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Elias Lönnrot

Born April 9, 1802, Sammatti. Died March 19, 1884, Sammatti.

Master of Arts,1827, Royal Academy of Turku
Bachelor of Medicine, 1830 and Doctor of Medical Science, 1832, Imperial Alexander University
Professor of Finnish Language and Literature, 1853–62, Imperial Alexander University
Folk poetry fieldwork and research trips, 1828–44
District Medical Officer for the Kajaani region, 1833–43, 1849–54

Picture: Helsingin yliopistomuseo
Written by Kaarina Pitkänen-Heikkilä and Suvi Uotinen (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Coming up with medical, mathematical and grammatical terms

In 1832 the publisher Frenckell requested of Elias Lönnrot that he prepare a handbook dealing with medical matters in Finnish. Suomalaisen Talonpojan Koti-Lääkäri, ’A home doctor for the common man’, was published in 1839. It was based on Carl Nordblad’s Swedish-language  Sundhets-Lärobok för menige Man. According to Lönnrot’s preface, the koti-lääkäri had been written “with occasional Finnish translations, adaptations, additions and improvements.” Istukka (‘placenta’), kuume (‘fever’), kätilö (‘midwife’), potilas (‘patient’), laskimo (‘artery’) ja valtimo (vein’) – all found in the book and all to become settled medical terms.

Lönnrot wrote an arithmetic primer for the Mehiläinen (‘bee’) journal in 1839. The primer made use of terms such as luotto (‘addition’, ‘credit’), otto (‘subtraction’), kerto (‘multiplication’) and jako (‘division’). Tabula multiplicationis – multiplication or times table – could be understood with the terms laskinkerto (lit. ‘calculator-multiplication’) and kerrantaulu (lit. ‘frame of multiples’). He also offered some established loanwords such as numero and nolla (‘nil’) in place of homegrown laskin, laskimet (‘numeral’, ‘numerals’) and tyhykkä (‘emptitude’). Later in a review written for the literary journal Litteraturblad (1847) dealing with W.Kilpinen’s Finnish translation of Στοιχεία του Ευκλείδη (‘Euclid’s Elements’) he proposed such words as kolmio (‘triangle’), neliö (‘square’), viitiö (‘pentagon’) and kuutio (‘hexagon’) in place of Kilpinen’s suggestions kolmelma, neljelmä, viidelmä ja kuudelma.

In the same journal he was also the first to write about grammatical terms. In a piece entitled "Grammatikaliska termer på Finska” (’Grammatical terms in Finnish’), he listed a total of 260 Swedish-language grammatical terms and gave one or more word pairs for each. There were words that already had a ready equivalent in Finnish, such as sana (‘word’), pääte (‘suffix’), but also several suggestions of Lönnrot’s own coinage, such as Grammatik-grammar, kielioppi (‘language study’), kielimä; ortografi-orthography, sanapuku (‘word-dress’), sanapuento; aspiration, hoonto, huonto; onomatopoietiskt-onomatopoeic, oma-ääninen (‘own-sounding’), ääntömukainen; singularis-singular, yksikkö (‘onesome'); nomen-noun, nimisana (‘name-word’), nimukka).

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