Estonian language

Estonian language

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Encyclopedia
Estonian is the official language of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré
Émigré
Émigré is a French term that literally refers to a person who has "migrated out", but often carries a connotation of politico-social self-exile....

 communities. It is a Uralic language
Uralic languages
The Uralic languages constitute a language family of some three dozen languages spoken by approximately 25 million people. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Mari and Udmurt...

 and is closely related to Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

.

One distinctive feature that has caused a great amount of interest among linguists
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 is what is traditionally seen as three degrees of phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 length: short, long, and "overlong", such that /toto/, /toˑto/ and /toːto/ are distinct. In actuality, the distinction is not purely in the phoneme length, and the underlying phonological mechanism is still disputed.

State language


Kas siis selle maa keel

Laulutuules ei või

Taevani tõustes üles

Igavikku omale otsida?

In English:

Cannot the language of this land

In the wind of incantation

Rising up to the heavens

Seek for eternity?
Kristjan Jaak Peterson


Those lines have been interpreted as a claim to reestablish the birthright of the Estonian language. Kristjan Jaak Peterson
Kristjan Jaak Peterson
Kristjan Jaak Peterson also known as Christian Jacob Petersohn, was an Estonian poet, commonly regarded as a herald of Estonian national literature and the founder of modern Estonian poetry. His literary career was cut short by the tuberculosis that killed him at the age of 21. His birthday on...

 (1801–22), the first student at the then German-language University of Tartu
University of Tartu
The University of Tartu is a classical university in the city of Tartu, Estonia. University of Tartu is the national university of Estonia; it is the biggest and highest-ranked university in Estonia...

 to acknowledge his Estonian origin, is commonly regarded as a herald of Estonian national literature
Estonian literature
Estonian literature refers to literature written in the Estonian language The domination of Estonia after the Northern Crusades, from the 13th century to 1918 by Germany, Sweden, and Russia resulted few early written literary works in Estonian language. The oldest records of written Estonian...

 and considered the founder of modern Estonian poetry. His birthday on March 14 is celebrated in Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 as the Mother Tongue
First language
A first language is the language a person has learned from birth or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity...

 Day.

The domination of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 after the Northern Crusades
Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...

, from the 13th century to 1918 by Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, resulted in few early written literary works in the Estonian language. Writings in Estonian became significant only in the 19th century with the spread of the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, during the Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840). Although Baltic Germans at large regarded the future of Estonians as being a fusion with the Baltic Germans, the Estophile educated class admired the ancient culture of the Estonians and their era of freedom before the conquests by Danes and Germans in the 13th century.

After the Estonian War of Independence, the Estonian language became the state language of the newly independent country. When Estonia was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the status of the Estonian language changed to the first of two official languages (Russian being the other one). In the second half of the 1970s, the pressure of bilingualism intensified, resulting in widespread knowledge of Russian throughout the country. The Russian language was termed as ‘the language of friendship of nations’ and was taught to Estonian children as early as in kindergarten. Although teaching Estonian to non-Estonians in schools was compulsory, in practice learning the language was often considered unnecessary. During the Perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

 era, The Law on the Status of the Estonian Language was adopted in January 1989. The collapse of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 led to the restoration of Republic of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

's independence. Estonian went back to being the only state language in Estonia.

Estonian literature




The oldest records of written Estonian date from the 13th century. Originates Livoniae in Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
Chronicle of Henry of Livonia
The Livonian Chronicle of Henry is a document describing historic events in Livonia and surrounding areas from 1180 to 1227. Apart from the few references in the Primary Chronicle compiled in Kievan Rus' in the twelfth century, it is the oldest known written document about the history of these...

 contains Estonian place names, words and fragments of sentences. The earliest extant samples of connected Estonian are the so-called Kullamaa prayers dating from 1524 and 1528. In 1525 the first book published in the Estonian language was printed. The book was a Lutheran manuscript, which never reached the reader and was destroyed immediately after publication. The first extant Estonian book is a bilingual German-Estonian translation of the Lutheran catechism by S.Wanradt and J. Koell dating to 1535, during the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 period. For the use of priests an Estonian grammar was printed in German in 1637. The New Testament was translated into southern Estonian
Võro language
The Võro language is a language belonging to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. Traditionally it has been considered a dialect of the South Estonian dialect group of the Estonian language, but nowadays it has its own literary language and is in search of official recognition as an...

 in 1686 (northern Estonian, 1715). The two dialects were united based on northern Estonian by Anton Thor Helle. Writings in Estonian became more significant in the 19th century during the Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840).

