Sami orthography

Sami orthography refers to the various orthographies used by the six Sámi languages that have their own literary language: Southern Sami, Lule Sami, Northern Sami, Inari Sami, Skolt Sami and Kildin Sami.

Orthographical trends

Three different orthographical trends can be identified for these Sámi languages. The first one uses the principle of having the Sámi orthography be the same as it is for the majority language of that country as its basis. This trend goes back to the traditions where the Sami language was first being used as a written language, i.e., in Sweden. The literary language there that followed this principle was based on the old Ume Sami literary language from the 18th century. This same literary language was partially used as the basis for the modern literary languages of Southern Sami and Lule Sami. The oldest orthography for Northern Sámi in Norway, that of Knud Leem, upholds this tradition. The second tradition goes back to Rasmus Rask's revision of Leem's orthography, as Rask builds on the phonemic principle. North Sami, Inari Sami, and Skolt Sami follow this tradition. The third tradition is represented by the Kildin Sami language for which a written language has been created three times: first by Russian missionaries using the Cyrillic alphabet as the basis for the language's orthography, then using the Latin alphabet at the end of 1920s into the 1930s as part of Stalin's language policy for minority languages, and finally once again returning to the Cyrillic alphabet at the end of the 1970s.

A unified literary language

The Sámi strongly feel that they are one people. For this reason, proposals for a united Sami literary language have been made. The differences amongst the various languages are, however, too large to make this feasible.

The six literary languages

With the exception of Kildin Sámi, the Sámi languages that have their own literary language are written with the standard Latin alphabet with the addition of some special characters.

outhern Sami

Southern Sami follows the principle of using the majority language of the particular country it is being used in as the basis for its orthography and thus has two separate versions: the Norwegian standard and the Swedish standard. The letters enclosed in parentheses are letters that are only used in foreign words. In addition, "ï" [IPA|ɨ] is a central version of "i" [IPA|i] . Although this difference is clearly indicated in dictionaries, most texts do not distinguish between the two.

In Norway

Lule Sami

Like Southern Sami, Lule Sami follows the principle of using the majority language of the particular country it's being written in as the basis for its orthography and thus has two separate versions: the Norwegian standard and the Swedish standard. The standard orthography for Lule Sami was approved in 1983.

In Norway

Áá, Åå, Ńń, and Ææ are known to be used.

In Sweden

Áá, Åå, Ńń, and Ää are known to be used.

In Sweden

Áá Åå Ńń Ää

Northern Sami

Northern Sami has a long orthographic history, which has witnessed no less than 9 different versions. The most recent version was approved in 1979 and last modified in 1985:

Kildin Sami

The latest version of the official orthography for Kildin Sámi uses the Cyrillic alphabet:

Notes

Norwegian N|Samisk ortografi|8-19-2007 (in part)

References


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