A student, living comfortably in the deep south (Minnesota, U.S.) experiences the thrills of true northern living, whilst attempting to define the syntactic category of "Subject". It's just one of the things you do for a love of agglutinativity.

perjantaina, huhtikuuta 28, 2006


I don't know if I've mentioned it much, but Karelian is a language I really enjoy. Perhaps even my favourite. I started studying it about a half a year after I'd stumbled upon Finnish, before I'd started studying Finnish at the university. I guess what I like about it is that it's somewhat Finnish structure, but the sound system is a bit more expansive in ways I enjoy. Perhaps this is all a result of having studied Russian through high school, but who knows.

Basically, Finnish has very few sounds. My native language English, has around 22 consonants (depending on the dialect) while Finnish has 12 (or 13 if you count one that's more of a ghostly phenomenon than anything). As for vowels, well, English again has somewhere around 20 (surprise, not 5) much more than Finnish with 8. Perhaps there's something about the vastly different sound of Finnish that inspired me to learn it. Indeed, I'd also been studying Japanese in high school, which had a nice 18 consonants and 5 vowels.

Anyway, what makes Karelian different is that it has some consonants that Finnish (for the most part) lacks, such as those in chair, share, and beige. Sometimes, it even gains an extra vowel in some dialects. Without going too deep, it also has different rules for the sets of vowels that can be combined, and so it's more likely to find three together than it is in Finnish, in which vowels sometimes assimilate in speech if three should end up near eachother.

So, I managed to find out that there was a short week-long Karelian class being taught at the Finno-Ugrian Department (which the university claims I'm a part of with while I'm here studying abroad). The class was short, but in a way it reawakened what I'd known, and taught me new things so suddenly the Karelian gears in my mind have got to cranking. I also managed to meet someone who speaks Karelian through a photocopying snafu, and so we've been exchanging a few text messages in Karelian (the novelty of which will not ever wear off).

If anyone is curious to hear some Karelian click here to see the text, and then follow the speaker icon to the left of the title to hear it read. If things look funny, you might have to install some fonts to view it properly, so the ß displays as š, and the à as č, and so on. Anyway, the article is about the growing of flax, which as far as I have seen is also grown in Canada. There's more texts and sound clips on the site of poetry and so on, but this seems nice and neutral, and it has some triphthongs. There are some phenomena which the orthography doesn't capture, as well, so anyone listening that deeply can have fun trying to figure out what. Notice the Russian influence? ;)

Anyone else feeling more enterprising might try answering the questions at the bottom of the text:

ezim.: Konža pelvaš zavodiu kukkie? Pelvaš kukkiu heińaigah, a kukat ollah heliezet da sinizet.


  • At 4:37 ap., Anonymous osg said…

    Without having done any research, I will guess what the following text means:

    "ezim.: Konža pelvaš zavodiu kukkie? Pelvaš kukkiu heińaigah, a kukat ollah heliezet da sinizet."

    Ex.: What kind of flowers are in the field? Flowers of hay, and the flowers are [insert an adjective here - a color? red?] and blue.

    It could also mean something like "when are there flowers in the field?"

    How far off am I?

  • At 4:47 ap., Anonymous osg said…

    Note: My guess was processed before looking at the image of women working in a field. Cool!

  • At 12:16 ip., Blogger Ryan said…

    It pretty much means your second guess. zavodie 'acquire'-- Russian loan. When does the flax acquire/get flowers? Flax flowers during erm heinäaika, and the flowers are bright and blue. :)

    I'm pretty sure you could manage to pick it up quickly, a lot of it is learning what equates to what between karelian and finnish, and then knowing a little Russian (you've studied it at some point, eh?)

  • At 7:40 ip., Anonymous osg said…

    Ah, yes, that bright had me thinking that it was an adjective other than a color. I thought of hell and now I am wondering what the equivalent of "bright as hell" is in Karelian.

    I have only gotten off the ground in Russian, which reminds me, I need to make a practice schedule so I get my language studies in everyday.

    Would you consider moving to the Bay Area or Berkeley for more school?

  • At 8:02 ip., Blogger Ryan said…

    Well, I could translate it literally, but I don't know if it would carry the same idea ;) Helie kui uadu would be the literal, I think.

    Anyway, I'm considering more school and from what I hear Berkeley is a good one. At least, I know Dan went there for phonology/linguistics. On the other hand I don't quite know what I'm looking for exactly... For some reason though I have Berkeley, Seattle and Chicago ringing around in my head but thats only based on precursory searches. Can't stay at the U of M if I want to do grad work in linguistics though... I kinda feel though that a place with a Finnish department/Finnish speakers is a must.

  • At 12:25 ap., Anonymous osg said…

    Then come to the Bay Area. There are MANY more native Finnish speakers here than in MSP. The first person I met as I arrived with a Finnish woman speaking on her cellphone at the baggage claim. Then my neighbor two doors down knocked on my door and started speaking Finnish to me because she saw my "Tervetuloa" sign. I spent time at the pool with 12 native Finnish women, not that you would find that exciting (:P), but it just shows you the quantity of natives here.

  • At 2:57 ap., Blogger Ryan said…

    Well if anything, 12 native speakers of Finnish in one group sounds exciting. :P

    Maybe I should check out this "Bay Area". Ois tietysti kivaa asua alueella jossa voidaan puhua suomeksi maanjäristyksistä. :p Aattelin pitkään aikaan että se sana oli oikeesti "maanjärjestys". Myöskin sopiva.

  • At 2:02 ap., Anonymous Anonyymi said…

    What keybord layout do you use to write in karelian?
    thank you,
    St. Alex
    vince (at) menja.net

  • At 3:45 ip., Blogger Colm said…

    Thanks for the link! It's an interesting language for sure.


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