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Finnish (
endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
: ''suomi'' or ) is a
Uralic language 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
of the
Finnic branch
Finnic branch
spoken by the majority of the population in
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of B ...

Finland
and by
ethnic Finns Finns or Finnish people ( fi, suomalaiset, ) are a Baltic Finnic ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such a ...
outside Finland. Finnish is one of the two
official languages An official language, also called state language, is a language given a special status in a particular jurisdiction (area), country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a country's official language refers to the language used in government (j ...
of Finland (the other being
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 ...
). In
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that ...

Sweden
, both Finnish and
Meänkieli Meänkieli (literally "our language") is a Finnic language or a group of distinct Finnish dialects spoken in the northernmost part of Sweden along the valley of the Torne River The Torne, also known as the Tornio ( fi, Tornionjoki, sv, Torne ...

Meänkieli
(which has significant
mutual intelligibility In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic b ...
with Finnish) are official
minority language A minority language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between sel ...
s. The
Kven language The Kven language (''kvääni'' or ''kväänin kieli''; ''kainu'' or ''kainun kieli''; fi, kveeni or ; no, kvensk) is a Finnic language The Finnic (''Fennic'') or Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages ar ...

Kven language
, which like Meänkieli is mutually intelligible with Finnish, is spoken in the Norwegian county
Troms og Finnmark Troms og Finnmark (; sme, Romsa ja Finnmárku ; fkv, Tromssa ja Finmarkku; fi, Tromssa ja Finnmark, lit. Troms and Finnmark in English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic ...
by a minority group of Finnish descent. Finnish is typologically
agglutinative The middle sign is in Hungarian, which agglutinates extensively. (The top and bottom signs are in Romanian and German, respectively, both inflecting languages.) The English translation is "Ministry of Food and Agriculture: Satu Mare County D ...
and uses almost exclusively suffixal affixation.
Noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many l ...

Noun
s,
adjective 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 ...
s,
pronoun 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 languag ...

pronoun
s,
numeral A numeral is a figure, symbol, or group of figures or symbols denoting a number. It may refer to: * Numeral system used in mathematics * Numeral (linguistics), a part of speech denoting numbers (e.g. ''one'' and ''first'' in English) * Numerical di ...
s and
verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual description of E ...
s are inflected depending on their role in the
sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence (mathematical logic), a formula not cont ...
. Sentences are normally formed with
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 ...
word order, although the extensive use of inflection allows them to be ordered otherwise. Word order variations are often reserved for differences in
information structure In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
. The
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 a
Latin-script alphabet A Latin-script alphabet (Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet) is an alphabet that uses Letter (alphabet), letters of the Latin script. The 21-letter archaic Latin alphabet and the 23-letter classical Latin alphabet belong to the oldest of this grou ...
derived from the Swedish alphabet, and for the most part 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
corresponds to a single
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 ...
and vice versa.
Vowel length 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 ...
and
consonant length In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical p ...

consonant length
are distinguished, and there are a range of
diphthongs A diphthong ( or ; from Greek: , ''diphthongos'', literally "double sound" or "double tone"; from ''δίς'' "twice" and ''φθόγγος'' "sound"), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Sylla ...
, although
vowel harmony In phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular lang ...
limits which diphthongs are possible.


Classification

Finnish is a member of the
Finnic
Finnic
group of the
Uralic The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family of 38 languages spoken by approximately 25million people, predominantly in Northern Eurasia. The Uralic languages with the most native speakers are Hungarian lang ...

Uralic
family of languages. The Finnic group also includes
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 cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
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 Russia's
Republic of Karelia The Republic of Karelia (russian: Респу́блика Каре́лия, Respublika Kareliya, rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə kɐˈrʲelʲɪ(j)ə; krl, Karjalan tazavaldu; fi, Karjalan tasavalta; vep, Karjalan Tazovaldkund), or Karelia (russian: Кар ...
. Finnish demonstrates an affiliation with other
Uralic languages The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning " ...

Uralic languages
(such as
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 ...
) in several respects including: *Shared morphology: **case suffixes such 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 ...
''-n'',
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 ...
/ ''-(t)ä'' ( <
Proto-Uralic Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed language ancestral to the Uralic language family. The language was originally spoken in a small area in about 7000–2000 BCE (estimates vary), and expanded to give differentiated protolanguages. The location o ...
*-ta, originally
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
),
essive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. The te ...
''-na'' / ''-nä'' ( < *-na, originally
locative 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 ...
) **plural markers ''-t'' and ''-i-'' ( < Proto-Uralic *-t and *-j, respectively) **possessive suffixes such as 1st person singular ''-ni'' ( < Proto-Uralic *-n-mi), 2nd person singular ''-si'' ( < Proto-Uralic *-ti). **various derivational suffixes (e.g.
causative 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 languages ...
''-tta/-ttä'' < Proto-Uralic *-k-ta) *Shared basic vocabulary displaying regular sound correspondences with the other Uralic languages (e.g. ''kala'' "fish" ~ North Saami ''guolli'' ~
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 ...
''hal''; and ''kadota'' "disappear" ~ North Saami ''guođđit'' ~ Hungarian ''hagy'' 'leave (behind)'. Several theories exist as to the geographic origin of Finnish and the other Uralic languages. The most widely held view is that they originated as a
Proto-Uralic language Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction ...
somewhere in the
boreal forest Taiga (; rus, тайга́, p=tɐjˈɡa; relates to Mongolic languages, Mongolic and Turkic languages, Turkic languages), generally referred to in North America as a boreal forest or snow forest, is a biome characterized by pinophyta, conifero ...
belt around the
Ural Mountains The Ural Mountains (; rus, Ура́льские го́ры, r=Uralskiye gory, p=ʊˈralʲskʲɪjə ˈgorɨ; ba, Урал тауҙары, ''Ural tauźarı'') or simply the Urals, are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mounta ...
region and/or the bend of the middle
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...

