The language of Estonian is a Uralic language. The word “Uralic” refers to the Ural Mountains, original homeland of the Uralic family. The languages that have stemmed from the Uralic speech are spoken in all of the areas that are around this mountain range, with the Estonian language being a Baltic Finnic branch of the Uralic languages.
Historically, Estonian is closely related to the Finnish language, and distantly related to Hungarian through the same branch of Uralic. Linguistically, the Estonian language has also been influenced by many European languages such as Swedish and German, as well as Russian.
The Estonian language used to be written in Runes, though it is now written in Latin script. This makes it a little easier to learn if one is coming from a Western background. However, there are several extra adapted letters in the Estonian language, specifically an A, U, S, Z and two Os.
The Estonian language is the official language of Estonia, and is also an official language of the European Union. Over a million people speak the Estonian language in Estonia itself, with tens of thousands of other speakers dotted throughout the world.
There are two main groups to the Estonian language; Northern and Southern dialects. The Northern dialect is associated primarily with the city of Tallinn in the north, while the Southern dialect is associated with the city of Tartu in the south. Tallinn as the capital city is obviously where the language has made its most significant changes, and is where the most common form of the dialect is spoken. In the Northeastern coast of Estonia, there is also a regional dialect called kirderanniku.
The more common dialect, and the one that the main language is based on, is the Northern dialect. This is also comprised of slight changes in dialect that occur in the West and the Northwestern shore of Lake Peipsi. However, there are several dialects within the main Southern branch of the Estonian language, sometimes considered to be separate languages as the pronunciation is markedly different.
The Estonian language has many vowel phonemes, although the short vowels are considered to be sequences of short values instead of separate phonemes themselves. There are nine distinct vowel sounds, called phonemic monopthongs. Within the entire language, there are 36 diphthongs, although only 26 are originally native to the Estonian language.
When speaking the Estonian language, one should ordinarily put the stress on the first syllable. However, with Estonian being a language that contains many loanwords, or words from other countries, there are some words that maintain the stress on the second syllable instead. Stresses themselves within the sentences or words do not usually change the meaning of the sentence, with most words being evenly stressed.
The language itself is a strong example of a transitional language, with the grammatical components shifting from an agglutinating language to a fusional language. Agglutination essentially means that the words are formed by joining morphemes, or small linguistic units of meaning, together. Fusional, on the other hand, overlay the morphemes instead of compiling them together as segments. Interestingly, neither nouns or pronouns take on grammatical gender, with both of these components being neutral in tone.
Why Learn The Estonian Language?
Estonia, or as it is officially called, the Republic of Estonia, is a country in the Baltic Region of Northern Europe. The World Bank lists Estonia as a high income economy country, with the United Nations also listing Estonia as having a Human Development Index of Very High. In terms of freedom of the presses, economic stability, democracy and political free speech, Estonia also ranks very highly, not just in comparison to other European countries, but throughout the world.
According to the State of World Liberty Index, which looks for “the ability for the individual to live their lives as they choose, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others to do the same,” Estonia rates as number one out of 157 countries that were looked at. It is truly an open and free country to live in, and learning the Estonian language would surely enable one to work and live in this very free country.