Skolt Sami Language
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Skolt Sami Language

Skolt Sami
PronunciationIPA: [ nw?r?t:?a?:m?c?çj?hl:]
Native toFinland, Russia
Native speakers
(320 cited 1995-2007)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Finland; Norway[2]
Language codes
ELPSkolt Saami
Sami languages large.png
Skolt Sami is 6 on this regional map of Sami languages.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Skolt Sami (sää?m?iõll [?a?:m?c?çj?hl:], "the Sámi language", or nuõrttsää?m?iõll [nw?r?t:?a?:m?c?çj?hl:], "the Eastern Sámi language", if a distinction needs to be made between it and the other Sami languages) is a Uralic, Sami language that is spoken by the Skolts, with approximately 300[4] speakers in Finland, mainly in Sevettijärvi and approximately 20-30 speakers of the Njuõ?ttjäu?rr (Notozero) dialect[5] in an area surrounding Lake Lovozero in Russia. Skolt Sami also used to be spoken in the Neiden area of Norway.[5] It is written using a modified Roman orthography which was made official in 1973.

The term Skolt was coined by representatives of the majority culture and has negative connotation which can be compared to the term Lapp. Nevertheless, it is used in cultural and linguistic studies.[6]

Sami dialects and settlements in Russia:
  Skolt (Russian Notozersky)


Road sign for Ä?vv, the Skolt Sami museum in Neiden, Norway

On Finnish territory Skolt Sami was spoken in four villages before the Second World War. In Petsamo, Skolt Sami was spoken in Suonikylä and the village of Petsamo. This area was ceded to Russia in the Second World War, and the Skolts were evacuated to the villages of Inari, Sevettijärvi and Nellim in the Inari municipality.

On the Russian (then Soviet) side the dialect was spoken in the now defunct Sami settlements of Motovsky, Songelsky, Notozero (hence its Russian name - the Notozersky dialect). Some speakers still may live in the villages of Tuloma and Lovozero.

On Norwegian territory Skolt Sami was spoken in the Sør-Varanger area with a cultural centre in Neiden. The language is not spoken as mother tongue any more in Norway.


A quadrilingual street sign in Inari in (from top to bottom) Finnish, Northern Saami, Inari Saami, and Skolt Saami. Inari is the only municipality in Finland with 4 official languages.
The village workshop in Sevettijärvi


In Finland, Skolt Sami is spoken by approximately 400 people. According to Finland's Sami Language Act (1086/2003), Skolt Sami is one of the three Sami languages that the Sami can use when conducting official business in Lapland. It is an official language in the municipality of Inari, and elementary schools there offer courses in the language, both for native speakers and for students learning it as a foreign language. Only a small number of youths learn the language and continue to use it actively.[] Skolt Sami is thus a seriously endangered language, even more seriously than Inari Sami, which has a nearly equal number of speakers and is even spoken in the same municipality. In addition, there are a lot of Skolts living outside of this area, particularly in the capital region.



From 1978 to 1986, the Skolts had a quarterly called Sää?moâz published in their own language.[7] Since 2013, a new magazine called Tuõddri pee?rel has been published once a year.[8]

The Finnish news program Yle Oasat featured a Skolt Sami speaking newsreader for the first time on August 26, 2016. Otherwise Yle Oasat presents individual news stories in Skolt Sami every now and then.[9] In addition, there have been various TV programs in Skolt Sámi on YLE such as the children's TV series Binnabánna?.


The first book published in Skolt Sami was an Eastern Orthodox prayer book (Risttoummi mo?lidva?e?rjj, Prayerbook for the Orthodox) in 1983. Translation of the Gospel of John was published (Evvan evae?lium) in 1988 and Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Pââ?ss Een Evvan Krysostomoozz Liturgia, Liturgy of our Holy Father John Chrysostom) was published in 2002 [10] Skolt Sami is used together with Finnish in worship of the Lappi Orthodox Parish (Lappi ortodooksla? sie?brrkå?dd) at churches of Ivalo, Sevettijärvi and Nellim.[11]


Like Inari Sami, Skolt Sami has recently borne witness to a new phenomenon, namely it is being used in rock songs sung by Tiina Sanila-Aikio, who has published two full-length CDs in Skolt Sami to date.


