- Finnish language
speakers=about 6 million
Latin alphabet(Finnish variant)
recognised as minority language in:
Sweden[Finnish is one of the Official Minority languages of Sweden]
Republic of Karelia[ [http://gov.karelia.ru/Legislation/lawbase.html?lid=1751 О государственной поддержке карельского, вепсского и финского языков в Республике Карелия] ]
agency=Language Planning Department of the
Research Institute for the Languages of Finland
Blue: Official language
Dark green: Spoken by a minority
Finnish (Audio|fi-suomi.ogg|"suomi", or "suomen kieli") is the language spoken by the majority of the population in
Finland(92% as of 2006[ [http://www.stat.fi/tup/suoluk/suoluk_vaesto.html Tilastokeskus - Väestö ] ] ) and by ethnic Finns outside of Finland. It is one of the official languagesof Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a Finnish dialect, are spoken. The Kven language, which is closely related to Finnish, is an official minority language in Norway.
Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family and is typologically between fusional and
agglutinative languages. It modifies and inflects the forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals and verbs, depending on their roles in the sentence.
Finnish is a member of the Baltic-Finnic subgroup of the Finno-Ugric group of languages which in turn is a member of the Uralic family of languages. The Baltic-Finnic subgroup also includes Estonian and other minority languages spoken around the
Finnish demonstrates an affiliation with the
Finno-Ugric languagesin several respects including:
*Shared morphology::*case suffixes such as genitive "-n", partitive "-(t)a" / "-(t)ä" (< Finno-Ugric *"-ta"), essive "-na" / "-nä":*plural markers "-t" and "-i-":*possessive suffixes such as 1st person singular "-ni" (< Finno-Ugric *"-mi"), 2nd person singular "-si" (< Finno-Ugric *"-ti").:*various derivational suffixes
*Shared basic vocabulary displaying regular sound correspondences with the other Finno-Ugric languages
Several theories exist as to the geographic origin of Finnish and the other Uralic languages, but the most widely held view is that they originated as a Proto-Uralic language somewhere in the boreal forest belt around the
Ural Mountains region and/or the bend of the middle Volga. The strong case for Proto-Uralic is supported by common vocabulary with regularities in sound correspondences, as well as by the fact that the Uralic languages have many similarities in structure and grammar.
It has been posited that speakers of a Finno-Ugric language have been living in the region of current Finland since at least 3000 BC. The Finns are more genetically similar to their Indo-European speaking neighbors than to the speakers of the geographically close Finno-Ugric language, Sami. Therefore it has been argued that a native Finnic population absorbed northward migrating Indo-Europeans who adopted the Finnic language, giving rise to the modern Finns. [ [http://virtual.finland.fi/finfo/english/where_do.html Virtual Finland: Where do Finns come from?] .]
Finnish is spoken by about six million people that reside mainly in
Finland. There are also notable Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden, Norway, Russia, Estonia, Canada, and the United States. The majority of the population of Finland, 91.51% as of 2006, speak Finnish as their first language. The remainder speak Swedish (5.5%), Sami (Northern, Inari, Skolt) and other languages. It has achieved considerable popularity as a second language in Estonia.
Finnish is one of two
official languages of Finland (the other being Swedish, spoken by 5.49% of the population as of 2006[ [http://www.stat.fi/tup/suoluk/suoluk_vaesto_sv.html Statistikcentralen - Befolkning ] ] ) and an official language of the European Union. It enjoys the status of an official minority language in Sweden. It is also one of the working languages of the Nordic Council. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countriesspeaking Finnish have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretationor translationcosts. [ [http://www.norden.org/avtal/sprak/sk/sprak_sprak.asp?lang= Konvention mellan Sverige, Danmark, Finland, Island och Norge om nordiska medborgares rätt att använda sitt eget språk i annat nordiskt land] , "Nordic Council website". Retrieved on April 25, 2007.] [ [http://www.norden.org/webb/news/news.asp?id=6777&lang=6 20th anniversary of the Nordic Language Convention] , "Nordic news", February 22, 2007. Retrieved on April 25, 2007.]
It is believed that the Balto-Finnic languages evolved from a proto-Finnic language, from which Sami was separated around 1500-1000 BC. Current research indicates there were three or more proto-Finnic dialects. [cite web|url=http://www.helsinki.fi/hum/sugl/proj/finnic.html|title=Omasta ja vieraasta rakentuminen|author= Laakso, Johanna|month=November|year=2000|quote=Recent research (Sammallahti 1977, Terho Itkonen 1983, Viitso 1985, 2000 etc., Koponen 1991, Salminen 1998 etc.) operates with three or more hypothetical Proto-Finnic proto-dialects and considers the evolution of present-day Finnic languages (partly) as a result of interference and amalgation of (proto-)dialects.|accessdate=2007-09-22] The Baltic Finnic languages separated around the 1st century, but continued to influence each other. Therefore, the Eastern Finnish dialects are genetically Eastern proto-Finnic, with many Eastern features, and the Southwestern Finnish dialects have many genuine Estonian influences.
Finland was annexed to Catholic Sweden in the
Middle Ages. Prior to this, Finnish was an oral language. The language of business was Middle Low German, the language of administration Swedish, and religious activities were held in Latin, leaving few possibilities for Finns to use their mother tongue in situations other than daily chores.
