Monday, January 8, 2018

Language facts: Finnish

Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family (Uralic languages) and is closely related to Estonian and Saami (also known as Lapp). It is one of the two official languages in Finland (the other being Swedish) as well as one of the official EU languages. Additionally, it is used by Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden and Estonia. The majority (more than 90%) of Finland’s population speaks Finnish, while the remainder speaks Swedish and Sami. Overall, Finnish is spoken by a little more than 5 million people.
Thanks to the existence of Nordic Language Convention, Finnish-speaking citizens can interact with governments and official bodies in other Nordic countries in their native language.

Helsinki - the Capital of Finland
Source: AdobeStock.com

A language with a few relatives but many phonemes

Finnish is related also to some other of the few Uralic languages (such as Hungarian for example) in many aspects, including shared morphology, similar grammar, as well as basic vocabulary. The origin of Uralic languages is not entirely clear even today, but the most widely accepted theory is that this branch originated in the boreal forests around the Ural mountains and around the middle Volga river. Actually, Uralic languages, such as Finnish, are believed to be the proto-language of the area.

The Finnish language gained its official status no sooner than in 1863, after the rise of the Finnish nationalistic movement. The first Finnish writing system was, however, created already in the 16th century by a Finnish bishop Mikael Agricola, who wanted to translate the Bible, and thus needed to standardize the Finnish dialects into a comprehensive system. He failed to do so, as he wasn't able to unify the signs with different phonemes (the intent was for each phoneme to have a corresponding one letter). Later, Finnish actually lost several phonemes from the standardized language due to this unification.



Alphabet

In the Finnish alphabet, 'Å’ is carried over from the Swedish alphabet and is redundant in Finnish; it is merely retained for writing Finland-Swedish proper names. 
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V X Y Z Å Ä Ö

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v x y z å ä ö

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