In 1993, language nest programs for children younger than 7 were created. For quite some time these programs received intermittent funding, resulting in some children being taught Skolt Sami, while others were not. In spite of all the issues these programs faced, they were crucial in creating the youngest generations of Skolt Sami speakers. In recent years, these programs have been reinstated.

In addition, 2005 was the first time that it was possible to use Skolt Sami in a Finnish matriculation exam, albeit as a foreign language. In 2012, Ville-Riiko Fofonoff (Skolt Sami: Läärvan-O?lssi-Peâtt-Rijggu-Vää?s?-Rijggu-Ville-Reei?a?) was the first person to use Skolt Sami for the mother tongue portion of the exam; for this, he won the Skolt of the Year Award the same year.[12]

Writing system

Skolt Sami uses the ISO basic Latin alphabet with the addition of some special characters:

Letter Phoneme(s)
A a /?/
 â /?/
B b /b/
C c /t?s/
? ? /t/
? ? /d?z/
? ? /d/
D d /d/
? ? /ð/
E e /e/, /?/
F f /f/
G g /?/
? ? //
? ? /?/
H h /x/
I i /i/, /j/
J j /?/
K k /k/
? ? /c?ç/
L l /l/
M m /m/
N n /n/
? ? /?/
O o /o/
Õ õ /?/
P p /p/
R r /r/
S s /s/
? ? /?/
T t /t/
U u /u/, /w/
V v /v/
Z z /z/
? ? /?/
Å å /?/
Ä ä /a/


  • The letters Q/q, W/w, X/x, Y/y and Ö/ö are also used, although only in foreign words or loans. Exactly like in Finnish and Swedish Ü/ü is alphabetized as y, not u.
  • No difference is made in the standard orthography between /e/ and /?/. In dictionaries, grammars and other reference works, the letter ⟨?⟩ is used to indicate /?/.
  • The combinations ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ indicate the consonants /?/ and /?/ respectively.

Additional marks are used in writing Skolt Sami words:

  • A prime symbol ? (U+02B9 MODIFIER LETTER PRIME) or standalone acute accent ´ or ? (U+00B4 ACUTE ACCENT or U+02CA MODIFIER LETTER ACUTE ACCENT) is added after the vowel of a syllable to indicate suprasegmental palatalization.
  • An apostrophe ' (U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE) is used in the combinations ⟨l'j⟩ and ⟨n'j⟩ to indicate that these are two separate sounds, not a single sound. It is also placed between identical consonants to indicate that they belong to separate prosodic feet, and should not be combined into a geminate. It distinguishes e.g. luetted "to set free" from its causative luet'ted "to cause to set free".
  • A hyphen - is used in compound words when there are two identical consonants at the juncture between the parts of the compound, e.g. ?iõtt-tel "mobile phone".
  • A vertical line ' (U+02C8 MODIFIER LETTER VERTICAL LINE), typewriter apostrophe or other similar mark indicates that a geminate consonant is long, and the preceding diphthong is short. It is placed between a pair of identical consonants which are always preceded by a diphthong. This mark is not used in normal Skolt Sami writing, but it appears in dictionaries, grammars and other reference works.


Special features of this Sami language include a highly complex vowel system and a suprasegmental contrast of palatalized vs. non-palatalized stress groups; palatalized stress groups are indicated by a "softener mark", represented by the modifier letter prime (?).


The system of vowel phonemes is as follows:

front central back
close i u
close-mid e ? o
open-mid ? ? ?
open a ?

Skolt Sami has vowel length, but it co-occurs with contrasts in length of the following consonant(s). Before a long consonant, vowels are short, while before a short consonant vowels are long (written with a doubled letter). For example, le?tt 'vessel' vs. lee?tt 'vessels'.

The vowels can combine to form twelve opening diphthongs:

front front to central back to front back to central back
close to close-mid ie i? ue u?
close to open-mid i? i? u? u? u?
close to open ua
close-mid to open-mid e?
close-mid to open ea

Like the monophtongs, all diphthongs can be short or long, but this is not indicated in spelling. Short diphthongs are distinguished from long ones by both length and stress placement: short diphthongs have a stressed second component, whereas long diphthongs have stress on the first component.