The first known written example of Finnish comes from this era and was found in a German travel journal dating back to c.1450: "Mynna tachton gernast spuho somen gelen Emyna dayda" (Modern Finnish: "Minä tahdon kernaasti puhua suomen kieltä, [mutta] en minä taida"; English: "I willingly want to speak Finnish, [but] I cannot"). [cite book |last=Mikkola |first=Anne-Maria |coauthors=Koskela, Lasse; Haapamäki-Niemi, Heljä; Julin, Anita; Kauppinen, Anneli; Nuolijärvi, Pirkko; Valkonen, Kaija |title=Äidinkieli ja kirjallisuus – käsikirja |edition=1st edition |year=2004 |publisher=WSOY |language=Finnish |isbn=951-0-26300-1 |pages=page 87] According to the travel journal, a Finnish bishop, whose name is unknown, was behind the above quotation.
The first comprehensive writing system for Finnish was created by
Mikael Agricola, a Finnish bishop, in the 16th century. He based his orthographyon Swedish, German, and Latin. His ultimate plan was to translate the Bible, but first he had to define rules on which the Finnish standard languagestill relies, particularly with respect to spelling. He also invented single-handedly many words such as "armo" meaning both "mercy" and "grace" (as in "from grace alone, not out of good works...") and "vanhurskas" "righteous". More than fifty percent of these words are still in use.
Agricola's written language was based on western dialects of Finnish, and his intention was that each
phonemeshould correspond to one letter. Yet, Agricola was confronted with many problems in this endeavour, failing to achieve uniformity. This is why he might use different signs for the same phonemes depending on the situation. For example he used "dh" or "d" to represent the voiced dental fricativeIPA|/ ð/ (English "th" in "this") and "tz" or "z" to represent the geminate unvoiced dental fricativeIPA|/ θ/ (the "th" in "thin"). Additionally, Agricola might use "gh" or "g" to represent the voiced velar fricativeIPA|/ ɣ/ and either "ch", "c" or "h" for /h/. For example he wrote "techtin" against modern spelling "tehtiin".
Later others revised Agricola's work, striving for a more phonetical system. In the process, Finnish ended up losing some of its
phonemes. The sounds IPA|/ð/ and IPA|/θ/ disappeared from the standard language, surviving only in a small rural region in Western Finland. [cite web |url=http://www.kotus.fi/index.phtml?s=613 |title=Eurajoen murre |accessdate=2007-07-11 |author=Rekunen, Jorma |coauthors=Yli-Luukko, Eeva; Jaakko Yli-Paavola |date=2007-03-19|work=Kauden murre (online publication: samples of Finnish dialects) |publisher=Kotus (The Research Institute for the Languages of Finland)|language=Finnish|quote="θ on sama äänne kuin th englannin sanassa thing. ð sama äänne kuin th englannin sanassa this.] Elsewhere traces of these phonemes persist as their disappearance gave Finnish dialects their distinct qualities. For example, it has been deduced that the IPA|/θ/ sound became "ht" or "tt" (e.g. meþþä → mehtä, mettä) in the eastern dialects and in some western dialects. In the standard language, however, the effect of the lost phonemes is thus:
*IPA|/ð/ became "d"
*IPA|/θ/ became "ts"
*IPA|/ɣ/ became "v" but only if the voiced velar fricative appeared originally between high labial vowels, otherwise lost entirely.
Modern Finnish punctuation, along with that of Swedish, uses the colon character (:) to separate the stem of the word and its grammatical ending in some cases (such as after abbreviations), where some other alphabetic writing systems would use an
apostrophe. Suffixes are required for correct grammar, so this is often applied, e.g. "EU:ssa" "in the EU".
In the 19th century
Johan Vilhelm Snellmanand others began to stress the need to improve the status of Finnish. Ever since the days of Mikael Agricola written Finnish had been used almost exclusively in religious contexts, but now Snellman's Hegelian nationalistic ideas of Finnish as a full-fledged national language gained considerable support. Concerted efforts were made to improve the status of the language and to modernize it, and by the end of the century Finnish had become a language of administration, journalism, literature, and science in Finland, along with Swedish.
The most important contributions to improving the status of Finnish were made by
Elias Lönnrot. His impact on the development of modern vocabulary in Finnish was particularly crucial. In addition to compiling the " Kalevala", he acted as an arbitrator in disputes about the development of standard Finnish between the proponents of western and eastern dialects, ensuring that the western dialects Agricola had preferred preserved their preeminent role, while many originally dialectical words from Eastern Finland were introduced to the standard language enriching it considerably. [cite book |last= Kuusi |first=Matti |coauthors= Anttonen Pertti |title= Kalevala-lipas |publisher= SKS, Finnish Literature Society|year= 1985 |isbn= 951-717-380-6 ] The first novel written in Finnish (and by a Finnish-speaker) was Seven Brothers, published by Aleksis Kiviin 1870.
The dialects of Finnish are divided into two distinct groups, the Western dialects and the Eastern dialects. [cite web|url=http://www.internetix.ofw.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/|title= Suomen murteet|accessdate=2008-01-03] The dialects are entirely mutually intelligible and distinguished from each other by only minor changes in vowels, diphthongs and rhythm. For the most part, the dialects operate on the same phonology, grammar and vocabulary. There are only marginal examples of sounds or grammatical constructions specific to some dialect and not found in standard Finnish. Two examples are the
voiced dental fricativefound in Rauma dialectand the Eastern exessive case.
The classification of closely related dialects spoken outside of Finland is a politically sensitive issue that has been controversial since Finland's independence in 1917. This concerns specifically the
Karelian languagein Russiaand Meänkieliin Sweden, the speakers of which are often considered oppressed minorities. Karelian is different enough from standard Finnish to have its own orthography. Meänkieli is a northern dialect entirely intelligible to speakers of any other Finnish dialect, which achieved its status as an official minority language in Sweden for historical and political reasons regardless of the fact that Finnish is an official minority language in Sweden, too.
