna) har (med Anna) aldrig (med Anna) varit (med Anna) till Berlin (med Anna).
we with Anna have never been to Berlin
‘Anna and I have never been to Rhodes.’

There are nevertheless strong reasons to think that the complement position of the pronoun is crucial for the ‘we-as-I’ interpretation: (3) cannot mean ‘Anna and I, who are linguists‘, regardless of the position of the PP in the sentence..

(3) Vi lingvister (med Anna) har (med Anna) aldrig varit till Berlin (med Anna). (Fenno-Swedish)
’We linguists with Anna have never been to Berlin.’

Here the NP linguists, a complement of the pronominal D (Höhn 2018), blocks the ‘we-as-I’ interpretation. So how are the various word orders in (2) derived, with the ‘we-as-I’ interpretation? Discussing various options, we will end up proposing an analysis in terms of Agree between the pronominal D and the DP in the with-PP.

Höhn, G. 2017. Nonpossessive person in the nominal domain. PhD diss. University of Cambridge.
Holmberg, A. & Kurki, K. 2019. Vi med Anna: Inclusory coordination in Finnish and Fenno-Swedish. In K. Ramshøj Christensen & J. Wood (eds) The sign of the V: Papers in Honour of Sten Vikner, 243–266.
Sigurðsson H.A. & Wood, J. 2020. “We Olaf”: Pro[(x-)NP] constructions in Icelandic and beyond. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 5(1): 16. 1–26.
Vassilieva, M. & Larson, R. 2005.The semantics of the plural pronoun construction. Natural Language Semantics 13: 101-124.