Veps language

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Veps
vepsän kel’
Native to Russia
Region Karelia, Ingria, Vologda Oblast, Veps National Volost
Ethnicity 5,900 Veps (2010 census)[1]
Native speakers
1,600  (2010 census)[1]
Uralic
Latin (Vepsian alphabet)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3 vep
Glottolog veps1250[3]

The Veps language (also known as Vepsian, natively as vepsän kel’, vepsän keli, or vepsä), spoken by the Vepsians (also known as Veps), belongs to the Finnic group of the Uralic languages. Closely related to Finnish and Karelian, Veps is also written using Latin script.

According to Soviet statistics, 12,500 people were self-designated ethnic Veps at the end of 1989.

According to the location of the people, the language is divided into three main dialects: Northern Veps (at Lake Onega to the south of Petrozavodsk, to the north of the river Svir, including the former Veps National Volost), Central Veps (in the Saint Petersburg region and Vologda Oblast), and Southern Veps (in the Saint Petersburg region). The Northern dialect seems the most distinct of the three; however, it is still mutually intelligible for speakers of Veps language. Speakers of the Northern dialect call themselves "Ludi" (lüdikad), or lüdilaižed.

In Russia, more than 350 children learn the Vepsian language in a total of 5 national schools.[4]

Classification and history[edit]

Veps is the easternmost surviving member of the Finnic languages. Having developed in relative isolation, the language lacks several features found in its relatives, such as consonant gradation and the length contrast in consonants. Original vowel length has mostly been lost as well (with the exception of Northern Veps, which retains ii and uu). At the same time, it retains a number of archaic features.

The closest relatives of Veps are Ludic and Livvi, which connect Veps to the wider Finnic dialect continuum.

Veps shows also characteristic innovations, such as the vocalization of original syllable-final *l, and the expansion of the local case system.

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[edit]

Consonant phonemes of Veps[5]
Labial Dental/
Alveolar
Post-
alveolar
/
Palatal
Velar Glottal
plain palat. plain palat. plain palat. plain palat.
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ ɡʲ
Affricate voiceless ts
voiced
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ
voiced v z ʒ h
Approximant l j
Trill r

Palatalization[edit]

In general, palatalizable consonants are palatalized allophonically before a front vowel. However, palatalized consonants also occur in other environments, especially word-finally or in word-final clusters.

There are some cases where the front vowel /i/ is preceded by a nonpalatalized consonant. In native Finnic vocabulary, this occurs where inflectional endings beginning with /i/ are attached to words with a stem ending in a nonpalatalized consonant. The consonant is not palatalized by /i/ in this case, but remains nonpalatalized by analogy with the other inflected forms. The vowel /i/ is backed to [ɨ] in this case, like in Russian, making it unclear whether the palatalization is a consequence of the front vowel, or the backing is the result of the lack of palatalization. Either analysis is possible.

Compare:

  • nor' /norʲ/ ("young"), genitive singular noren /norʲen/, partitive plural norid /norʲid/
  • nor /nor/ ("rope"), genitive singular noran /norɑn/, partitive plural norid /norid/ (or /norɨd/)

Russian loanwords have also introduced instances of nonpalatalized consonants followed by /i/, which are much more frequent in that language.

Vowels[edit]

Vowel phonemes of Veps[6]
Front Central Back
Unr. Rnd.
Close i y (ɨ) u
Mid e ø o
Open æ ɑ

The status of /ɨ/ is marginal; it occurs as an allophone of /i/ after a non-palatalised consonant. See above under "Palatalization" for more information. It does not occur in the first syllable of a word.

Vowel harmony[edit]

Veps has vowel harmony like many other Finnic languages do, but in a much more limited form. Words are split into back-vowel and front-vowel words based on which vowels they contain:

  • Back vowels: /ɑ/, /o/ and /u/
  • Front vowels: /æ/, /ø/ and /y/

However, the front vowels can only occur in the first two syllables of a word. In a third or later syllable, and also sometimes in the second syllable, they are converted to the corresponding back vowel. Thus, vowel harmony only applies (inconsistently) in the second syllable, and has been lost elsewhere. It is not applied for inflectional endings except in a few exceptional cases, but it is retained more frequently in derivational endings.