The South-West dialects "(lounaismurteet)" are spoken in
Finland Properand Satakunta. Their typical feature is abbreviation of word-final vowels, and in many respects they resemble Estonian. The Tavastian dialects "(hämäläismurteet)" are spoken in Tavastia. They are closest to the standard language, but feature some slight vowel changes, such as the opening of diphthong-final vowels ("tie → tiä", "miekka → miakka", "kuolisi → kualis"). The Southern Ostrobothnian dialects "(eteläpohjalaiset murteet)" are spoken in Southern Ostrobothnia. Their most notable feature is the pronunciation of 'd' as a tapped or even fully trilled /r/. The Middle and North Ostrobothnia dialects "(keski- ja pohjoispohjalaiset murteet)" are spoken in Central and Northern Ostrobothnia. The Far-Northern dialects "(peräpohjalaiset murteet)" are spoken in Lapland. The dialects spoken in the western parts of Lapland are recognizable by retention of extraneous 'h' sounds in positions where they are not found in other dialects.
One of the Far-Northern dialects,
Meänkieli, which is spoken on the Swedish side of the border, is taught in some Swedish schools as a distinct standardized language. The speakers of Meänkieli became politically separated from the other Finns when Finland was annexed to Russiain 1809. The categorization of Meänkieli as a separate language is controversial among the Finns, who see no linguistic criteria, only political reasons, for treating Meänkieli differently than other dialects of Finnish.Fact|date=February 2008
Kven languageis spoken in Finnmarkand Troms, in Norway. Its speakers are descendants of Finnish emigrants to the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. Kven is an official minority language in Norway.
The Eastern dialects consist of the widespread Savonian dialects "(savolaismurteet)" spoken in
Savoand nearby areas, and the South-Eastern dialects spoken now only in Finnish South Karelia. The South-Eastern dialects "(kaakkoismurteet)" were previously spoken also on the Karelian Isthmusand in Ingria. Karelian Isthmuswas evacuated during World War IIand refugees were resettled all over Finland. Most of Ingrian Finnswere deported to various parts of Russia and Estonia. Palatalization, a common feature of Uralic languages, had been lost in Baltic-Finnic languages, but it has been reacquired by most of these languages, including Eastern Finnish, but not Western Finnish. In Finnish orthography, this is denoted with a 'j', e.g. "vesj", cf. standard "vesi".
The language spoken in the parts of Karelia that have not historically been under Swedish or Finnish rule is usually called the
Karelian language, and it is considered to be more distant from standard Finnish than the Eastern dialects. Whether this language of Russian Kareliais a dialect of Finnish or a separate language is a matter of interpretation. However, the term "Karelian dialects" is often used colloqually to the Finnish South-Eastern dialects.
Dialect chart of Finnish
* Western dialects
***Proper Southern-Western dialects
**** Northern dialect group
**** Southern dialect group
***Southern-Western middle dialects
****Pori region dialects
****dialects of Turku highlands
****Somero region dialects
****Western Uusimaa dialects
***Heart Tavastian dialects
***Southern Tavastian dialects
***Southern-Eastern Tavastian dialects
****Hollola dialect group
****Porvoo dialect group
****Iitti dialect group
**Southern Botnian dialects
**Middle and Northern Botnian dialects
***Middle Botnian dialects
***Northern Botnian dialects
***Tornio dialects ("
Meänkieli" in Sweden)
***Jällivaara dialects ("Meänkieli" in Sweden)
***Ruija dialects ("
Kven language" in Northern Norway)
***Northern Savonian dialects
***Southern Savonian dialects
***Middle dialects of Savonlinna region
***Eastern Savonian dialects or the dialects of North Karelia
***Savonian dialects of Värmland (Sweden)
***Proper Southern-Eastern dialects
***Middle dialects of Lemi region
***Middle dialects of Sortavala region (now in Russia)
***Dialects of Ingria (in Russia) [http://www.internetix.ofw.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/]
There are two main varieties of Finnish used throughout the country. One is the "standard language" ("yleiskieli"), and the other is the "spoken language" ("puhekieli"). The standard language is used in formal situations like political speeches and newscasts. Its written form, the "book language" ("kirjakieli"), is used in nearly all written texts, not always excluding even the dialogue of common people in popular prose. The spoken language, on the other hand, is the main variety of Finnish used in popular TV and radio shows and at workplaces, and may be preferred to a dialect in personal communication.
Standard Finnish is prescribed by the Language Office of the
Research Institute for the Languages of Finlandand is the language used in official communication. The Dictionary of Contemporary Finnish ("Nykysuomen sanakirja" 1951–61), with 201,000 entries, was a prescriptivedictionary that defined official language. An additional volume for words of foreign origin ("Nykysuomen sivistyssanakirja", 30,000 entries) was published in 1991. An updated dictionary, the Language Office Dictionary ("Kielitoimiston sanakirja") was published in an electronic form in 2004 and in print in 2006. A descriptivegrammar ("Iso suomen kielioppi" [Hakulinen, Auli et al. (2004): Iso suomen kielioppi. SKS:n toimituksia 950. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. ISBN 951-746-557-2. 1,600 pages] , 1,600 pages) was published in 2004. There is also an etymological dictionary, "Suomen sanojen alkuperä", published in 1992–2000, and a handbook of contemporary language ("Nykysuomen käsikirja"), and a periodic publication, "Kielikello". Standard Finnish is used in official texts and is the form of language taught in schools. Its spoken form is used in political speech, newscasts, in courts, and in other formal situations. Nearly all publishing and printed works are in standard Finnish.
