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Estonian

Estonian - Other Languages

Estonian (eesti keel [ˈeːsti ˈkeːl]) is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 in various migrant communities. It belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. One distinctive feature that has caused a great amount of interest among linguists is what is traditionally seen as three degrees of phonemic length: short, long, and "overlong", such that /sɑdɑ/, /sɑˑdɑ/ and /sɑːdɑ/ are distinct. In actuality, the distinction is not purely in the phonemic length, and the underlying phonological mechanism is still disputed. Estonian belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages, along with Finnish, Karelian, and other nearby languages. The Uralic languages do not belong to the Indo-European languages. The Estonian dialects are divided into two groups – the northern and southern dialects, historically associated with the cities of Tallinn in the north and Tartu in the south, in addition to a distinct kirderanniku dialect, that of the northeastern coast of Estonia.

 

Like Finnish, Estonian employs the Latin script as the basis for its alphabet, which adds the letters ä, ö, ü, and õ, plus the later additions š and ž. The letters c, q, w, x and y are limited to proper names of foreign origin, and f, z, š, and ž appear in loanwords and foreign names only. Ö and ü are pronounced similarly to their equivalents in Swedish and German. Typologically, Estonian represents a transitional form from an agglutinating language to a fusional language. The canonical word order is SVO (subject–verb–object). Although the Estonian and Germanic languages are of very different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and English, for example. This is primary because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one-third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from Low Saxon (Middle Low German) during the period of German rule, and High German (including standard German).

 

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