Finno-Ugric languages

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Finno-Ugric languages

Finno-Ugric languages (fĭnˈō-o͞oˈgrĭk), also called Finno-Ugrian languages, group of languages forming a subdivision of the Uralic subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages (see Uralic and Altaic languages). The Finno-Ugric group of languages can be divided into two subgroups, Finnic and Ugric. These languages have about 24 million speakers distributed in enclaves scattered in a territory that stretches from Norway east to the Ob River of Siberia and south to the Carpathian Mts. About 10 million of these people speak the Finnic tongues, which include Finnish, native to about 5 million in Finland and about 1 million elsewhere; Karelian, used by close to 100,000 in Karelia in NW Russia; Estonian, the mother tongue of more than 1 million in Estonia; Sami (Lapp), native to some 60,000 mainly nomadic people living in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia; Mordovian, spoken by about 1 million in Russia in the neighborhood of the Volga River below its bend; Cheremiss, the mother tongue of 550,000 in the area where the Volga and Kama rivers join (W of the Ural Mountains); and the Permian languages Votyak, native to about 600,000 between the Kama and Vyatka rivers of European Russia, and Zyrian or Komi, spoken by some 400,000 living between the Pechora, Mezen, and Kama rivers (W of the Ural Mountains). The principal member of the Ugric subgroup is Hungarian, with some 13 million speakers, 10 million of whom reside in Hungary and another 3 million in adjacent countries. Ostyak is spoken by about 25,000 in the area of the Ob River of W Siberia, and Vogul is the language of some 5,000 in the neighborhood of the Ob and Irtysh rivers of W Siberia. The Finno-Ugric languages are agglutinative in that they add large numbers of suffixes to an unchanging root (one suffix following the other) to indicate such features as case, number, person, tense, and mood. Derivatives are also frequently formed by suffixes.


See B. Collinder, An Introduction to the Uralic Languages (1965) and Survey of the Uralic Languages (2d ed. 1969); A. Raun, Essays in Finno-Ugric and Finnic Linguistics (1971, repr. 1977).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Finno-Ugric Languages


one of the two branches of the Uralic language family. Finno-Ugric is divided into six language groups: Balto-Finnic (Finnish, Ingrian, Karelian, Ludic, Veps, Votic, Estonian, and Livonian); Lapp; Mordovian (Erzia and Moksha); Mari; Permian (Komi-Zyrian, Komi-Permiak, and Udmurt); and Ugric (Hungarian, Vogul, and Khanty).

The Finno-Ugric languages are spoken in northeastern Europe from Scandinavia to the Urals, a large part of the Volga-Kama region, the middle and lower Ob’ Basin, and part of the Danube Basin. They are spoken by approximately 24 million people (1970, estimate), including approximately 4.5 million people in the USSR (1970 census). Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian possess a writing system and literary tradition that are several centuries old; most of the other Finno-Ugric languages have only recently acquired written forms, and some Balto-Finnic languages have no writing systems.

The systematic appearance of similar features suggests that the Uralic (Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic) languages are related to the Indo-European, Altaic, Dravidian, Yukaghir, and other languages and derive from a Nostratic parent language (seeNOSTRATIC LANGUAGES). According to the prevailing view, Proto-Finno-Ugric separated from Proto-Samoyedic about 6,000 years ago and existed until approximately the end of the third millennium B.C., when the Finno-Permian and Ugric branches divided. It was spoken throughout the Urals and the western Ural Region and, possibly, in some neighboring regions; hypotheses that the Finno-Ugrians originally came from Central Asia and the Volga-Oka and Baltic regions are not supported by recent data. Contacts with Indo-Iranians, which were established during this period, are reflected in several loanwords in the Finno-Ugric languages, such as agricultural terms and some numerals.

In the third and second millennia B.C., the westward migration of the Finno-Permians, which reached as far as the Baltic Sea, was accompanied by gradual isolation of the Balto-Finnic, Mordovian, Mari, and Permian languages, which formed independent groups. The Lapp group developed when the aboriginal population of the European Far North adopted a Finno-Ugric language similar to the Balto-Finnic parent language. It is possible that at an earlier period other Finno-Ugric languages and groups also existed in Eastern Europe, such as the Merja and Murom languages, and were supplanted by the East Slavic languages toward the end of the first millennium A.D.

