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Estonian ( ) is a
Finnic language The Finnic (''Fennic'') or Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages are a branch of the Uralic language family spoken around the Baltic Sea by Finnic peoples. There are around 7 million speakers who live ...

Finnic language
, written in the
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequ ...

Latin script
. It is the official language of
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...

Estonia
and one of the official
languages of the European Union The languages of the European Union are language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people; 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 outside Estonia.


Classification

Estonian belongs to the
Finnic
Finnic
branch of the
Uralic language family The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writin ...

Uralic language family
. The Finnic languages also include
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
and a few minority languages spoken around the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, enclosed by Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that a ...

Baltic Sea
and in northwestern Russia. Estonian is subclassified as a Southern Finnic language and it is the second-most-spoken language among all the Finnic languages. Alongside Finnish,
HungarianHungarian may refer to: * Hungary, a country in Central Europe * Kingdom of Hungary, state of Hungary, existing between 1000 and 1946 * Hungarians, ethnic groups in Hungary * Hungarian algorithm, a polynomial time algorithm for solving the assignmen ...
and
Maltese Maltese may refer to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to Malta * Maltese alphabet * Maltese cuisine * Maltese culture * Maltese language, the Semitic language spoken by Maltese people * Maltese people, people from Malta or of Maltese ...
, Estonian is one of the four official languages of
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
that is not of an
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation ...
origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of their origin, Estonian and Finnish are not related to their nearest geographical neighbours,
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
, Latvian, and
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
(which are all
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or o ...
), however they are related to the nearby minority
Karelian
Karelian
and Livonian languages. Although the Estonian and
Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...
s are of very different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and German. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic languages
, mainly from Low Saxon (
Middle Low German Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "Saxon", Standard German, Standard High German: ', Dutch language, Modern Dutch: ') is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle ...
) during the period of German rule, and
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (; not to be confused with Standard High German which is imprecisely also called ''High German''), comprise the varieties Variety may refer to: Science and te ...
(including
Standard German Standard High German (SHG), less precisely Standard German or High German (not to be confused with High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (; not to be confused with Standard High German ...
). The percentage of Low Saxon and High German loanwords can be estimated at 22–25 percent, with Low Saxon making up about 15 percent. Swedish and Russian are two other sources of borrowings, but to a much lesser extent. Estonian is a predominantly
agglutinative language An agglutinative language is a type of synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatica ...
, but unlike Finnish, it has lost
vowel harmony In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one ...
, the front vowels occurring exclusively on the first or stressed syllable, although in older texts and in
South Estonian South Estonian is spoken in south-eastern Estonia, encompassing the Tartu, Mulgi, Võro and Seto Seto may refer to: Places * Seto, Aichi, production place of Japanese pottery and venue of Expo 2005 * Seto, Ehime, facing the Seto Inland Sea *Se ...
dialects the vowel harmony can still be recognized. Furthermore, the loss of word-final sounds is extensive, and this has made its inflectional morphology markedly more fusional, especially with respect to noun and adjective inflection. The transitional form from an agglutinating to a fusional language is a common feature of Estonian typologically over the course of history with the development of a rich morphological system. Word order is considerably more flexible than English, but the basic order is
subject–verb–object In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
.


History

The two different historical Estonian languages (sometimes considered
dialects The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to b ...

dialects
), the North and
South Estonian language South Estonian is spoken in south-eastern Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Fin ...
s, are based on the ancestors of modern Estonians' migration into the territory of Estonia in at least two different waves, both groups speaking considerably different
Finnic
Finnic
vernaculars. Modern standard Estonian has evolved on the basis of the dialects of Northern Estonia. The oldest written records of the Finnic languages of Estonia date from the 13th century. ''Originates Livoniae'' in the
Chronicle of Henry of Livonia The ''Livonian Chronicle of Henry'' ( la, Heinrici Cronicon Lyvoniae) is a document in Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken i ...
contains Estonian place names, words and fragments of sentences.


