Finnish language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pronunciation: IPA: /ˈsuo.mi/
Spoken in: Finland, Estonia (Ingrians) Sweden (Torne Valley), Norway (Finnmark), Northwestern Russia (Karelia
Region: Northern Europe
Total speakers: circa 6 million
Language family: Uralic
Writing system: Latin alphabet (Finnish variant
Official status
Official language of: Finland, European Union
Regulated by: Language Planning Department of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland
Language codes
ISO 639-1: fi
ISO 639-2: fin
ISO 639-3: fin 

Dark blue: Native language
Blue: Official minority language
Green square: Finnish-speaking minority

Finnish (suomi , or suomen kieli) is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland (92%[1]) and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is also an official language in Finland and an official minority language in some parts of Sweden, in the form of standard Finnish as well as Meänkieli, and in Norway in the form of Kven.

Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family and is typologically between inflected and agglutinative languages. It modifies and inflects the forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals and verbs depending on their roles in the sentence.


[edit] History

It is believed that the Baltic Finnic languages evolved from a proto-Finnic language, from which Sami was separated around 1500-1000 BC. It has been suggested that this proto-Finnic had three dialects: northern, southern and eastern[1]. The Baltic Finnic languages separated around the 1st century, but continued to influence each other. Therefore, the Eastern Finnish dialects are genetically Eastern proto-Finnic, with many Eastern features, and the Southwestern Finnish dialects have many genuine Estonian influences.

The first written form of Finnish was created by Mikael Agricola, a Finnish bishop in the 16th century. He based his orthography on Swedish, German, and Latin. Later the written form was revised by many other people.

The Reformation marked the real beginning of writing in Finnish. In the 16th century major literary achievements were composed in Finnish by people like Paavali Juusten, Erik Sorolainen, and Jaakko Finno, as well as Agricola himself. In the 17th century books were written in Finland in Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Estonian, German and Swedish. However, the most important books were still written in Latin. Finnish and Swedish were small languages of lesser importance.

Finnish had a larger array of different fricatives, but has lost most of them, leaving /s/ and /h/. Fricative deletion has removed the voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, e.g. parghutin [parɣuttiin] becoming modern paruttiin. The same may also be found debuccalized, e.g. lughunluvun.

[edit] Agricola's work

The basis for the numerous conventions in the Finnish standard language is found in Agricola's work, particularly with respect to spelling. Agricola's language was based on West Finnish dialect, and so that phonology found its way into the standard Finnish spelling.

Agricola used dh or d to represent the voiced dental fricative /ð/ (English th in this) and tz or z to represent the geminate unvoiced dental fricative /θ/ (the th in thin). Later these sounds disappeared or changed to other sounds in the various dialects. (Today, the [ð] sound is only in a few particular accents in Western Finland.[citation needed]) However, the spelling remained unchanged, so the standard language pronunciation of d and z was loaned from Swedish (z = /ts/ and d = /d/), producing the "soft D" problem (see Finnish phonology). Later, z came to be written ts. In the standard language, /ð/ remained [d], e.g. sydän. In the eastern part of Finland, /ð/ became j, v, or disappeared. In the west, it became r, l or d. The sound /θ/ became ht or tt (e.g. meþþämehtä, mettä) in the east and some Western dialects, but became ts in the standard language and many Western dialects (meþþämetsä).

Either ch, c or h were used for /h/. In modern Finnish this sound is always spelled h; cf. Agricola's spelling techtin against modern tehtiin. Agricola used gh or g to represent the voiced velar fricative. This sound was later lost and also suppressed in spelling, except if it appeared between two high labial vowels, when it became 'v'.

Agricola made up some words during translation of the New Testament. Some of these words are still in use, e.g. armo "mercy", vanhurskas "righteous". Agricola used about 8500 words and 60% of them are still in use.

[edit] Classification

Finnish is a member of the Baltic-Finnic group of the Uralic language family — other Uralic languages include the Estonian and Hungarian languages. Finnish is a synthetic language of the agglutinative type. Some fusion is found in spoken Finnish. It modifies noun and verb forms depending on their role in the sentence.

Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic languages. The features that demonstrate Finnish's affiliation with the Finno-Ugric Languages are:

  • case suffixes such as genitive -n, partitive -(t)a / -(t)ä (< Finno-Ugric *-ta), essive -na / -nä
  • plural markers -t and -i-
  • possessive suffixes such as 1st person singular -ni (< Finno-Ugric *-mi), 2nd person singular -si (< Finno-Ugric *-ti).
  • various derivational suffixes
  • Shared basic vocabulary displaying regular sound correspondences with the other Finno-Ugric languages

Features that distinguish Finnish from Indo-European languages are:

  • absence of grammatical gender (also worth noting is that the same Finnish pronoun hän denotes both he and she),
  • long words due to the structure of the language,
  • numerous grammatical cases,
  • preference of postpositions against prepositions, both of which are less common, because agglutinative suffixes are used extensively
  • no equivalent of the verb to have, instead a locative construction is used.

