How to find the root form of words in Estonian

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vesi ehk divesinikmonooksiid ehk vesinikoksiid ehk oksidiaan on keemiline ühendkeemilise valemiga H2O. Seega koosneb üks vee molekul kahest vesiniku ja ühest hapnikuaatomist.

Nice, this is exactly what I could have used in 1998 when I was in Estonia. When reading a text in Estonian one difficult part is identifying irregular words that don't resemble their form in the nominative. Here's why.

Estonian has 14 cases, but when learning a word you generally only have to concern yourself with the partitive and the genitive, because the rest of them consist of the genitive plus another ending, except for the illative, which is sometimes formed with -sse after the genitive and sometimes just with a doubling of the consonant, and I never learned whether both forms were okay or whether it depends on the word.

Anyway, the case I hated the most was the partitive, because it was the most irregular and also wasn't used to form the other cases as well, so it was both more difficult and less frequently encountered.

For example, the partitive of water is vett. The problem is that if you're learning Estonian and only have a simple dictionary, you're never going to find this word vett because that's not what water is, it's vesi. And if someone says "ma lähen sõbraga" (I go with a friend) you're really out of luck because not only is lähen irregular (the infinitive is minema, not lähema), but sõbraga (with a friend) is sõber (friend) in the dictionary. A site like this one was desperately needed for Estonian students.

Looking at the copyright notice it seems it's been around since 2007 or 2008, but I hadn't noticed until then. If you're like me and studied Estonian for a while and then let it slide for a few years, bookmark this site for the next time you have the opportunity to seriously study the language.


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