Diphthongs may also have two variants depending on whether they occur in a plain or palatalized environment. This has a clearer effect with diphthongs whose second element is back or central. Certain inflectional forms, including the addition of the palatalizing suprasegmental, also trigger a change in diphthong quality.[13]

plain palatalized


The inventory of consonant phonemes is the following:

  • Unvoiced stops and affricates are pronounced preaspirated after vowels and sonorant consonants.
  • Voiced stops and affricates are usually pronounced just weakly voiced.
  • Older speakers realize the palatal affricates /c?ç, / as plosives [c, ?].
  • In initial position, /x/ is realized as glottal .

Consonants may be phonemically short or long (geminate) both word-medially or word-finally; both are exceedingly common. Long and short consonants also contrast in consonant clusters, cf. kuõskkâd 'to touch' : kuõskâm 'I touch'. A short period of voicelessness or h, known as preaspiration, before geminate consonants is observed, much as in Icelandic, but this is not marked orthographically, e.g. joe 'to the river' is pronounced [jo?hk?k?e].


There is one phonemic suprasegmental, the palatalizing suprasegmental that affects the pronunciation of an entire syllable. In written language the palatalizing suprasegmental is indicated with a free-standing acute accent between a stressed vowel and the following consonant, as follows:

vää?rr 'mountain, hill' (suprasegmental palatalization present)
cf. väärr 'trip' (no suprasegmental palatalization)

The suprasegmental palatalization has three distinct phonetic effects:

  • The stressed vowel is pronounced as slightly more fronted in palatalized syllables than in non-palatalized ones.
  • When the palatalizing suprasegmental is present, the following consonant or consonant cluster is pronounced as weakly palatalized. Suprasegmental palatalization is independent of segmental palatals: inherently palatal consonants (i.e. consonants with palatal place of articulation) such as the palatal glide /j/, the palatal nasal /?/ (spelled ⟨nj⟩) and the palatal lateral approximant /?/ (spelled ⟨lj⟩) can occur both in non-palatalized and suprasegmentally palatalized syllables.
  • If the word form is monosyllabic and ends in a consonant, a non-phonemic weakly voiced or unvoiced vowel is pronounced after the final consonant. This vowel is e-colored if suprasegmental palatalization is present, but a-colored if not.


Skolt Sami has four different types of stress for words:

  • Primary stress
  • Secondary stress
  • Tertiary stress
  • Zero stress

The first syllable of any word is always the primary stressed syllable in Skolt Sami as Skolt is a fixed-stress language. In words with two or more syllables, the final syllable is quite lightly stressed (tertiary stress) and the remaining syllable, if any, are stressed more heavily than the final syllable, but less than the first syllable (secondary stress).

Using the abessive and the comitative singular in a word appears to disrupt this system, however, in words of more than one syllable. The suffix, as can be expected, has tertiary stress, but the penultimate syllable also has tertiary stress, even though it would be expected to have secondary stress.

Zero stress can be said to be a feature of conjunctions, postpositions, particles and monosyllabic pronouns.


Skolt Sami is a synthetic, highly inflected language that shares many grammatical features with the other Uralic languages. However, Skolt Sami is not a typical agglutinative language like many of the other Uralic languages are, as it has developed considerably into the direction of a fusional language, much like Estonian. Therefore, cases and other grammatical features are also marked by modifications to the root and not just marked with suffixes. Many of the suffixes in Skolt Sami are portmanteau morphemes that express several grammatical features at a time.


Umlaut is a pervasive phenomenon in Skolt Sami, whereby the vowel in the second syllable affects the quality of the vowel in the first. The presence or absence of palatalisation can also be considered an umlaut effect, since it is also conditioned by the second-syllable vowel, although it affects the entire syllable rather than the vowel alone. Umlaut is complicated by the fact that many of the second-syllable vowels have disappeared in Skolt Sami, leaving the umlaut effects as their only trace.

The following table lists the Skolt Sami outcomes of the Proto-Samic first-syllable vowel, for each second-syllable vowel.

Proto *?, *? *? *ë, *u *i
Skolt a e â, u e
â â? õ õ?
*o å å? o o?
*i e e? i i?
*u o u? u u?
*? ä ä? a a?
*ea eä?, i ie?
*ie ie? iõ?
*oa uä?, u ue?
*uo ue? uõ?