There are various theories about the time and place where Finno-Ugric originated; according to the most recent one, Hungarian and Finnish are divided by 6000 years of separate development.

Some scholars maintain that speakers of a Finno-Ugrian language have been living in the region of current Finland since at least 3000 BC. The theory is that Proto-Finnish was divided into three dialects, southern, northern and eastern; standard Finnish represents the northern variety, Eastern Finnish stems from the eastern dialect. Finnish has heavily borrowed vocabulary from Swedish and the other Germanic languages.

[edit] Geographic distribution

Finnish is spoken by about 6 million people, mainly in Finland. There are Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia. A few hundred thousand recently emigrated Finns live in Sweden. Significant emigration took place in the 1970s, with Finland struggling under unemployment but Sweden providing jobs in e.g. the car industry. In the Americas and Australia there are also immigrant communities. In North America, these are found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and adjacent areas around Lake Superior. In South America small communities are found in Argentina and Brazil. In Australia, these communities are found outside of Sydney and in Mt Isa and rural Queensland.

The number of the Finnophone population is stable and growing. The Finnophone population of Finland is growing faster than the Swedophone population, and some language exchange to Finnish occurs. In Finland, Finnish has become dominant in previously Swedish language dominated areas, e.g. Helsinki. Furthermore, immigration to Finland — which usually integrates immigrants relatively well — also increases the population of Finnish-speakers.

[edit] Official status

Finnish is one of two official languages of Finland (the other being Swedish, spoken by a 5% minority) and thus an official language of the European Union. It enjoys the status of an official minority language in Sweden.

[edit] Dialects

The Finnish dialects are divided into two distinct groups, the Western dialects and the Eastern dialects. [2] The dialects are entirely mutually intelligible and characterized only by minor changes in vowels, diphthongs and rhythm, and as such, they are better classified as accents. For the most part, the dialects operate on the same phonology, grammar and vocabulary. There are only marginal examples of sounds or grammatical constructions isolated to some dialect, not found in standard Finnish. Two examples are the voiced dental fricative found in Rauma dialect and the Eastern excessive case.

The classification of closely related dialects spoken outside of Finland is a politically sensitive issue that has been more or less controversial since Finland's independence in 1917. The speakers of Karelian language in Russia and of Meänkieli in Sweden are typically considered oppressed minorities. Karelian is different enough from standard Finnish to have its own orthography. Meänkieli is a northern dialect, entirely intelligible and interchangeable with any other Finnish dialect that got the status as a minority language in Sweden for historical and political reasons.

[edit] Western dialects

The South-West dialects (lounaismurteet) are spoken in Finland Proper and Satakunta. Their typical feature is abbreviation of word-final vowels, and in many respects, they resemble Estonian. The Tavastian dialects (hämäläismurteet) are spoken in Tavastia. They are closest to the standard language, but feature some slight vowel changes, such as the opening of diphthong-final vowels (tie → tiä, miekka → miakka, kuolisi → kualis). The Southern Ostrobothnian dialects (eteläpohjalaiset murteet) are spoken in Southern Ostrobothnia. Their most notable feature is pronunciation of 'd' as a tapped or even fully trilled /r/. The Middle and North Ostrobothnia dialects (keski- ja pohjoispohjalaiset murteet) which are spoken in Central and Northern Ostrobothnia. The Far-Northern dialects (peräpohjalaiset murteet) are spoken in Lapland. These dialects spoken in the western parts of Lapland are recognizable by retention of extraneous 'h' sounds in positions where they are not found in other dialects.

One of the Far-Northern dialects, Meänkieli, which is spoken on the Swedish side of the border that was created in 1809, is taught in some Swedish schools as a distinct standardized language. The categorization of Meänkieli as a separate language is controversial among the Finns, who see no linguistic criteria, only political reasons, for treating Meänkieli differently than other dialects of Finnish.

The Ruija dialect (Ruijan murre) is spoken in Finnmark (Finnish Ruija), in Norway. It is remnant from Finnish emigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries.

[edit] Eastern dialects

Main article: East Finnish

The Eastern dialects consist of the widespread Savonian dialects (savolaismurteet) spoken in Savo and near-by areas, and the Karelian dialects. The South-Eastern dialects (kaakkoismurteet) are spoken in South Karelia, on the Karelian Isthmus and in Ingria. They retain the phonetic palatalization found in all Uralic languages except Western Finnish. Per Finnish orthography, this is denoted with a 'j', e.g. vesj, cf. standard vesi.