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. The
Defense Language Institute The Defense Language Institute (DLI) is a United States Department of Defense (DoD) educational and research institution consisting of two separate entities which provide linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense, other fede ...
in
Monterey, California Monterey ( es, Monterrey; Ohlone The Ohlone, formerly known as Costanoans (from Spanish ''costeño'' meaning "coast dweller"), are a Native American people of the Northern California Northern California (colloquially known as NorCal) is a ...
, United States classifies Finnish as a level III language (of 4 levels) in terms of learning difficulty for native English speakers.


Geographic distribution

Finnish is spoken by about five million people, most of whom reside in Finland. There are also notable Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden, Norway, Russia, Estonia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. The majority of the population of Finland (90.37% ) speak Finnish as their
first language A first language, native tongue, native language, or mother/father/parent tongue (also known as arterial language or L1) is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
. The remainder speak
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 ...
(5.42%), one of the languages (for example Northern, Inari, or Skolt), or another language as their first language. Finnish is spoken as a second language in Estonia by about 167,000 people. The varieties of Finnish found in Norway's
Finnmark Finnmark (; se, Finnmárku; fkv, Finmarku; fi, Ruija) is a former county in the northern part of Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nord ...
(namely
Kven Kven may refer to: * Kven people Kven may refer to: * Kven people, a Finnic ethnic group of Norway * Kven language, the Finnic language spoken by them * something from, or associated with, ancient Kvenland * Kven Sea * KVEN, a defunct American ...

Kven
) and in northern Sweden (namely
Meänkieli Meänkieli (literally "our language") is a Finnic language or a group of distinct Finnish dialects spoken in the northernmost part of Sweden along the valley of the Torne River The Torne, also known as the Tornio ( fi, Tornionjoki, sv, Torne ...

Meänkieli
) have the status of official minority languages, and thus can be considered distinct languages from Finnish. However, since all three are
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
, one may alternatively view them as dialects of the same language. There are also spoken by diasporas in Siberia, by the Siberian Finns and in America, where
American Finnish American Finnish, Fingliska or Fingelska is a form of the Finnish language spoken in North America. It has been influenced by the English language heavily. American Finnish was used actively until the 1950s and after that it has been declining, and ...
is spoken by
Finnish Americans Finnish Americans ( fi, amerikansuomalaiset ) comprise Americans Americans are the Citizenship of the United States, citizens and United States nationality law, nationals of the United States of America.; ; ''Ricketts v. Attorney General''8 ...
. There are 8500 speakers of Finnish in
Karelia Karelia (Karelian language, Karelian and fi, Karjala, ; rus, Каре́лия, links=y, r=Karélija, p=kɐˈrʲelʲɪjə, historically ''Korjela''; sv, Karelen), the land of the Karelians, Karelian people, is an area in Northern Europe of ...
.


Official status

Today, Finnish is one of two
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
s of Finland (the other being
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 ...
), and has been an official language of the
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
since 1995. However, the Finnish language did not have an official status in the country during the period of Swedish rule, which ended in 1809. After the establishment of
Grand Duchy of Finland The Grand Duchy of Finland ( fi, Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta; sv, Storfurstendömet Finland; russian: Великое княжество Финляндское, , alternatively Grand prince, Grand Principality of Finland) was the predecessor state of ...

Grand Duchy of Finland
, and against the backdrop of the
Fennoman movement The Fennoman movement or Fennomania was a Finnish nationalism, Finnish nationalist movement in the 19th-century Grand Duchy of Finland, built on the work of the ''fennophile'' interests of the 18th and early-19th centuries. History After the C ...
, the language obtained its official status in the Finnish Diet of 1863. Finnish also enjoys the status of an official minority language in Sweden. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the
Nordic countries The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or ''Norden''; lit. 'the North') are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impac ...

Nordic countries
speaking Finnish have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs. However, concerns have been expressed about the future status of Finnish in Sweden, for example, where reports produced for the Swedish government during 2017 show that minority language policies are not being respected, particularly for the 7% of Finns settled in the country.


History


Prehistory

The of languages, of which Finnish is a member, are hypothesized to derive from a single ancestor language termed
Proto-Uralic Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed language ancestral to the Uralic language family. The language was originally spoken in a small area in about 7000–2000 BCE (estimates vary), and expanded to give differentiated protolanguages. The location o ...
, spoken sometime between 8,000 and 2,000 BCE (estimates vary) in the vicinity of the
Ural mountains The Ural Mountains (; rus, Ура́льские го́ры, r=Uralskiye gory, p=ʊˈralʲskʲɪjə ˈgorɨ; ba, Урал тауҙары, ''Ural tauźarı'') or simply the Urals, are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mounta ...
. Over time, Proto-Uralic split into various
daughter language In historical linguistics, a daughter language, also known as descendant language, is a language descended from another language, its mother language, through a process of Genetic (linguistics), genetic descent. If more than one language has develo ...
s, which themselves continued to change and diverge, yielding yet more descendants. One of these descendants is the
reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a late 20th century Soviet Union ...
Proto-Finnic Proto-Finnic or Proto-Baltic-Finnic is the common ancestor of the Finnic languages The Finnic (''Fennic'') or Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages are a branch of the Uralic language family spoken around t ...
, from which the
Finnic languages The Finnic (''Fennic'') or more precisely Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages, are a branch of the Uralic language family The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language fam ...