For example:

  • korged ("high", back-vowel harmony), genitive singular korktan, derived noun korktuz' ("height"); compare Finnish korkea, korkeus.
  • pimed ("dark", back-vowel harmony), genitive singular pimedan, derived noun pimeduz' ("darkness"); compare Finnish pimeä, pimeys.
  • hüvä ("good", front-vowel harmony), illative singular hüväha, derived noun hüvüz' ("goodness"); compare Finnish hyvään. hyvyys.
  • päiv ("day", front-vowel harmony), genitive singular päivän, illative singular päivhan; compare Finnish päivä, päivään.
  • ("head", back-vowel harmony), illative singular päha; compare Finnish päähän.
  • keza ("summer", back-vowel harmony); compare Finnish kesä.
  • vävu ("son-in-law", back-vowel harmony); compare Finnish vävy.
  • üldüda ("to rise", front-vowel harmony in second syllable, back-vowel in third); compare Finnish ylt.
  • küzuda ("to ask", back-vowel harmony); compare Finnish kys.

Orthography[edit]

The modern Vepsian alphabet is a Latin alphabet.[7] It consists of a total of twenty-nine characters: twenty-two are from the basic modern Latin alphabet, six are derived from basic Latin letters by the addition of diacritical marks, and the final character is the apostrophe, which signifies palatalization of the preceding sound.

Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
A B C Č D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S Š Z Ž T U V Ü Ä Ö '
Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b c č d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s š z ž t u v ü ä ö '

Veps orthography is largely phonemic, and represents each phoneme with one letter. Palatalized consonants are single phonemes and thus the combination of a letter and a following apostrophe is a single combined letter for this purpose. The following table shows the correspondences between letters and phonemes:

Letter Phoneme
a /ɑ/
b /b/
c /t͡s/, /t͡sʲ/
c' /t͡sʲ/
č /t͡ʃ/
d /d/, /dʲ/
d' /dʲ/
e /e/
f /f/
g /ɡ/, /ɡʲ/
g' /ɡʲ/
h /h/, /hʲ/
h' /hʲ/
i /i/ (sometimes [ɨ])
Letter Phoneme
j /j/
k /k/, /kʲ/
k' /kʲ/
l /l/, /lʲ/
l' /lʲ/
m /m/, /mʲ/
m' /mʲ/
n /n/, /nʲ/
n' /nʲ/
o /o/
p /p/, /pʲ/
p' /pʲ/
r /r/, /rʲ/
r' /rʲ/
Letter Phoneme
s /s/, /sʲ/
s' /sʲ/
š /ʃ/
z /z/, /zʲ/
z' /zʲ/
ž /ʒ/
t /t/, /tʲ/
t' /tʲ/
u /u/
v /v/, /vʲ/
v' /vʲ/
ü /y/
ä /æ/
ö /ø/

Palatalization of consonants before front vowels is not indicated in the orthography, so that plain consonant letters can represent both types of consonant depending on what vowel follows. For a following letter i this is ambiguous, however: it can be preceded by both types of consonants, as noted above in the phonology section. Whether a consonant before the letter i is palatalized or not cannot be determined from the orthography and must be learned for each word.

Grammar[edit]

A Soviet textbook for native speakers of Veps printed in the 1930s.

Veps is an agglutinating language, like other Finnic languages. The preservation of the Proto-Finnic weak-grade consonants *d and *g in all positions, along with the loss of consonant gradation, has made Veps morphology relatively simple compared to the other Finnic languages. There are less different inflectional classes, and inflections of nominals and verbs alike can be predicted from only a few basic principal parts.

Nouns[edit]

Veps has 23 grammatical cases, more than other Finnic languages. It preserves the basic set of Finnic cases shared by most Finnic languages, including the six locative cases. However, several more cases have been added that generally have no counterpart in the others.

Case Singular
ending
Plural
ending
Meaning/use
Basic/grammatical cases
Nominative -d Subject, object of imperative
Accusative -n -d Complete (telic) object
Genitive -n -iden Possession, relation
Partitive -d, -t (-da) -id Partial object, indefinite amount
Interior ("in") locative cases
Inessive -s (-š) -iš In, inside
Illative -hV, -ze (-že) -ihe In, into
Elative -späi (-špäi) -išpäi Out of
Exterior ("on") locative cases
Adessive -l -il On, upon, on top of
Allative -le (-lle) -ile Onto
Ablative -lpäi -ilpäi Off, from (top, surface)
Approximate ("at, near") locative cases
Approximative I -nno -idenno At, by, near
Approximative II -nnoks -idennoks To, towards
Egressive -nnopäi -idennopäi From
Terminative (?) locative cases
Terminative I -hVsai -ihesai Till, until, up to
Terminative II -lesai (-llesai) -ilesai  ?
Terminative III -ssai (-ššai?) From?
Additive (?) locative cases
Additive I -hVpäi -ihepäi In the direction of, towards
Additive II -lepäi (-llepäi) -ilepäi  ?
Other cases
Essive-instructive -n -in Being, acting as, with, by means of
Translative -ks (-kš) -ikš Becoming, turning into
Abessive -ta -ita Without, lacking
Comitative -nke -idenke With, in company of, in combination with
Prolative -dme, -tme (-dame) -idme  ?

