Finnic languages

Finnic is one of the westernmost subgroups of the Uralic language family. It is a dialect continuum surrounding the Gulf of Finland. Finnish and Estonian have the status of national language, while the rest are spoken as minority languages, mainly in Russia. The past of Finnic languages is a past filled with contacts. Therefore, by studying Finnic languages it is possible to shine light onto the past of the Baltic Sea area and focus especially on the contacts across the sea.

Fig. 1. ALFE atlases parts 1-3 (Tuomi 2004, 2007, 2010).

During my stay at the Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics at the University of Tartu (2017-2018), I initiated my postdoctoral project concerning the Finnic languages. Focusing on the Finnic area as a whole is possible due to the existence of Atlas Linguarum Fennicarum (ALFE), that is, the dialect atlas of Finnic languages. It has been compiled as a ca. 30 years’ multinational effort, but now all three parts of the atlas have been published (Fig. 1) and the data is  available as a digital database via the AVAA service of the Institute for the Languages of Finland.

As one needs to start with the basics with a new dataset, I started this project by studying the internal divisions of the Finnic group based on lexical data. I studied these questions by applying Bayesian model-based clustering methods on the lexical data obtained from the ALFE atlases. The next step is to focus on the contacts between languages and move towards the goal where the linguistics findings can be compared with findings from the genetics and archaeology of the area.