Spoken Finnish

Spoken Finnish

Spoken Finnish ("suomen puhekieli") is the colloquial variant of the Finnish language often used in spoken language. This article deals with features of the spoken Finnish language, specifically the variant seen as dialectless. The "dialectless" variant is spoken in the Greater Helsinki capital region, and in urbanized areas in the Tavastian and Central Finland dialectal areas, such as the cities of Jyväskylä, Lahti, Hyvinkää, and Hämeenlinna.Fact|date=September 2007 In addition, this applies also to the coastal cities, such as Vaasa and Porvoo1, which have been traditionally Swedish-speaking, and have experienced an influx of Finnish speakers from a variety of dialectal areas.

The standard language takes most of its features from these dialects, i.e. most "dialectal" features are reductions with respect to this form of language. The combination of the common spoken Finnish and a dialect gives a regional variant ("aluepuhekieli"), which has some local idiosyncrasies but is essentially similar to the common spoken Finnish.

The basics of Finnish needed to fully understand this article can be found in pages about Finnish phonology and Finnish grammar.


As in any language, the spoken version(s) of Finnish often vary from the written form. Some of these variations are due to speakers' inexactitude, but some aspects of spoken Finnish have different grammatical properties from written Finnish. Some of its constructs are either too arbitrary (e.g. "soft D", cf. Finnish phonology), or too dialectal, e.g. "hän" (see below), for use in the spoken language. Furthermore, some very common and "accentless" sound changes are not reflected in the standard language, particularly fusion, liaison and some diphthong reductions.

There is also the problem that purists want to avoid irregularity regardless of actual usage. This has left some sound changes common in spoken language out from the standard language. There is a tendency to favor "more logical" constructs over easily pronounceable ones. This ideal does reflect spoken Finnish usage to a degree, as Finnish is demonstrably a conservative language with few reduction processes, but it is not entirely accurate. The problem of avoiding "irregularity" is most pronounced in spelling, where internal sandhi is not transcribed, because there is the idea that morphemes should be immutable. For example, the "correct" spelling is "syönpä" ("I'll eat"), even though the pronunciation is usually "syömpä". The explanation is that "-n-" and "-pä" are in different morphemes. Just like the explanation that English "boys" is not spelled with a "z" is that they are in different morphemes.

There are also a number of grammatical forms which are used in written Finnish, but only very rarely in spoken. For example, there are a number of constructions using participles which are usually rendered analytically in speech. Some cases and moods are rarely constructive in spoken Finnish, e.g. the instructive and comitative cases and the potential mood. Some survive only in expressions.

On the other hand, spoken language has its own features rarely or never found in formal language. Most importantly, there is very common external sandhi, and some assimilatory sound changes. (On the contrary, there is no vowel reduction.) There are also grammatical innovations, such as question formation by simple word order, e.g. "menet sä?" vs. "sä menet.", "Do you go?" vs. "You go", respectively. In some variants (e.g. Vaasa, Kymenlaakso) of spoken Finnish "-n kanssa" is abbreviated into a clitic that is effectively a comitative case, e.g. "-nkans" or "-nkaa".


Reflexes of dental fricatives

The most common reflexes for old Finnish dental fricatives are /d/ for /ð/, and /ts/ or /t(t)/ for /θ(θ)/. For example, "metsä, metsän" or "mettä, metän" ← "meθθä, meθän" "forest, of the forest" and "meidän" < "meiðän" "ours". Loss of /d/ also occurs, e.g. "meiän". These are seen as "accent-free" pronunciations. Dialects generally have different reflexes &mdash; in fact, the different reflexes are used as a distinguishing feature between different dialects. For more details, see Finnish phonology.

Word-final "n"

One important sound change, which has gone to completion in Estonian but occurs complicated in Finnish is mutation of word-final /n/ into a glottal stop IPA|/ʔ/, orthographically represented by an apostrophe. In some dialects, such as Savo, word-final /n/ is systematically replaced by IPA|/ʔ/, e.g. "isä'iän" ← "isän ääni" "father's voice". Both pronunciations can be heard in the Helsinki area. This means that the genitive/accusative form "-n", which is very common in any form of Finnish, is simply noted by a glottal stop. However, this glottal stop undergoes sandhi whenever followed by consonant, or more often than not (see below).

