Karelian language

From Academic Kids

The Karelian language is a variety closely related to Finnish. It belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages, and is chiefly distinguished from standard Finnish by the lack of influence from modern 19th and 20th century Finnish. There is no standard Karelian language, but each writer writes in their own dialectal form. The script is the Finnish alphabet with letters added.

In this article, Karelian denotes dialects from Russian Karelia. In Finnish usage, however, Karelian mostly denotes the dialects of the 420,000 refugees from the Karelian isthmus and other parts of Finnish Karelia that were re-settled in what remains of Finland after World War II. These dialects were influenced by massive immigration, chiefly from Savonia, following the 17th century expansion of the Lutheran Swedish realm extending as far as to Ingria. Thus the linguistic border between (Orthodox) Russian Karelia and (Lutheran) Finnish Karelia was probably more pronounced than that between Finnish Karelia and Savonia. [1] (http://www.kotus.fi/verkkojulkaisut/julk129/karjalat_kartta1.shtml) Today, these dialects are concentrated to the towns of the South Karelian region of Finland, where many refugees ended up.

Karelian (Karjala)
Spoken in: Russia and Finland
Region: Karelia
Total speakers: 118,000
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Uralic languages

  Finno-Ugric languages
    Baltic Finnic

Official status
Official language of: Republic of Karelia
Regulated by: -
Language codes
ISO 639-1-
ISO 639-2fiu
See also: LanguageList of languages

Karelian is spoken in the Russian Republic of Karelia, and also by some 5,000 speakers in Finland.

The Karelian variety has three main branches:

The Ludic language or dialect (Luudi, Lyydi, or lüüdi in their own tongue) is sometimes classified as a dialect of Veps.

Finnish and Karelian were suppressed and outlawed during Stalin's Great Purges.

Attempts to standardize Karelian with a Cyrillic alphabet were unsuccessful, and today the Karelian republic (of the Russian federation) consider Karelian a dialect of Finnish. Finnish, and not Karelian, was the second official language of Karelia from the Winter War 1940 up until the 1980s[2] (http://www.helsinki-hs.net/news.asp?id=20020129IE17), when perestroika began. Since the late 1990s there have been moves to pass special language legislation, which would give Karelian an official status. Finnish has also again been proposed as a second official language for the republic, but the proposal has never taken wind.


Karelian was considered a dialect of Finnish and thus wasn't written as is before the Soviet times. The Soviets created several Cyrillic standardizations, which all failed, in the end because Stalin started persecuting Karelians as "undesirables". The modern script is based on the Finnish alphabet and is written with Finnish orthography. However, some features of the Karelian language and thus orthography are different from Finnish:

  • The Karelian system of fricatives and affricates is extensive — in Finnish, there is only one 's'.
  • Phonemic voicing occurs.
  • Karelian retains palatalization, usually denoted with an apostrophe (e.g. d'uuri)
  • The letter 'ü' may replace 'y' in some texts.
  • The letter 'c' denotes /ts/.
LetterAlt.IPA Karelian Finnish
c c [ʦ] kucu kutsu
č ch [ʧ] čoma, seiččemän soma, seitsemän
s s [s] se se
š sh [ʃ] niškoi niskoihin
z z [z] tazavalla tasavalta
ž zh [ʒ] kiža, liedžu kisa, lietsu

Karelian actually uses /z/ as a voiced alveolar fricative. (In Finnish, 'z' is a foreign spelling for /ts/.) The plosives /b/, /d/ and /g/ may be voiced. (Most Finnish speakers refuse to differentiate these from /p/, /t/, and /k/.)

The letters č, š and ž, or "hat"-letters, are postalveolar, i.e. pronounced like háčeks. They are replaceable with the digraphs /ch/, /sh/ and /zh/ — even so that /ruočči/ becomes /ruochchi/. The sounds č, š and ž are native to Karelian, but not Finland Finnish. Finnish speakers do not distinguish /š/ and /ž/ from /s/, nor /č/ from /ts/ (medial) or /s/ (initial). For example, the native Karelian words kiža, kucu, čoma, liedžu and seiččemän are kisa, kutsu, soma, lietsu and seitsemän in standard Finnish.

Language or dialect

Earlier, by some Finnish linguists, Karelian may be classified as a dialect of Finnish. Today, however, the variety spoken in East Karelia is usually seen as a proper language. [3] (http://www.kotus.fi/verkkojulkaisut/julk129/karjalat_kartta1.shtml)

The dialects spoken in the South Karelian Region of Finland, where many World War II refugees were re-settled, are considered to be part of the South Eastern dialects of the Finnish language. The dialect spoken in the Karelian Isthmus before World War II and the Ingrian language are also seen as part of this dialect group, in Finland sometimes wrongly denoted as Karelian dialect. [4] (http://www.internetix.ofw.fi/opinnot/opintojaksot/8kieletkirjallisuus/aidinkieli/murteet/kaakkois.html)

As it could also be argued Karelian should be considered separate from Finnish because of its geopolitical location within the boundaries of another state, a conclusion might be, that Karelian has a similar relation to Finnish, as has Finland-Swedish to Scandinavian Swedish.

External links

fr:Carélien hu:Karjalai nyelv it:Lingua carelio pl:Język karelski fi:Karjalan kieli sv:Karelska


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