Võro language

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Not to be confused with Voro language.
võro kiil
Native to Estonia
Region Southern Estonia
Ethnicity Võros
Native speakers
75,000  (2011)Statistikaamet[1]
Official status
Regulated by Võro Institute (semi-official)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 vro
Võro language area — Võromaa (Võro county) in its historical boundaries between Tartu and Seto areas, Russia (Vinnemaa) and Latvia (Lätimaa)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
South Estonian today. Võro is marked with dark red colour.
According to the 2011 Estonia Census there were 101,857 speakers of South Estonian: 74,499 speakers of Võro, 12,549 Seto speakers, 9,698 Mulgi speakers, 4,109 Tartu speakers and 1,002 other South Estonian speakers.
A bilingual Estonian-Võro parish sign in Võrumaa. The parish name with vowel harmony (Urvastõ) is in Võro.
A Tringual (Estonian-English-Võro) sign of a tourist information center in Võru.
A 1998 ABC-book in Võro language written by Sulev Iva, Kauksi Ülle etc.: "ABC kiräoppus"

The Võro language (Võro: võro kiil, Estonian: võru keel)[2][3] is a language[4] belonging to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages.[5] Traditionally it has been considered a dialect of the South Estonian dialect group of the Estonian language, but nowadays it has its own literary language[6] and is in search of official recognition as an autochthonous regional language of Estonia. Võro has 74,499[1] speakers (Võros) mostly in south-eastern Estonia, in the eight parishes of historical Võru County: Karula, Harglõ, Urvastõ, Rõugõ, Kanepi, Põlva, Räpinä, and Vahtsõliina. These parishes are currently centered (due to redistricting) in Võru and Põlva counties with parts extending into Valga and Tartu counties. Speakers can also be found in the towns of Tallinn, Tartu and the rest of Estonia.[7][8][9]


Võro is a descendant of the old South Estonian regional language and is the least influenced by Standard Estonian (which is based on Northern Estonian dialects). Võro was once spoken further south and east of historical Võromaa in South Estonian-speaking enclaves Lutsi, Leivu and Kraasna in what is now Latvia and Russia. In addition to Võro, other contemporary variants of South Estonian include the Mulgi, Tartu and Seto language or dialect.

One of the earliest written evidences of South Estonian is a translation of the New Testament (Wastne Testament) published in 1686. Although the status of South Estonian began to diminish after the 1880s, the language began to undergo a revival in the late 1980s.

Present situation[edit]

The majority of Estonians perceive the Võro language as a modern synonym for South Estonian.[10] Today, Võro is used in the works of some of Estonia's best-known playwrights, poets, and authors (Madis Kõiv, Ülle Kauksi, Jaan Kaplinski, Ain Kaalep, etc.). One newspaper is printed in Võro: the fortnightly Uma Leht (literally 'Our Own Newspaper'). 26 public schools offer weekly special (mostly extracurricular) classes in modern Võro.

Estonia's contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 was the song "Tii", which was performed by Neiokõsõ in Võro. The language is endangered[11] by standard Estonian due to the government's lack of legal commitment to protect the language.

Writing system[edit]

Võro employs the Latin script, like Estonian and Finnish.


Most letters (including ä, ö, ü, and õ) denote the same sounds as in Estonian, with a few exceptions. The letter q stands for the glottal stop /ʔ/ and y denotes /ɨ/, a vowel very close to Russian ы or Polish y (from 2005 written õ). The acute accent marks palatalization of consonants (like in Polish): ś, ń, ĺ, , , , ḿ, and so on.



Front Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i y ɨ u
Mid e ø ɤ o
Open æ ɑ

Vowel harmony[edit]

Võro has preserved the system of vowel harmony that was present in Proto-Finnic. This distinguishes it from Estonian and some other Finnic languages, which have lost it. The vowel harmony system resembles that of Finnish, but it preserves a notable archaism: e is not a neutral vowel, but appears only in front-vowel words, while õ is its counterpart in back-vowel words.


Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p pʲ t tʲ k kʲ ʔ
Affricate ts tsʲ
Nasal m mʲ n nʲ ŋ ŋʲ
Fricative f fʲ, v vʲ s sʲ h hʲ
Approximant l lʲ j
Trill r rʲ

All Võro consonants (except /j/ and /ʔ/) can be palatalized. The glottal stop (q, IPA [ʔ]) is a very common sound in Võro.

