Straight Outta Finland: The Finnish Language

Old Town pier in Helsinki, Finland

Finland is a country situated in Northern Europe and is a part of the Nordic countries, most commonly known as Nordics. The official language of Finland is Finnish which is spoken by the majority of people inside and outside of Finland.

First, it should be noted that Finnish is not an Indo-European language such as Norwegian or Swedish but Finno-Ugric language, a branch of Uralic languages. Therefore, the structure and the lexicon of the Finnish are different from the Indo-European Languages. That is why Finnish is different than other Nordic languages.

According to linguistics, the Uralian language is possibly related to Indo-European Languages ( Norwegian, Swedish, Danish etc. ). However, the relationship between those languages highly arguable. The arguments of some scholars are based on the similarities between the language universals ( phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon and semantics ) or loanwords to create a relationship between languages. But it’s inevitable to take loanwords from other neighboring countries, especially knowing that Sweden once invaded Finland.

To quote Eugene Holman, US-born Finnish linguist:

Even though Finnish is not related to the Scandinavian languages, like Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, it has its sister languages which it is more or less mutually intelligible spoken by people of essentially the same ethnic stock as the Finns. Many people know that the difference between Finnish and Estonian is approximately the same as the difference between Swedish and Danish. Fewer know that the same holds for Finnish and the indigenous speech forms behind the Russian border: Karelian (karjala), Olonetsian (aunus), Lydian (lyydi) and Vepsian (Vepsä). These three speech forms are essentially part of the eastern Finnish dialect continuum with an increasingly strong Russian superstratum the further east one goes. Twice in this century, specifically during the Finnish Civil War 1918-1920 and then again during the so-called Continuation War (1941-1944), certain nationalist circles in Finland have aspired to join these areas of Karelia to Finland.

Uralic Languages and Uralic People

The Uralic Family of languages has two branches: (1) Finno-Ugric, (2) Samoyedic. Uralic people are the indigenous people of the northern regions between the Urals and Norway.

Finno-Ugric languages, also called Finno-Ugrian, are the group of languages forming a subgroup of the Uralic language family. The Uralic languages are also a subgroup of Uralic-Altaic language family. Finno-Ugric languages can also be divided into two language groups, Finnic and Ugric languages.

General Characteristics of Finnish

As a Finnic language, Finnish has two main variety. One is the “standard language” (yleiskieli in Finnish) used in academic or ceremonial situations; and the second one is “spoken language” (puhekieli in Finnish) used by the media, TV broadcasts.

Finnish has no grammatical gender (such as “he”, “she”, “it”), articles (such as “der”, “die”, “das”) or definite or indefinite forms (such as “a”, “an”, “the”). This situation is valid for all Finnic languages.

Finish is also an agglutinative language. That means the words in Finnish have a stem called “body”, and other parts inside them which create the meaning. Turkish is a great comparative language for Finnish.

For example:

talo-ssa ev-in iç-i-(n)-de in (the) house
talo-i-ssa ev-ler-in iç-i-(n)-de in (the) houses
talo-sta ev-den from (the) house
talo-i-sta ev-ler-den from (the) houses


As in the example, Finnish and Turkish take suffix instead of a preposition in English. “-i” and “-ler” are the plural inflectional suffix which can be translated as “-s”; “-ssa” and “-de” can be translated as “in”; and finally “-sta” and “-den” can be translated as “from”.

Because of its complexity, self-morphing form, Finnish is pretty hard for native English speakers to learn. But you can accomplish anything if you want it really much.