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Kainun kieli
Kveenin kieli
Kväänin kieli
Meiðän kieli
Spoken in Norway
Total speakers 2000 - 8000 (2005)[1]
Language family Uralic
Official status
Official language in Norway
(Minority language)
Regulated by Kven language board
Language codes
ISO 639-1 fi
ISO 639-2 fin
ISO 639-3 fkv

The Kven language is a Baltic-Finnic language spoken in Northern Norway by the Kven people. Due to political and historical reasons it received the status of a minority language in 2005 within the framework of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Linguistically, however, it is seen as a mutually intelligible dialect of the Finnish language, and grouped together with the Peräpohjola dialects, such as Meänkieli, spoken in Torne Valley in Sweden.

Contrary to popular belief, the dialects spoken by the Kvens and Kainuu peoples are not closely related. The Kainuu dialect is one of the Savonian dialects that was formed from the 16th century onwards, when immigrants from Savonia started to settle in the northern wastelands.

The Kven language has come to incorporate many Norwegian loanwords, such as tyskäläinen (from the Norwegian word tysk, meaning German) instead of standard Finnish saksalainen. The Kven language also uses some old Finnish words that no longer are used in Finland.


Official status

From the 1860s onwards the Norwegian government attempted to assimilate the Kvens. For example, the use of the Kven language became forbidden in schools and government offices, and Kven town names were replaced by Norwegian names. From 1970s onwards, the Kvens and the Sami in Norway have openly been allowed to use their original mother tongues, the Kven language and the Sami languages, respectively, and to teach them to their children in schools. Despite its recent gain of status as a minority language, there is still a major discussion among the Kven about the Finnish orthography should be applied to the language or if a new orthography should be devised.

Since 2006 it has been possible to study the Kven culture and language at the University of Tromsø.[2] And in 2007 the In 2007 the Kven language board was formed at the Kven institute, a national centre for Kven language and culture in Børselv, Norway. The council will work out a written Kven language, but use Finnish orthography to maintain inter-Finnish language understanding.[3]

Geographic distribution

Today, most speakers of the Kven language are found mostly in Northeastern Norwegian communities such as Bugøynes, Neiden, Vestre Jakobselv, Vadsø, and Børselv. Also a few older speakers may still be found in the municipalities of Nordreisa and Storfjord. Bugøynes perhaps remains the most vital of all the remaining Kven communities in Norway.

In Northeastern Norway, mainly around Varanger Fjord, the spoken language is quite similar to the standard Finnish, whereas west of Alta the few remaining Kven speakers speak Finnish with more particularities, due to a deeper isolation from Finland.

In a 2005 government report, the number of people speaking the Kven language in Norway is estimated to be between 2000 and 8000, depending on the criteria used. However, today there are very few young people that speak the language, making it an endangered language.[1]


The phonology of Kven is basically the same as that of Finnish. It is however worth noting that while Standard Finnish has been replacing /ð/ by /d/, it is retained in Kven. For instance, the word meiðän ('our') in Kven is meidän in Standard Finnish.



Kven has 16 vowels, if including the vowel length:

Front Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i iː y yː u uː
Mid e eː ø øː o oː
Near-open æ æː
Open ɑ ɑː

In writing, the vowel length is indicated by doubling the letter, e.g. <yy> /yː/ and <öö> /øː/

The graphemes representing /ø/, /æ/ and /ɑ/ are <ö>, <ä> and <a>, respectively.


Kven has 14 consonants found in native vocabulary, and four consonants found in loanwords:

Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced ð
Trill r
Approximant ʋ l j

/b, d, g, ʃ/ are only found in loanwords.

/ʋ/ and /ʃ/ are represented in writing by <v> and <š>, respectively.

/ð/ is represented in writing by either <ð> or <đ>.

/ŋ/ is represented in writing by <n> if followed by /k/, and <ng> if geminated, e.g. <nk> /ŋk/ and <ng> /ŋː/

Gemination is indicated in writing by doubling the letter, e.g. <mm> for /mː/ and <ll> for /lː/


Kven[4] Standard Finnish
Kvääninkieli oon se kieli mitä kväänit Kveenin kieli on se kieli, jota kveenit
oon puhuhneet ja vielä tääpänäki puhhuuvat, ovat puhuneet ja vielä tänä päivänäkin puhuvat,
ja mikä oon säilyny ruottalaistumisen ja joka on säilynyt ruotsalaistumisen
ja norjalaistumisen läpi minuriteettikielenä. ja norjalaistumisen läpi vähemmistökielenä.
Minun mielestä Torniolakson «meiän kieliki» Minun mielestäni Torniolaakson "meidän kielikin"
oon vanhaa kvääninkieli tahi vanhaala on vanhaa kveenin kieltä tai vanhalla
meiđän kielelä kaihnuunkieli. meidän kielellämme kainun kieltä.

Literal English translation

The Kven language is the language which the Kvens have spoken and still today speak, and which has survived through Swedenization and Norwegianization as a minority language. In my opinion "meänkieli" of Torne Valley is also an old Kven language or in our old language, Kainu language.



  1. ^ a b Kainun Institutti
  2. ^ University of Tromsø
  3. ^ Andreassen, Irene: Et nytt skriftspråk blir til
  4. ^ "Miksi kvääninkieli kirjakielenä" by Terje Aronsen. Ruijan Kaiku 1/2004


Söderholm, Eira (2007). Kainun kielen grammatiikki.  
The grammar above can be found in the Kven language here.
The grammar above can be found in the Norwegian language here.


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