Final vowels

In standard Finnish, there is a word-final /i/ is in some words, which can be reconstructed as consonant roots. This /i/ is not original in many cases, and it appears only by liaison when case endings are added. Also, in standard language, an "I-E mutation" is seen, where /i/ is used in the nominative and /e/ in some oblique forms (see Finnish phonology). This /i/ is "removed" or "added" according to the particular construction, and in spoken Finnish, a variety is seen.: "anteeksi " &mdash; "anteeks" "sorry": "yksi" &mdash; "yks" "one", cf. "yhden" "of one": cf. "tuli" "fire", "takki" "jacket", "nupi" "tack", "taksi" "taxi", all unchanged

Particularly in Helsinki, the deletion of some, but not all word-final vowels even beyond /i/ occurs sometimes especially if no ambiguity results from its disappearance. This is a feature of Western Finnish dialects, found also in Savonian dialects and Estonian. : "mutta" &mdash; "mut" "but": "-sta" &mdash; "-st" elative case, "away from the inside of"

Vowel clusters and diphthongs

Word-final vowel clusters ending in /a/ or /ä/ have much variation in dialects of Finnish. Especially in Helsinki they assimilate, where only the resulting chroneme marks the partitive in many words.: "puhun suomea" &mdash; "puhun suomee" "I speak Finnish": "pitkiä" &mdash; "pitkii" "(some) long (things)"An /eä/ or /ea/ cluster also appears in many adjectives:: "pimeä" — "pimee" "dark"In other areas of Finland, these clusters may have a different fate. Another common dialectal variant is the raising of /e/ to /i/ in the adjectives: "pimiä". (Partitives are unaffected by this.) Some rarer versions of this suffix include "-jä / -ja", "-ie", and even "-ii".

Similar to the diphthongization of older */ee öö oo/ to /ie yö uo/ (unchanged in Estonian), many eastern dialects of Finnish diphthongize also the long vowels /ää aa/ to /eä oa/. In Savonian dialects, these have shifted further on to /iä ua/.


A related phenomenon is the final consonant sandhi. It improves the rhythm of speech and allows the speech to not to "get stuck" to word boundaries, and because of this, may be heard even in formal language. When a word ends in a stressed mora, which ends in a vowel or an omittable consonant, the consonant beginning the next word is doubled and it connects the words. The two words end up being pronounced with auxiliary stress is on the syllables beginning the words. This is virtually never written down, except in dialectal transcriptions. For example, "Now it arrives! You go first"::Nyt se tulee! Mene sinä ensin. (standard):Ny se tulee! Mee sä ensin. (spoken, usually spelled like this):Nysse tulee! Meessä ensin. (pronunciation in some forms of possibly dialectal spoken language)

If the consonant cannot be omitted without ambiguity, this does not happen. For example::Menetkö sinä ensin?:Meeksä/meetsä ensin? = "Will you go first?"The meaning would change, if the consonant was omitted::Mene sinä ensin.:Meessä ensin. = "You go first."

Generally, you should notice that spoken Finnish is not neatly divided up into words as the spelling would suggest, due to other phonotactical sandhi effects. For example, regardless of word boundaries, "np" is always "mp", "nk" is always "ŋk" (where ŋ is a velar nasal).

Personal pronouns

Some dialects have the full-length personal pronouns 'minä' and 'sinä', but most people use shorter equivalents, like these found in Greater Helsinki region::minä → mä:sinä → sä

The root words are also shorter:

:minu- → mu-, e.g. minun → mun "my":sinu- → su-, e.g. sinun → sun "yours"

The third-person pronouns 'hän' ('he' or 'she') and 'he' ('they'), are commonly used in spoken language only in Southwestern Finland, and increasingly rarely also there. Elsewhere they are usually replaced by their non-personal equivalents - note that there is no pejorative sense in talking about people as 'it', unlike in English. Do note when speaking of animals, they are "always" called it, even in written Finnish.

:hän → se:he → ne

For example, the sentence "Did he mistake me for you?" has these forms::"Luuliko hän minua sinuksi?":"Luuliks se mua suks?"


