s love to claim that Finnish
is spoken the same way it's written.
This is indeed true in the sense that Finnish spelling
is quite regular,
so it is easy to read Finnish out loud... assuming, of course, that you've
mastered the somewhat tricky pronunciation
What is less often advertised is that spoken Finnish is radically
different from written Finnish. While every region and major city of
Finland has its own dialect -- including the notoriously incomprehensible
Rauma dialect and the hilariously stretched tones of Savo -- thanks to modern
mass communications the de facto standard these days is the Helsinki
dialect. Mind you, I am specifically not referring to the bizarre, heavily
Russian and Swedish-influenced subcultural
Helsinki slang (Stadin slangi) that reached its peak around WW2,
just the "everyday" language spoken by most Finns on non-formal occasions.
The most distinctive features of spoken Finnish are that vowel-consonant-vowel
clusters become long vowels, final vowels are dropped and words are
elided. Naturally, these occurs in other languages as well,
written Finnish just entirely fails to take these into account. Every now and
then, scholarly debates flare up about whether it might be possible to accept
an alternate form of the 1st person plural or spell sydämellisesti with
two M's (the way it's actually pronounced), inevitably ending in the failure
of the revisionists. Written Finnish is carved in stone, dammit, and if any of
its 5 million speakers try to say otherwise they're just wrong!
The basic conjugations of "to be" (as presented in the Finnish node)
sound like this in spoken Finnish:
Written Spoken English
minä olen mä oon I am
sinä olet sä oot you are
hän on se on he/she/it is
me olemme me ollaan we are
te olette te ootte you all are
he ovat ne on they are
There are a few bonus irregularities
hidden in that table: the formal pronouns
are nearly always replaced with se
and the formal
1st person plural olemme
is always replaced with the passive form ollaan
In addition, some of these forms can be reduced even further, for example
is an often-heard contraction of minä olen
The stem shortening seen above happens in lots of other verbs as well,
eg. menen -> meen (I go) and tulen -> tuun (I come).
One little oddity is the verb panna, which in its formal form
panen colloquially means "I fuck", but in its abbreviated form paan
retains the original meaning, "I put".
The stem changes carry over to inflected forms as well. Using the pronouns
as an example, minun (my) becomes mun,
sinun (your) becomes sun, etc. Naturally some of the inflections
themselves change a bit: cases ending in -a/ä drop the final vowel
(eg. kirjas, kirjast, kirjalt, kirjal),
except the rare essive and abessive cases (which stay as kirjana, kirjatta).
The negation ei often simply
becomes e and elides onto the following verb, often doubling the initial
consonant: eg. minä en mene (I won't go) becomes mä emmee.
Adjectives ending in "-ea" (nopea, fast) or "-eä" (kipeä, sick)
all become "-ee" (nopee, kipee) in spoken Finnish. Those ending in "-ainen"
(eg. punainen, red) becomes "-ane(n)" (punane(n)); the n is
usually dropped when the adjective is used with a noun (punane auto,
Regular adverbs are
still formed by the usual rules, although changes in the originating
adjective may cascade onward, eg. nopea/nopeasti (quick/quickly) becomes
Prepositions, particles and miscellaneous funny bits
Unpredictable things happen to most common words of time, place, relation, etc.
There are no real rules that I know of, so all I can do is list a few
Written Spoken English
nyt ny now
sitten sit then
kun ku when
tässä täs here
missä mis where
tämä tää this
tuo toi that
Finally some good news: nouns, even long but frequently used ones like
huomenna (tomorrow), pretty much stay the same.
Also, the complicated possessive suffix tacked onto nouns
(eg. minun taloni, "my house") can be
left out with impunity (mun talo).
Putting it all together
A few sentences in written Finnish, spoken Finnish and translated to English.
Sitten hän tuli esiin sieltä ja sanoi, "Hyvää päivää."
Sit se tuli esii sielt ja sano "Moro."
Then he came out and said, "Hi."
Sinun koirasi on minun pihallani.
Sun koira on mun pihal.
Your dog is in my yard.
Kirjoitetulla suomen kielellä ei ole mitään tekemistä todellisuuden kanssa.
Kirjoitetul suomen kielel ei oo mitää tekemist todellisuuden kans.
Written Finnish has no correlation to reality.
As a few Finns from the boondocks have pointed
out, the above is pretty Helsinki-specific and
even "modern" spoken Finnish elsewhere may not retain
all these features. But rest assured that you will
still be understood...