Skolt Saami

Language Overview

Skolt Saami is a Finno-Ugric language spoken in the far northeast of Finland, in the villages of Sevettijärvi and Nellim and the surrounding area. The Skolt Saami community number around 600 in Finland, although the language is only spoken by approximately 150-300 of them. A growing interest in the language among younger members of the community, combined with renewed revitalisation efforts, provide hope for the future of Skolt Saami, although it is nevertheless considered a seriously endangered language.

Skolt Saami is one of around nine Saami languages spoken across an area stretching from southern Norway to the Kola Peninsula in Russia. It belongs to the eastern branch of Saami languages, together with Inari Saami, Kildin Saami and the Ter Saami. In Finland, Skolt Saami is one of three official Saami languages; the other two are Inari Saami and the most widely-spoken Saami language, North Saami (spoken by around 20,000).

From a linguistic perspective, Skolt Saami is noteworthy for its complex phonology and morphology, and the interaction between the two. Its phonology exhibits contrastive vowel length, consonant gradation, vowel height alternations, suprasegmental palatalisation and a three-way distinction in phonological quantity. On the morphological level, twelve inflectional classes can be identified for nominals, which may inflect not only for number and nine grammatical cases, but also to mark a possessor, giving rise to over seventy distinct forms.

For his doctoral thesis, Dr. Timothy Feist wrote the first comprehensive grammatical description of the Skolt Saami language, using both primary data, collected over the course of several field trips, and existing materials. Below are a number of photos he took during his field trips.