- Baltic-Finnic languages
Infobox Language family
Fennoscandia, Baltic states, Southwestern and Southeastern Russia
South Estonian language
iso2=fiuThe Baltic-Finnic languages, spoken around the
Baltic Seaby about 7 million people, are a branch of Finnic languagesbelonging to the Finno-Ugricgroup of the Uralic language family. The Finnic division of the language groups includes: Baltic-Finnic languages, Volga-Finnic languages, Permicand Samitogether with the Ugricdivision of Hungarian and the Ob-Ugriclanguages Mansi(Vogul) and Khanty(Ostyak) make the Finno-Ugric group of the Uralic language family. [ [http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/article-9364459/Finno-Ugric-languages Finno-Ugric languages at] concise.britannica]
The major modern representatives of Baltic-Finnic languages are Finnish and Estonian, the official languages of their respective nation states. [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9034305/Finnic-Peoples Finnic Peoples] at
Encyclopædia Britannica] The other Finnic languages in the Baltic Sea region are Ingrian, Karelian, Ludic, Veps, Votic, spoken around the Gulf of Finlandand Lakes Onegaand Ladoga. The Seto languageand Võro are spoken in south-eastern Estoniaand Livonian in parts of Latvia. Meänkieli(in northern Sweden) and Kven (in northern Norway) are Finnish dialects that the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Norway have given a legal status of independent languages. They are mutually intelligible with Finnish.
There is no
grammatical genderin Baltic-Finnic languages, nor are there articles nor definite or indefinite forms. [http://books.google.com/books?id=TM2NQ78dP2wC&printsec The Uralic Languages: Description, History and Foreign Influences By Denis Sinor] ISBN 9004077413]
The morphophonology (the way the grammatical function of a
morphemeaffects its production) is complex. One of the more important processes is the characteristic consonant gradation. Two kinds of gradation occur: the radical and suffix gradation, which affect the plosives /k/, /t/ and /p/. This is a lenitionprocess, where the consonant is changed into a "weaker" form with some (but not all) oblique cases. For geminates, the process is simple to describe: they become simple stops, e.g. "kuppia" + "-n" → "kupin" (Finnish: "cup"). For simple consonants, the process complicates immensely and the results vary by the environment. For example, "haka" +"-n" → "haan", "kyky" + "-n" → "kyvyn", "järki" + "-n" → "järjen" (Finnish: "pasture", "skill", "intellect"). (See the separate article for more details.) Other important processes are vowel harmony(lost in Estonian), and the "erosion" of word-final sounds (strongest in Livonian, Võro and Estonian). This may leave a phonemic status to the morphophonological variations caused by the agglutination of the lost suffixes, which is the source of the third length level in these languages.
The original Uralic
palatalizationwas lost in proto-Baltic-Finnic, but most of the diverging dialects reacquired it, probably under Slavic influence.Fact|date=February 2008 Its secondary nature can be seen in that it is not an independent feature as in original Uralic, but dependent on the following vowel as in Slavic.Fact|date=February 2008 Palatalization is a part of the Estonian literary language and is an essential feature in Võro, Veps, Karelianand other eastern Baltic-Finnic languages. It is also found in East Finnish dialects, and is only missing from West Finnish dialects and Standard Finnish.
A special characteristic of the languages is the large number of
diphthongs. There are 16 diphthongs in Finnish and 25 in Estonian; at the same time the frequency is greater in Finnish than in Estonian.
There are 14 noun cases in Estonian and 15 in Finnish, which are denoted by adding a suffix.
Baltic-Finnic languages share some obviously noticeable features. The consonant sets are rather simple, and rich in
alveolar consonants. There are two chronemes, which are phonemic: short, half-long geminateand over-long geminateconsonants distinguish meanings and thus are different phonemes. The same goes with vowels; short, half-long and over-long vowels distinguish meanings. The meaning-distinguishing effect is the strongest in Estonian and Võro, where all three lengths are fully phonemic; other languages distinguish only two lengths, where half-long is an allophone of short. There is a large number of vocalic phonemes with strong contrasts between them and complex diphthong systems. For example, Estonian has nine monophthongs IPA| [aeiouyæøɤ] in three different lengths, and 26 diphthongs, each a distinct phoneme.
In grammar, Baltic-Finnic languages follow the pattern of Uralic languages.
Sami languagesBaltic-Finnic languages share consonant gradationand the three-way consonant length contrast. Relative to Proto-Uralic, both have developed noninitial labial vowels and lost the labial glide preceding initial labial vowels. These features can be caused by a common ancestry (i.e. a distinct protolanguage giving rise to Proto-Baltic-Finnic and Proto-Sami), areal influence (Finnic peoples and Sami have coexistenced in the same areas), or coincidence.
Urheimatof Baltic-Finnic speaking peoples is believed to be somewhere in the region of what is now EstoniaFact|date=September 2007, and consequently, the most central, integrated and oldest loans are from the Baltic languages, (proto-)Lithuanian and (proto-)LatvianFact|date=September 2007. German and Russian are also the origin of some loans, added with other Germanic, such as GothicFact|date=September 2007 or later Swedish, loans. There is little overt Russian influence in most languages, except in smaller languages, such as Karelian, which has a long history of close contact with Russian.
Birch bark letter no. 292
* Tapani Salminen. [http://www.helsinki.fi/~tasalmin/kuzn.html Problems in the taxonomy of the Uralic languages in the light of modern comparative studies.]
* [http://koti.welho.com/jschalin/index.htm Lexicon of Early Indo-European Loanwords in Finnish]
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