Usually, a distinction is made between a more distantly related Karelian language that is spoken in those parts of Karelia that never have been ruled from the West. However, the terms Karelian and Karelian dialects are often used without distinctions, primarily denoting dialects spoken on the Karelian Isthmus and in Ingria, i.e. in the Saint Petersburg area, but in a way that diplomatically may leave open for interpretation the question of whether the speaker considers the Karelian language a dialect of Finnish or not. Hence, the many refugees from Finnish Karelia, who were evacuated during World War II and resettled all over Finland, speak Savonian dialects, although their dialects in everyday speech are often referred to as Karelian.

[edit] Formal and informal Finnish

Main article: Spoken Finnish

There are two main varieties of Finnish used throughout the country. One is the "standard language" (yleiskieli), and the other is the "spoken language" puhekieli. The standard language is used in formal situations like church sermons, political speeches and newscasts. Its written form, the "book language" (kirjakieli), is used nearly in all of the written texts, not always excluding even the dialogue of common people in popular prose. The term "standard language" does not actually exactly coincide with the term yleiskieli, because the definition is that yleiskieli lacks the everyday colloquial register.

The spoken language, on the other hand, is the main variety of Finnish to be used in popular TV and radio shows, at workplaces and may be preferred to speaking a dialect in personal communication. Also, the standard language is quite rare in personal letters and in conversations on the Internet, where strict "correctness" is not in force. The extent of the differences between the two is comparable to the differences between Standard English and some English ethnolect, or possibly between the written Classical Latin learned in school and the Vulgar Latin which actually became the Romance languages.

The spoken language has mostly developed naturally from earlier forms of Finnish, and spread from main cultural and political centres. The book language, however, has always been a consciously constructed medium for literature. It preserves grammatical patterns that have mostly vanished from the colloquial varieties and, as its main application is writing, it features complex syntactic patterns that are not easy to handle when used in speech. The spoken language develops significantly faster, and the grammatical and phonological simplifications includes also the most common pronouns and suffixes, which sums up to frequent but modest differences. Some sound changes have been left out from the formal language, such as the irregularization of some common verbs by assimilation, e.g. tule-tuu-.

Finnish children usually acquire the knowledge of the standard language in school, but many children who read much learn it as their written "first language". Written language certainly still exerts a considerable influence upon the spoken word, due to the fact that illiteracy is nonexistent and that many Finns are avid readers. In fact, it is still not entirely uncommon to meet people who "talk like a book" (puhuvat kirjakieltä), although this is seen as pedantic. More common is the intrusion of typically book-like constructions into a colloquial discourse, as a kind of quote from written Finnish. It should also be noted that it is quite common to hear book-like and polished speech on radio or TV, and the constant exposure to such carefully prepared language tends to lead to the adoption of book-like constructions even in everyday language. However, a foreign learner of Finnish who aims to live and work in Finland should try to acquire a grasp of the most common colloquial reductions in speech, because anybody not conversant with the talk of the street would feel somewhat at a loss in a relaxed speech situation, even if he were entirely able to understand the formal language of the news media.

The orthography of the informal language follows that of the formal language. However, sometimes sandhi may be transcribed, especially the internal ones, e.g. menenpämenempä. This never takes place in formal language.

[edit] Examples

formal language — colloquial language
he menevätne menee "they go" (loss of distinction of animacy and the difference between the plural and the singular)
onko(s) teillä — onks teil(lä) "do you have?" (vowel deletion)
me emme sano — me ei sanota or mei sanota "we don't say" (notice: fusion of me ei transcribed, also the first person plural is replaced with the passive)
(minun) kirjanimu(ŋ) kirja "my book" (notice: sandhi n+k → ŋk transcribed)
kuusikymmentäviisi — kuus(kyt)viis "sixty-five"
tulen — tuun "I'm coming" (irregular verb)
punainen — punane(n) "red" (unstressed diphthong becomes a very short vowel)
korjannee — kai korjaa "probably will fix"
mentyämmekumme oltii(m) menty "after we had gone" (notice: sandhi nm → mm transcribed, note that it is written as "oltiin" rather than "oltiim")
Note that there are noticeable differences within dialects. These examples are mostly from spoken language which is spoken in the Capital area (Helsinki dialect or even Stadin slangi).

[edit] Phonology

Main article: Finnish phonology

Characteristic features of Finnish (common to other Finno-Ugric languages) are vowel harmony and an agglutinative morphology; due to the extensive use of the latter, words can be quite long.

The main stress is always on the first syllable, and it is articulated by adding approximately 100 ms more length to the stressed vowel. Stress does not cause any measurable modifications in vowel quality (very much unlike English). However, stress is not strong and words appear evenly stressed. In some cases, stress is so weak that the highest points of volume, pitch and other indicators of "articulation intensity" are not on the first syllable, although native speakers recognize the first syllable as a stressed syllable.

There are eight vowels, whose lexical and grammatical role is highly important, and which are unusually strictly controlled, so that there is almost no allophony. Vowels are as follows, followed by IPA when not identical: a [ɑ], e, i, o, u, y, ä [æ], ö [ø]. These are always different phonemes in the initial syllable; for noninitial syllable, see morphophonology below.

