Veps language

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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]
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.


Veps is an agglutinating language.


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

There are 23 grammatical cases: more than in other Finnic languages.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative nado (sister-in-law) nadod
Genitive nadon nadoiden
Accusative nadon nadod
Partitive nadod nadoid
Translative nadoks nadoikš
Abessive nadota nadoita
Comitative nadonke nadoidenke
Inessive nados nadoiš
Elative nadospäi nadoišpäi
Illative nadoho nadoihe
Adessive nadol nadoil
Ablative nadolpäi nadoilpäi
Allative nadole nadoile
Essive-Instructive nadon nadoin
Prolative nadodme nadoidme
Approximative I nadonno nadoidenno
Approximative II nadonnoks nadoidennoks
Egressive nadonnopäi nadoidennopäi
Terminative I mechasai 'till the forest' mecoihesai 'till the forests'
Terminative II nadolesai nadoilesai
Terminative III noressai 'from young days' --
Additive I mechapäi 'in the direction of the forest' mecoihepäi 'in the direction of the forests'
Additive II nadolepäi nadoilepäi

Personal pronouns[edit]

The personal pronouns are of Finno-Ugric origin:

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


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

Writing system[edit]

The modern Vepsian alphabet is a Latin alphabet.[5] 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 '

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.[6]
(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).[7]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]