The birth of native Estonian literature was in 1810 to 1820 when the patriotic and philosophical poems by Kristjan Jaak Peterson
Kristjan Jaak Peterson
Kristjan Jaak Peterson also known as Christian Jacob Petersohn, was an Estonian poet, commonly regarded as a herald of Estonian national literature and the founder of modern Estonian poetry. His literary career was cut short by the tuberculosis that killed him at the age of 21. His birthday on...

 were published. From 1525 to 1917 14 503 titles were published in Estonia, as opposed to the 23 868 titles which were published between 1918 and 1940.

In modern times Jaan Kross
Jaan Kross
-Early life:Born in Tallinn, Estonia, studied Jacob Westholm´s Grammar school, Kross attended the University of Tartu and graduated from its School of Law...

 and Jaan Kaplinski
Jaan Kaplinski
Jaan Kaplinski is an Estonian poet, philosopher, and culture critic. Kaplinski is known for his independent mind, focus on global issues and support for left-wing/liberal thinking...

 remain as two of Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

's best known and most translated writers.

Classification


Estonian belongs to the Finnic
Finnic languages
The term Finnic languages often means the Baltic-Finnic languages, an undisputed branch of the Uralic languages. However, it is also commonly used to mean the Finno-Permic languages, a hypothetical intermediate branch that includes Baltic Finnic, or the more disputed Finno-Volgaic languages....

 branch of the Uralic languages
Uralic languages
The Uralic languages constitute a language family of some three dozen languages spoken by approximately 25 million people. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Mari and Udmurt...

, along with Finnish, Karelian, and other nearby languages. The Uralic languages do not belong to the Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

. Estonian is distantly related to Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

.

Estonian has been influenced by Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 (initially Middle Low German
Middle Low German
Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League...

, later also standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

), and Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, though it is not related to them genetically
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

.

Like Finnish and Hungarian, Estonian is a somewhat agglutinative language
Agglutinative language
An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view...

, but unlike them, it has lost the vowel harmony
Vowel harmony
Vowel harmony is a type of long-distance assimilatory phonological process involving vowels that occurs in some languages. In languages with vowel harmony, there are constraints on which vowels may be found near each other....

 of Proto-Uralic, although in older texts the vowel harmony can still be recognized. Furthermore, the apocope
Apocope
In phonology, apocope is the loss of one or more sounds from the end of a word, and especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.-Historical sound change:...

 of word-final sounds is extensive and has contributed to a shift from a purely agglutinative to a fusional language
Fusional language
A fusional language is a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by its tendency to overlay many morphemes in a way that can be difficult to segment....

. The basic word order is subject–verb–object.

Dialects



The Estonian dialects are divided into two groups – the northern and southern dialects, usually associated with the cities of Tallinn
Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 in the north and Tartu
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 in the south, in addition to a distinct kirderanniku dialect, that of the northeastern coast of Estonia.

The northern group consists of the keskmurre or middle dialect that is also the basis for the standard language, the läänemurre or western dialect, roughly corresponding to Läänemaa and Pärnumaa, the saarte murre (islands') dialect of Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

 and Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa is the second largest island belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.-Name:...

 and the idamurre or eastern dialect on the northwestern shore
Shore
A shore or shoreline is the fringe of land at the edge of a large body of water, such as an ocean, sea, or lake. In Physical Oceanography a shore is the wider fringe that is geologically modified by the action of the body of water past and present, while the beach is at the edge of the shore,...

 of Lake Peipsi.

The southern group consists of the Tartu, Mulgi, Võru (Võro) and Setu (Seto) dialects. These are sometimes considered either variants of a South Estonian language
South Estonian language
South Estonian emerged in the 17th century as a distinct language in Swedish Livonia aside the North Estonian language spoken in Swedish Estonia.The first South Estonian grammar was compiled by Johann Gutslaff in 1648....

, or separate languages altogether. Also, Seto
Seto language
Seto or Setu language is a dialect of the South Estonian or Võro language , spoken by about 5,000 people...

 is not usually considered a dialect of Estonian, but rather a variant of Võro
Võro language
The Võro language is a language belonging to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. Traditionally it has been considered a dialect of the South Estonian dialect group of the Estonian language, but nowadays it has its own literary language and is in search of official recognition as an...

.