Finnic languages
developed, and which diverged from
Proto-Samic Proto-Sami is the hypothetical, reconstructed common ancestor of the Sami languages Places * Sápmi, a cultural region in Northern Europe * Sami, Burkina Faso, a district of the Banwa Province * Sami District, Gambia * Sami, Cephalonia, a mun ...
(a reconstructed ancestor of the languages) around 1500–1000 BCE. Current models assume that three or more Proto-Finnic dialects evolved during the first millennium BCE. These dialects were defined geographically, and were distinguished from one another along a north-south split as well as an east-west split. The northern dialects of Proto-Finnic, from which Finnish developed, lacked the mid vowel . This vowel was found only in the southern dialects, which developed into Estonian, Livonian, and Votian. The northern variants used third person singular pronoun ''hän'' instead of southern ''tämä'' (Est. ''tema''). While the eastern dialects of Proto-Finnic (which developed in the modern-day eastern Finnish dialects, Veps, Karelian, and Ingrian) formed genitive plural nouns via plural stems (e.g., eastern Finnish ''kalojen'' < *''kaloi-ten''), the western dialects of Proto-Finnic (today's Estonian, Livonian and western Finnish varieties) used the non-plural stems (e.g., Est. ''kalade'' < *''kala-ten''). Another defining characteristic of the east-west split was the use of the reflexive suffix ''-(t)te'', used only in the eastern dialects.


Medieval period

The birch bark letter 292 from the early 13th century is the first known document in any
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
. The first known written example of Finnish itself is found in a German travel journal dating back to c.1450: ''Mÿnna tachton gernast spuho sommen gelen Emÿna daÿda'' (Modern Finnish: "Minä tahdon kernaasti puhua suomen kielen,
utta Utta (russian: Утта; xal-RU, Удта) is a rural locality (a ''selo'') in the Yashkulsky District Yashkulsky District (russian: Яшку́льский райо́н; xal-RU, Яшкулин район, ''Jaškulin rajon'') is an administrat ...
en minä taida;" English: "I want to speak Finnish, utI am not able to"). According to the travel journal, the words are those of a Finnish bishop whose name is unknown. The erroneous use of ''gelen'' (Modern Finnish ''kielen'') in the accusative case, rather than ''kieltä'' in the partitive, and the lack of the
conjunction Conjunction may refer to: * Conjunction (astronomy), in which two astronomical bodies appear close together in the sky * Conjunction (astrology), astrological aspect in horoscopic astrology * Conjunction (grammar), a part of speech * Logical conjun ...
''mutta'' are typical of foreign speakers of Finnish even today. At the time, most priests in Finland were Swedish speaking. During the Middle Ages, when Finland was under Swedish rule, Finnish was only
spoken Spoken is the past participle form of "to speak". Spoken may also refer to: *Spoken (band), a Christian rock group from Arkansas *''Spoken (album)'', an album by Spoken See also

*Speak (disambiguation) {{disambiguation ...
. At the time, the language of
international commerce Trade involves the transfer of goods or services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to ...
was
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 ...
, the language of administration
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 ...
, and religious ceremonies were held in
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
. This meant that Finnish speakers could use their mother tongue only in everyday life. Finnish was considered inferior to Swedish, and Finnish speakers were second-class members of society because they could not use their language in any official situations. There were even efforts to reduce the use of Finnish through parish clerk schools, the use of Swedish in church, and by having Swedish-speaking servants and maids move to Finnish-speaking areas.


Writing system

The first comprehensive writing system for Finnish was created by
Mikael Agricola Mikael Agricola (; c. 1510 – 9 April 1557) was a 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 l ...

Mikael Agricola
, a Finnish bishop, in the 16th century. He based his writing system on the western dialects. Agricola's ultimate plan was to translate the Bible, but first he had to develop an
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 ...
for the language, which he based on Swedish, German, and Latin. The Finnish
standard language A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety In sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology ...
still relies on his innovations with regard to spelling, though Agricola used less systematic spelling than is used today. Though Agricola's intention was that each
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 ...
(and
allophone 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 e ...
under qualitative consonant gradation) should correspond to one letter, he failed to achieve this goal in various respects. For example, ''k'', ''c'', and ''q'' were all used for the phoneme /k/. Likewise, he alternated between ''dh'' and ''d'' to represent the allophonic
voiced dental fricative The voiced dental fricative is a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front o ...

voiced dental fricative
(like ''th'' in English ''this''), between ''dh'' and ''z'' to represent the
geminate In phonetics Phonetics 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 eve ...
voiceless dental fricative The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronou ...

voiceless dental fricative
(like ''th'' in ''thin'', but longer in duration), and between ''gh'' and ''g'' to represent the allophonic
voiced velar fricative The voiced velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound that is used in various spoken Spoken is the past participle form of "to speak". Spoken may also refer to: *Spoken (band), a Christian rock group from Arkansas *''Spoken (album)'', an a ...

voiced velar fricative
. Agricola did not consistently represent
vowel length 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 ...
in his orthography. Others revised Agricola's work later, striving for a more systematic writing system. Along the way, Finnish lost several
fricative consonant Fricatives are s by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the , in the case of (the final consonant of '); o ...
s in a process of
sound change A sound change, in historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured syste ...
. The sounds and disappeared from the language, surviving only in a small rural region in Western Finland. In the standard language, however, the effect of the lost sounds is thus: * became . The sound was written ⟨d⟩ or ⟨dh⟩ by Agricola. This sound was lost from most varieties of Finnish, either losing all phonetic realization or being pronounced as or instead (depending on dialect and the position in the word). However, Agricola's spelling ⟨d⟩ prevailed, and the pronunciation in Standard Finnish became through
spelling pronunciation A spelling pronunciation is the pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relati ...
. * became . These interdental fricatives were written as ⟨tz⟩ (for both
grades Grade or grading may refer to: Arts and entertainment * Grade (band), punk rock band * Grades (producer), British electronic dance music producer and DJ Education * Grading (education), a teacher's evaluation of a student's performance in class * ...
: geminate and short) in some of the earliest written records. Though these developed into a variety of other sounds depending on dialect ([tː, t], [ht, h], [ht, t], [sː, s], [tː, tː], or [ht, ht]), the standard language has arrived at
spelling pronunciation A spelling pronunciation is the pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relati ...
[ts] (which is treated as a consonant cluster and hence not subject to consonant gradation). * became but only if the appeared originally between Vowel height, high Roundedness, round vowels [u] and [y], otherwise it was lost entirely (cf. ''suku'' 'kin, family' : ''suvun'' [genitive form] from earlier *suku : *suɣun, and ''kyky'' : ''kyvyn'' 'ability, skill' [nominative and genitive, respectively] from *kükü : *küɣün, contrasting with ''sika'' : ''sian'' 'pig, pork' [nominative and genitive] from *sika : *siɣan). (A similar process explains the /f/ pronunciation for some English words with "gh", such as "tough".) Modern Finnish punctuation, along with that of Swedish, uses the colon (punctuation), colon (:) to separate the Stem (linguistics), stem of a word and its grammatical ending in some cases, for example after acronyms, as in ''EU:ssa'' "in the EU". (This contrasts with some other alphabetic writing systems, which would use other symbols, such as e.g. apostrophe, hyphen.) Since suffixes play a prominent role in the language, this use of the colon is quite common.