One phoneme is the chroneme, such that Finnish appears to have long and short vowels and consonants; thus, long vowels behave as vowels followed by a consonant, not as lengthened vowels. 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. There are eighteen phonemic diphthongs; like vowels, diphthongs do not have allophony.

Finnish has a consonant inventory of small to moderate size, where voicing is not distinctive, and there are only glottal and unvoiced alveolar fricatives. Finnish has very few non-alveolar coronal consonants. Consonants are as follows, where consonants in parenthesis are found only in a few recent loans.

bilabial labiodental dental alveolar postalveolar palatal velar glottal
plosive p, (b) t, d 1 k, (g) ʔ 2
nasal m n ŋ 3
trill r
fricative (f) s (ʃ) h
lateral l
approximant ʋ j
  1. /d/ is the equivalent of /t/ under weakening consonant gradation, and thus occurs only medially, or in non-native words; it is actually more of an alveolar tap rather than a true voiced stop, and the dialectal realization varies wildly; see main article.
  2. The glottal stop can only appear at word boundaries as a result of certain sandhi phenomena, and it is not indicated in spelling: e.g. /annaʔolla/ 'let it be', orthographically anna olla. Moreover, this sound is not used in all dialects.
  3. The short velar nasal is an allophone of /n/ in /nk/, and the long velar nasal /ŋŋ/, written ng, is the equivalent of /nk/ under weakening consonant gradation (type of lenition) and thus occurs only medially.

Almost all consonant have phonemic geminated forms. These are independent, but occur only medially when phonemic.

Independent consonant clusters are not allowed in native words, except for a small set of two-consonant syllable coda, e.g. 'rs' in karsta. However, due to a number of recently adopted loanwords using them, e.g. strutsi "ostrich", Finnish speakers can pronounce them, even if it is somewhat awkward.

As a Finno-Ugric language, it is somewhat special in two respects: loss of fricatives and loss of palatalization.

An interesting feature of Fennic phonology is the development of labial vowels in non-initial syllables. Proto-Uralic had only 'a' and 'i' and their vowel harmonic allophones in non-initial syllables; modern Finnish allows other vowels in non-initial syllables (they are uncommon, however, compared to 'a', 'ä' and 'i').

Palatalization is characteristic of Finno-Ugric languages, but Finnish has lost it. However, the Eastern dialects and the Karelian language have redeveloped a system of palatalization. For example, the Karelian word d'uuri [dʲu:ri], with a palatalized /dʲ/, is reflected by juuri in Finnish and Savo dialect vesj [vesʲ] is vesi in standard Finnish.

Finnish has only two fricatives, namely /s/ and /h/. All other fricatives are recognized as foreign, of which Finnish speakers can usually reliably distinguish /f/ and /ʃ/.

[edit] Morphophonology

A Venn diagram of the Finnish vowel harmony system. The front vowels are in blue, neutral in green and back in yellow.
A Venn diagram of the Finnish vowel harmony system. The front vowels are in blue, neutral in green and back in yellow.

Finnish has a thick layer of morphophonology between grammar ("logic") and phonology ("sounds"). The most important processes are vowel harmony 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, if the word begins tuottaa-, it can be agglutinated to tuotteeseensa, where the final vowel becomes the back vowel 'a' (rather than the front vowel 'ä') because the initial syllable contains the back vowels 'uo'. This is especially notable because vowels 'a' and 'ä' are different, meaning-distinguishing phonemes, not interchangeable or allophonic.

Consonant gradation is a lenition process for P, T and K, with the oblique stem "weakened" from the nominative stem, or vice versa. For example, tarkka "precise" has the oblique root tarka-, as in tarkan "of the precise". There is also another gradation pattern, which is older, and causes simple elision of T and K. However, it is very common since it is found in the partitive case marker: if V is a single vowel, V+ta → Va, e.g. *vanha+tavanhaa. Another instance is the imperative, which changes into a glottal stop in the singular but is shown as an overt 'ka' in plural, e.g. mene vs. menkää.

[edit] Grammar

Main article: Finnish grammar

The morphosyntactic alignment is nominative-accusative; but, there are two object cases: accusative and partitive. The contrast between the two is telicity, where accusative denotes actions completed as intended (Ammuin hirven "I shot the elk dead"), and partitive denotes incomplete actions (Ammuin hirveä "I shot at the elk"). Often this is confused with perfectivity, but the only element of perfectivity that exists in Finnish is that there are some perfective verbs. Transitivity is distinguished by different verbs for transitive and intransitive, e.g. ratkaista "to solve something" vs. ratketa "to be solved by itself". There are several frequentative and momentane verb categories.

