Ingrian phonology

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Distribution of the Ingrian language by 2007 (shown in blue).

Ingrian is a nearly extinct Finnic language of Russia. The spoken language remains unstandardised, and as such statements below are about the four known dialects of Ingrian (Ala-Laukaa, Hevaha, Soikkola and Ylä-Laukaa) and in particular the two extant dialects (Ala-Laukaa and Soikkola).

The written forms are, if possible, based on the written language (referred to as kirjakeeli, "book language") introduced by the Ingrian linguist Väinö Junus [fi] in the late 1930s. Following 1937's mass repressions in the Soviet Union, the written language was abolished and ever since, Ingrian does not have a (standardised) written language.


The following chart shows the monophthongs present in the Ingrian language:

Ingrian vowel phonemes[1]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i /i/ y /y/ /ɨ/) u /u/
Mid e /e/ ö /ø/ o /o/
Open ä /æ/ a /ɑ/
  • The vowel /ɨ/ is only present in the stressed syllable of some Russian loanwords, like rьbakka ("fisher"); this vowel has been replaced by /i/ in some dialects.[1]

All vowels can occur as both short ( e i ɨ ø y ɑ o u/) and long (/æː ɨː øː ɑː uː/). The long vowel /ɨː/ is extremely rare, occurring in borrowed words like rььžoi ("red-haired"). The vowels /eː øː oː/ are often realised as either diphthongs ([ie̯ yø̯ uo̯]) or diphthongoids ([i̯eː y̯øː u̯oː]) and in some dialects even as [iː uː].[1]


Besides the diphthongs that arise due to diphthongisation of the long mid vowels ([ie̯ yø̯ uo̯]), Ingrian has a wide range of phonemic diphthongs, present in both dialects:

Ingrian diphthongs[2][3]
-i -u -i -y
a- ai /ɑi̯/ au /ɑu̯/ ä- äi /æi̯/ äy /æy̯/
i- iu /iu̯/
e- ei /ei̯/ eu /eu̯/
o- oi /oi̯/ ou /ou̯/ ö- öi /øi̯/ öy /øy̯/
u- ui /ui̯/ y- yi /yi̯/

Ingrian has only one falling phonemic diphthong, (/iæ̯/), which is only present in the personal pronouns miä ("I") and siä ("you", singular).

Vowel reduction[edit]

Vowel reduction is a very common feature of the Ala-Laukaa dialect, and is to a very restricted extent also present in Soikkola. The term refers to the process of acoustically weakening the unstressed vowels.

In Soikkola, vowel reduction is restricted to the vowels a and ä; These vowels are sometimes reduced to [ə], but mostly in quick speech, making it a purely phonetic feature:[1]

linna /ˈlinːɑ/ [ˈlinːə] ("city")
ilma /ˈilmɑ/ [ˈiɫmə] ("weather")

In Ala-Laukaa, this process is much more common. In open final syllables, the vowels æ e/ are reduced to [ə], the other vowels (/i ø y o u/) are simply shortened ( ø̆ ŏ ŭ]). The process of reducing vowels is contrastive in Ala-Laukaa:[4]

linna /ˈlinːə/ ("city", NOM) linnaa /ˈlinːɑ/ ("city", PTV)

In a closed final syllable, the reduction of the vowel /e/ is much more uncommon, and occurs primarily in polysyllabic words. In words with three syllables and a long third syllable (in the form CVV), the penultimate syllable will reduce in the same way as described above. In three-syllable words with a short final syllable (in the form (C)CV), however, any short vowel in the second syllable will be reduced to [ə]. In polysyllabic words, reduction of the even syllables doesn't occur after short syllables.

The reduced vowels in Ala-Laukaa Ingrian can further experience deletion:[1]

istuisi ("he/she sat down") [ˈistŭ] ~ [ˈistŭ] ~ [ˈistŭ]

Vowel harmony[edit]

A diagram illustrating Ingrian vowel groups.