Modernization

In the 19th century Johan Vilhelm Snellman and 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 Nationalism, nationalistic ideas of Finnish as a fully-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. In 1853 Daniel Europaeus published the first Swedish-Finnish dictionary, and between 1866 and 1880 Elias Lönnrot compiled the first Finnish-Swedish dictionary. In the same period, Antero Warelius conducted ethnographic research and, among other topics, he documented the geographic distribution of the Finnish dialects. 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 significant. In addition to compiling the ''Kalevala'', he acted as an arbiter in disputes about the development of standard Finnish between the proponents of western and eastern dialects, ensuring that the western dialects preferred by Agricola retained their preeminent role, while many originally dialect words from Eastern Finland were introduced to the standard language, thus enriching it considerably. The first novel written in Finnish (and by a Finnish speaker) was ''Seven Brothers'' (''Seitsemän veljestä''), published by Aleksis Kivi in 1870.


Future

The Finnish language has been changing in certain ways after World War II, as observed in the spreading of certain dialectal features, for example the spread of the Western dialectal variant for the written cluster ''ts'' (''mettä'' : ''mettän''/''metän'' [forest : forest's] instead of ''metsä'' : ''metsän'') and the Eastern disappearance of ''d'' (''tiiän'' 'I know' instead of ''tiedän'') and the simultaneous preference to abandon the more visible dialectal features. Some scientists have also reported the Open vowel, low Front vowel, front vowel [Near-open front unrounded vowel, æ] (orthographic ⟨ä⟩) moving toward [Open back unrounded vowel, ɑ] (orthographic ⟨a⟩), theorising that the Finnish speakers would start to pronounce [ɑ] even more distantly from the changing [æ] in order to preserve the system of
vowel harmony In phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular lang ...
.


Dialects

The dialects of Finnish are divided into two distinct groups, Western and Eastern. The dialects are largely mutually intelligible and are distinguished from each other by changes in vowels, diphthongs and rhythm, as well as in preferred grammatical constructions. For the most part, the dialects operate on the same phonology and grammar. 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 fricative The voiced dental fricative is a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front o ...

voiced dental fricative
found in the Rauma dialect, and the Eastern exessive case. The classification of closely related dialects spoken outside Finland is a politically sensitive issue that has been controversial since Finland's independence in 1917. This concerns specifically the Karelian language in Russia and
Meänkieli Meänkieli (literally "our language") is a Finnic language or a group of distinct Finnish dialects spoken in the northernmost part of Sweden along the valley of the Torne River The Torne, also known as the Tornio ( fi, Tornionjoki, sv, Torne ...

Meänkieli
in 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 almost 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, although Finnish is an official minority language in Sweden, too. In 1980, many texts, books and the Bible were translated into Meänkieli and it has been developing more into its own language.


Western dialects

The Southwest Finnish dialects () are spoken in Southwest Finland and Satakunta (region), Satakunta. Their typical feature is abbreviation of word-final vowels, and in many respects they resemble
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 cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
. The Tavastian dialects () are spoken in Tavastia (historical province), Tavastia. They are closest to the standard language, but feature some slight vowel changes, such as the opening of diphthong-final vowels ( → , → , → ), the change of d to l (mostly obsolete) or trilled r (widespread, nowadays disappearance of d is popular) and the personal pronouns ( (we: our), (you: your) and (they: their)). South Ostrobothnian dialect, The South Ostrobothnian dialects () are spoken in Southern Ostrobothnia. Their most notable feature is the pronunciation of "d" as a tapped or even fully trilled . The Central and North Ostrobothnian dialects () are spoken in Central Ostrobothnia, Central and Northern Ostrobothnia. The Lappish dialects () are spoken in Lapland, Finland, Lapland. The dialects spoken in the western parts of Lapland are recognizable by retention of old "h" sounds in positions where they have disappeared from other dialects. One form of speech related to Northern dialects,
Meänkieli Meänkieli (literally "our language") is a Finnic language or a group of distinct Finnish dialects spoken in the northernmost part of Sweden along the valley of the Torne River The Torne, also known as the Tornio ( fi, Tornionjoki, sv, Torne ...

Meänkieli
, which is spoken on the Swedish side of the border, is taught in some Swedish schools as a distinct standard language, standardized language. The speakers of Meänkieli became politically separated from the other Finns when Finland was Finnish War, annexed to Russia in 1809. The categorization of Meänkieli as a separate language is controversial among some Finns, who see no linguistic criteria, only political reasons, for treating Meänkieli differently from other dialects of Finnish. The
Kven language The Kven language (''kvääni'' or ''kväänin kieli''; ''kainu'' or ''kainun kieli''; fi, kveeni or ; no, kvensk) is a Finnic language The Finnic (''Fennic'') or Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages ar ...

Kven language
is spoken in
Finnmark Finnmark (; se, Finnmárku; fkv, Finmarku; fi, Ruija) is a former county in the northern part of Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nord ...
and Troms, in Norway. Its speakers are descendants of Finnish emigrants to the region in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Kven Kven may refer to: * Kven people Kven may refer to: * Kven people, a Finnic ethnic group of Norway * Kven language, the Finnic language spoken by them * something from, or associated with, ancient Kvenland * Kven Sea * KVEN, a defunct American ...