Verbs gain personal suffixes for each person; these suffixes are grammatically more important than pronouns, which are often not used at all. The infinitive is not the uninflected form but has a suffix -ta or -da; the closest one to an uninflected form is the third person singular indicative. There are four persons, first ("I, we"), second ("you, you"), third ("s/he, they") and impersonal (often called "passive", similar to e.g. English "people say/do/.."). There are four tenses, namely present, past, perfect and pluperfect; the system mirrors the Germanic system. The future tense is not needed due to context and the telic contrast. For example, luen kirjan "I read a book (completely)" indicates a future, when luen kirjaa "I read a book (not yet complete)" indicates present.

Nouns may be suffixed with the markers for the aforementioned accusative case and partitive case, the genitive case, eight different locatives, and a few other cases. The case marker must be added not only to the main noun, but also to its modifiers; e.g. suure+ssa talo+ssa, literally "big-in house-in". Possession is marked with a possessive suffix; separate possessive pronouns are unknown. Pronouns gain suffixes just as nouns do.

[edit] Lexicon

See the lists of Finnish words and words of Finnish origin at Wiktionary, the free dictionary and Wikipedia's sibling project.

Finnish extensively employs regular agglutination. It has a smaller core vocabulary than, for example, English, and uses derivative suffixes to a greater extent. As an example, take the word kirja "a book", from which one can form derivatives kirjain "a letter" (of the alphabet), kirje "a piece of correspondence, a letter", kirjasto "a library", kirjailija "an author", kirjallisuus "literature", kirjoittaa "to write", kirjoittaja "a writer", kirjuri "a scribe, a clerk", kirjallinen "something in written form", kirjata "to write down, register, record", kirjasin "a font", and others.

Here are some of the more common such suffixes. Which of each pair is used depends on the word being suffixed in accordance with the rules of vowel harmony.

  • -ja/jä : agent (one who does) (e. g. lukea "to read" → lukija "reader")
  • -lainen/läinen: inhabitant of (either noun or adjective). Englanti "England" → englantilainen "English person or thing"; Helsinkihelsinkiläinen "person from Helsinki".
  • -sto/stö: collection of. For example: kirja "a book" → kirjasto "a library"; laiva "a ship" → laivasto "navy, fleet".
  • -in: instrument or tool. For example: kirjata "to book, to file" → kirjain "a letter" (of the alphabet); vatkata "to whisk" → vatkain "a whisk, mixer".
  • -uri/yri: an agent or instrument (kaivaa "to dig" → kaivuri "a digging machine"; laiva "a ship" → laivuri "shipper, shipmaster").
  • -os/ös: result of some action (tulla "to come" → tulos "result, outcome"; tehdä "to do" → teos "a piece of work").
  • -ton/tön: lack of something, "un-", "-less" (onni "happiness" → onneton "unhappy"; koti "home" → koditon "homeless").
  • -llinen: having (the quality of) something (lapsi "a child" → lapsellinen "childish"; kauppa "a shop, commerce" → kaupallinen "commercial").
  • -kas/käs: similar to -llinen (itse "self" → itsekäs "selfish"; neuvo "advice" → neuvokas "resourceful").
  • -va/vä: doing or having something (taitaa "to be able" → taitava "skillful"; johtaa "to lead" → johtava "leading").
  • -la/lä: a place related to the main word (kana "a hen" → kanala "a henhouse"; pappi "a priest" → pappila "a parsonage").

Verbal suffixes are extremely diverse; several frequentatives and momentanes differentiating causative, volitional-unpredictable and 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 some jump repeatedly", hypähtää "to jump suddenly" (in anticausative meaning), hypellä "to jump around repeatedly", hypiskellä "to be jumping repeatedly and wantonly", "hyppimättä" without jumping, "hyppelemättä" without jumping around. Often the diversity and compactness of this agglutination is illustrated with juoksentelisinkohan "I wonder if I should run around aimlessly".

[edit] Borrowing

Over the course of many centuries, the Finnish language has borrowed a great many words from a wide variety of languages, most from neighboring Indo-European languages. Indeed, some estimates put the core Finno-Ugric vocabulary surviving in Finnish at only around 300 word roots. Due to the different grammatical, phonological and and phonotactic structure of the Finnish language, loanwords from Indo-European have been assimilated.

In general, the first loan words into Finno-Ugric languages seem to come from very early Indo-European languages, and later mainly from Indo-Iranian, Turkic, Baltic, Germanic, and Slavic languages. Furthermore, a certain group of very basic and neutral words exists in Finnish and other Finnic languages that are absent from other Finno-Ugric languages, but without a recognizable etymology from any known language. These words are usually regarded as the last remnant of the Nordic language spoken in Fennoscandia before the arrival of the proto-Finnic language. Words included in this group are e.g. jänis (hare), musta (black), mäki (hill), saari (island), suo (swamp) and niemi (cape). Also some place names, like Päijänne and Imatra, are probably before the proto-Finnic era.[2]

The usual examples quoted are kuningas "king" and ruhtinas "prince, high ranking nobleman" from Germanic *kuningaz and *druhtinaz, but another example is äiti "mother", from Gothic eiþai, which is interesting because borrowing of close-kinship vocabulary is a rare phenomenon. The original Finnish word for mother is emo, which still exists, though its use is now confined to animal species, as is the variant emä. This latter is also used in compounds in a figurative sense, such as emäalus "mother ship", emolevy "motherboard" and emävale "huge lie" ("the mother of all lies"). There are other close-kinship words that are loaned from Baltic and Germanic languages (morsian "bride", armas "dear"). Examples of the ancient Indo-Iranian loans are vasara "hammer" from Avestan vadžra, vajra and orja "slave" from arya, airya "man" (the latter probably via similar circumstances as slave from Slav in many European languages).

