Finnish is a Uralic language. The word “Uralic” refers to the Ural Mountains, original homeland of the Uralic family. The languages that have stemmed from the Uralic speech are spoken in all of the areas that are around this mountain range, with the Finnish language being a Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic languages. Finnish is believed to have originated not only along the mountains, but specifically in the forest belt around the Ural Mountains.
Around 1200BC is when the Balto-Finnic began to split as a separate language away from Proto-Finnic. This is when Finnish first began to be its own distinct language, although it was obviously very different from the Finnish that we know today.
It is argued that the Proto-Finnic language was not actually spoken in what we today call Finland, but was actually spoken in the region around St Petersburg. Around 100AD is when these languages became quite distinct from each other, though they still remained a heavy influence on each other, which is why Eastern Finnish is remarkably Proto-Finnic while Southwestern Finnish has significant Estonian influence.
The first Finnish language writing system was composed by a Finnish bishop, Mikael Agricola, in the 16th century. It was he who set down many of the grammatical and vocabulary forms that modern Finnish uses today. A more phonemic system, however, has been devised along the way, with the alphabet itself becoming considerably more Latin in its appearance. In the 19th century, Finnish was modernized by Johan Vilhelm Snellman, and able to be used as a written and spoken language by more common people than simply religious and wealthy types.
92% of Finnish people speak the Finnish language as their first language. It is the majority language of Finland, although it is only one of the two official languages, with the other being Swedish. In Norway, the Finnish dialect of Kven is spoken, and is an official minority language there. It is also an unofficial language of the country of Estonia.
Around 6 million people speak the Finnish language, with the majority of speakers to be found in Finland itself. However, there are significant Finnish-speaking communities in Sweden, Norway, Russia, Canada, Brazil, Estonia and the United States. The Finnish language is also an official language of the European Union as well as one of the working languages of the Nordic Council.
Finnish has two main dialects: Western and Eastern. There are only minor changes, however, to the way that these two dialects use grammar and vocabulary. Essentially, one dialect may be understood perfectly well by the user of another dialect.
There are also two forms of the Finnish language: standard and spoken language. The two forms of the Finnish language, standard and spoken, are quite different, and anyone wishing to learn the Finnish language will need to be very aware of this.
In an interesting language feature, personal pronouns are only used to refer to human beings, and will never be used in reference to an animal or inanimate object. As well as the usual first, second and third, singular and plural pronouns, but there is also a pronoun to indicate politeness. This is the word “te”, which can be used instead of the pronoun “you” if you want to show a heightened level of respect for your recipient, although its use is declining in modern Finnish society.
The Finnish language is a very gender neutral language. Even pronouns themselves do not distinguish gender, with hän being used for both male or female recipients. In a more modern world, this is a very useful aspect to the language. Modern Finnish punctuation uses the punctuation character of the colon to separate a word and whatever grammatical ending that it needs, in the same way that many languages such as English would use an apostrophe.
Why Learn The Finnish Language?
Interestingly, English has been a very influential language in the past few hundred years for the Finnish language. It may not be as tricky as it might have been a hundred years ago for someone from the US or the UK or any English-speaking country to pick up the Finnish language.
Finland itself is a stunning country, bordered by Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia. It has enjoyed rapid economic growth in the last fifty years, with a broad welfare state and a good balance between Eastern and Western politics. Finland has been ranked as the second most stable country in the world, with excellent education and quality of life.
The landscape of Finland is also another draw for many tourists, with lush pine forests, rolling hills, and a plethora of lakes and rivers. With 35 national parks, and many outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking becoming ever more popular, Finland is one of the increasingly popular tourist destinations in Europe. Certain areas of Finland also have perpetual sunlight for around 70 days of the year. The Finnish language would be excellent to learn to get the most out of an exciting holiday or in terms of business and finance with the Finnish community.