the Finnish language
This sounds most interesting to me. As a member of this organization, I am going to attend and will report back here afterwards. Everyone is welcome of course.
from Canadian Friends of Finland in British Columbia
Added 9:30 pm. Sunday 22nd April:
The lecture was excellent, very informative and fascinating. Ms Elg began in Finnish, so wonderful and rare now to my ear – then switched to English, with a Finnish accent. I often have trouble understanding accents, even Finnish ones but still I was able to catch most of the information along with the help of the slides of language charts and maps. A good turnout and lots of questions throughout and everyone most appreciative.
Ms Elg described the Finnish language program at the University of Washington, one of many universities around the world that teach Finnish as I found out earlier.
I am poorly versed in the academic study of language and its structure and terms so hope I explain this correctly. The Finnish language is ‘synthetic’ or mostly agglutinating as opposed to ‘analytic’. What that means is that It modifies and inflects the forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals and verbs, depending on their roles in the sentence. (thanks wikipedia). An interesting simple example she used was with the word:
talo – a house
talo/ssa – in a house
talo/ssa/ni – in my house
talo/ssa/ni/kin – in my house too (4 words)
So, one word replaces many words in the equivalent English and many other languages. Some words can be from 6 to 10 cases. Hungarian can have up to 24 cases!
The study of language can aid in the study of racial genetics. In the case of the Basque, they are a unique language and people unrelated to any other, never mixed. Not so with the Finns, it seems. They have lived in Finland up to 6000 years. Other peoples came in later at different times from east, southeast, south and west and blended genes and language, mostly along the coastal regions but not much in the north. (See more about the Finno-Ugric peoples in wikipedia.)
What I don’t understand is how the study of languge can determine its age. For example the oldest Finnish word kala (fish) is 6000 years old. Loan words have been dated to reveal the periods of movement by different groups into Finland. Very personal words like äiti (mother), which came from German less than 1000 years ago (a surprise to us all), reveal close relationships like marriage and children. Yet that word is not currently in the German language.
A brief mention was made of a controversial theory presented by Professor Emeritus Kalevi Wiik of the University of Turku in Finland. He argues that Finno-Ugrian languages may originally have been spoken by the whole of northern Europe, that it may be Europe’s oldest language. More about his theories here or his home page in Finnish.
So much more but I’ll leave it at that! No definitive answers but interesting food for thought on our language, where we came from and who we mixed with. This has been a wonderful addition to my readings over the years and to the numerous links, many in Finnish, which I’ve gathered here and there.