Differences among Võro, Estonian and Finnish[edit]

  • A significant difference between standard Estonian and the Võro language is vowel harmony. There is no vowel harmony in the majority of North Estonian dialects and standard Estonian, but it exists in the Võro and Finnish languages; compare:
Estonian Võro Finnish Meaning
küla külä kylä village
küsinud küsünüq kysynyt has asked
hõbedane hõbõhõnõ hopeinen silver
  • Some morphological features of the Võro language are considered to be very old. For instance the 3rd person singular of the indicative mood can be either without an ending or, alternatively, with a s-ending:
Estonian Võro Finnish Meaning
kirjutab kirotas kirjoittaa writes
annab and antaa gives

Among the Finnic languages, such double verb conjugation can be found only in the South Estonian and Karelian languages.

  • Võro has a negative particle that is appended to the end of the verb, whereas standard Estonian and Finnish have a negative verb, which precedes the verb. In Estonian and Finnish, the negative verb ei (Finnish en/et/ei/emme/ette/eivät) is used in both present and past negation, whereas in Võro the same is expressed by different particles ending with -i(q) or -s:
Estonian Võro Finnish Meaning
sa ei anna saq anna-aiq sinä et anna You don't give
ma ei tule maq tulõ-õiq minä en tule I don't come
sa ei andnud saq anna-as sinä et antanut You didn't give
ma ei tulnud maq tulõ-õs minä en tullut I didn't come
  • Differences in vocabulary between Estonian and the Võro language can be clearly seen in everyday speech (yet a common Estonian is able to understand most everyday Võro words, since many of them exist in Standard Estonian as dialectal synonyms for the words given or in literary language); many Võro words are closer to Finnish than to Estonian:
Estonian Võro Dialectal/literary Estonian Finnish Meaning
punane verrev verev (punainen) red
soe lämmi lämmi, lämbe lämmin warm
jahe oigõ - (haalea) cool, chilly
õde sõsar sõsar sisar sister
uus vahtsõnõ vastne (uusi) new
koer pini peni (koira) dog
pöial päss - (peukalo) thumb
pesema mõskma mõskma (pestä) to wash
tänavu timahavva - (tänä vuonna) this year
hunt susi susi susi wolf
mäger kähr - (mäyrä) badger
laupäev puulpäiv - (lauantai) Saturday
surema kuulma koolma kuolla to die
sõstar hõrak - herukka currant
kask kõiv kõiv koivu birch
nutma ikma itkema itkeä to weep
märkama rõbahtama - (huomata) to notice

Language example[edit]

An 1885 ABC-book in Võro language written by Johann Hurt: "Wastne Wõro keeli ABD raamat"

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Võro:

Kõik inemiseq sünnüseq avvo ja õiguisi poolõst ütesugumaidsis. Näile om annõt mudsu ja süämetunnistus ja nä piät ütstõõsõga vele muudu läbi käümä.

As comparison the same sentence in Standard Estonian:

Kõik inimesed sünnivad vabadena ja võrdsetena oma väärikuselt ja õigustelt. Neile on antud mõistus ja südametunnistus ja nende suhtumist üksteisesse peab kandma vendluse vaim.

In Finnish:

Kaikki ihmiset syntyvät vapaina ja tasavertaisina arvoltaan ja oikeuksiltaan. Heille on annettu järki ja omatunto, ja heidän on toimittava toisiaan kohtaan veljeyden hengessä.

Basic greetings[edit]

  • Tereq! – Hello! Good day!
  • (Tere) hummogust – Good morning
  • (Tere) õdagust – Good evening
  • Hääd üüd / hüvvä üüd – Good night
  • Näemiq – See you later
  • Hüvvä / hääd nägemist – Goodbye
  • Rõõm nätäq – Nice to meet you
  • Aiteh / Aitjumma – Thank you
  • Kuis lätt – How are you / How you doing?
  • Häste – I'm fine
  • Olõq terveq tulõmast! – Welcome!