Kven
is an official minority language in Norway.


Eastern dialects

The Eastern dialects consist of the widespread Savonian dialects () spoken in Savonia (historical province), Savo and nearby areas, and the South-Eastern dialects now spoken only in Finnish South Karelia. The South Karelian dialects () were previously also spoken on the Karelian Isthmus and in Ingria. The Karelian Isthmus was evacuated during World War II and refugees were resettled all over Finland. Most Ingrian Finns were Deportations of the Ingrian Finns, deported to various interior areas of the Soviet Union. Palatalization (phonetics), Palatalization, a common feature of Uralic languages, had been lost in the Finnic branch, 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. "water", cf. standard . The language spoken in those 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 Karelia is a dialect of Finnish or a separate language is sometimes disputed.


Example Helsinki slang (Stadin slangi)

The first known written account in Helsinki slang is from the 1890 short story ''Hellaassa'' by young Santeri Ivalo (words that do not exist in, or deviate from, the standard spoken Finnish of its time are in ''italics''):
Kun minä eilen illalla palasin ''labbiksesta'', tapasin ''Aasiksen'' kohdalla ''Supiksen'', ja niin me laskeusimme tänne ''Espikselle'', jossa oli mahoton hyvä ''piikis''. Mutta me mentiin ''Studikselle'' suoraan ''Hudista'' tapaamaan, ja jäimme sinne pariksi tunniksi, kunnes ajoimme ''Kaisaniemi, Kaisikseen''.


Dialect chart of Finnish

* Western dialects **Southwest Finnish dialects ***Proper Finnish dialects **** Northern dialect group **** Southern dialect group ***Southwest Finnish middle dialects ****Pori region dialects ****Ala-Satakunta dialects ****dialects of Turku highlands ****Somero region dialects ****Western Uusimaa dialects ****Helsinki slang\dialects **Tavastian dialects ***Ylä-Satakunta dialects ***Heart Tavastian dialects ***Southern Tavastian dialects ***Southern-Eastern Tavastian dialects ****Hollola dialect group ****Porvoo dialect group ****Iitti dialect group **South Ostrobothnian dialect, South Ostrobothnian dialects **Central and Northern Ostrobothnian dialects, Central and North Ostrobothnian dialects ***Central Ostrobothnian dialects ***North Ostrobothnian dialects **Peräpohjola dialects, Lappish dialects ***Torne dialects (''"
Meänkieli Meänkieli (literally "our language") is a Finnic language or a group of distinct Finnish dialects spoken in the northernmost part of Sweden along the valley of the Torne River The Torne, also known as the Tornio ( fi, Tornionjoki, sv, Torne ...

Meänkieli
"'' in Sweden) ***Kemi dialects ***Kemijärvi dialects ***Gällivare dialects (''"Meänkieli"'' in Sweden) ***Finnmark dialects (''"
Kven language The Kven language (''kvääni'' or ''kväänin kieli''; ''kainu'' or ''kainun kieli''; fi, kveeni or ; no, kvensk) is a Finnic language The Finnic (''Fennic'') or Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages ar ...

Kven language
"'' in Northern Norway) *Eastern dialects **Savonian dialects ***North Savonian dialects ***South Savonian dialects ***Middle dialects of Savonlinna region ***East Savonian dialects or North Karelian dialects ***Kainuu dialects ***Central Finland dialects ***Päijänne Tavastia dialects ***Keuruu-Evijärvi dialects ***Värmland Savonian dialect, Savonian dialects of Värmland (Sweden) **South Karelian dialects ***Proper South Karelian dialects ***Middle dialects of Lemi region ***Ingrian dialects, Dialects of Ingria (in Russia)


Linguistic registers

There are two main Register (sociolinguistics), registers 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.


Standardization

Standard Finnish is prescribed by the Language Office of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland and is the language used in official communication. Nykysuomen sanakirja, The Dictionary of Contemporary Finnish (''Nykysuomen sanakirja'' 1951–61), with 201,000 entries, was a prescriptive dictionary 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 New Dictionary of Modern Finnish (''Kielitoimiston sanakirja'') was published in an electronic form in 2004 and in print in 2006. A descriptive grammar (''Iso suomen kielioppi'', 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.


Colloquial Finnish

The colloquial language has mostly developed naturally from earlier forms of Finnish, and spread from the 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 colloquial language develops significantly faster, and the grammatical and phonological changes also include the most common pronouns and suffixes, which amount to frequent but modest differences. Some sound changes have been left out of the formal language. For example, irregular verbs have developed in the spoken language as a result of the elision of sonorants in some verbs of the Finnish verb conjugation#Type III verbs, Type III class (with subsequent vowel Assimilation (phonology), assimilation), but only when the second syllable of the word is short. The end result is that some forms in the spoken language are shortened, e.g. ''tule-n'' → ''tuu-n'' ("I come"), while others remain identical to the standard language ''hän tulee'' 'he comes', never *''hän tuu''). However, the longer forms such as ''tule'' can be used in spoken language in other forms as well. The literary language certainly still exerts a considerable influence upon the spoken word, because illiteracy is nonexistent and many Finns are avid readers. In fact, it is still not entirely uncommon to meet people who "talk book-ish" (''puhuvat kirjakieltä''); it may have connotations of pedantry, exaggeration, moderation, weaseling or sarcasm (somewhat like heavy use of Latinate words in English: compare the difference between saying "There's no children I'll leave it to" and "There are no children to whom I shall leave it"). More common is the intrusion of typically literary constructions into a colloquial discourse, as a kind of quote from written Finnish. 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 the southern Karelian isthmus and Ingria. It has been reinforced by the spelling "ts" for the dental fricative , used earlier in some western dialects. The spelling and the pronunciation this encourages however approximate the original pronunciation, still reflected in e.g. Karelian language, Karelian /čč : č/ (''meččä : mečän''). In the spoken language, a fusion of Western /tt : tt/ (''mettä : mettän'') and Eastern /ht : t/ (''mehtä : metän'') has resulted: /tt : t/ (''mettä : metän''). It is notable that neither of these forms are identifiable as, or originate from, a specific dialect. The orthography of informal language follows that of the formal. However, in signalling the former in writing, Syncope (phonology), syncope and sandhi – especially internal – may occasionally amongst other characteristics be transcribed, e.g. . This never occurs in the standard variety.


