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NeilTuesday 03rd of May 2005 12:48:02 AM
Finnish Estonian - Just how different is Finnish to Estonian?
Does Estonian also have vowel harmony?
Helen FlemingTuesday 03rd of May 2005 04:49:10 AM
Dear Estophile Neil, -
Thank you for your continuing interest in Estonian. :)

No, there is no vowel harmony in standard Estonian. Possibly due to the influence of German, Low German and Swedish, Estonian has lost vowel harmony in the majority of North Estonian dialects, on which the standard Estonian is based, but it still exists in South Estonian dialects.

[url=]How Similar are Estonian and Finnish?[/url] By Eugene Holman, University of Helsinki

keaTuesday 03rd of May 2005 02:56:45 PM
- Estonians and Finnish do not understand each other without any learning, but to learn each others languages is not so difficult for us.
And even when we learn to speak each others languages fluently we never lose our accents. That is because there is quite a difference in Estonian and Finnish pronounciation, for example Estonian words can have 3 lenghts and that is very important thing in our grammar, but Finnish has 2 and then you can always recognize the Finnish, because they never learn the semilong words, they say it overlong. Secondly Estonian language has palatalization like our eastern and southern neighbours, but that lacks in Finnish. And also the letter 'õ' is something that only Estonian has.
But Estonians are bad at saying the Finnish 'd'. Estonian has that letter but in Finnish you have to pronounce it differently a bit and Estonians never really learn it the right way.
So when for foreigners Estonian anf Finnish sound very similar, then we mostly always can hear when it is a Finnish speaking Estonian and the other way around.
UlvenTuesday 03rd of May 2005 03:06:19 PM
- Kea, are you talking about a 'd' sound of some sort, rather than the letter itself? Because 'd' is only an imported letter in Finnish, and is rarely used, isn't that right? I've not encountered the 'd' sound in Finnish. Can you think of an example word? Or maybe you are refering to the Finns' 't' being softer than Estonian? I do know that Finns don't pushany letters out with a puff of air like in English consonants. Do Estonians speak t's, p's etc. more like Finns, or more like English?
keaTuesday 03rd of May 2005 07:00:15 PM
- In writing Finnish 't'= Estonian 'd' and Finnish 'd' does not exist in Estonian, so when Estonians read or talk Finnish then they pronounce both those Finnish letters as Estonian 'd'. For example the Finnish word 'ahdas' would be written 'ahtas' after Estonian pronounciation, because Finnish say their 'd' very soft and we can't do it really.
I remember we had an old lady here in Estonia who translated lots of Finnish literature and the Finns said about her that she is the only Estonian who can pronounce the Finnish 'd' rest of them say 't' instead.
Helen FlemingTuesday 03rd of May 2005 08:57:23 PM
Hi Ulven, - Listen to the [url=]Estonian D[/url] and [url=]Finnish D[/url]. In Estonian, you can hear the words pada, sada and pidada, and in Finnish, a lady is declining the adjective uusi for you. I hope this will get the difference across. It took me a lot of time to find a Finnish audio file for this. I guess that D really is a rare letter in Finnish.
NeilWednesday 04th of May 2005 01:20:56 AM
- Which Estonian dialects sound nicer? (a provocative question, maybe??)
Helen FlemingWednesday 04th of May 2005 01:27:35 PM
Dear Neil, - Why don't you listen and decide for yourself? These samples are from the [url=]Sound Library of the Institute of the Estonian Language[/url] and have been recorded between 1938 – 1973.

[url=]Saarte murre[/url]
[url=]Mulgi murre[/url]
[url=]Tartu murre[/url]
[url=]Võru murre[/url]

