Wow. What a weekend.
Before I even get into my review of Finnish, I’d first like to thank everyone who was able to listen to my interview on The World. It’s a bit unreal that I have received so much notoriety about a project I originally wasn’t going to blog about. But nonetheless, I am very appreciative of the comments, questions and interest about my blog. You can download the full episode of the broadcast here or visit The World‘s site and listen.
A number of people have been asking me to consider languages not included in the project. Unfortunately, I think it would be best to stick with the 37 I chose originally. I picked those based on a gut feeling, along with the reasons mentioned in my very first post. I will, however, feature languages not selected in special upcoming posts (think “German: Why it would have never worked”).
Now, on to Finnish.
SUMMARY: Finnish didn’t really appear as an official language until the late 1800s, when a wave of nationalism hit the country. Before that, it was only used as a common or liturgical language, dominated by the mother tongue of ruling Sweden. Finnish stands out because it is only one of three languages in the Uralic family and it’s highly agglutinative (prefix/suffix galore).
FINAL IMPRESSIONS: This language, at least to me, sounds so much more like the language of Vikings than Norwegian and Swedish! There are a ton of deep “ouhs” and “aehs” and the retroflex is really strong in some words. Also, long vowels are very common.
Here’s another thing. Did you know Finnish has an interesting system of vowel harmony? Words can only only have three vowel types in a word: a, ö, y; a, o, u; and e, i. I’m not really a fan of this, though.
As for grammar, Finnish has a SVO system, but this is eclipsed by the endings of words, which makes it used rather loosely. For example, when conjugating verbs, you simply attach an -n for first person singular, -t for second person singular, -v/ø for third person singular and so on.
UPDATE: A reader, who just happens to be bilingual in Finnish and English gave me more details about verb conjugation. Declensions for forming verbs also depend on preceding consonants. If we use the verb Lukea (to read), it would change in the following manner:
luen = I read
let = you read
lukee = he/she reads
luemme = we read
luette = you (pl.) read
lukevat = they read
Finnish also uses a negative verb form in which the last letter of the verb is dropped an an auxiliary verb is added. If I were to say, “Minä puhun englantia” (I speak English) I would negate it by saying “Minä en puhu englantia” (I don’t speak English). The auxiliary differs according to the speaker (et for you, ei for he/she, etc.).
As for noun declension, there are a few words that undergo some complex changes. This site gives you a list of them in further detail.
Some interesting words:
minä – me
yhdeksänkymmentäyhdeksän (long!) – 99
kuka – who
So, Finnish isn’t as difficult as it seems. There’s still something about it that I can’t click with. The words seem to undulate a lot and it makes it difficult for me to differentiate between them. And almost none of these words seem familiar at all. I think the only cognate I saw was English (englantia). Maybe I’ll pass one this one.
Did you ever want to know how the opening theme to Ducktales sounds in Finnish! Well, even if you didn’t, check it out below!
COMING UP: Azeri