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, Esthonian
the official language of Estonia: belongs to the Finno-Ugric family
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the Estonians, who live in the Estonian SSR, in Leningrad, Pskov, Omsk, and other oblasts of the RSFSR, in the Latvian and Ukrainian SSR’s, and in the Abkhazian ASSR, as well as in Sweden, the USA, and Canada. There are 1,007,400 speakers of Estonian in the USSR (1970 census). Belonging to the Balto-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugric languages, Estonian has three main dialects: the northeastern coastal dialect, the north Estonian dialect, and the south Estonian dialect. Two literary languages, based on the north and south Estonian dialects, coexisted from the 16th century. The Estonian language was standardized in the first half of the 20th century.

Estonian has nine vowels, 16 consonants, and an abundance of diphthongs. Both vowels and consonants are characterized by three degrees of length. The primary stress falls on the first syllable of a word. The morphological structure is of the inflectionalagglutinative type. Nouns are inflected for number and case; grammatical gender is absent. The verb has conjugated and non-conjugated forms. The syntactic relations of words are expressed mainly through the grammatical forms of individual words and through auxiliary (syntactic) words. The number of prepositions is small, but postpositions are well developed. The word order is relatively free.

The vocabulary includes ancient Finno-Ugric, Balto-Finnic, and purely Estonian words, as well as many old Baltic, Germanic, and Slavic loanwords. There are also later borrowings from German, Russian, and other languages. The Estonian writing system is based on the Latin alphabet.


Kask, A. “Estonskii iazyk.” In Iazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 3. Moscow, 1966. (With bibliography.)
Osnovy finno ugorskogo iazykoznaniia: Pribaltiisko-finskie, saamskii i mordovskie iazyki. Moscow, 1975.
Ariste, P. Eesti keele foneetika, 2nd ed. Tartu, 1966.
Tamm,J. Eesti-vene sōnaraamat. Tallinn, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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