The spoken language has mostly developed naturally from earlier forms of Finnish, and spread from main cultural and political centres. The standard language, however, has always been a consciously constructed medium for literature. It preserves grammatical patterns that have mostly vanished from the colloquial varieties and, as its main application is writing, it features complex syntactic patterns that are not easy to handle when used in speech. The spoken language develops significantly faster, and the grammatical and phonological simplifications include also the most common pronouns and suffixes, which sum up to frequent but modest differences. Some sound changes have been left out of the formal language, such as the irregularization of some common verbs by assimilation, e.g. "tule-" → "tuu-" (although "tule" can be used in spoken language as well).
Written language certainly still exerts a considerable influence upon the spoken word, due to the fact that illiteracy is nonexistent and many Finns are avid readers. In fact, it is still not entirely uncommon to meet people who "talk like a book" ("puhuvat kirjakieltä"), although this is seen as pedantic. More common is the intrusion of typically book-like constructions into a colloquial discourse, as a kind of quote from written Finnish. It should also be noted that it is quite common to hear book-like and polished speech on radio or TV, and the constant exposure to such language tends to lead to the adoption of such constructions even in everyday language.
A prominent example of the effect of the standard language is the development of the consonant gradation form /ts : ts/ as in "metsä : metsän", as this pattern was originally (1940) found natively only in the dialects of southern Karelian isthmus and
Ingria. In fact, it has arisen from the spelling 'ts' for the dental fricative [θː] , which has disappeared. In spoken language, a fusion of Western /tt : tt/ ("mettä : mettän") and Eastern /ht : t/ ("mehtä : metän") has been created: /tt : t/ ("mettä : metän"). [ [http://www.internetix.ofw.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/ts-vasti.html Yleiskielen ts:n murrevastineet ] ] It is notable that neither of these are forms are identifiable as or originate from a specific dialect.
The orthography of the informal language follows that of the formal language. However, sometimes
sandhimay be transcribed, especially the internal ones, e.g. "menenpä" → "menempä". This never takes place in formal language.
:formal language — colloquial language:"he menevät — ne menee" "they go" (loss of distinction of
animacyand the difference between the plural and the singular):"onkos teillä — onks teil(lä)" "do you have?" (vowel deletion):"me emme sano — me ei sanota" "we don't say" or "we won't say" (the first person plural is replaced with the indefinite voice):"(minun) kirjani — mun kirja" "my book" ( possessive suffixnot used):"kuusikymmentäviisi — kuuskytviis" "sixty-five" (abbreviated forms of numbers):"tulen — tuun" "I'm coming" (irregular verb):"punainen — punanen" "red" (unstressed diphthong becomes a very short vowel):"korjannee — kai korjaa" "probably will fix" (absence of the potential mood)
Note that there are noticeable differences between dialects. These examples are mostly from the language as spoken in the capital area (Helsinki dialect or even "Stadin slangi).
Characteristic features of Finnish (common to other Finno-Ugric languages) are
vowel harmonyand an agglutinative morphology; due to the extensive use of the latter, words can be quite long.
The main stress is always on the first syllable, and it is articulated by adding approximately 100 ms more length to the stressed vowel.Fact|date=September 2008 Stress does not cause any measurable modifications in vowel quality (very much unlike English). However, stress is not strong and words appear evenly stressed. In some cases, stress is so weak that the highest points of volume, pitch and other indicators of "articulation intensity" are not on the first syllable, although native speakers recognize the first syllable as a stressed syllable.
There are eight vowels, whose lexical and grammatical role is highly important, and which are unusually strictly controlled, so that there is almost no
allophony. Vowels shown in the table below, followed by the IPA symbol when not identical. These are always different phonemes in the initial syllable; for noninitial syllable, see morphophonology below.
:1 Although conventionally and conveniently written with the
close-midsymbols [IPA|e] , [IPA|ø] and [IPA|o] , they are more accurately described as mid vowels ( [IPA|e̞] , [IPA|ø̞] and [IPA|o̞] ).
The usual analysis is that Finnish has long and short vowels and consonants as distinct phonemes. However, long vowels may be analyzed as a vowel followed by a
chroneme, or also, that sequences of identical vowels are pronounced as "diphthongs". The quality of long vowels mostly overlaps with the quality of short vowels, with the exception of u, which is centralized with respect to uu; long vowels do not morph into diphthongs. There are eighteen phonemic diphthongs; like vowels, diphthongs do not have significant allophony.
Finnish has a consonant inventory of small to moderate size, where voicing is mostly not distinctive, and fricatives are scarce. Finnish has relatively few non-
coronal consonants. Consonants are as follows, where consonants in parenthesis are found only in a few recent loans.
# is the equivalent of IPA|/t/ under weakening
consonant gradation, and thus occurs only medially, or in non-native words; it is actually more of an alveolar tap rather than a true voiced stop, and the dialectal realization varies wildly; see main article.
glottal stopcan only appear at word boundaries as a result of certain sandhi phenomena, and it is not indicated in spelling: e.g. IPA|/annaʔolla/ 'let it be', orthographically "anna olla". Moreover, this sound is not used in all dialects.
# The short
velar nasalis an allophone of IPA|/n/ in IPA|/nk/, and the long velar nasal IPA|/ŋŋ/, written "ng", is the equivalent of IPA|/nk/ under weakening consonant gradation(type of lenition) and thus occurs only medially.
Almost all consonant have phonemic
geminated forms. These are independent, but occur only medially when phonemic.
Independent consonant clusters are not allowed in native words, except for a small set of two-consonant
syllable codas, e.g. 'rs' in "karsta". However, due to a number of recently adopted loanwords using them, e.g. "strutsi" "ostrich", Finnish speakers can pronounce them, even if it is somewhat awkward.