Notes:

  1. "V" indicates a copy of whatever vowel the genitive singular stem ends with, replacing a i, ä, ö, ü with e, a, o, u. For example, for the illative singular: mecan > mecha, noren > norehe, pöudon > pöudho, pän > päha. Note that the stem-final vowel itself can disappear in these forms, but the rule applies the same.
  2. In endings beginning with s or z or a group of consonants containing s or z, this changes to š/ž if the last preceding vowel is i. This always occurs in the plural forms.
  3. The partitive, allative, terminative II, additive II and prolative singular cases have longer endings that are used with a few frequently-used pronouns, ken "who" and mi "what".

Nouns have four principal parts, which all other forms can be derived from by replacing the endings:

  • Nominative singular: Forms no other forms.
  • Partitive singular: Forms the prolative singular. Can usually be formed from the genitive singular by replacing -n with -d, but some words have an unpredictable form with -t and a different stem.
  • Genitive singular: When -n is removed, forms all remaining singular forms, and the nominative and accusative plural.
  • Illative singular: Forms the illative, terminative I and additive I singular. The illative singular is predictably formed from the genitive singular stem, so it's not a principal part as such.
  • Partitive plural: When -d is removed, forms all remaining plural forms.

The illative singular stem is the same as the genitive singular stem, except that the final vowel is dropped in some cases. This occurs if both of these is the case:

  1. The nominative singular does not end in a vowel.
  2. There is no contraction of a syllable in the genitive singular stem (compared to the nominative stem), e.g. nom sg vauged > gen sg vauktan (contraction -ged > -kt-), nom sg lambaz > gen sg lambhan (contraction -az > -h-).

Thus:

  • nom sg vezi > gen sg veden > ill sg vedehen (neither rule applies, vowel retained)
  • nom sg vauged > gen sg vauktan > ill sg vauktaha (only rule 1 applies, vowel retained)
  • nom sg kaste > gen sg kastken > ill sg kastkehe (only rule 2 applies, vowel retained)
  • nom sg nor' > gen sg noren > ill sg norhe (both rules apply, vowel dropped)

If the genitive singular stem has h before the final vowel, then the ending -ze (-že after i) is used, and the vowel is never dropped:

  • nom sg veneh > gen sg venehen > ill sg veneheze
  • nom sg lambaz > gen sg lambhan > ill sg lambhaze

Adjectives[edit]

Verbs[edit]

Pronouns[edit]

The personal pronouns are of Finno-Ugric origin:

Veps English
minä I
sinä you
hän he/she/it
we
you (plural)
they

Numbers[edit]

Number Veps
1 üks'
2 kaks'
3 koume
4 nel'l'
5 viž
6 kuz'
7 seičeme
8 kahesa
9 ühesa
10 kümne
11 üks'toštkümne
12 kaks'toštkümne
20 kaks'kümne
34 koumekümne nel'l'
100 sada
1000 tuha

Language example[edit]

Road sign in Shyoltozero in Russian and Veps.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Kaik mehed sünduba joudajin i kohtaižin, ühtejiččin ičeze arvokahudes i oiktusiš. Heile om anttud mel’ i huiktusentund i heile tariž kožuda toine toiženke kut vel’l’kundad.[8]
(English version: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood).[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Veps at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Законодательные акты: О государственной поддержке карельского, вепсского и финского языков в Республике Карелия
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Veps". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ http://gov.karelia.ru/News/2004/12/1209_03_e.html
  5. ^ Грамматика вепсского языка (page 24), M. I. Zaitseva, 1981
  6. ^ Грамматика вепсского языка (page 17), M. I. Zaitseva, 1981
  7. ^ "The government of the Republic of Karelia approved the Veps language alphabet". Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  8. ^ "Mehen oiktuziden ühthine deklaracii" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  9. ^ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Retrieved 2010-06-01. 

External links[edit]