Important words and phrases[edit]

  • jah / jaa – yes
  • ei – no
  • ma olõ – I am
  • maq, saq, tä – I, you, he/she
  • miiq, tiiq, nääq – we, you, they
  • seo – this, it
  • taa / tuu – that, it
  • muidoki – of course
  • Mul om – I have
  • Sul om – You have
  • Kas sul om? – do you have?
  • Mul olõ-õiq – I have not
  • üts, kats, kolm, neli, viis – one, two, three, four, five
  • kuus, säidse, katõsa, ütesä, kümme – six, seven, eight, nine, ten
  • sada, tuhat, mill'on – hundred, thousand, million
  • vabandust / pallõ andis – sorry or excuse me
  • vesi – water
  • Eesti – Estonia
  • Võromaa – Võro area
  • võro kiil – Võro language
  • võrokõnõ – Võro (person)
  • eestläne – Estonian (person)
  • saa-i arvo – I don't understand
  • saa arvo – (I) understand
  • Kas võro kiilt mõistat? – Do you understand Võro?
  • Kas inglüse kiilt kõnõlõt? – Do you speak English?
  • Ma olõ ingläne / ameeriklanõ / kanadalanõ / austraallanõ / vahtsõmeremaalanõ / iirläne / sotlanõ – I am English / American / Canadian / Australian / New Zealander / Irish / Scottish
  • Kon sa elät / kon ti elät? – Where do you live?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "EESTI EMAKEELEGA PÜSIELANIKUD MURDEKEELE OSKUSE JA SOO JÄRGI, 31. DETSEMBER 2011". Pub.stat.ee. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  2. ^ "Recent Events". Iub.edu. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  3. ^ "Päring LINGUAE andmebaasist. Keelte nimetused". Eki.ee. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  4. ^ "ISO 639 code sets". Sil.org. 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  5. ^ "Endangered languages in Europe and North Asia". Helsinki.fi. 1980-09-13. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  6. ^ Sulev Iva, Phd at Tartu University, (English summary pp 144–146). "Võru kirjakeele sõnamuutmissüsteem (Inflectional Morphology in the Võro Literary Language)". Dspace.utlib.ee. 
  7. ^ "Võro Instituut » Welcome!". Wi.ee. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  8. ^ "Võro Instituut » Võro language". Wi.ee. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  9. ^ "Võro language and alphabet". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  10. ^ Pajusalu, Karl (2009). "The reforming of the Southern Finnic language area. The Quasquicentennial of the Finno-Ugrian Society. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia = Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 258" (PDF). Helsinki. p. 95–107. 
  11. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Unesco.org. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ehala, Martin & Niglas, Katrin (2007): Empirical evaluation of a mathematical model of ethnolinguistic vitality: the case of Võro. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.
  • Eller, Kalle (1999): Võro-Seto language. Võro Instituut'. Võro.
  • Iva, Sulev; Pajusalu, Karl (2004): The Võro Language: Historical Development and Present Situation. In: Language Policy and Sociolinguistics I: "Regional Languages in the New Europe" International Scientific Conference; Rēzeknes Augstskola, Latvija; 20–23 May 2004. Rezekne: Rezekne Augstskolas Izdevnieceba, 2004, 58 – 63.
  • Iva, Sulev (2007): Võru kirjakeele sõnamuutmissüsteem (Inflectional Morphology in the Võro Literary Language). Dissertationes Philologiae Estonicae Universitatis Tartuensis 20, Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus (online: English summary pp 144–146) (PDF)
  • Iva, Sulev (pen name Jüvä Sullõv), (2002): Võro-eesti synaraamat (Võro-Estonian dictionary). Publications of Võro Institute 12. Tarto-Võro.
  • Keem, Hella (1997): Võru keel (Võro language). Võro Instituut ja Eesti teaduste akadeemia Emakeele selts. Tallinn.
  • Koreinik, Kadri (2007): The Võro language in education in Estonia. Regional dossiers series. Mercator. European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning (online: PDF).
  • Koreinik, Kadri; Pajusalu, Karl (2007): Language naming practices and linguistic identity in South-Eastern Estonia. – Language and Identity in the Finno-Ugric World. Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium at the University of Groningen, May 17–19, 2006. R. Blokland and C. Hasselblatt (eds). (Studia Fenno-Ugrica Groningana 4). Maastricht: Shaker.

External links[edit]