A Brief Overview of the Finnish Language’s History
Despite not being written down until medieval times, Finnish language has an exciting history.
At the very least, Word Nerds like myself find Finnish enthralling. The Finnish language has a vast history, spanning over three thousand years, and provides many fascinating insights into the human condition and global history along the way.
Finnish Language Ancestors
As far back as 1500 BCE, there was a theoretical language known as Sami. Around that time, the Sami gave birth to what we now call Proto-Finnic, and Proto-Finnic saw a distinct child group known as Baltic- Finnish language develop and split away in the first century CE.
Finnish was not written down until the 15th century when the Kingdom of Sweden seized the nation. That’s incredible — fifteen hundred years of language evolution have been lost to history because no one recorded it! Finnish was written for the first time in 1450, a remarkable late period for sign language.
A cohesive standard written form of the language, incorporating parts of written Latin, Swedish, and German, was not formed until a hundred years later. During Sweden’s dominance, Finnish language adopted numerous Swedish terminology and traits, and modern Finnish retains these “Swedish” qualities.
Finnish has maintained this mentality of emulating the finest elements of other languages, and there are many borrowings from English, German, and Russian in use today.
The Finnish language is challenging to learn for non-native speakers (some would claim it impossible). Those who reject this stereotype and study Finnish quickly find the language’s beautiful and harmonious features – as well as the rationale in its often-complex syntax.
Because Sweden and Russia are both major neighboring nations, many believe that Finnish language is closely linked to either Swedish or Russian. That is not the case, though. Swedish and Russian are both Indo-European languages, although Finnish is a Uralic family’s Finno-Ugric branch.
Estonian, Sámi, and Hungarian are among the Finno-Ugric languages, as are several languages are spoken in the Russian Federation, such as Karelian and Mari.
Around five million people speak Finnish. The majority of Finns live in Finland. However, there are also Finns in Sweden, Estonia, Norway, Russia, and North America.
Finnish language is one of Finland’s two official languages (the other being Swedish), as well as one of the European Union’s official languages. In Sweden, it is likewise classified as a minority language.
Here are 5 facts about the Finnish language
1. Finnish is a gender-neutral language.
Because Finnish, unlike specific European languages, does not have grammatical gender, there is no need to remember whether the table is masculine or feminine, for example.
Furthermore, because a gender-neutral pronoun already exists in Finnish, there is no need to establish a new one. It’s also the sole option: in Finnish, the third person singular pronoun (typically they in English) is hän, which may refer to any one of any gender. None of the other pronouns are gender-specific either — Finnish language students have it easy in this regard!
2. In Finnish, there is no future tense.
In Finnish, the future tense does not exist; you must use the present tense. This is far more practical than it appears: if there’s any potential of misunderstanding, add phrases like varmaan (“possibly”) or kohta (“soon”) to the mix.
Over indicate that an activity will take place in the future, use the words huomenna (“tomorrow”) or kun lehmät lentävät (“when cows fly” — Finnish language prefers cows to pigs in this situation). If you want to be explicit, you can use a verb like aikoa (“to intend”).
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3. The East vs the West
Finnish features several mutually intelligible dialects and may be split into two groups: Western and Eastern. There are variances in vocabulary and intonation between dialects, but there are also differences in grammar and morphology.
The fact that various dialects have distinct pronouns is something a Finnish language student will notice quickly: “I” might be mä (Helsinki), mää (Tampere), mnää (Rauma), mie (Kuopio), or miä (Kotka) – and in standard Finnish, it’s minä.
4. Finnish is spoken in the same way it is written.
Finnish has a relatively consistent pronunciation, with approximately 100% correlation between letters and sounds. Some sounds, however, are difficult for Finnish students to pronounce. There are a few things you should know about letters and sounds when studying Finnish:
• The vowels in Finnish are a, o, u, e, I ä, ö, and y.
• Most consonants and vowels are pronounced exactly as they are written Finnish language.
• The initial syllable of a word is usually emphasized. The emphasis, on the other hand, does not lengthen the syllable.
• Vowels and consonants can be short (written with only one letter) or long (written with two letters) (written with two letters). The length of a consonant or a vowel can alter a word’s meaning. Lakki (“cap”), for example, has a long k, whereas laki (“law”) has a short one.
• Finnish language possesses vowel harmony, as do other Finno-Ugric languages (you cannot have back and front vowels in the same word).
5. There are 18 diphthongs in Finnish.
There are a lot of diphthongs, or gliding vowels, in Finnish (two adjacent vowels in the same syllable). Some of them, such as ai in aika (“time”) and oi in poika (“boy”), are persistent in other languages. Others, such as äy  in täysi (“full”) or yö [y] in syödä (“to eat”), may appear to be a
penalty for opting to learn such a strange language.
The name of the language, suomi (“Finnish”), is an example of a Finnish diphthong. Another is found in the one Finnish term you are most likely familiar with sauna. All you have to do is say it with a Finnish language accent: /’ sun/.
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