As a Finno-Ugric language, it is somewhat special in two respects: loss of fricatives and loss of
An interesting feature of Fennic phonology is the development of labial vowels in non-initial syllables.
Proto-Uralichad only 'a' and 'i' and their vowel harmonic allophones in non-initial syllables; modern Finnish allows other vowels in non-initial syllables (they are uncommon, however, compared to 'a', 'ä' and 'i'). Palatalizationis characteristic of Finno-Ugric languages, but Finnish has lost it. However, the Eastern dialects and the Karelian languagehave redeveloped a system of palatalization. For example, the Karelianword "d'uuri" IPA| [dʲu:ri] , with a palatalized IPA|/dʲ/, is reflected by "juuri" in Finnish and Savo dialect"vesj" IPA| [vesʲ] is "vesi" in standard Finnish.
Finnish has only two fricatives, namely IPA|/s/ and IPA|/h/. All other fricatives are recognized as foreign, of which Finnish speakers can usually reliably distinguish IPA|/f/ and IPA|/ʃ/.
Finnish has several morphophonological processes between grammar ("logic") and phonology ("sounds") that require modification of the forms of words for daily speech. The most important processes are
vowel harmonyand consonant gradation.
Vowel harmony is a redundancy feature, which means that the feature [±back] is uniform within a word, and so it is necessary to interpret it only once for a given word. It is meaning-distinguishing in the initial syllable, and suffixes follow; so, if the listener hears [±back] in any part of the word, they can derive [±back] for the initial syllable. For example, "tuote" ("product") agglutinates to "tuotteeseensa" ("into his product"), where the final vowel becomes the back vowel 'a' (rather than the front vowel 'ä') because the initial syllable contains the back vowels 'uo'. This is especially notable because vowels 'a' and 'ä' are different, meaning-distinguishing
phonemes, not interchangeable or allophonic. Finnish front vowels are not umlauts.
Consonant gradation is a
lenitionprocess for P, T and K, with the oblique stem "weakened" from the nominative stem, or vice versa. For example, "tarkka" "precise" has the oblique root "tarka-", as in "tarkan" "of the precise". There is also another gradation pattern, which is older, and causes simple elision of T and K. However, it is very common since it is found in the partitive case marker: if V is a single vowel, V+"ta" → Va, e.g. *"vanha+ta" → "vanhaa". Another instance is the imperative, which changes into a glottal stop in the singular but is shown as an overt 'ka' in plural, e.g. "mene" vs. "menkää".
morphosyntactic alignmentis nominative-accusative; but there are two object cases: accusative and partitive. The contrast between the two is telicity, where accusative denotes actions completed as intended ("Ammuin hirven" "I shot (killed) the elk"), and partitive denotes incomplete actions ("Ammuin hirveä" "I shot (at) the elk"). Often this is confused with perfectivity, but the only element of perfectivity that exists in Finnish is that there are some perfective verbs. Transitivity is distinguished by different verbs for transitive and intransitive, e.g. "ratkaista" "to solve something" vs. "ratketa" "to solve by itself". There are several frequentativeand momentaneverb categories.
Verbs gain personal suffixes for each person; these suffixes are grammatically more important than pronouns, which are often not used at all in standard Finnish. The infinitive is not the uninflected form but has a suffix "-ta" or "-da"; the closest one to an uninflected form is the third person singular indicative. There are four persons, first ("I, we"), second ("you (singular), you (plural)"), third ("s/he, they") and indefinite (often called impersonal or "passive", similar to e.g. English "people say/do/…"). There are four tenses, namely present, past, perfect and pluperfect; the system mirrors the Germanic system. The future tense is not needed due to context and the telic contrast. For example, "luen kirjan" "I read a book (completely)" indicates a future, when "luen kirjaa" "I read a book (not yet complete)" indicates present.
Nouns may be suffixed with the markers for the aforementioned
accusative caseand partitive case, the genitive case, eight different locatives, and a few other cases. The case marker must be added not only to the main noun, but also to its modifiers; e.g. "suure+ssa talo+ssa", literally "big-in house-in". Possession is marked with a possessive suffix; separate possessive pronouns are unknown. Pronouns gain suffixes just as nouns do.
:"See the lists of and at
Wiktionary, the free dictionary and Wikipedia's sibling project."
Finnish extensively employs regular agglutination. It has a smaller core vocabulary than, for example, English, and uses derivative suffixes to a greater extent. As an example, take the word "kirja" "a book", from which one can form derivatives "kirjain" "a letter" (of the
alphabet), "kirje" "a piece of correspondence, a letter", "kirjasto" "a library", "kirjailija" "an author", "kirjallisuus" "literature", "kirjoittaa" "to write", "kirjoittaja" "a writer", "kirjuri" "a scribe, a clerk", "kirjallinen" "something in written form", "kirjata" "to write down, register, record", "kirjasin" "a font", and others.
Here are some of the more common such suffixes. Which of each pair is used depends on the word being suffixed in accordance with the rules of
*-"ja/jä" : agent (one who does) (e.g. "lukea" "to read" → "lukija" "reader")
*"-lainen/läinen": inhabitant of (either noun or adjective). "Englanti" "England" → "englantilainen" "English person or thing"; "Venäjä" → "venäläinen" "person from
*"-sto/stö": collection of. For example: "kirja" "a book" → "kirjasto" "a library"; "laiva" "a ship" → "laivasto" "navy, fleet".
*"-in": instrument or tool. For example: "kirjata" "to book, to file" → "kirjain" "a letter" (of the alphabet); "vatkata" "to whisk" → "vatkain" "a whisk, mixer".