Examples

: Note that there are noticeable differences between dialects. Also note that here the formal language does not mean a language spoken in formal occasions but the standard language which exists practically only in written form.


Phonology


Segmental phonology

The phoneme inventory of Finnish is moderately small, with a great number of vocalic segments and a restricted set of consonant types, both of which can be long or short.


Vocalic segments

Finnish monophthongs show eight vowel qualities that contrast in duration, thus 16 vowel phonemes in total. Vowel allophony is quite restricted. Vowel phonemes are always contrastive in word-initial syllables; for non-initial syllable, see morphophonology below. Long and short vowels are shown below. 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.


Consonants

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 parentheses are found either only in a few recent loans or are allophones of other phonemes. Almost all consonants have phonemic short and long (
geminate In phonetics Phonetics 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 eve ...
d) forms, although length is only contrastive in consonants word-medially. Consonant clusters are mostly absent in native Finnish words, except for a small set of two-consonant sequences in syllable codas, e.g. "rs" in ''karsta''. However, because of a number of recently adopted loanwords that have them, e.g. ''strutsi'' from Swedish ''struts'', meaning "ostrich", clusters have been integrated to the modern language to different degrees. Finnish is somewhat divergent from other Uralic languages in two respects: it has lost most fricatives, as well as losing the distinction between Palatalization (phonetics), palatalized and non-palatalized consonants. Finnish has only two fricatives in native words, namely and . All other fricatives are recognized as foreign, of which Finnish speakers can usually reliably distinguish and . (The official alphabet includes "z" [z] and 'ž' [ʒ], but these are rarely used correctly, including by the Swedish speakers, who also struggle with those sounds.) While standard Finnish has lost Palatalization (phonetics), palatalization, which is characteristic of Uralic languages, the Eastern dialects and the Karelian language have redeveloped or retained it. For example, the Karelian language, Karelian word ''d'uuri'' , with a palatalized , is reflected by ''juuri'' in Finnish and Savo dialect is ''vesi'' in standard Finnish. A feature of Finnic phonology is the development of labial and rounded vowels in non-initial syllables, as in the word ''tyttö''.
Proto-Uralic Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed language ancestral to the Uralic language family. The language was originally spoken in a small area in about 7000–2000 BCE (estimates vary), and expanded to give differentiated protolanguages. The location o ...
had only "a" and "i" and their vowel harmonic allophones in non-initial syllables; modern Finnish allows other vowels in non-initial syllables, although they are uncommon compared to "a", "ä" and "i".


Prosody

Characteristic features of Finnish (common to some other Uralic languages) are
vowel harmony In phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular lang ...
and an agglutinative morphology; owing to the extensive use of the latter, words can be quite long. The main stress is always on the first syllable, and is in average speech articulated by adding approximately 100 ms more length to the stressed vowel. 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 being stressed.


Morphophonology

Finnish has several morphophonological processes that require modification of the forms of words for daily speech. The most important processes are
vowel harmony In phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular lang ...
and 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, from the stem ''tuote'' ("product") one derives ''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
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 ...
s, not interchangeable or Allophone, allophonic. Finnish front vowels are not Germanic umlaut, umlauts, though the
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
s ⟨ä⟩ and ⟨ö⟩ feature Diaeresis (diacritic), dieresis. Consonant gradation is a partly nonproductive lenition process for P, T and K in inherited vocabulary, with the oblique stem "weakened" from the nominative stem, or vice versa. For example, ''tarkka'' "precise" has the oblique stem ''tarka-'', as in ''tarkan'' "of the precise". There is also another gradation pattern, which is older, and causes simple elision of T and K in suffixes. 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. *''tarkka+ta'' → ''tarkkaa''.


Grammar

Finnish is a synthetic language that employs extensive agglutination of affixes to verbs, nouns, adjectives and numerals. However, Finnish is not generally considered polysynthetic language, polysynthetic, its morpheme-to-word ratio being somewhat lower than a prototypical polysynthetic language (e.g., Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik). The morphosyntactic alignment of Finnish is nominative–accusative, but there are two Grammatical object, object Grammatical case, cases: accusative and partitive. The contrast between accusative and partitive object cases is one of telicity, where the accusative case denotes actions completed as intended (''Ammuin hirven'' "I shot the elk (dead)"), and the partitive case denotes incomplete actions (''Ammuin hirveä'' "I shot (at) the elk"). Often telicity is confused with perfective aspect, perfectivity, but these are distinct notions. Finnish in fact has a Periphrasis, periphrastic perfective aspect, which in addition to the two inflectional tenses (past and present), yield a Germanic languages, Germanic-like system consisting of four tense-aspect combinations: simple present, simple past, Perfect (grammar), perfect (present + perfective aspect) and pluperfect (past + perfective aspect). No morphological future tense is needed; context and the telicity contrast in object grammatical case serve to disambiguate present events from future events. For example, ''syön kalan'' "I eat a fish (completely)" must denote a future event, since there is no way to completely eat a fish at the current moment (the moment the eating is complete, the simple past tense or the perfect must be used). By contrast, ''syön kalaa'' "I eat a fish (not yet complete)" denotes a present event by indicating ongoing action. Finnish has three grammatical Grammatical person, persons; Finite verb, finite verbs Agreement (linguistics), agree with subject nouns in person and number by way of suffixes. Non-finite verb forms bear the infinitive suffix ''-ta/-tä'' (often Lenition, lenited to ''-(d)a/-(d)ä'' due to Finnish consonant gradation, consonant gradation). There is a so-called "passive voice" (sometimes called impersonal or indefinite) which differs from a true passive in various respects. Transitivity is distinguished in the Derivational morpheme, derivational morphology of verbs, e.g. ''ratkaista'' "to solve something" vs. ''ratketa'' "to solve by itself". There are also several frequentative and momentane affixes which form new verbs derivationally. Nouns may be suffixed with the markers for the aforementioned accusative case and partitive case, the genitive case, eight different Finnish locative system, locatives, and a few other oblique cases. The case affix must be added not only to the head noun, but also to its modifiers; e.g. ''suure+ssa talo+ssa'', literally "big-in house-in". Possession is marked with possessive suffixes; these suffixes appear on nouns and pronouns alike (Finnish possessive pronouns are thus not Suppletion, suppletive like English ''her'').