Some notes:

  • i and u appear before a quantity 2 consonant, eä? and uä? otherwise.

As can be seen, palatalisation is present before original second-syllable *? and *i, and absent otherwise. Where they survive in Skolt Sami, both appear as e, so only the umlaut effect can distinguish them. The original short vowels , *u and *i have a general raising and backing effect on the preceding vowel, while the effect of original *? and *? is lowering. Original *? is fronting (palatalising) without having an effect on height.



Skolt Sami has 9 cases in the singular (7 of which also have a plural form), although the genitive and accusative are often the same.

The following table shows the inflection of ?uäcc ('rotten snag') with the single morphemes marking noun stem, number, and case separated by hyphens for better readability. The last morpheme marks for case, i marks the plural, and a is due to epenthesis and does not have a meaning of its own.[14]

  Singular Plural
Nominative ?uäcc [twatt?s] ?uä [twadd?z]
Genitive ?uä [twahdd?z] ?uä-a-i [twahdd?z?j]
Accusative ?uä-a-i-d [twahdd?z?jd]
Illative cuåc'c-u [twht?t?su]
Locative ?uä-a-st [twahdd?z?st] ?uä-a-i-n [twahdd?z?jn]
Comitative ?uä-a-in [twahdd?z?jn] ?uä-a-i-vui´m [twahdd?z?jvi?m]
Abessive ?uä-tää [twahdd?zta:] ?uä-a-i-tää [twahdd?z?jta:]
Essive ?uäcc-a-n [twahtt?s?n] -
Partitive ?uäcc-a-d [twahtt?s?d] -

Like the other Uralic languages, the nominative singular is unmarked and indicates the subject or a predicate. The nominative plural is also unmarked and always looks the same as the genitive singular.


The genitive singular is unmarked and looks the same as the nominative plural. The genitive plural is marked by an -i. The genitive is used:

  • to indicate possession (Tu?st lij muu ?e?rjj. 'You have my book.' where muu is gen.)
  • to indicate number, if said the number is between 2 and 6. (Sie?zzest lij kuõ?htt põõrt. 'My father's sister (my aunt) has two houses.', where põõrt is gen.)
  • with prepositions (rääi + [GEN]: 'by something', 'beyond something')
  • with most postpositions. (Sij mõ?nne ääkkäd årra. 'They went to your grandmother's (house).', 'They went to visit your grandmother.', where ääkkäd is gen)

The genitive has been replacing the partitive for some time and is nowadays more commonly used in its place.


The accusative is the direct object case and it is unmarked in the singular. In the plural, its marker is -d, which is preceded by the plural marker -i, making it look the same as the plural illative. The accusative is also used to mark some adjuncts, e.g. obb tää?lv ('the entire winter').


The locative marker in the singular is -st and -n in the plural. This case is used to indicate:

  • where something is (Kuäest lij ?e?rjj: 'There is a book in the kota.')
  • where it is coming from (Niõ? puõ?tte domoi ?e?vetjääu?rest: 'The girls came home from Sevettijärvi.')
  • who has possession of something (Su?st lij ?âustõk: 'He/she has a lasso.')

In addition, it is used with certain verbs:

  • to ask someone s.t. : kõõâd [+loc]

The illative marker actually has three different markers in the singular to represent the same case: -a, -e and -u. The plural illative marker is -d, which is preceded by the plural marker -i, making it look the same as the plural accusative. This case is used to indicate:

  • where something is going
  • who is receiving something
  • the indirect object

The comitative marker in the singular is -in and -vui?m in the plural. The comitative is used to state with whom or what something was done:

  • Njää?lm sekstet leei?nin. The mouth is wiped with a piece of cloth.
  • Vuõ?lem paa?rnivui?m ceerkvest. I left church with the children.
  • Vuõ?lem vue?bbinan ceerkvest. I left church with my sister.

To form the comitative singular, use the genitive singular form of the word as the root and -in. To form the comitative plural, use the plural genitive root and -vui?m.


The abessive marker is -tää in both the singular and the plural. It always has a tertiary stress.

  • Vuõ?lem paa?rnitää ceerkvest. I left church without the children.
  • Sij mõ?nne niõ?tää põ?rtte. They went in the house without the girl.
  • Sij mõ?nne niõ?itää põ?rtte. They went in the house without the girls.