Estonian literature

The earliest extant samples of connected (north) Estonian are the so-called Kullamaa prayers dating from 1524 and 1528. In 1525 the first book published in the Estonian language was printed. The book was a Lutheran manuscript, which never reached the reader and was destroyed immediately after publication. The first extant Estonian book is a bilingual German-Estonian translation of the Lutheran catechism by S.Wanradt and J.Koell dating to 1535, during the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity Western Christianity is one of two sub-divisions of Christianity Christianity is an Abra ...
period. An Estonian grammar book to be used by priests was printed in German in 1637.
The New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Chris ...
was translated into southern Estonian in 1686 (northern Estonian, 1715). The two languages were united based on northern Estonian by Anton thor Helle. Writings in Estonian became more significant in the 19th century during the Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840). The birth of native Estonian literature was in 1810 to 1820 when the patriotic and philosophical poems by were published. Peterson, who was the first student at the then German-language
University of Dorpat The University of Tartu (UT; et, Tartu Ülikool, la, Universitas Tartuensis) is a university in the city of Tartu in Estonia. It is the national university of Estonia, and the only classical university in the country, and also the biggest and ...
to acknowledge his Estonian origin, is commonly regarded as a herald of Estonian national literature and considered the founder of modern Estonian poetry. His birthday, March 14, is celebrated in
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...

Estonia
as
Mother Tongue A first language, native tongue, native language, or mother/father/parent tongue (also known as arterial language or L1) is a language or dialect that a person has been exposed to from birth or within the critical period hypothesis, critical pe ...
Day. A fragment from Peterson's poem "Kuu" expresses the claim reestablishing the birthright of the Estonian language: :''Kas siis selle maa keel'' :''Laulutuules ei või'' :''Taevani tõustes üles'' :''Igavikku omale otsida?'' In English: :''Can the language of this land'' :''In the wind of incantation'' :''Rising up to the heavens'' :''Not seek for eternity?'' :::''Kristjan Jaak Peterson'' In the period from 1525 to 1917, 14,503 titles were published in Estonian; by comparison, between 1918 and 1940, 23,868 titles were published. In modern times
Jaan Kross Jaan Kross (19 February 1920 – 27 December 2007) was an Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Eston ...
,
Jaan Kaplinski 250px, Jaan Kaplinski performing during Tallinn Literature Festival Jaan Kaplinski (born 22 January 1941 in Tartu) is an Estonian poet, philosopher, and culture critic. Kaplinski is known for his independent mind, focus on global issues and suppor ...
and
Viivi Luik Viivi Luik (born 6 November 1946, in Tänassilma, Viljandi County, Tänassilma, Estonia) is an Estonian poet and prosaist. Life From 1965 to 1967 Viivi Luik studied at the Tallinn extramural secondary school, working at the same time as a libraria ...
are three of
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...

Estonia
's best known and most translated writers.


State language

Writings in Estonian became significant only in the 19th century with the spread of the ideas of the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link= ...
, during the Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840). Although
Baltic Germans The Baltic Germans (german: Deutsch-Balten or , later ; and остзейцы ''ostzeitsy'' 'Balters' in Russian) are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia. Since their reset ...
at large regarded the future of Estonians as being a fusion with themselves, the Estophile educated class admired the ancient culture of the Estonians and their era of freedom before the conquests by Danes and Germans in the 13th century. After the
Estonian War of Independence The Estonian War of Independence ( et, Vabadussõda, literally "Freedom War"), also known as the Estonian Liberation War, was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army The Estonian Land Forces ( et, Maavägi), unofficially referred to as the E ...
in 1919, the Estonian language became the
state language An official language, also called state language, is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have ...
of the newly independent country. In 1945, 97.3% of Estonia considered itself ethnic Estonian and spoke the language. When Estonia was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, the status of the Estonian language changed to the first of two official languages (Russian being the other one). As with Latvia many immigrants entered Estonia under Soviet encouragement. In the second half of the 1970s, the pressure of bilingualism (for Estonians) intensified, resulting in widespread knowledge of Russian throughout the country. The Russian language was termed as ‘the language of friendship of nations’ and was taught to Estonian children, sometimes as early as in kindergarten. Although teaching Estonian to non-Estonians in schools was compulsory, in practice learning the language was often considered unnecessary. During the
Perestroika Perestroika (; russian: links=no, перестройка, p=pʲɪrʲɪˈstrojkə, a=ru-perestroika.ogg) was a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) ...
era, The Law on the Status of the Estonian Language was adopted in January 1989. The 1991 collapse of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
led to the restoration of the
Republic of Estonia A republic ( la, res publica ''Res publica'' (also spelt as ''rēs pūblica'' to indicate vowel length In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived length of a vowel sound: the corresponding physical measurement is length (phonetics), du ...