Numerals 1-10 in colloquial spoken Finnish::yks (yksi):kaks (kaksi):kol (kolme):nel (neljä) :viis (viisi):kuus (kuusi):seittemä(n) (seitsemän):kaheksa(n) (kahdeksan):yheksä(n) (yhdeksän):kymmene(n)

If one is forced to count fast then even shorter forms are used::yy:kaa:koo:nee:vii:kuu:sei / see:kasi:ysi:kymppi

The numerals 1&ndash;9 have their own names, different from the cardinal numbers used in counting. Numbers that have longer names are often shortened in speech. This may be problematic for a foreigner to understand, if she/he has learned words by book:

:ykkönen (number one):kakkonen (number two):kolmonen (number three):nelonen (number four):viitonen (number five) (→ vitonen):kuutonen (number six) (→ kutonen):seitsemäinen (number seven) → seiska:kahdeksainen / kahdeksikko (number eight) → kasi / kaheksikko:yhdeksäinen / yhdeksikkö (number nine) → ysi / yheksikkö

The "-kko" suffix normally denotes a group of x people, but on 8 and 9, it doubles as a synonym for the numeral's name. "Kahdeksikko" is also used to describe a lemniscate-like shape.

The regular "-Onen" / "-inen" forms can additionally be used of objects with an ID number. For example, bus 107 is called "sataseiska", and a competition winner is an "ykkönen" (not "*sataseittemän" or "*yks".)


The plural first ("we") and third ("they") persons are not used as in literary language. The forms used are not considered to be proper for written language, yet they are extensively used in spoken language. As noted in the Finnish grammar page, the passive form with a pronoun "me" "we", instead of a separate suffix "-mme", is normally used in speech for first-person plural. This happens in all forms of the verb. The third person plural suffix "-vat" is not used in the spoken language; instead, the third person "singular" form, preceded by the pronoun "ne" "they", is used. Therefore, the full present-tense paradigm of "puhua" "to speak" in everyday speech is:

:mä puhun (spoken) &mdash; minä puhun (standard):sä puhut &mdash; sinä puhut:se puhuu &mdash; hän puhuu:me puhutaan &mdash; me puhumme:te puhutte &mdash; te puhutte:ne puhuu &mdash; he puhuvat

Some frequently used short verbs have abbreviated (irregular) oblique forms. In Finnish, verbs have an infinitive form, marked with "-ta" and used in the infinitive, and an oblique form, which is used in personal forms. Consonant gradation and assimilation of the 't' in "-ta" may be applied. In the standard language, the correspondence between the two is always regular. In spoken language, some verbs have assimilated oblique forms, while retaining the regular infinitive:

One small detail, which irritates people from other places to no end, is that the word "kuka" ("who") is replaced by its partitive form, "ketä" ("at who"), e.g. "Ketä siellä oli?" ("Who was there?") Other unusual question pronouns are "mihinä" (std. "missä", "where") and "mihkä" (std. "mihin", "into where"). Here, the word "mihinä" uses the ancient Finnish locative currently known as the essive case, instead of the standard specialized locative inessive case.


#Aila Mielikäinen, Marjatta Palander. "Suomalaisten murreasenteista." PDFlink| [http://www.opiskelijakirjasto.lib.helsinki.fi/eres/hum/suomi/mielikainen86-109.pdf] |182 KiB
#Aila Mielikäinen. PDFlink| [http://www.helsinki.fi/hum/skl/ssu/aluejasos/Mielikaisenpuhekiel.pdf Puhekielen varieteetteja.] |33.9 KiB
#Heikki Paunonen. PDFlink| [http://www.helsinki.fi/hum/skl/ssu/aluejasos/Suomi_Helsingissa.pdf Suomi Helsingissä.] |547 KiB

ee also

*List of phonetics topics

External links

* [http://www.internetix.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/ Finnish regional dialects]
* [http://www.isoosormus.net/ IsooSormus.net - Sormusten herra Etelä-Pohojammaan murtehella] - "The Lord of the Rings" in Southern Pohjanmaa dialect
* [http://savo.kolhoos.ee/stories/storyReader$15 Savo kaekuu keskellä mualimoo ja näkkyy Internetissä] - A text about how Savonian people speak, in the respective dialect.
* [http://www.cc.jyu.fi/~tojan/rlang/finn2.htm Some Features of the Vernacular Finnish of Jyväskylä]

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