*"-uri/yri": an agent or instrument ("kaivaa" "to dig" → "kaivuri" "a digging machine"; "laiva" "a ship" → "laivuri" "shipper, shipmaster").
*"-os/ös": result of some action ("tulla" "to come" → "tulos" "result, outcome"; "tehdä" "to do" → "teos" "a piece of work").
*"-ton/tön": lack of something, "un-", "-less" ("onni" "happiness" → "onneton" "unhappy"; "koti" "home" → "koditon" "homeless").
*"-llinen": having (the quality of) something ("lapsi" "a child" → "lapsellinen" "childish"; "kauppa" "a shop, commerce" → "kaupallinen" "commercial").
*"-kas/käs": similar to "-llinen" ("itse" "self" → "itsekäs" "selfish"; "neuvo" "advice" → "neuvokas" "resourceful").
*"-va/vä": doing or having something ("taitaa" "to be able" → "taitava" "skillful"; "johtaa" "to lead" → "johtava" "leading").
*"-la/lä": a place related to the main word ("kana" "a hen" → "kanala" "a henhouse"; "pappi" "a priest" → "pappila" "a parsonage").
Verbal suffixes are extremely diverse; several
frequentatives and momentanes differentiating causative, volitional-unpredictable and anticausativeare found, often combined with each other, often denoting indirection. For example, "hypätä" "to jump", "hyppiä" "to be jumping", "hypeksiä" "to be jumping wantonly", "hypäyttää" "to make someone jump once", "hyppyyttää" "to make someone jump repeatedly" (or "to boss someone around"), "hyppyytyttää" "to make someone to cause a third person to jump repeatedly", "hyppyytellä" "to, without aim, make someone jump repeatedly", "hypähtää" "to jump suddenly" (in anticausativemeaning), "hypellä" "to jump around repeatedly", "hypiskellä" "to be jumping repeatedly and wantonly", "hyppimättä" "without jumping", "hyppelemättä" "without jumping around". Often the diversity and compactness of this agglutination is illustrated with "juoksentelisinkohan" "I wonder if I should run around aimlessly".
Over the course of many centuries, the Finnish language has borrowed a great many words from a wide variety of languages, most from neighboring
Indo-European languages. Indeed, some estimates put the core Finno-Ugric vocabulary surviving in Finnish at only around 300 word roots.Fact|date=March 2008 Due to the different grammatical, phonological and phonotactic structure of the Finnish language, loanwords from Indo-European have been assimilated.
In general, the first loan words into Finno-Ugric languages seem to come from very early
Indo-European languages, and later mainly from Iranian, Turkic, Baltic, Germanic, and Slavic languages. Furthermore, a certain group of very basic and neutral words exists in Finnish and other Finnic languages that are absent from other Finno-Ugric languages, but without a recognizable etymology from any known language. These words are usually regarded as the last remnant of the Nordic language spoken in Fennoscandia before the arrival of the proto-Finnic language. Words included in this group are e.g. "jänis" (hare), "musta" (black), "mäki" (hill), "saari" (island), "suo" (swamp) and "niemi" (cape). Also some place names, like Päijänneand Imatra, are probably before the proto-Finnic era. [Häkkinen, Kaisa. "Suomalaisten esihistoria kielitieteen valossa" (ISBN 951-717-855-7). Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura 1996. See pages 166 and 173.]
Often quoted loan examples are "kuningas" "king" and "ruhtinas" "prince, high ranking nobleman" from Germanic "*kuningaz" and "*druhtinaz", but another example is "äiti" "mother", from Gothic "eiþai", which is interesting because borrowing of close-kinship vocabulary is a rare phenomenon. The original Finnish "emo" has become a
cranberry morpheme. There are other close-kinship words that are loaned from Baltic and Germanic languages ("morsian" "bride", "armas" "dear"). Examples of the ancient Iranian loans are "vasara" "hammer" from Avestan"vadžra", "vajra" and "orja" "slave" from "arya", "airya" "man" (the latter probably via similar circumstances as "slave" from Slav in many European languages).
More recently, Swedish has been a prolific source of borrowings, and also, the Swedish language acted as a proxy for European words, especially those relating to government. Present-day Finland belonged to the kingdom of Sweden from the 12th century and was ceded to Russia in 1809, becoming an autonomous Grand Duchy. Swedish was retained as the official language and language of the upper class even after this. When Finnish was accepted as an official language, it gained only legal "equal status" with Swedish, which persists even today. It is still the case today, though only about 5.5% of Finnish nationals, the
Swedish-speaking Finns, have Swedish as their mother tongue. During the period of autonomy, Russian did not gain much ground as a language of the people or the government. Nevertheless, quite a few words were subsequently acquired from Russian (especially in older Helsinki slang) but not to the same extent as with Swedish. In all these cases, borrowing has been partly a result of geographical proximity.
Especially words dealing with administrative or modern culture came to Finnish from Swedish, sometimes reflecting the oldest Swedish form of the word ("lag" - "laki", 'law'; "län" - "lääni", 'county'; "bisp" - "piispa", 'bishop'; "jordpäron" - "peruna", 'potato'), and many more survive as informal synonyms in spoken or dialectal Finnish (e.g. "likka", from Swedish "flicka", 'girl', usually "tyttö" in Finnish).
Typical Russian loanwords are old or very old, thus hard to recognize as such, and concern everyday concepts, e.g. "papu" "bean", "sini" "(n.) blue" and "pappi" "priest". Notably, a few religious words such as "Raamattu" ("Bible") are loaned from Russian, which indicates language contact preceding the Swedish era. This is mainly believed to be result of trade with Novgorod 9th century and so on and the Orthodox converting in 13th century.