Alphabet


Like Finnish, Estonian employs the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

, in addition to which the Estonian alphabet
Estonian alphabet
The Estonian alphabet is used for writing the Estonian language and is based on the Latin alphabet, with German influence. As such, the Estonian alphabet has the letters Ä, Ö, and Ü , which represent the vowel sounds , and , respectively...

 contains letters ä
Ä
"Ä" and "ä" are both characters that represent either a letter from several extended Latin alphabets, or the letter A with an umlaut mark or diaeresis.- Independent letter :...

, ö
Ö
"Ö", or "ö", is a character used in several extended Latin alphabets, or the letter O with umlaut to denote the front vowels or . In languages without umlaut, the character is also used as a "O with diaeresis" to denote a syllable break, wherein its pronunciation remains an unmodified .- O-Umlaut...

, ü
Ü
Ü, or ü, is a character which can be either a letter from several extended Latin alphabets, or the letter U with an umlaut or a diaeresis...

, and õ
Õ
"Õ", or "õ" is a composition of the Latin letter O with the diacritic mark tilde.The HTML entity is Õ for Õ and õ for õ.-Estonian:...

, plus the later additions š
Š
The grapheme Š, š is used in various contexts, usually denoting the voiceless postalveolar fricative. In the International Phonetic Alphabet this sound is denoted with , but the lowercase š is used in the Americanist phonetic notation, as well as in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet.For use in computer...

and ž
Ž
The grapheme Ž is formed from Latin Z with the addition of caron . It is used in various contexts, usually denoting the voiced postalveolar fricative, a sound similar to English g in mirage, or Portuguese and French j...

. The letters c, q, w, x and y are limited to proper names of foreign origin, and f, z, š, and ž appear in loanwords and foreign names only. Ö and ü are pronounced similarly to their equivalents in Swedish and German. Unlike in standard German but like Finnish and Swedish (when followed by 'r'), Ä is pronounced [æ], as in English mat. The vowels Ä, Ö and Ü are clearly separate phonemes and inherent in Estonian, although the letter shapes come from German. The letter õ
Õ
"Õ", or "õ" is a composition of the Latin letter O with the diacritic mark tilde.The HTML entity is Õ for Õ and õ for õ.-Estonian:...

denotes /ɤ/, unrounded /o/, or a close-mid back unrounded vowel
Close-mid back unrounded vowel
The close-mid back unrounded vowel, or high-mid back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is , called "ram's horns"...

. It is almost identical to the Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

 ъ /ɤ̞/ and the Vietnamese
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

 ơ
O
O is the fifteenth letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet.The letter was derived from the Semitic `Ayin , which represented a consonant, probably , the sound represented by the Arabic letter ع called `Ayn. This Semitic letter in its original form seems to have been inspired by a...

, and is used to transcribe the Russian ы.

Orthography


Although the Estonian orthography is generally guided by phonemic principles, with each grapheme corresponding to one phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

, there are some historical and morphological deviations from this: for example the initial letter 'h' in words, preservation of the morpheme in declension
Declension
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

 of the word (writing b, g, d in places where p, k, t is pronounced) and in the use of 'i' and 'j'. Where it is very impractical or impossible to type š and ž, they are substituted with sh and zh in some written texts, although this is considered incorrect. Otherwise, the h in sh represents a voiceless glottal fricative
Voiceless glottal fricative
The voiceless glottal transition, commonly called a "fricative", is a type of sound used in some spoken languages which patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant...

, as in Pasha
Pasha
Pasha or pascha, formerly bashaw, was a high rank in the Ottoman Empire political system, typically granted to governors, generals and dignitaries. As an honorary title, Pasha, in one of its various ranks, is equivalent to the British title of Lord, and was also one of the highest titles in...

(pas-'ha); this also applies to some foreign names.

Modern Estonian orthography is based on the Newer Orthography created by Eduard Ahrens in the second half of the 19th century based on Finnish Orthography. The Older Orthography it replaced was created in the 17th century by Bengt Gottfried Forselius
Bengt Gottfried Forselius
Bengt Gottfried Forselius was a founder of public education in Estonia, author of the first ABC-book in the Estonian language , and creator of a spelling system which made the teaching and learning of Estonian easier...

 and Johann Hornung based on standard German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 orthography. Earlier writing in Estonian had by and large used an ad hoc orthography based on Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Middle Low German
Middle Low German
Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League...

 orthography. Some influences of the standard German orthography — for example, writing 'W'/'w' instead of 'V'/'v' persisted well into the 1930s.