Republic of Estonia
's
independence Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or Sovereign state, state in which residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory. The opposite of independe ...
. Estonian went back to being the only
state language An official language, also called state language, is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have ...
in Estonia which in practice meant that use of Estonian was promoted while the use of
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
was discouraged. The return of Soviet immigrants to their countries of origin has brought the proportion of Estonians in Estonia back above 70%. And again as in Latvia, today many of the remnant non-Estonians in Estonia have adopted the Estonian language; about 40% at the 2000 census.


Dialects

The Estonian dialects are divided into two groups – the northern and southern dialects, historically associated with the cities of
Tallinn Tallinn (; ) is the most populous, primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutherian mammal constituting the Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic order (biology), order Primates (). Primates arose 85–55 millio ...

Tallinn
in the north and
Tartu Tartu (, South Estonian: ''Tarto'') is the second-largest city in Estonia, after the political and financial capital, Tallinn. It is southeast of Tallinn and 245 kilometres (152 miles) northeast of Riga, the capital of Latvia. Tartu lies on th ...

Tartu
in the south, in addition to a distinct ''kirderanniku'' dialect,
Northeastern coastal EstonianThe northeastern coastal dialect (Estonian: ''kirderannikumurre'') is a Finnic dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two ...
. The northern group consists of the or central dialect that is also the basis for the standard language, the or western dialect, roughly corresponding to
Lääne County Lääne County ( et, Lääne maakond), or ''Läänemaa'' (literally "Western land"; german: Wiek, la, Rotalia), is one of 15 counties of Estonia County, Counties ( et, maakond, plural ') are the first-level administrative subdivisions of Eston ...
and
Pärnu County Pärnu () is the fourth largest city in Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finla ...
, the (islands' dialect) of
Saaremaa Saaremaa ( , ) is the largest island in Estonia, measuring . The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island and west of Muhu island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago. The capital of the islan ...

Saaremaa
,
Hiiumaa Hiiumaa (, ) is the second largest island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in_Lower_Saranac_Lake. ...

Hiiumaa
,
Muhu Muhu (also called Muhumaa in Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian language *Estonian cuis ...

Muhu
and
Kihnu Kihnu is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), sometimes know ...
, and the or eastern dialect on the northwestern
shore A shore or a shoreline is the fringe of land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable over geologic time frames) and consist ...

shore
of
Lake Peipus Lake Peipus ( et, Peipsi-Pihkva järv; russian: Чудско-Псковское озеро, Псковско-Чудское озеро, Chudsko-Pskovsko ozero, Pskovsko-Chudskoye ozero); is the largest trans-boundary lake in Europe Europe i ...

Lake Peipus
.
South Estonian South Estonian is spoken in south-eastern Estonia, encompassing the Tartu, Mulgi, Võro and Seto Seto may refer to: Places * Seto, Aichi, production place of Japanese pottery and venue of Expo 2005 * Seto, Ehime, facing the Seto Inland Sea *Se ...
consists of the Tartu, Mulgi, Võro and
Seto Seto may refer to: Places * Seto, Aichi, production place of Japanese pottery and venue of Expo 2005 * Seto, Ehime, facing the Seto Inland Sea *Seto, Okayama, adjacent to Okayama, in Okayama Prefecture *Seto Inland Sea of Japan *Setomaa (''Seto l ...
varieties. These are sometimes considered either variants of South Estonian or separate languages altogether. Also, Seto and Võro distinguish themselves from each other less by language and more by their culture and their respective Christian confession.


Writing system


Alphabet

Estonian employs the
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequ ...

Latin script
as the basis for its alphabet, which adds the letters '' ä'', '' ö'', '' ü'', and '' õ'', plus the later additions '' š'' and '' ž''. The letters ''c'', ''q'', ''w'', ''x'' and ''y'' are limited to
proper names A proper noun is a noun A noun (from Latin ''nōmen'', literally ''name'') is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Exampl ...
of foreign origin, and ''f'', ''z'', ''š'', and ''ž'' appear in loanwords and foreign names only. ''Ö'' and ''Ü'' are pronounced similarly to their equivalents in Swedish and German. Unlike in standard German but like Swedish (when followed by 'r') and Finnish, ''Ä'' is pronounced as in English ''mat''. The vowels Ä, Ö and Ü are clearly separate
phonemes In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ...

phonemes
and inherent in Estonian, although the letter shapes come from German. The letter '' õ'' denotes , unrounded , or a
close-mid back unrounded vowel The close-mid back unrounded vowel, or high-mid back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech s ...
. It is almost identical to the
Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgaria, see Demographics of Bulgaria * Bulg ...