Most recently, and with increasing impact, English has been the source of new
loanwords in Finnish. Unlike previous "geographical" borrowing, the influence of English is largely "cultural" and reaches Finland by many routes including: international business; music; film and TV (except for the very young, foreign films and programmes are shown subtitled); literature; and, of course, the Web — this is now probably the most important source of all non-face-to-face exposure to English.
The importance of English as the language of global commerce has led many non-English companies, including Finland's
Nokia, to adopt English as their official operating language. Recently, it has been observed that English borrowings are also ousting previous borrowings, for example the switch from "treffailla" "to date" (from Swedish, "träffa") to "deittailla" from English "to go for a date". Calques from English are also found, e.g. "kovalevy" (hard disk). Grammatical calques are also found, for example, the replacement of the impersonal ("passiivi") with the English-style generic you, e. g. "sä et voi" "you cannot", instead of "ei voi" "one cannot".
However, this does not mean that Finnish is threatened by English. Borrowing is normal language evolution, and neologisms are coined actively not only by the government, but also by the media. Moreover, Finnish and English have a considerably different grammar, phonology and phonotactics, discouraging direct borrowing. English loan words in Finnish slang include for example "pleikkari" "PlayStation", "hodari" "hot dog", and "hedari" "headache". Often these loanwords are distinctly identified as
slangor jargon, rarely being used in a negative mood or in formal language. Since English and Finnish grammar, pronunciation and phonetics differ considerably, most loan words are inevitably sooner or later calqued — translated into native Finnish — retaining the semantic meaning.
Some modern terms have been synthesised rather than borrowed, for example::"puhelin" "telephone" (literally: "chatter" + instrument suffix "-in" to make "an instrument for chattering"):"tietokone" "computer" (literally: "knowledge machine"):"levyke" "diskette" (from "levy" "disc" + a diminutive "-ke"):"sähköposti" "email" (literally: "electrical mail"):"linja-auto" "bus" (literally: route-car)Neologisms are actively generated by the Language Planning Office and the media. They are widely adopted. One would actually give an old-fashioned or rustic impression using forms such as "telefooni" or "kompuutteri" when the neologism is widely adopted.
Loans to other languages
Finnish is written with the Swedish variant of the Latin alphabet that includes the distinct characters Ä and Ö, and also several characters not used in Finnish (including for example C, Q, Å). The Finnish orthography built upon the phonetic principle: each phoneme (distinct sound) of the language is represented by exactly one grapheme (independent letter), and each grapheme represents almost exactly one phoneme. This makes the language easy for its speakers to spell, and facilitates learning to read and write. The rule of thumb for Finnish orthography is: "write as you read, read as you write". However, morphemes retain their spelling despite
Some orthographical notes:
*Long vowels and consonants are represented by double occurrences of the relevant graphemes. This causes no confusion, and permits these sounds to be written without having to nearly double the size of the alphabet to accommodate separate graphemes for long sounds.
*The grapheme "h" occurring before a consonant sounds slightly harder (initially
breathy voiced, then voiceless) than when occurring before a vowel.
Sandhiis not transcribed; the spelling of morphemes is immutable, e.g. "tulen+pa" IPA|/tulempa/.
*Some consonants (v, j, d) and all consonants occurring in (always medial) clusters do not have distinctive length, and consequently, their allophonic variation is not indicated in spelling, e.g. "rajaan" /rajaan/ (I limit) vs. "raijaan" /raijjaan/ (I haul).
*Pre-1900s texts and personal names use "w" for "v". Both correspond to the same phoneme, the
labiodental approximantIPA|/ʋ/, a "v" without the fricative ("hissing") quality of the English "v".
*The letters "
ä" [æ] and " ö" [ø] , although written as umlauted "a" and "o", do not represent phonological umlauts, and they are considered independent graphemes; the letter shapes have been copied from Swedish. An appropriate parallel from the Latin alphabet are the characters "C" and "G" (uppercase), which historically have a closer kinship than many other characters ("G" is a derivation of "C") but are considered distinct letters, and changing one for the other will change meanings.
Although Finnish is almost completely written like it is spoken, there are few differences:
* The "n" in "nk" is a
velar nasal, as in English. As an exception to the phonetic principle, there is no "g" in "ng", which is a long velar nasal as in English "singalong".
* The gemination between words is not marked in writing.
* The double consonant in clitic is marked as a single consonant.
* Only comparative and superlative adjectives the letter m is used like in speech in word like "parempi", but in other similar cases the letter n is used, like in "onpa"
* The /j/ after the letter i is very weak or there is no /j/ at all, but in writing it is used, example: "urheilija". Indeed the j is not used in writing words with consonant gradation (like "aion" and some other (like "läksiäiset")
* In speech there is no difference between the use of /i/ in words (like "ajoittaa", but "ehdottaa", but in writing there are quite simple rules: The i is written in words that consist two syllables and end in a or ä ("sanoittaa"), and in words that are old-stylish ("innoittaa"). The i is not written in words that consist two syllables and end in o or ö like ("erottaa"), words which do not have clear proto-word ("hajottaa"), and in words that are descriptive ("häämöttää") or workaday by their style ("rehottaa")
If the graphemes "ä" and "ö" are not accessible due to technical limitations, they must be replaced with "a" and "o", respectively. As they are not umlauts, it is wrong to write them as umlaut digraphs "ae, oe," as in German. Sequences "ae and oe" are distinct phonemes from "ä and ö", e.g. "haen" "I seek" vs. "hän" "he"/"she".