The dual form of the essive is still used with pronouns, but not with nouns and does not appear at all in the plural.


The partitive is only used in the singular and can always be replaced by the genitive. The partitive marker is -d.

1. It appears after numbers larger than six:

  • kääu?c ?âustõkkâd: 'eight lassos'

This can be replaced with kää?uc ?âustõõ.

2. It is also used with certain postpositions:

  • kuä?tte'd vuâstta: 'against a kota'

This can be replaced with kuä vuâstta'

3. It can be used with the comparative to express that which is being compared:

  • kå?lled pue?rab: 'better than gold'

This would nowadays more than likely be replaced by pue?rab ko kå?ll


Personal pronouns

The personal pronouns have three numbers: singular, plural and dual. The following table contains personal pronouns in the nominative and genitive/accusative cases.

singular dual plural
1st person mon muäna mij
2nd person ton tuäna tij
3rd person son suäna sij
1st person muu muännai mij
2nd person tuu tuännai tij
3rd person suu suännai sij

The next table demonstrates the declension of a personal pronoun he/she (no gender distinction) in various cases:

  Singular Dual Plural
Nominative son suäna sij
Genitive suu suännai sij
Accusative suu suännaid si?jjid
Illative su?nne suännaid si?jjid
Locative su?st suännast sii?st
Comitative suin suännain si?jjivui?m
Abessive suutää suännaitää si?jjitää
Essive suu?nen suännan -
Partitive suued - -

Possessive markers

Next to number and case, Skolt Sami nouns also inflect for possession. However, usage of possessive affixes seems to decrease among speakers. The following table shows possessive inflection of the word muõrr ('tree').[15]

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Possessed Singular Nominative muõrram muõrrâm muõrrad muõrrâd muõrrâs muõrrâz
muõrran muõrrân muõrad muõrâd muõrâs muõrâz
Illative muõr'rsan muõr'rseen muõr'rsad muõr'rseed muõr'rses muõr'rseez
Locative muõrstan muõrsteen muõrstad muõrsteed muõrstes muõrsteez
Comitative muõrinan muõrineen muõrinad muõrineed muõrines muõrineez
Abessive muõrrantää muõrrântää muõradtää muõrâdtää muõrâstää muõrâztää
Essive muõr'rnan muõr'rneen muõrr'rnad muõr'rneed muõr'rnes muõr'rneez
Plural Nominative muõrran muõrrân muõrad muõrâd muõrâs muõrâz
muõrrään muõreen muõrääd muõreed muõrees muõreez
Locative muõrinan muõrineen muõrinad muõrineed muõrines muõrineez
Comitative muõräänvui´m muõreenvui´m muõräädvui´m muõreedvui´m muõreesvui´m muõreezvui´m
Abessive muõrääntää muõreentää muõräädtää muõreedtää muõreestää muõreeztää


Skolt Sami verbs inflect (inflection of verbs is also referred to as conjugation) for person, mood, number, and tense. A full inflection table of all person-marked forms of the verb kuullâd ('to hear') is given below.[16]

Non-past Past Potential Conditional Imperative
1st Person Singular kuulam ku?llem kuul?em kuul?em -
2nd P. Sg. kuulak ku?lli? kuul?i? kuul?i? kuul
3rd P. Sg. kooll kuuli kuulâ? kuul?i koolas
1st Person Plural kuullâp kuulim kuul?ep kuul?im kuullâp
2nd P. Pl. kuullve?ted kuulid kuul?id kuul?id kuullâd
3rd P. Pl. ko?lle ku?lle kuul?e kuul?e kollaz
4th Person kuulât ku?lle? kuul?et kuul?e? -

It can be seen that inflection involves changes to the verb stem as well as inflectional suffixes. Changes to the stem are based on verbs being categorized into several inflectional classes.[17] The different inflectional suffixes are based on the categories listed below.


Skolt Sami verbs conjugate for four grammatical persons:

  • first person
  • second person
  • third person
  • fourth person, also called the indefinite person


Skolt Sami has 5 grammatical moods:


Skolt Sami verbs conjugate for two grammatical numbers:

Unlike other Sami varieties, Skolt Sami verbs do not inflect for dual number. Instead, verbs occurring with the dual personal pronouns appear in the corresponding plural form.