Bulgarian
and the
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

Vietnamese
ơ, and is also used to transcribe the Russian .


Orthography

Although the Estonian
orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions b ...
is generally guided by phonemic principles, with each
grapheme In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...

grapheme
corresponding to one
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
, there are some historical and morphological deviations from this: for example preservation of the morpheme in
declension In linguistics, declension is the changing of the form of a word, generally to express its syntactic function in the sentence, by way of some inflection. The inflectional change of verbs is called Grammatical conjugation, conjugation. Declensions ...
of the word (writing b, g, d in places where p, k, t is pronounced) and in the use of 'i' and 'j'. Where it is very impractical or impossible to type ''š'' and ''ž'', they are replaced by ''sh'' and ''zh'' in some written texts, although this is considered incorrect. Otherwise, the ''h'' in ''sh'' represents a
voiceless glottal fricative The voiceless glottal fricative, sometimes called voiceless glottal transition, and sometimes called the aspirate, is a type of sound used in some Speech communication, spoken languages that patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant ''ph ...

voiceless glottal fricative
, as in ''Pasha'' (''pas-ha''); this also applies to some foreign names. Modern Estonian orthography is based on the ''Newer Orthography'' created by
Eduard Ahrens Eduard Ahrens (3 April 1803, Tallinn – 19 February 1863, Kuusalu) was a Baltic German Estonian language linguist and clergyman. Ahrens studied at Tallinn University of Theology from 1811 to 1819, and, from 1820 to 1823, at the Faculty of Theolog ...

Eduard Ahrens
in the second half of the 19thcentury based on Finnish orthography. The ''Older Orthography'' it replaced was created in the 17thcentury by
Bengt Gottfried Forselius Bengt Gottfried Forselius (''ca'' 1660, Madise, Harju County, Harju-Madise, Harju County, Swedish Estonia – November 16, 1688, Baltic Sea) was a founder of public education in Estonia, author of the first ABC-book in the Estonian language, and cre ...
and
Johann Hornung Johann, typically a male given name, is the Germanic language, Germanized form of the originally Hebrew language name ''יוחנן (Yohanan)'' (meaning "God is merciful"). It is a form of the Germanic and Latin given name "Johannes." The English la ...
based on
standard German Standard High German (SHG), less precisely Standard German or High German (not to be confused with High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (; not to be confused with Standard High German ...

standard German
orthography. Earlier writing in Estonian had by and large used an ''ad hoc'' orthography based on
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
and
Middle Low German Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "Saxon", Standard German, Standard High German: ', Dutch language, Modern Dutch: ') is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle ...
orthography. Some influences of the standard German orthography – for example, writing 'W'/'w' instead of 'V'/'v' – persisted well into the 1930s. Estonian words and names quoted in international publications from Soviet sources are often back-transliterations from the Russian transliteration. Examples are the use of "ya" for "ä" (e.g. Pyarnu instead of
Pärnu Pärnu () is the fourth largest city in Estonia. Situated in southwest Estonia, Pärnu is located south of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and west of Estonia's second largest city, Tartu. The city sits off the coast of Pärnu Bay, an inlet of ...

Pärnu
), "y" instead of "õ" (e.g., Pylva instead of ) and "yu" instead of "ü" (e.g., Pyussi instead of ). Even in the ''
Encyclopædia Britannica The (Latin for "British Encyclopaedia") is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia which is now published exclusively as an online encyclopedia, online encyclopaedia. It was formerly published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., ...
'' one can find "ostrov Khiuma", where "ostrov" means "island" in Russian and "Khiuma" is back-transliteration from Russian instead of "
Hiiumaa Hiiumaa (, ) is the second largest island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in_Lower_Saranac_Lake. ...

Hiiumaa
" (''Hiiumaa'' > Хийума(а) > ''Khiuma'').


Phonology

There are 9 vowels and 36 diphthongs, 28 of which are native to Estonian. /sup> All nine vowels can appear as the first component of a diphthong, but only /ɑ e i o u/ occur as the second component. A vowel characteristic of Estonian is the unrounded back vowel /ɤ/, which may be close-mid back, close back, or close-mid central.


