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4.7 out of 5 stars
Finnish: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This book is a comprehensive, yet concise reference grammar of Finnish. Karlsson starts with a brief overview of history, then turns to pronunciation and sound alternations. Following these topics, he presents the general nominal declensions and the conjugation of verbs. He then delves into much deeper detail with the case system and the verb systems, followed by the comparison of adjectives and word formation. He closes the main text with an extremely useful chapter on the colloquial spoken language, in which he explains which rules discussed above were only theoretical, and what people actually say.
This book has pictures of intonation patterns, nominal declension charts in all 15 cases in both the singular and plural, and a handy appendix of complete verb declensions. Important grammatical rules are printed in eye-catching boxes, while key grammatical endings are printed in bold in the numerous examples. I've found this book to be tremendously useful at all stages of my development in Finnish language skills. I read it intensively when I was first studying the language, and I continually turn to it for reference today, although I can now speak Finnish fairly fluently. If you want to learn Finnish or learn about Finnish, you need this book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Finnish is an agglutinative language -- that is, words are inflected or conjugated through "gluing" new endings, each of which has adds its own meaning, to basic word forms. Among this volume's most valuable features is the chapter entitled "A survey of word structure," which describes exactly and understandably how these endings are added to basic forms, and in what order. Most "learning Finnish" courses are designed to transmit this knowledge... eventually -- but few if any (none that I've found) explain the basic logic of Finnish words so straightforwardly, and where it ought to be explained: at the beginning. It's cleared up a lot of my confusion -- now I've got a solid structure into which I can fit everything else I've got to learn about declension and conjugation. The rest of the book is just as magnificent at explaining the complexities of Finnish grammar intelligently and intelligibly, with scads of examples and numerous tables. It's clear to me: if you want to learn Finnish, get a good basic course text, a decent Finnish-English-Finnish dictionary -- and this book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book was written in Swedish for people who must use Finnish in Finland correctly. It is SO GOOD that it has been translated into English and for a long time sold for $89.00 in a paperback edition on cheap paper that began yellowing almost immediately. I bought this expensive, low-quality edition and have never regretted it. My only negative thought was that it might fall apart before I do. Now Routledge has eased that fear by publishing the book on better paper and for a (slightly) lower price.
It is not for beginners. It is for those who have sweated over the complexities of Finnish morphology and sound changes and STILL have doubts. Karlsson's understanding of Finnish structure is so perfect and his ability to explain it so skillful that he has produced a reference work that transfess that clarity of view to the student.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having purchased a copy of Routledge's "Greek Grammar," i was very skeptical of Karlsson's Finnish Grammar, Primarily because of its publisher. Although this may seem like an enormous generalization on the part of Routledge's books, in the past I have not been pleased with their guides to grammar on a variety of languages. But being the fan of Finnish that I am, and the lack of good Finnish courses available, I decided to give this grammar a try-and what surprise was i in for. The first page of this book gives a brief but useful explanation of the roots of the Finnish language, and its close and distant relatives. Although judging by the first review of this book, possible buyers may be swayed by the fact that it appears to be unsuitable for beginners, i found the opposite to be true-it is ideal for beginners. Although I know a few words of Finnish, and the conjugations of some verbs and a few suffixes, this book explains everything that a beginner would need to know-or for that matter that anyone would need to know, and explains the complicated vowel graduation, and agglutinative concepts that can frighten away people not familiar with the agglutinative languages. All in all, this book is a priceless resource to anyone wanting to become familiarized with the Finnish language.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is not a step-by-step type of programmed course, but it is EXTREMELY well organized. Anyone who knows how to get the most out of a table of contents can learn Finnish grammar with this book. I can't imagine a more thorough, concise, or user-friendly grammar book. The index is not exhaustive, but the table of contents makes up for it. I would have paid more for this book, and would have bought it in hardcover. Look no further - this is the Finnish grammar you want.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a must for those that have started to learn the Finnish language and are confused about the technical aspects of the language. It COMPLETELY explains how to contruct finnish words out of the stems and case endings. If you are like me, you were extremely frustrated with the starter books about Finnish that basically just touch the surface on the technical aspects of the language. If this describes you, then this book is a must-have.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Like other people said in their reviews, this isn't a book for beginners. I bought this book when I was a beginner and really couldn't use much of the material, but as I went on it became more pertinent. Of course the book will only take you so far. There are a lot of grammar topics not covered in the book, for example the possibilty construction (on tehtävissä), which is pretty common isn't found anywhere. Also, some of the topics could have been explained better, like the passive. Karlsson tried to explain it in an easier manner, but in reality I think his explanation wasn't as clear as some other books, like even TY Finnish. The last few chapters are helpful but it seems like they were put together at the last minute. The section on word derivations isn't explained very well, basically it's just a list of words with translations. The colloquial chapter could have been MUCH better, since the differences between the colloquial language and the formal, written one are verrry big. Ideally he could've included mentions of the different dialects and such.

