The Full Wiki

Karelian language: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in  Russia
Region Republic of Karelia Karelia
Total speakers 118,000
Language family Uralic
Writing system Latin alphabet
Official status
Official language in recognised as minority language in:
Republic of Karelia Republic of Karelia[1]
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 krl
ISO 639-3 krl

Karelian is a language closely related to Finnish, with which it is not necessarily mutually intelligible. Karelian is spoken mainly in Republic of Karelia, Russia. Dialects spoken in Finnish Karelia (North Karelia and South Karelia) are not considered Karelian but Savonian dialects or Southeastern dialects of Finnish.

Karelian belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages, and is distinguished from Finnish by some important extensions to the phonology and the lack of influence from modern 19th and 20th century Finnish. It cannot merely be classified as a Finnish dialect with Russian influences, because it has original innovations and it may differ considerably from Finnish.There is no standard Karelian language, although the Republic of Karelia's authorities have recently begun to attempt standardization.[2] Each writer writes in Karelian according to his own dialectal form. The script is the Latin alphabet as used for Finnish 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.[3] Today, these dialects are concentrated to the towns of the South Karelian region of Finland, where many refugees ended up.

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. 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 due to Stalin's persecution of Karelians as "undesirables".

Finnish, and not Karelian, was the second official language of Karelia from the Winter War 1940 up until the 1980s,[4] 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 been implemented.


Linguistic status

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. The phonological and lexical differences often disallow mutual intelligibility in exact terms.[3] The dialect spoken in White Karelia has only minor differences with Eastern dialects of Finnish language and is completely mutually intelligible with spoken Finnish. The Olonets Karelian is different in many ways and Finnish speakers understand only about a half of what is spoken by the former.

Karelian language forms a dialect continuum with the Eastern dialects of Finnish. They have common ancestry in the Proto-Karelian language spoken in the coast of Lake Ladoga in the Iron Age.[5]

The dialects spoken by the mainly Lutheran Finnish Karelian population 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 denoted as Karelian dialect.[6]

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 English to the Scots language.

In February 2008, Joensuu University launched Finland’s first Karelian language professorship, in order to save the language which is spoken only by a few hundred elderly people in Finland. (A university in Petroskoi, Russia, was the only one which previously offered such courses). The courses in Joensuu targets children and grandchildren of Karelian evacuees from the Republic of Karelia currently living in Finland. Also in Eastern Finland, the Karelian Language Association is pushing for the establishment of a Karelian language immersion group at a kindergarten in the eastern town of Nurmes. [7]

Comparison between Karelian and Finnish

Olonets Karelian[8] Standard Finnish
Karjalas on čoma luondo. Korgiet koivut, Karjalassa on soma luonto. Korkeat koivut,
vihandat kuuzet da pedäjät čomendetah meččiä. vihannat kuuset ja petäjät koristavat metsiä.
Joga kohtaine on täüzi muarjua da siendü. Kehtua Joka paikka on täynnä marjaa ja sientä. Kehtaa
vai kerätä! Järvet da jovetgi ollah kalakkahat: vain kerätä! Järvet ja joetkin ovat kalaisat:
ongo haugii, lahnua, säüniä, matikkua, kuhua, on haukia, lahnoja, säyneitä, madetta, kuhaa,
siigua. Ota ongiruagu da juokse järvele! siikaa. Ota onkivapa ja juokse järvelle!

English translation

The nature is beautiful in Karelia. Tall birch trees, green spruce trees and lone pine trees decorate the forests. Every place is full of berries and mushrooms. If one only picked them! The lakes and the rivers, too, are full of fish: there is pike, carp bream, ide, burbot, zander, whitefish. Take a fishing rod and run to the lake!


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/, although 'ts' is used also. 'c' is more likely in Russian loan words.

Notice that 'c' and 'č' have length levels, which is not found in standard Finnish. For example, in Kalevala, Lönnrot's orthography metsä : metsän hides the fact that the pronunciation of the original material is actually /mettšä : metšän/, with palatalization of the affricate. The exact details depend on the dialect, though. See Yleiskielen ts:n murrevastineet.

Letter Alt. IPA Olonets Karelian Karelian Proper Finnish
c c /ts/ kučču kuču kutsu
č ch /tʃ/ čoma, seiče šoma, seičemen soma, seitsemän
s s /s/ se že se
š sh /ʃ/ niškoi niškoihin niskoihin
z z /z/ tazavaldu tažavalda tasavalta
ž zh /ʒ/ kiža, liedžu kiza, 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 /ɡ/ may be voiced. (Most Finnish speakers don't differentiate these from /p/, /t/, and /k/.)

The letters č, š and ž are postalveolars. They are replaceable with the digraphs ch, sh and zh — even so that ruočči becomes ruochchi. The sounds represented by č, š and ž are native to Karelian, but not Finland Finnish. Finnish speakers do not distinguish /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ from /s/, nor /tʃ/ from /ts/ (medial) or /s/ (initial). For example, the native Karelian words kiza, kuču, šoma, liedžu and seičemen are kisa, kutsu, soma, lietsu and seitsemän in standard Finnish.

Modern Karelian alphabet (2007)

A a [aa] B b [bee] Č č [čee] D d [dee] E e [ee] F f [ef] G g [gee]
H h [haa] I i [ii] J j [jii] K k [kaa] L l [el] M m [em] N n [en]
O o [oo] P p [pee] R r [er] S s [es] Š š [šee] Z z [zee] Ž ž [žee]
T t [tee] U u [uu] V v [vee] Y y [yy] Ä ä [ää] Ö ö [öö] '

See also

External links




Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address