The sounds "š" and "ž" are not a part of Finnish language itself and have been introduced somewhat artificially by a government regulation. Although they occur in some rare loanwords, their principal use is in the transcription of foreign names. For technical reasons or convenience, the graphemes "sh" and "zh" are often used in quickly or less carefully written texts instead of "š" and "ž". This is a deviation from the phonetic principle, and as such is liable to cause confusion, but the damage is minimal as the transcribed words are foreign in any case. Finnish does not use the sounds "z", "š" or "ž", but for the sake of exactitude, they can be included in spelling. (The recommendation cites the Russian play Hovanshtshina as an example.) Many speakers pronounce all of them "s", or distinguish only between "s" and "š", because Finnish has no voiced sibilants. [cite web|url=http://users.tkk.fi/~tuhkanen/Sery-C/Kotus-sz-hatut-FI.html|title=Kirjaimet š ja ž suomen kielenoikeinkirjoituksessa|publisher=KOTUS|year=1998|accessdate=2008-01-26]
The language may be identified by its distinctive lack of the letters "b, c, f, q, w, x, z" and "å."
Language example"Hyväntahtoinen aurinko katseli heitä. Se ei missään tapauksessa ollut heille vihainen. Kenties tunsi jonkinlaista myötätuntoakin heitä kohtaan. Aika velikultia."
(Translation: "The benevolent sun watched them. By no means was it angry at them. Perhaps it even felt a kind of compassion towards them. Jolly good brothers.")
*(Hyvää) huomenta – Good morning
*(Hyvää) päivää – Good afternoon (literally "Good day")
*(Hyvää) iltapäivää – Good afternoon
*(Hyvää) iltaa – Good evening
*Hyvää yötä / Öitä – Good night / Good night
*Terve! / Moro! – Hello!
*Hei! / Moi! – Hi!
*Heippa! / Moikka! / Hei hei! / Moi moi! – Bye!
*Nähdään – See you later (literally "will be seen")
*Näkemiin / Hyvästi – Goodbye
*Hauska tutustua! – Nice to meet you
*Kiitos – Thank you
*Kiitos, samoin – Likewise
*Mitä kuuluu? – How are you / How you doing? (Not used among strangers.) (literally "what is heard?")
*Kiitos hyvää – I'm fine, thank you
*Tervetuloa! – Welcome!
Important words and phrases
* kyllä – yes
* joo - yeah (informal)
* ei – no, not
* minä, sinä, hän – I, you, he/she
* me, te, he – we, you, they
* (minä) olen – I am
* (sinä) olet - you are
* yksi, kaksi, kolme – one, two, three
* neljä, viisi, kuusi – four, five, six
* seitsemän, kahdeksan – seven, eight
* yhdeksän, kymmenen – nine, ten
* sata, tuhat, miljoona – hundred, thousand, million
* (minä) rakastan sinua – I love you
* anteeksi – forgive me, excuse me
* olen pahoillani – I'm sorry (apology)
* otan osaa – I'm sorry (sympathy)
* totta kai – of course
* pieni hetki, pikku hetki, hetkinen – one moment please!
* Suomi – Finland
* suomi – Finnish language
* suomalainen – (noun) Finn; (adjective) Finnish
* Mitä kuuluu? – How are you? (note: not used among strangers)
* En ymmärrä – I don't understand
* Ymmärrän – I understand
* ¹Ymmärrät(te)kö suomea? – Do you understand Finnish?
* ¹Puhut(te)ko englantia? – Do you speak English?
* Olen englantilainen / amerikkalainen / kanadalainen / australialainen / uusiseelantilainen / irlantilainen / skotlantilainen – I am English / American / Canadian / Australian / New Zealander / Irish / Scottish
* ¹Olet(te)ko englantilainen? – Are you English?
* Missä (sinä) asut/¹Missä (te) asutte? – Where do you live?
¹ -te is added to make the sentence formal. Otherwise, without the added "-te", it is informal. It is also added when talking to more than one person. The transition from second-person singular to second-person plural ("teitittely") is a politeness pattern, advised by many "good manners guides". Elderly people, especially, expect it from strangers, whereas the younger might feel it to be too formal to the point of coldness. However, a learner of the language should not be excessively concerned about it. Omitting it is never offensive, but one should keep in mind that on formal occasions this custom may make a good impression.
Finnish and popular culture
The linguist and author
J.R.R. Tolkienconsidered Finnish to be a particularly beautiful language, and described his youthful discovery of Finnish as inspiring him to pursue a linguistic career ("Finding a Finnish grammar book was like entering a complete wine-cellar, filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before" [ The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien", number 214] ). Several of Tolkien's invented languages, notably Quenya, are stylistically related to Finnish.
Finland's language strife
* [http://www.ethnologue.org/show_language.asp?code=fin Finnish language on Ethnologue]
* [http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/Finnish.html The Finnish language --- a great list of resources]
* [http://koti.welho.com/jschalin/index.htm Early Indo-European Loanwords in Finnish]
* [http://www.spinnoff.com/zbb/viewtopic.php?p=528957&sid=01b0f153c02882afe90bf85f95032f6c#528957 Proto-Uralic to Finnish] (in
* [http://efe.fi/ English-Finnish-English Dictionary]
* [http://www.dicts.info/dictlist1.php?l=Finnish Collection of Finnish bilingual dictionaries]
* [http://www.freeweb.hu/etymological/finnish.htm Finnish Etymological Dictionary by Andras Rajki]
* [http://czudovo.info/list.php?what=1&ln=fi&in=from_en English-Finnish and Russian-Finnish Dictionary]
* [http://iteslj.org/v/f/ English-Finnish vocabulary quizzes]
* [http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~fkarlsso/genkau2.html The 2 253 possible forms of the Finnish noun "kauppa" 'shop']
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