I'd recommend this to everyone who's been studying Finnish for at least a year and has a decent grasp on it. It is essential, it covers a lot of things that most books don't cover, but unfortunately it is not the perfect Finnish grammar book, and if anyone knows of such a book (whether in Finnish or English) please contact me!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been a student of the Finnish language for years, and this is by far one of the most clearly informitave and easy to understand texts I've ever come across.
Not so much a "teach yoursef" book as it is a reference guide for students of Finnish, Karlsson's book goes into everything from word structure, verb conjugation, etc., to a wonderful chapter on colloquial Finnish.
I highly recommend this book for any student of Finnish. Next to your English-Finnish dictionary, this is the most important reference volume you can have!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Well, the ground isn't exactly thick with Finnish textbooks, so I figured I'd give this one a go and see what happened. As it turns out, I was delighted - no, ecstatic - at the quality of this book.

The first couple of Finnish books I'd used were of the "teach yourself" variety. These were good for learning useful phrases - almost like a Berlitz book, but with more cartoons and some practice exercises - but were absolutely horrible for learning the nuts and bolts of the language. I learn languages in much the same way as I do logical or mathematical structures, and am lost without thorough explanations of grammar and syntax from the get-go, so I needed something better than (or at least something to go along with) these books.

This book is the one. It starts out with amazingly precise guides to pronunciation and word structure, and the first few chapters contain detailed explanations of phenomena that ABSOLUTELY NEED to be understood to make sense of word formation (i.e., consonant gradation and pre-"i" vowel changes). These first chapters immediately cleared up many of the word changes that had previously mystified me.

The rest of the chapters are just as good as the beginning ones.

What really stands out about this book, though, is the enormous wealth of examples - sometimes between ten and twenty for each grammatical point. (These examples are the main reason the book is 200-odd pages long instead of 100-odd pages.) There are so many examples that, after looking at the first few, I can cover up the Finnish text and translate the rest of them as "exercises."

Even more astoundingly, this book wasn't originally written in English. The quality of the translation is so good that this book appears to have been written äidinkieleksi in English.

If you get this book, some sort of "teach yourself" book (mostly for the conversational usage), and a bunch of flash cards for vocabulary (
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The other reviewers have covered the good things about this book so I won't go into too much detail.

I taught myself the equivalent of 1 and 1/2 semesters of Finnish in ~6 months before studying abroad in Finland using this book and vocabulary building software (Byki). Finnish: An Essential Grammar is very systematic and comprehensive. The best part is that every grammatical concept introduced in the book is demonstrated using multiple examples, so you really get an idea of how things work in the language. It works great as a reference for both reading and writing. It is well-written and I often read it for fun because I find the grammar to be so interesting.

A couple notes to those looking to purchase this:
* This isn't a textbook or a book for learning vocabulary. It is a reference and is only meant to be used to understand grammar.
* I would say this book is fine for beginners, but the use of linguistic terminology in the book is pretty heavy. It's a small hurdle but some reviewers seem to find this to be particularly frustrating.

I have both the Kindle and paperback editions. As it is a reference book, I would recommend getting a paperback edition. This is the sort of book that you flip through, not read cover to cover.

Enjoy!
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