- Finnish belongs to the Baltic-Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric
languages, being most closely related to
Livonian, Votic, Karelian, Veps, and Ingrian.
- Finnish is spoken by around 6 million people, mainly in Finland;
there are small Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden, Norway, Russia
and Estonia. In addition, a few hundred thousand Finnish immigrants
live in Sweden. Also there are communities of Finnish speaking
immigrants in North America.
- It is believed that the Baltic Finnic languages, a group to which
Finnish belongs, evolved from a proto-Finnic language. Sami language,
for example, separated around 1500–1000 BC. This proto-Finnic language
had three dialects: northern, southern and eastern. It is the Baltic
Finnic languages that separated around the 1st century.
- The first written form of Finnish language was created by Mikael
Agricola, a 16th century Finnish bishop. He based his writing system
(which was the official language of Finland at the time),
- During the Reformation major literary achievements belong to
artists such as Paavali Juusten, Erik Sorolainen, and Jaakko Finno -
and of course by Mikael Agricola. In the 17th century books were
written in Finnish,
though the most important works were still written in
became, in the late 17th century, the official language (of
- Finnish is today one of the official
languages of Finland. It also enjoys the status of an official
minority language in Sweden.
- Finnish dialects are divided into two distinct groups, the Western
dialects and the Eastern dialects.
- Over the course of many centuries, the Finnish language has
borrowed many words from a variety of languages. Some estimates put
the core Finno-Ugric vocabulary surviving in Finnish at only around
300 word roots! More recently, but still very old, there are
borrowings from Baltic and other Indo-European languages. The usual
example quoted is "kuningas" = "king" from Germanic kuningaz, but
another example is "äiti" = "mother" - 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 'emälaiva' = 'mothership'
and 'emävale' = 'huge lie' ('a mother of lies'). There are other
close-kinship words that are loaned from Baltic and Germanic languages
('morsian' = 'bride', 'armas' = 'dear').
- More recently,
has been a prolific source of borrowings due to the fact that the
present-day Finland was part of the kingdom of Sweden from the 12th
century A.D. until ceded to Russia in 1809. About 6% of Finnish
as their mother tongue. The Swedish speaking citizens are known as 'suomeruotsalaiset'
(Swedes of Finland). A range of words was acquired from
- especially in older Helsinki slang - but not to the same extent as
was the case with
Borrowing has been partly a result of geographical proximity.
- Most recently, and with increasing impact,
has been the source of new loanwords in Finnish. Unlike previous
"geographical" borrowing, the influence of
is largely "cultural" and reaches Finland by many routes including:
international business; music; film (except for the very young,
foreign films are shown subtitled); literature; and, of course, the
Internet -- this is now probably the most important source of exposure
The importance of
as the language of global commerce has led many non-English
companies, including Finland's Nokia, to adopt
as their official operating language. Recently, it has been observed
borrowings are not only ousting existing Finnish words, but also
previous borrowings, for example the switch from "treffailla" = "to
to "deittailla" from