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FACTS ABOUT THE FINNISH LANGUAGE
Finnish belongs to the Baltic Finnic languages of the Finno-Ugric language family. It is the official language in Finland, as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. Finnish is a minority language in Sweden.
There about 5.23 million Finnish speakers in the world: in the USA, Estonia, Russia, Norway, Finland, and Sweden.
Finnish is related to Estonian and Livonian, and it has two dialect groups, Western and Eastern, which are further divided into seven subgroups. The Finnish literary language is based on the Western dialects.
The development of Finnish was influenced by Finland’s historical situation. From the 13th century until 1809, while the current territory of the country was part of the Swedish Kingdom, there were heavy Swedish influences, but when it was part of the Russian Empire, the language assimilated a lot of Russicisms. After the Finnish national awakening, especially from the 1820s to 1840s, Finnish literature flourished: the first Finnish grammar book was written, the Finnish Literature Society was founded, and dictionaries were compiled.
Finnish became the official language in Finland in 1863, but Swedish was still used in the early 20th century, for example, by salespeople in shops.
The earliest written artefacts are manuscripts that date back to the 13th century. Published in 1543, M. Agricola’s ABC Book was the first printed book in Finland. Until the middle of the 19th century, the published books were mostly religious in nature.
Colloquial speech is widespread in Finland, with the so-called Helsinki slang (stadin slangi) taking the lead. What’s interesting is that this slang is common not only among young people but also the elderly. The slang is characterised by the language economy principle – words are shortened and used both in spoken and written language. The colloquial speech is dominant and is taking over the literary language. Slang words are even used by professors in their lectures.
Literary language is used in the field of education (for instance, in official speeches), mass media, and the government.
Finnish uses the Latin alphabet. Pronunciation and spelling are rather similar, and one letter mostly stands for one sound. All vowels have short and long forms. All consonants besides D, V and J can also be long. Long sounds are represented in writing by doubling the letter.
The main stress is always on the first syllable. This principle is also applied to all foreign words. Sentences usually have a falling intonation, even interrogative sentences don’t have a rising intonation.
Finnish has a large prevalence of vowels and diphthongs, with the latter coming up to sixteen. Finnish nouns have a whopping 15 cases but no genders whatsoever. There are no articles or voices. The Finnish language has only one declension. Possession is expressed using special possessive suffixes instead of possessive pronouns. Verbs have only one conjugation.
Finnish vocabulary contains a lot of loan words from the Baltic, Germanic and Slavic languages. Even though Finns seems to be wary of foreign words and create their own words for many internationalisms, modern Finnish still contains many Anglicisms and Americanisms. Scholars attribute this to the younger generation’s great interest in American pop culture.
Language code: ISO 639-1: fi
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