More recently, Swedish has been a prolific source of borrowings, and also, the Swedish language acted as a proxy for European words, especially those relating to government. Present-day Finland belonged to the kingdom of Sweden from the 12th century and was ceded to Russia in 1809, becoming autonomous. The upper class continued to use Swedish as their primary language even after this because Russia did not have a written law nor legal bureaucracies and left the originally Swedish system mostly intact. When Finnish was accepted as an official language, it gained only legal "equal status" with Swedish, which persists even today. It is still the case today that about 6% of Finnish nationals, the Swedish-speaking Finns, have Swedish as their mother tongue. During the period of autonomy, Russian did not gain much ground as a language of the people or the government. Nevertheless, quite a few words were subsequently acquired from Russian (especially in older Helsinki slang) but not to the same extent as with Swedish. In all these cases, borrowing has been partly a result of geographical proximity.

Especially words dealing with administrative or modern culture came to Finnish from Swedish, sometimes reflecting the oldest Swedish form of the word (lag - laki, 'law'; län - lääni, 'county'; bisp - piispa, 'bishop'; jordpäron - peruna, 'potato'), and many more survive as informal synonyms in spoken or dialectal Finnish (e.g. likka, from Swedish flicka, 'girl', usually tyttö in Finnish).

Typical Russian loanwords are old or very old, thus hard to recognize as such, and concern everyday concepts, e.g. papu "bean", sini "(n.) blue" and pappi "priest". For example, Raamattu ("Bible") is a loanword from Russian, also other religious words are loaned from Russian. This is mainly believed to be result of trade with Novogorod 9th century and so on and the Orthodox converting in 13th century. There is a list of Russian loans to Finnish on the Finnish Wikipedia: [3]

Most recently, and with increasing impact, English has been the source of new loanwords in Finnish. Unlike previous "geographical" borrowing, the influence of English is largely "cultural" and reaches Finland by many routes including: international business; music; film and tv (except for the very young, foreign films and programmes are shown subtitled); literature; and, of course, the Web — this is now probably the most important source of all non-face-to-face exposure to English.

The importance of English as the language of global commerce has led many non-English companies, including Finland's Nokia, to adopt English as their official operating language. Recently, it has been observed that English borrowings are not only ousting existing Finnish words, but also 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 "you-impersonal", e. g. sä et voi "you cannot", instead of ei voi "one cannot". This may actually be an older phenomenon, since similar expressions are described in Karelian dialects before the beginning of the English influence.

However, this does not mean that Finnish is threatened by English. Borrowing is normal language evolution, and neologisms are coined actively not only by the government, but also by the media. Moreover, Finnish and English have a considerably different grammar, phonology and phonotactics, discouraging direct borrowing. English loan words in Finnish slang include pleikkari "PlayStation", hodari "hot dog", hedari "headache" (native word being päänsärky, and native slang words including jysäri). Often these loanwords have a humorous origin, and certainly have that effect when used, rarely used in a negative mood or in formal language. Since English and Finnish grammar, pronunciation and phonetics differ to considerably manner, most loan words are inevitably sooner or later calqued - translated into Native Finnish - retaining the semantic meaning.

[edit] Neologisms

Some modern terms have been synthesised rather than borrowed, for example:

puhelin "telephone" (literally: "speak" + instrument suffix "-in" to make "an instrument for speaking")
tietokone "computer" (literally: "knowledge machine")
levyke "diskette" (from levy "disc" + a diminutive -ke)
sähköposti "email" (literally: "electrical mail")
linja-auto "bus" (literally: line-car)

Neologisms are actively generated by the Language Planning Office and the media. They are widely adopted. One would actually give an old-fashioned or rustic impression using forms such as telefooni or kompuutteri when the neologism is widely adopted.

[edit] Finnish loans to other languages

[edit] Homonyms

See: List of Finnish homonyms

[edit] Orthography

Main article: Finnish alphabet

The Finnish orthography is morphemic, and the morphemic notation is built upon the phonetic principle: with just a few subtle exceptions, within a single morpheme, each phoneme (distinct sound) of the language is represented by exactly one grapheme (independent letter), and each grapheme represents exactly one phoneme, if the morpheme is pronounced in isolation. This makes the language easy for its speakers to spell, and facilitates learning to read and write. The rule of thumb for Finnish orthography is: write as you read, read as you write.

