Language of the Week: Saami

The speakers of this week’s minority language really have a web presence. There is a great deal of information about Saami on the web, as well as pages in Saami.

I’m cheating a bit with calling the language of the week Saami,  since there are at least 11 main varieties and many are not mutually intelligible with one another. Remind me of this when I have Romance as a language of the week…

Saami is spoken across a wide area of Northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia by about 20,000 people. From the historical linguist’s point of view, Saami and Finnic are extremely fantastically cool because of the stratification of loan words they exhibit. There are loans from Indo-European languages ging back thousands of years in various branches — it’s possible to tell because of the sound changes exhibited. There’s sufficiently much sound change in both Indo-European and Finnic/Saamic that with the assumption of regularity of sound change it’s possible to deduce not only when the word entered the language, but also from which branch of Indo-european it came from. There’s more information in Pekka Sammalahti’s Saami languages: an introduction. (1998, Davvi Girji OS, Kárášjohka.)

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2 responses to “Language of the Week: Saami

  1. Chuck Kiskaden

    Is Sami the world’s smallest alphabet?

  2. No, Saami languages tend to have fairly large inventories, both of consonants and of vowels.

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