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The Saami languages
The Saami languages belong to the Finno-Ugric part of the Uralic family of languages group
The area in which Saami is spoken stretches from Hedmark in central Norway and Dalarna in central
Sweden northwards to the tip of Kola Peninsula in Russia.
Saami is closely related to the Finnish languages, and the likeness is much the same as between norwegian
and german.
The relationsship between Saami and Finnish languages were relatively clear already in the 17 century. In
the end of the 18 century the idea of a mutual relationsship between the fenno-ugric languages began to
take form, and from the middle of the 19 century the fact of a uralic language-tree was pretty clear.
All the languages in this area are fairly similar in structure and basic vocabulary;
In phonology the consonant system has retained many of its old features (palatalization)
In morphology there are dual number in personal pronouns, personal endings and possesive
Also the personal endings are diffirent in the present and preterit form
Their are a few words preserved from proto-uralic language. These are mainly words which denote
kinship and words which reflect the hunting-society: njuolla (finnish: nuoli) = arrow, čeahci (finnish: seta)
= fahters younger brother, mannji (finnish:miniä) = daughter in law, vivva = (finnish: vävy) = son in law.
From indo-european some words have supposedly been adapted, and these are now the Saami forms of
today: čoarvi = horn, čuohti = hundred, veažir = hammer.
Proto-sami is beleived to have developed into todays sami dialects through four periods. In the time of the
first written sorces of the 16 th to 17 th centuries the language already had developed into the dialects as
we know them today.
The Saami languages are divided into to maingroups and into ten main dialects, from the south to the
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- the Western Saami languages:
300 – 500 speakers
a few old speakers
a few old speakers
2000 – 3000 speakers
about 10 000 speakers
the Eastern Saami languages:
300 – 500 speakers
300 – 500 speakers
a few old speakers
about 650 speakers
a few old peakers
The majority of Saami speakers about 75% speak North Saami and most of them live in Norway. The
total number of Saami speaking people is probably somewhat more than 20 000.
The dialect-split is supposed to have its origin in the 8 th to 9 th centuries. Sadly the written languages
does not go back further than the 16 th to 17 th centuries.
The big differences appear when you compare dialects which geografically are a long way from each other.
The southern Saami and language region
The souhtern saami populasjon is somewhere between 2000 to 3000 people. The language region is from
the middle part of Norway and Sweden and runs northwards to the Ume river in Sweden and to the artic
cirkel in Norway . The settlement pattern is scattered over the whole geographic region. For the south
saami people, reindear hearding has been an important carrier of culture. More then in other saami
regions. Historicaly the south Saami language is unpronounced in public contexts and in writing.
Education in southern Saami language
In the south Saami area there are two saami schools, especial for the south saami people. These schools,
also offer education in south Saami as a second language to children from other primary schools in the
south Saami area. It is also possible to continue this education in the secondary schools There is still not
possible in every year to continue the education for academical degree.
Since 1980 the education in south Saami has expanding. Today threefold more primary schools offer
education in south Saami as second language. In the year 91/92 it was 53 learners and in 99/00 it was 87
learners which get offer of education. Even though the education in south Saami has expanding is it only
a few of them which get education in south Saami as first language. From the school year 87/88 until
97/98 it was only 4 learners, but after the years 99/00 it seems to expand and the last years 2003/2004,
10 learners get south Saami as first language.
The textbook norm of orthography for south Saami language which is using today was approved
of the Education goverment office in 1978.
In the year 87/88, first time learners get south Saami as first language in school after denmands
from the parents.
about. 1.020 persons understand south Saami language
19 % used it as everyday language speech
11 % master the south Saami as well as norwegian
30 % mean that education in secondary school is very important and
54 % mean that education in primary school is very important