It should be noted that Estonian words and names quoted in international publications from Soviet sources are often back-transliterations from the Russian transliteration. Examples are the use of "ya" for "ä" (e.g. Pyarnu instead of Pärnu
Pärnu
Pärnu is a city in southwestern Estonia on the coast of Pärnu Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea. It is a popular summer vacation resort with many hotels, restaurants, and large beaches. The Pärnu River flows through the city and drains into the Gulf of Riga...

), "y" instead of "õ" (e.g., Pylva instead of Põlva
Põlva
Põlva , is the capital of Põlva County , one of 15 counties of Estonia. The county is situated in south-eastern part of the country and borders Tartu, Valga and Võru counties...

) and "yu" instead of "ü" (e.g., Pyussi instead of Püssi
Püssi
Püssi is an urban municipality in Ida-Viru County, Estonia, with a population of 1,838. A large brown heathland is located just to the south of the town, and the Tallinn-Narva railway runs right through the centre of the municipality, before disappearing into the dense forest typical of the...

). Even in the Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

one can find "ostrov Khiuma", where "ostrov" means "island" in Russian and "Khiuma" is back-transliteration from Russian instead of "Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa is the second largest island belonging to Estonia. It is located in the Baltic Sea, north of the island of Saaremaa, a part of the West Estonian archipelago. Its largest town is Kärdla.-Name:...

" (Hiiumaa>Хийума(а)>Khiuma).

Vowels

Estonian vowel phonemes
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

i y u
Mid
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

e ø ɤ o
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

æ ɑ


Because short vowels have similar formant values, long vowels are considered sequences of short values rather than separate phonemes (e.g. vere [vereˑ] 'blood [gen.sg.]' vs. veere [veːreˑ] 'edge [gen.sg.]' vs. veere [veːːre] 'roll [imp. 2nd sg.]'). There are nine phonemic monophthongs, with three phonetic lengths
Vowel length
In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may etymologically be one, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in...

. Of these, simple and long are segmentally phonemic, and the third length level is suprasegmentally phonemic and aided by a distinctive tonal contour. The script distinguishes only short and long, marked by vowel doubling, e.g. öö "night".

There are 36 diphthongs (26 of which are native to Estonian); all nine vowels can appear as the first component of a diphthong, but only [ɑ e i o u] occur as the second component.
Estonian Diphthongs
Vowel ɑ e i o u
ɑ ɑe ɑi ɑo ɑu
e ei eo (eu)
i (iɑ) (i.e.) (io) iu
o (oe) oi ou
u (uɑ) (ue) ui uo
ɤ ɤɑ ɤe ɤi ɤo ɤu
æ -- æe æi æo æu
ø øɑ øe øi -- --
y (ye) yi (yo) --


There are very few instances of vowel allophony: /æ/ may have pronunciations [æ] and [ɛ], and long /y/ is pronounced as the diphthong [yi].

A vowel characteristic of Estonian is the unrounded back vowel /ɤ/, which may be mid back
Mid back unrounded vowel
The International Phonetic Alphabet distinguishes two mid back unrounded vowels:#The close-mid back unrounded vowel #The open-mid back unrounded vowel...

, close back
Close back unrounded vowel
The close back unrounded vowel, or high back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is . Typographically a turned letter m, given its relation to the sound represented by the letter u it...

, or mid central.

Consonants

Consonant phonemes of Estonian
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Post-
alveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Plain palatalized
Palatalization
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m n (ŋ)1
Plosive p t k
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

f2 v s ʃ2 h
Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

l j
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

r


Notes:
  1. [ŋ] only appears as an allophone
    Allophone
    In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

     of [n] before [k] (e.g. panga 'bank [gen.sg.] [pɑŋkɑ]).
  2. /f/ and /ʃ/ are considered foreign sounds and they only appear in loanwords. /ʃ/ may be pronounced as [s] by some speakers.


/p t tʲ k/ may become voiced between vowels (e.g. kabi 'hoof' [kɑpiˑ~kɑbiˑ]). These plosives, as well as the fricatives /f s sʲ ʃ/, may occur in both short and long forms (e.g. maste 'mast [part. pl.]' [mɑsʲːte]).

There is one series of stops, unvoiced unaspirated, with three phonemic lengths, written ⟨b d g⟩, ⟨p t k⟩ and ⟨pp tt kk⟩. Other consonants also have distinctive length, but only short and long are distinguished in writing. As with vowels, two segmental length levels are phonemic, and the third level is suprasegmentally phonemic. For example, for /n/, short /n/ in lina ('sheet'), half-long /n/ in linna ('town' gen. sg.), and over-long /n/ in linna ('to the town'). The latter addition of length is traceable to a grammatical marker *-han that has elided, with compensatory lengthening
Compensatory lengthening
Compensatory lengthening in phonology and historical linguistics is the lengthening of a vowel sound that happens upon the loss of a following consonant, usually in the syllable coda...