keaWednesday 04th of May 2005 01:31:15 PM
- Estonia used to be a country of a lot of dialects, but there is not so many left :( Now the standard Estonian is based on the Northen Estonian dialect and in the South they still speak Southern dialect. But which sounds nicer I wouldn't know. I guess today the Southern dialect just sounds more exotic. My personal favourite is the dialect they speak on the Western islands. Their vocabulary is pretty much the same as in the standard Estonian, not so different than the Southern dialect, but just the way it sounds on the islands is so very cute, kind of very friendly :)
NeilWednesday 04th of May 2005 06:48:43 PM
- Many thanks for all your help! Estonian seems to be a particularly friendly and helpful discuss.
UlvenFriday 06th of May 2005 08:35:02 AM
- Come to think of it, d/t is often used in consonant degrading (whatever the term is :S) in Finnish. But there certainly aren't many words that begin with 'd', and I'm not sure if Finnish 'd' gets used between vowels so often. Thanks for the samples, Helen. Estonian 'd' doesn't sound especially different from the 't' to the untrained ear. But if I can learn to spell in Danish, I'm sure that if I delved into Estonian I'd know when to spell a word with 'd' or 't'. There are noticable patterns. You can sense when the spelling is probably not a 't' etc.
keaFriday 06th of May 2005 02:04:05 PM
- There is actually quite a noticable difference between Estonian 'd' and 't'. 'd' really is softer than 't' and the most strongest is 'tt'. But I guess maybe you have to get more used to the sound of Estonian to hear the difference, but when you do it won't be a problem ;)
Estonian pronounciation is not difficult, it really is very, very phonetical, even more than German for example. :D
Helen FlemingSaturday 07th of May 2005 03:06:04 PM
Ulven, - Alternation of consonants (consonant changes in the declension of both nouns and verbs) is called consonant gradation (or lenition) in English. In addition, Estonian has change of duration (change of II and III duration in the declension of both nouns and verbs).

You're quite right about the Estonian D, Ulven. Unlike English G, B, and D, the Estonian ones are not voiced, and modern "Handbook of the Estonian Language" describes them as short variants of the phonemes K, P, and T in voiced environment. However, Estonian clearly distinguishes different sound of words kadus (disappeared), katus (roof), and kattus (coincided).

NeilMonday 09th of May 2005 12:09:15 AM
- Are there any sounds which exist in Estonian which don't exist in other languages?
keaMonday 09th of May 2005 03:31:15 PM
- We have the letter 'õ' which doesn't exist in other languages exactly the same way as in Estonian The Russian 'ы' is quite similar, but not exactly, it is not as open as Estonian 'õ'
NeilMonday 09th of May 2005 10:36:57 PM
- Thanks again for the info! Is the Estonina sound similar to either of the Hungarian ő or ö sounds, maybe?
NeilMonday 09th of May 2005 11:07:49 PM
- Dear Helen,

Thanks for the links to the Estonian sound files. Estonian sounds really unusual (in the nicest possible sense, of course!)
Helen FlemingWednesday 11th of May 2005 01:31:41 AM
Võta heaks, Neil! - I'd personally say that Estonian sounds beautiful, not unusual. According to a legend, Estonian won the silver in the championship for the most beautiful language in the world with the sentence Sõida tasa üle silla (cross the bridge quietly). Italian won the first place.

Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages just like Estonian and Finnish, but ö and ő are a little bit different from õ.

[url=]Hungarian ö[/url]
[url=]Hungarian ő (prolonged ö)[/url]
[url=]Estonian ö[/url]
[url=]Estonian õ[/url]
[url=]Russian ы[/url]
[url=]Turkish ı[/url] This is the best I found. The lady is saying sıcak kız (hot girl) in Turkish and the e in [oven] denotes the English equivalent to ı.

NeilWednesday 11th of May 2005 09:09:22 PM
- TThanks again for the info - you're a mine of information!
Yes, the Estonian sounds sound quite different to Finnish.
I'm sure Estonian sounds wonderful, although I somehow doubt the validity of beauty competitions for languages! "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!"
Incidentally, have you noticed our Czech administrator has made an appearance?
Helen FlemingMonday 23rd of May 2005 11:49:44 PM
Ilu ei panda padaje ega kaunist kattelaie - Dear Neil,

It is just a beautiful tale, nice to tell on a wintry night by the fire. I sincerely believe that one's mother language is the most beautiful. Estonians love fairytales, and this one continues. The reason we lost the first place to Italy is that instead of the original sentence, the Baltic German Johann von Matzdorff, with a thick German accent, recited Vintsklev prantsuse krants prantsatas korstnasse (writhing French cur came crashing down the chimney).

Although this doesn't belong to the Estonian discuss, yes, I noticed that the Czech administrator has turned up. It was difficult not to sight to have been corrected. :)