Grammar

Typologically, Estonian represents a transitional form from an agglutinating language to a
fusional language Fusional languages or inflected languages are a type of synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express dif ...
. The canonical word order is SVO (subject–verb–object). In Estonian, nouns and pronouns do not have
grammatical gender In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
, but nouns and adjectives decline in fourteen cases:
nominative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
,
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
,
partitive In , the partitive is a word, phrase, or that indicates partialness. partitives are syntactic constructions, such as "some of the children", and may be classified semantically as either set partitives or entity partitives based on the quantifier a ...
, illative, inessive, elative,
allative In grammar, the allative case (; list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ; from Latin language, Latin ''allāt-'', ''afferre'' "to bring to") is a type of locative case, locative grammatical case. The term allative is generally used for the la ...
, adessive,
ablative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, ...

ablative
, translative, terminative, essive, abessive, and comitative, with the case and number of the adjective always agreeing with that of the noun (except in the terminative, essive, abessive and comitative, where there is agreement only for the number, the adjective being in the genitive form). Thus the illative for ''kollane maja'' ("a yellow house") is ''kollasesse majja'' ("into a yellow house"), but the terminative is ''kollase majani'' ("as far as a yellow house"). With respect to the Proto-Finnic language, elision has occurred; thus, the actual case marker may be absent, but the stem is changed, cf. ''maja – majja'' and the Ostrobothnia (language), Ostrobothnia dialect of Finnish ''maja – majahan''. The verbal system lacks a distinctive future tense (the present tense serves here) and features special forms to express an action performed by an undetermined Subject (grammar), subject (the "impersonal").


Vocabulary

Although the Estonian and
Germanic language The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...
s are of very different origins and the vocabulary is considered quite different from that of the Indo-European family, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and English, for example. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic languages
, mainly from Low Saxon (
Middle Low German Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "Saxon", Standard German, Standard High German: ', Dutch language, Modern Dutch: ') is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle ...
) during the period of German rule, and High German (including standard German). The percentage of Low Saxon and High German loanwords can be estimated at 22–25 percent, with Low Saxon making up about 15 percent. Often 'b' & 'p' are interchangeable, for example 'baggage' becomes 'pagas', 'lob' (to throw) becomes 'loopima'. The initial letter 's' before another consonant is often dropped, for example 'skool' becomes 'kool', 'stool' becomes 'tool'.


''Ex nihilo'' lexical enrichment

Estonian language planning, language planners such as Ado Grenzstein (a journalist active in Estonia in the 1870s–90s) tried to use formation ''ex nihilo'', Urschöpfung; i.e. they created new words out of nothing. The most famous reformer of Estonian, Johannes Aavik (1880–1973), used creations ''ex nihilo'' (cf. ‘free constructions’, Tauli 1977), along with other sources of lexical enrichment such as derivations, compositions and loanwords (often from Finnish; cf. Saareste and Raun 1965: 76). In Aavik's dictionary (1921), which lists approximately 4000 words, there are many words which were (allegedly) created ''ex nihilo'', many of which are in common use today. Examples are * ''ese'' ‘object’, * ''kolp'' ‘skull’, * ''liibuma'' ‘to cling’, * ''naasma'' ‘to return, come back’, * ''nõme'' 'stupid, dull.' Many of the coinages that have been considered (often by Aavik himself) as words concocted ''ex nihilo'' could well have been influenced by foreign lexical items, for example words from
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, German language, German, French language, French,
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
, English language, English and
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
. Aavik had a broad classical education and knew Ancient Greek,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
and French language, French. Consider ''roim'' ‘crime’ versus English language, English ''crime'' or ''taunima'' ‘to condemn, disapprove’ versus
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
''tuomita'' ‘to condemn, to judge’ (these Aavikisms appear in Aavik's 1921 dictionary). These words might be better regarded as a peculiar manifestation of morpho-phonemic adaptation of a foreign lexical item.


Sample text

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Estonian:


See also

* The BABEL Speech Corpus


References


Further reading

* * *


External links

*
Estonica.org article
{{DEFAULTSORT:Estonian Language Estonian language, Agglutinative languages Finnic languages Languages of Estonia Languages of Finland Languages of Latvia Languages of Russia Subject–verb–object languages Articles containing video clips