Which family does Finnish belong to?
Suomi or suomen kieli is the most important language of the Baltic-Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric language family. It is divided into several dialects, which may be classified in an Eastern group and a Western group. The literary language resulted from the fusion of various dialects, with the predominance of the South-Western.
Who speaks Finnish?
Finnish is spoken by about 6 million people. Beside Finland, it is also spoken in parts of Sweden, where it is an official minority language: the Finnish dialect spoken in this area is called meänkieli, which means "our language"; in Norway (it is the language of the Kven people) and in Ingria, where about 70,000 people speak a dialect of Finnish Karelia (in a region actually called Karelia), and has the status of an official language in the Russian republic of Karelia.
What are the main linguistic features of Finnish?
The main features of Finnish are:
1.- the quantitative opposition, both consonant and vocalic, with functions of lexical and grammatical distinction.
2.- “Consonant alternation”, that is to say, a voiceless consonant at the beginning of an open syllable becomes voiced if the syllable becomes closed by addition of affixes (e.g., t of pata, “pot”, becomes d in padassa, “in the pot”).
3.- Vowel harmony, based on the division of the vowels in two groups: anterior (y, ä, ö) and posterior (u, a, o; e e i fit in both groups). The vowels of the suffix always conform to the vocalic tone of the word (which is why the endings have all the double form with front or back vowels).
4.- The phonetic system presents a great number of vowels but it is rather poor in consonantal sounds.
5.- Words are formed by agglutination, i.e. by sequences of affixes bearing each a single grammatical function.
6.- Declinations include 15 cases, but there are no grammatical gender and no article.
7.- Nnominal forms abound in the verb conjugation.
Where does Finnish come from?
The first written documents date back to the 16th century: namely the translation of the New Testament of 1548, by Mikael Agricola. However, only with the end of the Swedish domination a real Finnish literature began. As a matter of fact, the rich and millennial cultural heritage of the Finnish people was overwhelmed by the Swedish domination that lasted until 1809, so that the Finnish language was devoted exclusively to religious use and, since the mid-17th century, to the formulation of laws and decrees.
- Enciclopedia Grolier