Skolt Sami has 2 simple tenses:

  • past (Puõ?ttem ?koou?le jåhtta. 'I came to school yesterday.')
  • non-past (Evvan puätt mu årra tä?bbe. 'John is coming to my house today.')

and 2 compound tenses:

Non-finite verb forms

The verb forms given above are person-marked, also referred to as finite. In addition to the finite forms, Skolt Sami verbs have twelve participial and converb forms, as well as the infinitive, which are non-finite. These forms are given in the table below for the verb kuullâd ('to hear').[18]

Verb form
Infinitive kuullâd
Action Participle kuullâm
Present Participle kuulli
Past Participle kuullâm
Passive Participle kullum
Progressive Participle kuullmen
Temporal Participle kuuleen
Instrumental Participle kullee?l
Abessive Participle kuulkani
Negative converb kuul, kullu, kuul?e, kuul?e (all forms exist, they underlie idiolectal variation)

Auxiliary verbs

Skolt Sami has two auxiliary verbs, one of which is lee´d (glossed as 'to be'), the other one is the negative auxiliary verb (see the following paragraph).

Inflection of lee´d is given below.[19]

Non-past Past Potential Conditional Imperative
1st Person Singular leäm le´jjem leem leem -
2nd P. Sg. leäk le´jji? lei? lei? leäk'ku
3rd P. Sg. lij leäi lee lei leäas
1st Person Plural leä´p leei?m leep leim leäk'kap
2nd P. Pl. leä´ped leei?d leve?ted leid leäk'ku
3rd P. Pl. lie, liâ (both forms exist, they underlie idiolectal variation) le?jje lee lee leäk'kaz
4th Person leät le?jje? leet lee? -

Lee'd is used, for example, to assign tense to lexical verbs in the conditional or potential mood which are not marked for tense themselves:

  • Jiõm â?te mon ni kõõjj?e, jos mon teâem, leem veär raajjâm ouddâl.

(negation (1st P. Sg.) - then - 1st P. Sg. - even - ask (negated conditional) - if - 1st P. Sg. - know (1st P. Sg. conditional) - be (1st P. Sg. conditional) - soup - make (past participle, no tense marking) - before)

'I wouldn't even ask if I knew, if I had made soup before!'[20]

Negative verb

Skolt Sami, like Finnish, the other Sami languages and Estonian, has a negative verb. In Skolt Sami, the negative verb conjugates according to mood (indicative, imperative and optative), person (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th) and number (singular and plural).

Person Indicative Imperative Optative
1 Singular jiõm - -
Plural jeä?p - jeäl'lap
2 Singular jiõk jeä?l
Plural jeä?ped jie?l'led
3 Singular ij - jeälas
Plural jie ~ jiâ - jeäl'las
4 jeä?t -

Note that ij + leat is usually written as i?lla, i?lleäkku, i?llää or i?llä and ij + leat is usually written as jeä?la or jeä?lä.

Unlike the other Sami languages, Skolt Sami no longer has separate forms for the dual and plural of the negative verb and uses the plural forms for both instead.

Word order

Declarative clauses

The most frequent word order in simple, declarative sentences in Skolt Sami is subject-verb-object (SVO). However, as cases are used to mark relations between different noun phrases, and verb forms mark person and number of the subject, Skolt Sami word order allows for some variation.[21]

An example of an SOV sentence would be:

  • Neezzan suâjjkååutid kuårru. (woman (Pl., Nominative) - protection (Sg., Nominative) + skirt (Pl., Accusative) - sew (3rd P. Pl., Past)) 'The women sewed protective skirts.'

Intransitive sentences follow the order subject-verb (SV):

  • Jääu?r kâ?lmme. (lake (Pl., Nominative) - freeze (3rd P. Pl., Present)) 'The lakes freeze.'