Lexicon

Finnish has a smaller core vocabulary than, for example, English, and uses Derivational morpheme, derivational 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'' "in written form", ''kirjata'' "to write down, register, record", ''kirjasin'' "a font", and many 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
vowel harmony In phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular lang ...
. Verbal derivational suffixes are extremely diverse; several frequentatives and momentanes differentiating
causative 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 languages ...
, volitional-unpredictable and anticausative are 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 anticausative meaning), ''hypellä'' "to jump around repeatedly", ''hypiskellä'' "to be jumping repeatedly and wantonly". Caritives are also used in such examples as ''hyppimättä'' "without jumping" and ''hyppelemättä'' "without jumping around". The diversity and compactness of both derivation and inflectional agglutination can be illustrated with ''istahtaisinkohankaan'' "I wonder if I should sit down for a while after all" (from ''istua'', "to sit, to be seated"): *''istua'' "to sit down" (''istun'' "I sit down") *''istahtaa'' "to sit down for a while" *''istahdan'' "I'll sit down for a while" *''istahtaisin'' "I would sit down for a while" *''istahtaisinko'' "should I sit down for a while?" *''istahtaisinkohan'' "I wonder if I should sit down for a while" *''istahtaisinkohankaan'' "I wonder if I should sit down for a while after all"


Borrowing

Over the course of many centuries, the Finnish language has borrowed many words from a wide variety of languages, most from neighbouring Indo-European languages. Owing 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 Uralic languages seem to come from very early Indo-European languages. Later important sources have been, depending on the language, Indo-Iranian languages, Indo-Iranian, Turkic languages, Turkic, Baltic languages, Baltic, Germanic languages, Germanic, and Slavic languages. Finnic languages, including Finnish, have borrowed in particular from Baltic and Germanic languages, and to a lesser extent from Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages. Furthermore, Pre-Finno-Ugric substrate, a certain group of very basic and neutral words exists in Finnish and other Finnic languages that are absent from other Uralic languages, but without a recognizable etymology from any known language. These words are usually regarded as the last remnant of the Paleo-European languages, Paleo-European 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 (geography)). Also some place names, like Päijänne and Imatra, are probably from before the proto-Finnic era. Often quoted loan examples are ''kuningas'' "king" and ''ruhtinas'' "prince, sovereign prince, high ranking nobleman" from Germanic ''*kuningaz'' and ''*druhtinaz''—they display a remarkable tendency towards phonological conservation within the language. Another example is ''äiti'' "mother", from Gothic language, Gothic ''aiþei'', which is interesting because borrowing of close-kinship vocabulary is a rare phenomenon. The original Finnish ''emo'' occurs only in restricted contexts. There are other close-kinship words that are loaned from Baltic and Germanic languages (''morsian'' "bride", ''armas'' "dear", ''huora'' "whore"). Examples of the ancient Iranian loans are ''vasara'' "hammer" from Avestan ''vadžra'', ''vajra'' and ''orja'' "slave" from ''Aryan, arya'', ''airya'' "man" (the latter probably via similar circumstances as ''slave'' from Slavic peoples, 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 was a part 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 legal equal status with Swedish. 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 language, 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'' – ''Provinces of Finland, lääni'', "province"; ''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'' "(Noun, n.) blue" and ''pappi'' "priest". Notably, a few religious words such as ''Raamattu'' ("Bible") are borrowed from Russian, which indicates language contact preceding the Swedish era. This is mainly believed to be result of trade with Novgorod from the 9th century on and Russian Orthodox Mission (Christianity), missions in the east in the 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 (foreign films and programmes, excluding ones intended for a very young audience, are shown subtitled), literature, and the World Wide Web, Web – the latter 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". This construct, however, is limited to colloquial language, as it is against the standard grammar. 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 Finnish grammar, grammar, Finnish phonology, phonology and Finnish phonotactics, phonotactics, discouraging direct borrowing. English loan words in Finnish slang include for example ''pleikkari'' "PlayStation", ''hodari'' "hot dog", and ''hedari'' "headache", "headshot" or "headbutt". Often these loanwords are distinctly identified as slang or 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.


Neologisms

Some modern terms have been synthesised rather than borrowed, for example: :''puhelin'' "telephone" (from the stem "puhel-" "talk"+ instrument suffix "-in" to make "an instrument for talking") :''tietokone'' "computer" (literally: "knowledge machine" or "data machine") :''levyke'' "diskette" (from ''levy'' "disc" + a diminutive ''-ke'') :''sähköposti'' "email" (literally: "electricity mail") :''linja-auto'' "bus, coach" (literally: line-car) :''muovi'' "plastic" (from muovata "to form or model, e.g. from clay", from the stem muov+ suffix "-i" to make "a substance, material or element for modeling or forming". The suffix "-i" would correspond to the instrument suffix "-in", but instead of instrument in this case rather a substance, material or element that can be used. 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 ''kompuutteri (computer)'' or ''kalkulaattori (calculator)'' when the neologism is widely adopted.


