The Finnish Language

According to Kalevi Wiik, emertus professor, Finland has been habitated since 9,000-8,000 BC, when the ice started to smell. The migration happened from west, south and east. People spoke different languages from Indo-European languages to Finno-Ugric languages. The modern Finnish has developed from the latter group of languages. Wiik gives many explanations why Finno-Ugric languages were the most succesful ones but the common sense tells us that the most of the people spoke it. They were the majority of the population from the very beginning or they achieved that status in some later point.

The original home of the Finno-Ugrian is in Russia on the west side of the Urals where Ugrian people lived before Russians. At present time the Finno-Ugric languages have circa 24 million speakers. The population decreases all the time particular in Russian. The Finno-Ugric languages are not Indo-Europian languages. The Finns and Hungarians are the biggest groups of the Finno-Ugrians even though Finnish and Hungarian differ from one another a lot. In common they both have many cases and they are agglutinative languages.

The table of case declension for the word Kirja with 1st person genitive singular suffix -ni

Nominative kirjani my book
Accusative kirjani my book
Genitive kirjani of my book
Essive kirjanani as my book
Partitive kirjaani (some of) my book
Translative kirjakseni (for) my book
Inessive kirjassani in my book
Elative kirjastani from my book
Illative kirjaani into my book
Adessive kirjallani on my book
Ablative kirjaltani from my book
Allative kirjalleni to my book
Abessive kirjattani without my book
Comitative kirjoineni with my book
Instructive no personal pronoun form,
page 147, Finnish Grammar by Clemens Niemi, see the links at the end of this article

These translations don’t give the idea of the different nuances of these endings and they don’t  tell that the word order can be change in Finnish in order to emphasize some word without losing the main idea of the sentence.

In English you can say that A bird ate a worm but hardly that A worm ate a bird.

I Finnish you can say that Lintu söi madon. Then you only mention what had happened but if you say that Madon söi lintu you are concerned about the worm. Perhaps it was your best fishing bait of the day. Words agree with one another in cases and number.

Nominative singular of ”green book” is vihreä kirja
Genitive singular of ”of green book” is vihreän kirjan. But the possessive suffix is not repeated:
“of my green book” is vihreä kirjani.

In Finnish the syllables of the words change because of the consonant gradation which is taken part by letters k, p, t. It happens that words were easier to pronounce and write. Sometimes exceptions are just manners like in ”of my green book”.

I believe that by now everyone are convinced that it is impossible to translate Finnish into English word by word. I am telling this because I am often asked how I have a nerve to translate poems. Most times I don’t translate them at all. I do write my English poems in English in the first place. Sometimes I am very irritated because I don’t feel that I have a strong grasp of the language. What more I have learnt English less I know about it. On the other hand I have seen that even native speakers are sometimes lost with English. It has maimed itself by lopping off the cases and personal verb forms and substitutes them with articles and prepositional phrases. The logic of these idiomatical expressions are not always apparent for even natives. In the long run the English language get even more confused when it is spoken all over the world without the vigorous grammatical rules. The main meanings of the nouns are also inflamed, and this I heard from the English teacher long time ago. (She lives in Canada.)

I would use only Finnish if the digital translators could translate it better. Because of its many conjugations and cases the translation is messed up too much for English readers to make head or tail out of it. This is not case with Spanish or German bloggers as they can just add the translation buttons on their blog and it is settled. To show what I am talking about I add one of my Finnish poems here.


kysymyksiä tutkii,
hourailee siellä,
missä houretta ei ole.
Vesi liikkuu tynnyreissä,
joiden päällä on kansi.
Sitä ei silmä näe.
© Yelling Rosa
9/11 –14

Google Translation:


Poetry unanswered
examines the issues,
delirious there,
what hour would not have.
The water moves in barrels,
covered with a lid.
It is not the eye can not see.
© Yelling Rosa
9/11 -14

Should be something like this:


Poetry examines
The open questions.
It is hallucinating there
Where is no hallucinations.
The water is in the barrels
Under the lids. It is the eye
Which doesn’t see it.
© Yelling Rosa
9/11 -14

But as I said it is impossible to translate poems from Finnish into English.

Read more about an agglutinative language:

More about Kalevi Wiik Professor emeritus of phonetics at the University of Turku:

A Finnish Grammar by Clemens Niemi

A Finnish Grammar by Clemens Niemi


In preparing this book my aim has not been to write a complete Finnish grammar. I have sought to present only the fundamental principles in the briefest possible way necessary for the study of the Finnish language. The student should thoroughly master the sound values of each letter before taking any advanced steps. In doing so he is able to acquire accuracy in pronunciation.

It should be remembered that Finnish, as its cognate Finno-Ugric languages, is an agglutinative language, that is to say, the words are formed of roots by adding certain suffixes or endings to the stem. In this process of appending, the changes of letters for euphony or harmony occur. The rules for these changes should be carefully observed in connection with each lesson as they come.

Each lesson consists of a statement of grammatical principles, a vocabulary, exercises, and in some cases, a brief reading lesson. The vocabulary at the head of the lesson will help the student to understand the sentences which follow. The exercises have been developed in such a way that each lesson brings out the grammatical principles at hand. The rules of syntax as well as grammatical questions have been scattered throughout a long series of lessons for the purpose of leading the student gradually to a thorough understanding of the rules. The case-endings and the use of the cases are particularly emphasized, as they form a very difficult and essential part in the study of the Finnish language. The reading lessons are so arranged as to give an early acquaintance with real Finnish, and they continually add new words to the student’s vocabulary.

Fully aware of many defects, I hope that this book, the only Finnish grammar of its kind in English, will be of some aid to the learner of the Finnish language.

I wish here, also, to express my indebtedness to my fellow teachers for their valuable help and suggestions which have aided me in perfecting this book.


Suomi College, February, 1917.

You can get this book for free at:
When you sign up you can choose one ebook freely. After that you will be offered one free book a day.
I bought my paper copy on for 8 dollars price

PS Listen to my poems in English at:

I am sorry that my Windows Live Writer closed the comments but now they should work.
5/18 -15


About Yelling Rosa

I desing home pages. In my spare time I read, write, play the guitar and hike. I have published three verse books in Finnish and recorded my songs. You can listen to them on YouTube. I have translated some of my poems on Yelling Rosa's Weblog. I also like to watch movies. Olen kiinnostunut lukemisesta, kirjoittamisesta, kitaransoitosta ja luonnossa vaeltamisesta. Olen julkaissut kolme runokirjaa ja laulujani on äänitteillä. Voit lukea runojani Yelling Rosan kotisivuilta ja kuunnella laulujani YouTubessa. Olen elokuvafriikki.
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9 Responses to The Finnish Language

  1. Yelling Rosa says:

    I am sorry that my Windows Live Writer closed the comments but now they should work.
    5/18 -15


  2. Ilkan esitys on hyvin perusteltu ja havainnollinen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yelling Rosa says:

      Kiitos Antti,
      Tällä kertaa ei ole kommentteja tullutkaan, vaikka sain kommentit toimimaan miltei viikko sitten. Näin tämä kommentti tuki oikeaan saumaan. Hyvää viikon jatkoa.


  3. Now I know why Hanoi Rocks wrote all their songs in English… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s been a while since I last looked in, I must admit.
    I also had (no idea where it disappeared to) a copy of the Kalevala in English.
    Take care also. 🙂


  5. Aquileana says:

    Finnish looks far more difficult than German… I like how it sounds, though…
    Best wishes. Aquileana 🌷


Comments are closed.