An exception to the SOV word order can be found in sentences with an auxiliary verb. While in other languages, an OV word order has been found to correlate with the auxiliary verb coming after the lexical verb,[22] the Skolt Sami auxiliary verb lee'd ('to be') precedes the lexical verb. This has been related to the verb-second (V2) phenomenon which binds the finite verb to at most the second position of the respective clause. However, in Skolt Sami, this effect seems to be restricted to clauses with an auxiliary verb.[23]

An example of a sentence with the auxiliary in V2 position:

  • Kuuskõõzz le?jje ääld poorrâm. (northern light (Pl., Nominative) - be (3rd P. Pl., Past) - female reindeer (Sg., Accusative) - eat (Past Participle)) 'The northern lights had eaten the female reindeer.'

Interrogative clauses

Polar questions

In Skolt Sami, polar questions, also referred to as yes-no questions, are marked in two different ways. Morphologically, an interrogative particle, -a, is added as an affix to the first word of the clause. Syntactically, the element which is in the scope of the question is moved to the beginning of the clause. If this element is the verb, subject and verb are inversed in comparison to the declarative SOV word order.

  • Vue?lve?ted-a tuäna muu ooudâst ean ääu?d ool? (leave (2nd P. Pl., Present, Interrogative) - 2nd P. Dual Nominative - 1st P. Sg. Genitive - behalf - father (Sg. Genitive 1st P. Pl.) - grave (Sg. Genitive) - onto) 'Will the two of you go, on my behalf, to our father's grave?'

If an auxiliary verb is used, this is the one which is moved to the initial sentence position and also takes the interrogative affix.

  • Leäk-a ää?vääm tõn uus? (be (2nd P. Sg., Present, Interrogative) - open (Past Participle) - that (Sg. Accusative) - door (Sg. Accusative)) 'Have you opened that door?'
  • Leäk-a ton Jefremoff? (be (2nd P. Sg., Interrogative) - 2nd P. Sg. Nominative - Jefremoff) 'Are you Mr. Jefremoff?'

A negated polar question, using the negative auxiliary verb, shows the same structure:

  • Ij-a kõskklumâs villjad puättam? (Negation 3rd P. Sg., Interrogative - middle - brother (Sg. Nominative, 2nd P. Sg.) - come (Past Participle)) 'Didn't your middle brother come?'

An example of the interrogative particle being added to something other than the verb, would be the following:

  • Võl-a lie mainnâz? (still (Interrogative) - be (3rd P. Sg., Present) - story (Pl., Nominative)) 'Are there still stories to tell?'[24]
Information questions

Information questions in Skolt Sami are formed with a question word in clause-initial position. There also is a gap in the sentence indicating the missing piece of information. This kind of structure is similar to Wh-movement in languages such as English. There are mainly three question words corresponding to the English 'what', 'who', and 'which' (out of two). They inflect for number and case, except for the latter which only has singular forms. It is noteworthy that the illative form of mii ('what') corresponds to the English 'why'. The full inflectional paradigm of all three question words can be found below.[25]

What Who Which
Singular Nominative mii ?ii kuäbba?
Accusative mâi?d ?eän kuäbba
Genitive mõõn ?eän kuäbba
Illative mõõzz ('why') ?eäzz kuäbb?e
Locative mâ?st ?eä?st kuäbbast
Comitative mõin ?eäin kuäbbain
Abessive mõntää ?eäntää kuäbbatää
Essive mââ?den ?eäen kuäbb?en
Partitive mââed ?eäed kuäbb?ed
Plural Nominative mõõk ?eäk -
Accusative mâid ?eäid -
Genitive mââi ?eäi -
Illative mâid ?eäid -
Locative mâin ?eäin -
Comitative mââivui?m ?eäivui?m -
Abessive mââitää ?eäitää -

Some examples of information questions using one of the three question words:

  • Mâi?d reäak? (what (Sg., Accusative) - cry (2nd P. Sg., Present)) 'What are you crying about?'
  • Mõõzz pue?tti (what (Sg., Illative) - come (2nd P. Sg., Past)) 'Why did you come?'
  • ?ii tu?st leäi risttjeä?nn? (who (Sg., Nominative) - 2nd P. Sg., Locative - be (3rd P. Sg., Past) - godmother (Sg., Nominative) 'Who was your godmother?'
  • Kuäbba? alttad heibbad? (which (Sg., Nominative) - begin (3rd P. Sg., Present) - wrestle (Infinitive)) 'Which one of you will begin to wrestle?'