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 n in nk is a velar nasal, as in English. As an exception to the phonetic principle, there is no g in ng, which is a long velar nasal as in English singalong.
  • The grapheme h occurring before a consonant sounds slightly harder (initially breathy voiced, then voiceless) than when occurring before a vowel.
  • Sandhi is not transcribed; the spelling of morphemes is immutable, e.g. tulen+pa /tulempa/.
  • Some consonants (v, j, d) and all consonants occurring in (always medial) clusters do not have distinctive length, and consequently, their allophonic variation is not indicated in spelling, e.g. rajaan /rajaan/ (I limit) vs. raijaan /raijjaan/ (I haul).
  • Pre-1900's texts and personal names use w for v. Both correspond to the same phoneme, the labiodental approximant /ʋ/, a v without the fricative ("hissing") quality of the English v.

The letters ä [æ] and ö [ø], although written as umlauted a and o, do not represent phonological umlauts, and they are considered independent graphemes; the letter shapes have been copied from Swedish. An appropriate parallel from the Latin alphabet are the characters C and G (uppercase), which historically have a closer kinship than many other characters (G is a derivation of C) but are considered distinct letters, and changing one for the other will change meanings (cut vs. gut).

If the graphemes ä and ö are not accessible due to technical limitations, they must be replaced with a and o, respectively. As they are not umlauts, it is wrong to write them as umlaut digraphs ae, oe, as in German. Sequences ae and oe are distinct phonemes from ä and ö, e.g. haen "I seek" vs. hän "he".

The sounds š and ž are not a part of Finnish language itself. Although they occur in some rare loanwords, their principal use is transcription of foreign names. For technical reasons or convenience, the graphemes sh and zh are often used in quickly or less carefully written texts instead of š and ž. This is a deviation from the phonetic principle, and as such is liable to cause confusion, but the damage is minimal as the transcribed words are foreign in any case. Finnish does not use the sounds z, š or ž, but for the sake of exactitude, they can be included in spelling. (The recommendation cites the Russian play Hovanshtshina as an example.) Many speakers pronounce all of them s, or distinguish only between s and š, because Finnish has no voiced sibilants.[citation needed]

[edit] Language example

Hyväntahtoinen aurinko katseli heitä. Se ei missään tapauksessa ollut heille vihainen. Kenties tunsi jonkinlaista myötätuntoakin heitä kohtaan. Aika velikultia.Väinö Linna: Unknown Soldier; these words were also inscribed in the 20 mk note.

Translation: "The benevolent sun watched them. By no means was it angry at them. Perhaps it even felt a kind of compassion towards them. Jolly good brothers."

[edit] Basic greetings

  • (Hyvää) huomenta - Good morning
  • (Hyvää) päivää - Good afternoon (literally "Good day")
  • (Hyvää) iltapäivää - Good afternoon
  • (Hyvää) iltaa - Good evening
  • Hyvää yötä / Öitä - Good night / Night night
  • Terve! / Moro! - Hello!
  • Hei! / Moi! - Hi!
  • Heippa! / Moikka! / Hei hei! / Moi moi! - Bye!
  • Nähdään - See you later (literally "we will see")
  • Hyvästi - Goodbye
  • Hauska tavata! - Nice to meet you
  • Kiitos - Thank you
  • Kiitos, samoin - Likewise
  • Mitä kuuluu? - How are you / How you doing? (Not used among strangers.)
  • Kiitos hyvää - I'm fine, thank you
  • Tervetuloa! - Welcome!

[edit] Important words

  • kyllä/joo [Informal / slang] - yes
  • ei - no, not
  • olen / minä olen - I am
  • minä, sinä, hän - I, you, he/she
  • mä, sä - I, you [slang]
  • me, te, he - we, you, they
  • se - it, he/she [slang]
  • totta kai - of course
  • pieni hetki, pikku hetki, hetkinen - One moment please!
  • minulla on - I have
  • sinulla on - You have
  • onko sinulla - do you have?
  • yksi, kaksi, kolme - one, two, three
  • neljä, viisi, kuusi - four, five, six
  • seitsemän, kahdeksan - seven, eight
  • yhdeksän, kymmenen - nine, ten
  • sata, tuhat, miljoona - hundred, thousand, million
  • anteeksi - forgive me, excuse me
  • olen pahoillani - I'm sorry (apology)
  • otan osaa - I'm sorry (sympathy)
  • olut - beer
  • Suomi - Finland
  • suomi - Finnish language
  • suomalainen - Finnish
  • mä oon - dialect version of minä olen
  • sä oot - dialect version of sinä olet
  • Mitä kuuluu? - how are you? (literally "what is heard?", thus it is not used among strangers. )
  • En ymmärrä - I don't understand
  • Ymmärrän - I understand
  • ¹Ymmärrät(te)kö suomea? - Do you understand Finnish?
  • ¹Puhut(te)ko englantia? - Do you speak English?
  • Olen englantilainen / amerikkalainen / kanadalainen / australialainen / uusiseelantilainen / irlantilainen / skotlantilainen - I am English / American / Canadian / Australian / New Zealander / Irish / Scottish
  • ¹Olet(te)ko englantilainen? - Are you English?
  • Missä (sinä) asut/¹Missä (te) asutte? - Where do you live?