.

Consonants may be palatalized; but this is not written in the orthography, as palatalization
Palatalization
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

 generally occurs before front vowels (also in the final consonant in the nominative case of nouns if such vowel follows in the genitive). About 0.15% of the vocabulary features fully phonemic palatalization, where palatalization occurs without the front vowel. The process is similar to that found in Eastern Finnish dialects, where word-final /i/ is elided, leaving the palatalization on the consonant. Thus, palatalization does not necessarily need a front vowel, and palatalized vs. plain continuants can be articulated.

Proto-Finnic, the ancestor of the Estonian language, lost palatalization, but Estonian is one of those languages which reacquired it from Slavic. It then underwent further modification, which makes Estonian palatalization different from Russian palatalization. In Russian, palatalization causes some affrication and necessarily features a palatal approximant/fricative offglide, which is not the case in Estonian, where the consonant is otherwise unaffected.

Gradation


In Estonian, sounds alternate
Alternation (linguistics)
In linguistics, an alternation is the phenomenon of a phoneme or morpheme exhibiting variation in its phonological realization. Each of the various realizations is called an alternant...

 between various grades of sound length and sound quality in different grammatical forms of a word; see also vowel gradation, consonant gradation
Consonant gradation
Consonant gradation is a type of consonant mutation, in which consonants alternate between various "grades". It is found in some Uralic languages such as Finnish, Estonian, Northern Sámi, and the Samoyed language Nganasan. In addition, it has been reconstructed for Proto-Germanic, the parent...

, lenition.

Quantitative changes (strong grade : weak grade)
  • alternation of overlong and long vowels aaa : aa, eee : ee, ooo : oo, uuu : uu (saal : saali, keelama : keelata, kool : kooli, suur : suure)
  • alternation of overlong and long consonants nnn : nn, lll : ll (linn : linna, kallama : kallata)
  • alternation of long and short consonants pp : p, tt : t, kk : k, ss : s (sepp : sepa, võtta : võtan, hakkan : hakata, kirss : kirsi)
  • alternation of strong and weak consonants p : b, t : d, k : g (kupja : kubjas, kartma : kardan, vilkuda : vilgub)


Qualitative changes (strong grade : weak grade)
  • alternation of long and lowered long vowels iu : eo, ua : oa, ue : oe, uu : oo, üi : öe (pidu : peo, tuba : toa, lugema : loen, sugu : soo, süsi : söe)
  • alternation of weak and assimilated weak consonants b : m, d : n/l/r, s : r (hamba : hammas, kandma : kannan, vars : varre)
  • alternation of weak and lenited weak consonants b : v, d : j, g : j (kaebama : kaevata, rada : raja, märg : märja)
  • alternation of weak and elided weak consonants b : Ø, d/t : Ø, g/k : Ø, s : Ø (tuba : toa, leht : lehe, arg : ara, mesi : mee)


Partition of grades in declension
  • singular nominative and singular genitive have the opposite grades (leht : lehe – strong : weak, hammas : hamba – weak : strong)
  • singular nominative and singular partitive have the same grades (leht : lehte – strong : strong, hammas : hammast – weak : weak)
  • plural partitive has the strong grade (lehti – strong, hambaid – strong)


Partition of grades in conjugation
  • -da infinitive and present tense have the opposite grades (lugeda : loen – strong : weak, hakata : hakkan – weak : strong)
  • -ma infinitive has the strong grade (lugema – strong, hakkama – strong)
  • -tud participle has the weak grade (loetud – weak, hakatud – weak)

Stress


The stress in Estonian is usually on the first syllable. There are a few exceptions with the stress on the second syllable: aitäh "thanks", sõbranna "female friend". In loanwords, the original stress can be borrowed as well: ideaal "ideal", professor "professor". The stress is weak, and as length levels already control an aspect of "articulation intensity", most words appear evenly stressed.

Grammar



Typologically, Estonian represents a transitional form from an agglutinating language to a fusional language
Fusional language
A fusional language is a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by its tendency to overlay many morphemes in a way that can be difficult to segment....

. Over the course of Estonian history, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 has exercised a strong influence on Estonian, both in vocabulary and syntax. The canonical word order is SVO (subject–verb–object).