By the middle of the first millennium B.C., the Ugric parent language was disintegrating, as was the Balto-Finnic parent language in the first centuries A.D and the Permian parent language in the eighth century A.D. Finno-Ugric contacts with Indo-European (Iranian, Baltic, Germanic, and Slavic) and Turkic (Bulgar, Kipchak, and Oghuz) languages played an important role in the independent development of individual Finno-Ugric groups.

The modern Finno-Ugric languages have numerous inflectional and derivational affixes and entire systems of affixes of common origin. There are regular phonetic correspondences between the languages, which have preserved at least 1,000 Proto-Finno-Ugric roots. However, prolonged divergence and areal interactions that dispersed in all directions brought about marked typological differences between the individual Finno-Ugric languages. Features common to all Finno-Ugric languages are few. The languages share an agglutinative structure with prominent inflectional features; inflection is sometimes predominant, as in the Balto-Finnic and Lapp languages. The Finno-Ugric languages also exhibit the absence of gender, the use of postpositions, a highly developed system of verbal aspect, and the prepositive use of the attribute.

Many Finno-Ugric languages have retained other features of the Finno-Ugric parent language, including the absence of voiced consonants and consonant clusters in initial position, the presence of the personal possessive declension of nouns, and the presence of a zero ending in the nominative case; adjectives and numerals used as attributes are indeclinable, and a special auxiliary verb is used to express negation. Many Finno-Ugric languages have also preserved a rich system of impersonal verb forms that are used in constructions analogous in meaning to subordinate clauses. Several Finno-Ugric languages exhibit synharmony, fixed stress (often on the first syllable), opposition between two tones—a high (rising) tone and a low (falling) tone—and a distinction between two types of verb conjugation—subjective-transitive and objective-intransitive.


lazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 3: Finno-ugorskie i samodiiskie iazyki. Moscow, 1966.
Osnovv finno-ugorskogo iazykoznaniia, fascs. 1–3. Moscow, 1974–76.
Collinder, B. Survey of the Uralic Languages, 2nd ed. Stockholm, 1969.
Collinder, B. Comparative Grammar of the Uralic Languages. Stockholm, 1960.
Collinder, B. Fenno-Ugric Vocabulary. Stockholm, 1955.
Hajdú, P. Finnugor népek és nyelvek. Budapest, 1962.
Hajdú, P. Bevezetés az uráli nyelvtudományba, 2nd ed. Budapest, 1973.
Décsy, G. Einführung in die finnisch-ugrische Sprachwissenschaft. Wiesbaden, 1965.
Itkonen, E. “Die Laut- und Formenstruktur der finnisch-ugrischen Grundsprache.” Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher, 1962, vol. 34, pp. 187–210.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
With the appearance of Finland and Estonia, the map suddenly contained nations possessing a Finno-Ugric language and culture.
Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language, related to Finnish more closely than Latvian is to Lithuanian, as well as to Hungarian.
DNA data seem to indicate Central Europe, while linguistically (as part of the Finno-Ugric language group), it might be from the east.
Their Finno-Ugric language background also made it more difficult for them to learn English than it was for other Scandinavians.
In a tiny Estonia in charge of a distinct Finno-Ugric language with less than one million native speakers there are more than 30 higher educational institutions and around 70 000 students, while the expenditure per student remains quite low and this discrepancy causes a value conflict in academy (Jaakson and Reino 2013).
On both sides, in Karelia, there was a population speaking Karelian, a dialect or even language related to standard Finnish, plus small linguistic islands of Vepsian, another Finno-Ugric language, spoken only on the Russian side (Pimenov 1965).
Second place on Saturday went to Russia s heartwarming Buranovskiye Babushki, a choir of elderly women from a village who performed a disco song "Party for Everybody" in English and their local Finno-Ugric language with a stove and a tray as props.
Also interesting is the mixed reception that the scientific category of a Finno-Ugric language family has received, with some seeing links to a greater Finno-Ugric ethnic group, but with many people wary of establishing links to people in a territory belonging to the Soviet bloc.
To be sure, Hungary is home to a rich literary tradition, but it is one closed to those who do not read Hungarian, a Finno-Ugric language unrelated to the Indo-European family.
The Sami language is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family, a near cousin to Finnish.
In Hungarian, which is the only other Finno-Ugric language where the doubling of wh-pronouns has been analyzed, the what-phrase is also associated with the whole subordinate CP and taken to originate in an argument position, in compliance with IDA (Horvath 1997).