¹ -te is added to make the sentence formal. Otherwise, without the added "-te", it is informal. It is also added when talking to more than one person. Also, the transition from second person singular to second person plural (teitittely) is a politeness pattern, advised by many "good manners guides". Especially the elderly people expect it from strangers, whereas the younger might feel it to be too formal to the point of coldness. However, a starting learner of the language should not excessively bother about it. Omitting it is never offensive, but one should keep in mind that in formal occasions this custom may make a very good impression.

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] English books

This is the first of 2 volumes, each of which has an associated exercises book. There is also a reader.
Volume 1 is grammar based, but takes things in nice small steps, so it isn't intimidating. It generally teaches the written language, but does point out the main differences in the spoken language. By the end of volume 1 you would have quite a good grasp of the language for everyday purposes.
  • Teach Yourself Finnish (Terttu Leney: ISBN 0-07-145107-2) (Not to be confused with the following similarly-named book)

  • Finnish (Teach Yourself) or Teach Yourself Finnish Complete Course (Arthur H. Whitney: ISBN 0-340-56174-2)
This book tries to cover most of what you need to know in 300 pages: from complete beginner to familiarity with both the written and spoken languages. It uses an original approach to the grammar which is challenging, but well worth tackling.
The book is intended for beginners willing to invest some time and energy into learning Finnish, as well as for those who have a fair grasp of the language already, but would like to improve their understanding of more colloquial aspects of Finnish — aspects largely neglected in other grammars. The spoken language dialogues are especially useful, as they let you know what you can expect to hear, rather than what you will read in the newspaper. The grammatical explanations are built around the dialogues, not cloned from previous grammars.
This book is much like Colloquial Finnish but deals mainly with the written form of the language (although pronunciation is dealt with). It is not laid out in a lesson-based format, so is suitable for those who are familiar with the language but need to consolidate their grammar, although 'no prior knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader'. If you are a beginner, use this as a reference to back up your course book.

[edit] Finnish books

Tietosanakirja, 11 volumes, 1909-1922, Finnish encyclopedia.
Tietosanakirja, 11 volumes, 1909-1922, Finnish encyclopedia.
  • Aletaan (Eila Hämäläinen & Salli-Marja Bessonoff: ISBN 951-45-4895-7) [tr. Let's begin]
  • Jatketaan (Eila Hämäläinen & Salli-Marja Bessonoff: ISBN 951-45-4872-8) [tr. Let's continue]
Together, these books and their associated exercise books form a fairly complete course in Finnish, roughly equivalent to the Finnish for Foreigners books. However, the production quality is rather spare: typewriter font throughout and poor layout. This book is not of so much use without a teacher.
It is an attempt to cover how Finnish is actually spoken. However, it is not designed to teach Finnish, and pulls no punches about the language, so the reader needs a good grasp to make use of it. There are no exercises.
  • Tarkista tästä! (Hannele Jönsson-Korhola & Leila White: ISBN 951-792-007-5) [tr. Look for it here!]
Finnish relies heavily on changing the endings of words to indicate their role in a sentence. For example, there is one verb which means both "lend" or "borrow", but the direction is indicated by the ending of the person you are lending to or borrowing from. This book contains the rules for this and hundreds of similar situations.
  • Suomen kielioppia ulkomaalaisille (Leila White: ISBN 951-8905-65-7) [tr. Finnish Grammar for Foreigners]
A comprehensive treatment of Finnish grammar, concentrating on the written language. Useful for reference only.
  • Stadin snadi slangi (sanakirja) (Juhani Mäkelä: ISBN 951-0-22477-4) [tr. A little dictionary of city slang]
A Finnish-Helsinki-Finnish dictionary. Useful to residents.
A comprehensive coverage of the history of both written and spoken Finnish, including a detailed discussion of the regional variations found in the spoken language.

The web presence of Finnish is also worth noting. There are about 50 million pages marked as Finnish. There are several e-books for learning Finnish:

[edit] References

  1. ^ CIA World Factbook: Finland
  2. ^ Häkkinen, Kaisa. Suomalaisten esihistoria kielitieteen valossa (ISBN 951-717-855-7). Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura 1996. See pages 166 and 173.

[edit] See also

Wikibooks has more about this subject:

[edit] External links

Finnish language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Finnish language edition of Wiktionary, the free dictionary/thesaurus

[edit] Dictionaries

[edit] Grammars and tutorials

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