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Sami languages

(Redirected from Sami language)

Sami is a general name for a group of Finno-Ugric languages spoken in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, in Northern Europe. Very often Sami is erroneously referred as one language for all Lappic people.

Sami (Sámegiella)
Spoken in: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia
Region: Lapland
Total speakers: Approximately 20,000
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Uralic languages
 Finno-Ugric languages
Official status
Official language of: None. (Recognized as a minority language in several Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish municipalities.)
Regulated by: None.
Language codes
ISO 639-1 se (Northern Sami)
ISO 639-2 sma, sme, smi, smj, smn, sms



The Sami languages belong to the Finno-Ugric languages group.

Geographic distribution

The Sami languages are spoken by the Sami people living in Lapland in Northern Europe. The Lapland region stretches over the four countries Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Official status

Adopted in April 1988, Article 110a of the Norwegian Constitution states: "It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life." The Sami Language Act went into effect in the 1990s.

In Finland, the language law of 1992 grants Sami people the right to use the Sami languages for all government services.

On April 1, 2002 Sami became one of five recognized minority languages in Sweden. It can be used in dealing with public authorities in the municipalities of Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Kiruna.

Geographic distrbution of the majority dialects
Geographic distrbution of the majority dialects

See also: Sami parliaments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden


In 2001 there were around ten known Sami languages. Six of these have a standard written language, the four others are literally not in use – i.e. there are fewer than 100 people that speak them. The ISO 639-2 code for all Sami languages without its proper code is "smi". The six written dialects are:

The remaining living 4 Sami languages have very few speakers and are in danger of extinction. It is believed that they have fewer than 500 speakers combined. They are Akkala (Babino) Sami , Ter Sami , Pite Sami and Ume Sami . Another Sami language, Kemi Sami, has been extinct for over 100 years.


The Northern Sami dialect has had more than one grammar, but in 1948 a common grammar was created. It was last modified in 1985.

The Lule Sami dialect has a common grammar but with fewer special characters, only a-acute and n-acute. The character n-acute (Ń/ń) is the eng sound found in the Norwegian word "sang". Instead of n-acute (found in Unicode, but not in ASCII), many use ñ or even ng.

Northern Sami uses seven characters not found in the Scandinavian languages or the Finnish language:

  • a-acute (Á/á)
  • c-caron (Č/č)
  • d-stroke (Đ/đ)
  • eng (Ŋ/ŋ)
  • s-caron (Š/š)
  • t-stroke (Ŧ/ŧ)
  • z-caron (Ž/ž)

Lule Sami very few special characters, only a-acute and n-acute. Southern Sami uses written using Norwegian or Swedish characters, some variants of Swedish (ä, ö) or Norwegian (æ, ø) characters. Inari Sami uses seven special characters. Kildin Sami uses cyrillic typesetting, Russian characters with some special characters.

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45