Loans to other languages

The most commonly used Finnish word in English is ''sauna'', which has also been loaned to many other languages.


Orthography

Finnish is written with the Latin alphabet including the distinct characters ''ä'' and ''ö'', and also several characters (''b, c, f, q, w, x, z, å, š'' and ''ž'') reserved for words of non-Finnish origin. The Finnish orthography follows the phoneme principle: each phoneme (meaningful sound) of the language corresponds to exactly one grapheme (independent letter), and each grapheme represents almost exactly one phoneme. This enables an easy spelling and facilitates reading and writing acquisition. The rule of thumb for Finnish orthography is ''write as you read, read as you write''. However, morphemes retain their spelling despite sandhi. 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'' is sounded slightly harder when placed before a consonant (initially breathy voiced, then voiceless) than before a vowel. *Sandhi is not transcribed; the spelling of morphemes is immutable, such as ''tulen+pa'' . *Some consonants (''v, j, d'') and all consonant clusters do not have distinctive length, and consequently their allophonic variation is typically not specified 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 approximant , a ''v'' without the fricative ("hissing") quality of the English ''v''. *The letters ''ä'' and ''ö'' , although written with Diaeresis (diacritic), diaereses, do not represent i-mutation, phonological umlauts (as in German, for example), 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 as it is spoken, there are a few differences: * The ''n'' in the sequence ''nk'' is pronounced as a velar nasal /ŋ/, as in English. When not followed by ''k'', /ŋː/ is written ''ng''. The fact that two spellings correspond to this one sound (putting aside the difference in Consonant length, length) can be seen as an exception to the general one-to-one correspondence between sounds and letters. * Sandhi phenomena at word or clitic boundaries involving gemination (e.g., ''tule tanne'' is pronounced [tu.let.tæn.ne], not [tu.le.tæn.ne]) or the Assimilation (phonology), place assimilation of Nasal consonant, nasals (''sen pupu'' would usually be pronounced as [sem.pu.pu], and ''onpa'' as [om.pɑ]) * The after the letter ''i'' is very weak or there is no at all, but in writing it is used; for example: ''urheilija''. Indeed, the ''j'' is not used in writing words with consonant gradation such as ''aion'' and ''läksiäiset''. * In speech there is no difference between the use of in words (like ''ajoittaa'', but ''ehdottaa''), but in writing there are quite simple rules: The ''i'' is written in forms derived from words that consist of two syllables and end in ''a'' or ''ä'' (''sanoittaa'', "to write song-lyrics", from ''sana'', "word"), and in words that are old-stylish (''innoittaa''). The ''i'' is not written in forms derived from words that consist of two syllables and end in ''o'' or ''ö'' (''erottaa'' "to discern, to differentiate" from ''ero'' difference), words which do not clearly derive from a single word (''hajottaa'' can be derived either from the stem ''haja-'' seen in such adverbs as ''hajalle'', or from the related verb ''hajota''), and in words that are descriptive (''häämöttää'') or workaday by their style (''rehottaa''). When the appropriate characters are not available, the graphemes ''ä'' and ''ö'' are usually converted to ''a'' and ''o'', respectively. This is common in e-mail addresses and other electronic media where there may be no support for characters outside the basic ASCII character set. Writing them as ''ae'' and ''oe'', following German usage, is rarer and usually considered incorrect, but formally used in passports and equivalent situations. Both conversion rules have minimal pairs which would no longer be distinguished from each other. The sounds ''š'' and ''ž'' are not a part of the Finnish language itself and have been introduced by the Finnish national languages body for more phonologically accurate transcription of loanwords (such as ''Tšekki'', "Czech Republic") and 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 opera ''Khovanshchina, Hovanštšina'' as an example.) Many speakers pronounce all of them ''s'', or distinguish only between ''s'' and ''š'', because Finnish has no voiced sibilants. The language may be identified by its distinctive lack of the letters ''b, c, f, q, w, x, z'' and ''å.''


Language examples

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: : :"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Excerpt from Väinö Linna's ''The Unknown Soldier (novel), Tuntematon sotilas'' (The Unknown Soldier); these words were also inscribed in the 20 Finnish markka, mark note. : :"The sun smiled down on them. It wasn't angry - no, not by any means. Maybe it even felt some sort of sympathy for them. Rather dear, those boys." (translation from Liesl Yamaguchi's 2015 "Unknown Soldiers")


Basic greetings and phrases


Phonaesthetics and influences

Professor J. R. R. Tolkien, although The Lord of the Rings, better known as an author, had a keen interest in languages from a young age, and became a professional philologist, becoming Professor of Old English, Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. He described his first encounter with Finnish was: :"like discovering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me..."J. R. R. Tolkien (1981), ''Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien'', George Allen & Unwin, letter no. 163 (to W. H. Auden, 7th June 1953), p. 214; Aspects of Finnish, particularly its sound, were a strong influence on Quenya, one of the Languages constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien, languages constructed by Tolkien spoken by the Elf (Middle-earth), Elves. Within his fantasy writings set in the world of Middle-earth, Quenya is a highly revered language and is to his world as
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
is to modern Europe; he often referred to it as "elf-Latin". However, Quenya lacks consonant gradation and vowel harmony - two remarkable aspects of Finnish grammar.


See also

* Estonian language * Hungarian language * Finland's language strife * Finnish cultural and academic institutes * Finnish name * Finnish numerals * Finnish profanity * Swedish-speaking Finns


References


Further reading

* * *


External links


Collection of Finnish bilingual dictionaries

FSI Finnish Language Course (Public Domain)

Finnish phrases for beginners (Public Domain)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Finnish Language Finnish language, Agglutinative languages Finnic languages Languages of Estonia Languages of Finland Languages of Norway Languages of Russia Languages of Sweden Vowel-harmony languages Subject–verb–object languages