In Estonian nouns and pronouns do not have grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

, but nouns and adjectives decline in fourteen cases: nominative, genitive, partitive
Partitive case
The partitive case is a grammatical case which denotes "partialness", "without result", or "without specific identity". It is also used in contexts where a subgroup is selected from a larger group, or with numbers....

, illative, inessive, elative
Elative case
See Elative for disambiguation.Elative is a locative case with the basic meaning "out of"....

, allative, adessive, ablative, translative, terminative, essive, abessive, and comitative, with the case and number of the adjective(s) always agreeing with that of the noun (except in the terminative, essive, abessive and comitative, where there is agreement only for the number, the adjective being in the genitive form). Thus the illative for "a yellow house" (kollane maja) – "into a yellow house" is (kollasesse majja). With respect to the Proto-Finnic language, elision has occurred; thus, the actual case marker may be absent, but the stem is changed, cf. maja – majja and Pohjanmaa dialect of Finnish maja – majahan.

The direct object of the verb appears either in the accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

 (for total objects) or in the partitive (for partial objects). The accusative coincides with the genitive in the singular and with nominative in the plural. Accusative vs. partitive case opposition of object
Object (grammar)
An object in grammar is part of a sentence, and often part of the predicate. It denotes somebody or something involved in the subject's "performance" of the verb. Basically, it is what or whom the verb is acting upon...

 used with transitive verbs creates a telicity
Telicity
In linguistics, telicity is the property of a verb or verb phrase that presents an action or event as being complete in some sense...

 contrast, just as in Finnish. This is a rough equivalent of the perfect vs. imperfect aspect opposition.

The verbal system lacks a distinctive future tense (the present tense serves here) and features special forms to express an action performed by an undetermined subject
Subject (grammar)
The subject is one of the two main constituents of a clause, according to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and that is associated with phrase structure grammars; the other constituent is the predicate. According to another tradition, i.e...

 (the "impersonal").

Vocabulary


Although the Estonian and Germanic languages are of completely different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and English, for example. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, mainly from Low Saxon (Middle Low German
Middle Low German
Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League...

) during the period of German rule, and High German (including standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

). The percentage of Low Saxon and High German loanwords can be estimated at 22–25 percent, with Low Saxon making up about 15 percent.

Ex nihilo lexical enrichment


Estonian language planners such as Ado Grenzstein (a journalist active in Estonia in the 1870s–90s) tried to use formation ex nihilo
Ex nihilo
Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing". It often appears in conjunction with the concept of creation, as in creatio ex nihilo, meaning "creation out of nothing"—chiefly in philosophical or theological contexts, but also occurs in other fields.In theology, the common phrase creatio ex...

, Urschöpfung; i.e. they created new words out of nothing.

The most famous reformer of Estonian, Johannes Aavik
Johannes Aavik
Johannes Aavik was an Estonian philologist and Fennophile who played a significant role in the modernization and development of the Estonian language.-Education and career:...

 (1880–1973), used creations ex nihilo (cf. ‘free constructions’, Tauli 1977), along with other sources of lexical enrichment such as derivations, compositions and loanwords (often from Finnish; cf. Saareste and Raun 1965: 76). In Aavik’s dictionary (1921), which lists approximately 4000 words, there are many words which were (allegedly) created ex nihilo, many of which are in common use today. Examples are
  • ese ‘object’,
  • kolp ‘skull’,
  • liibuma ‘to cling’,
  • naasma ‘to return, come back’,
  • nõme 'stupid, dull.'


Many of the coinages that have been considered (often by Aavik himself) as words concocted ex nihilo could well have been influenced by foreign lexical items, for example words from Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

. Aavik had a broad classical education and knew Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. Consider roim ‘crime’ versus English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 crime or taunima ‘to condemn, disapprove’ versus Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 tuomita ‘to condemn, to judge’ (these Aavikisms appear in Aavik’s 1921 dictionary). These words might be better regarded as a peculiar manifestation of morpho-phonemic adaptation of a foreign lexical item.

Language example


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 in Estonian:

Kõik inimesed sünnivad vabadena ja võrdsetena oma väärikuselt ja õigustelt. Neile on antud mõistus ja südametunnistus ja nende suhtumist üksteisesse peab kandma vendluse vaim.

(All people are born free and equal in their dignity and rights. They are given reason and conscience and they shall create their relationships to one another according to the spirit of brotherhood.)

See also

  • Swadesh list for Finnic languages
  • Swadesh list for Finno-Ugric languages

External links




Dictionaries


Recordings