In addition to the above-mentioned, there are other question words which are not inflected, such as the following:

  • ko?st: 'where', 'from where'
  • koozz: 'to where'
  • kuä?ss: 'when'
  • mä?htt: 'how'
  • måkam: 'what kind'

An example sentence would be the following:

  • Koozz vuõ?li (to where - leave (2nd P. Sg., Past)) 'Where did you go?'[26]

Imperative clauses

The Skolt Sami imperative generally takes a clause-initial position. Out of the five imperative forms (see above), those of the second person are most commonly used.

  • Puä mij årra kuâssa! (come (2nd P. Sg., Imperative) - 1st P. Pl., Genitive - way - on a visit) 'Come and visit us at our place!'

Imperatives in the first person form, which only exist as plurals, are typically used for hortative constructions, that is for encouraging the listener (not) to do something. These imperatives include both the speaker and the listener.

  • Ä?lep heibbad! (start (1st P. Pl., Imperative) - wrestle (Infinitive)) 'Let's start to wrestle!'

Finally, imperatives in the third person are used in jussive constructions, the mood used for orders and commands.

  • Kuäraz sij tie?rm ool! (climb (3rd P. Pl., Imperative) - 3rd P. Pl., Nominative - hill (Sg., Genitive) - onto) 'Let them climb to the top of the hill!'[27]


  1. ^ Skolt Sami at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "To which languages does the Charter apply?". European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Council of Europe. p. 5. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ Glottopedia article on Skolt Sami.
  4. ^ K.H. "Språket bare en person snakker" [The language that only one person speaks]. 29 December 2020. Klassekampen. P. 29 "knapt 300 igjen som kan, som [...] Veikku Feodoroff fortalte til Klassekampen tidligere i år" [barely 300 left that can, as [...] Veikku Feodoroff told Klassekampen earlier this year]
  5. ^ a b Sergejeva 2002, p. 107.
  6. ^ Sergejeva 2002, p. 103.
  7. ^ "Sää'moâz-lehti" (in Finnish). Saa'mi Nue'tt ry. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ "Tuõddri pee?rel 2014 - Tarinoita kolttasaamelaisesta kulttuurista, elämästä ja ihmisistä" (in Finnish). Saa'mi Nue'tt ry. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ "Yle Oasat koltansaameksi ensimmäistä kertaa" (in Finnish). Yle. Retrieved 2016.
  10. ^ "Jumala puhuu myös koltansaameksi - Vuâsppo?d maainast ?e säämas" (in Finnish). Suomen ortodoksinen kirkko. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ "Lappi ortodooksla? sie?brrkå?dd" (in Skolt Sami). Lapin ortodoksinen seurakunta. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ Moshnikoff, Minna (3 December 2012). "Ville-Riiko Fofonoff on Vuoden koltta 2012" [Ville-Riiko Fofonoff is Skolt of the Year 2012] (in Finnish and Skolt Sami). Saa?mi Nue?tt. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 37-38.
  14. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 137-138.
  15. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 175.
  16. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 115.
  17. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 115-136.
  18. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 116.
  19. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 135.
  20. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 269.
  21. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 278-281.
  22. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 284.
  23. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. p. 282.
  24. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 319-321.
  25. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 325-326.
  26. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 326-328.
  27. ^ Feist, Timothy (2010). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester. pp. 329-330.


  • Feist, Timothy. A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Manchester, 2010.
  • Feist, Timothy. A Grammar of Skolt Saami Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura Helsinki 2015.
  • Korhonen, Mikko. Mosnikoff, Jouni. Sammallahti, Pekka. Koltansaamen opas. Castreanumin toimitteita, Helsinki 1973.
  • Mosnikoff, Jouni and Pekka Sammallahti. U?cc sääm-lää?dd sää?nn?eârja? = Pieni koltansaame-suomi sanakirja. Jorgaleaddji 1988.
  • Mosnikoff, Jouni and Pekka Sammallahti. Suomi-koltansaame sanakirja = Lää?dd-sää?m sää?nn?e?rjj. Ohcejohka : Girjegiisá 1991.
  • Moshnikoff, Satu. Muu vuõssmõs sää?m?e?rjj 1987.
  • Sámi Language Act
  • Sergejeva, Jelena (2002). "The Eastern Sámi Languages and Language Preservation". Samiska i ett nytt årtusende. p. 103.

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