Ingrian, just like its closest relatives Finnish and Karelian, has the concept of vowel harmony. The principle of this morphophonetic phenomenon is that vowels in a word consisting of one root are all either front or back. As such, no native words can have any of the vowels {a, o, u} together with any of the vowels {ä, ö, y}.[2][5]

To harmonise formed words, any suffix containing one of these six vowels have two separate forms: a front vowel form and a back vowel form. Compare the following two words, formed using the suffix -kas: liivakas ("sandy") from liiva ("sand") and käs ("elderly") from ikä ("age").[2][5]

The vowels {e, i} are considered neutral and can co-occur with both types of vowels. However, stems with these vowels are always front vowel harmonic: kivekäs ("rocky") from kivi ("rock").[2]

Compound words don't have to abide by the rules of vowel harmony, since they consist of two stems: rantakivi ("coastal stone") from ranta ("coast") + kivi ("stone").[2]


The consonantal phonology of Ingrian varies greatly among dialects. For example, while Soikkola Ingrian misses the voiced-unvoiced distinction, it has a three-way consonant length distinction, missing in the Ala-Laukaa dialect.[1]

Soikkola dialect[edit]

Consonant inventory of Soikkola
Labial Dental Postalveolar/
Velar Glottal
Plosive p, b /p/ t, d /t/ k, g /k/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ [ŋ]
Fricative f /f/ s, z /s/ [x] h /h/
Lateral l /l/
Trill r /r/
Affricate ts /t͡s/ c /t͡ʃ/
Approximant v /ʋ/ j /j/
  • The velar nasal [ŋ] is a form of /n/ occurring before the plosive /k/ (written ⟨nk⟩).
  • The velar fricative [x] is a (half-)long version of /h/ (written ⟨hh⟩).
  • Common realisations of /s/ are [ʃ] (in most subdialects) and [s̠] (in some subdialects).[6]
  • /t͡ʃ/ is most commonly realised as the palatalised [t͡ɕ]
  • /t͡s/ may be realised as the consonant cluster [ts̠].

Consonant length[edit]

In the Soikkola dialect, consonants have a three-way distinction in length. Geminates can be either short (1.5 times the length of a short consonant) or long (twice the length of a short consonant):[4]

tapa /ˈtɑpɑ/ ("manner" NOM)
tappaa /ˈtɑɑː/ ("he/she catches" also: "manner" PTV)
tappaa /ˈtɑɑː/ ("to kill")

A similar phenomenon can be observed in the related Estonian language.

A word with the underlying structure *(C)VCVCV(C) is geminated to (C)VCˑVːCV(C) in the Soikkola dialect:

omena /ˈomˑeːnɑ/ ("apple" NOM; respelled ommeena)
omenan /ˈomˑeːnɑn/ ("apple" GEN; respelled ommeenan)
orava /ˈorˑɑːʋɑ/ ("squirrel" NOM; respelled orraava)

This rule however does not apply to forms that are underlyingly tetrasyllabic:

omenaal (< *omenalla) /ˈomenɑːl/ ("apple" ADE)
omenaks (< *omenaksi) /ˈomenɑːks/ ("apple" TRANSL)

Consonant voicing[edit]

The Soikkola dialect also exhibits a phonetic three-way voicing distinction for plosives and the sibilant:

  • Intervocalically, short (ungeminated) consonants, when followed by a short vowel, are generally realised as semi-voiced, so [b̥], [d̥], [ɡ̊] and [ʒ̊] for /p/, /t/, /k/ and /s/ respectively:[4][7]
    poika /ˈpoi̯kɑ/, [ˈpoi̯ɡ̊ɑ]
    poikaa /ˈpoi̯kɑː/, [ˈpoi̯kɑː]
  • When preceding a hiatus, word-final consonants are also semi-voiced. When not, voicing assimilation occurs, resulting in voiced consonants ([b], [d], [ɡ], [ʒ]) before voiced consonants and vowels, and voiceless consonants ([p], [t], [k], [ʃ]) before voiceless consonants:[4][7]
    pojat /ˈpojɑt/, [ˈpojɑd̥]
    pojat nooret /ˈpojɑt ˈnoːret/, [ˈpojɑd‿ˈnoːred̥]
    pojat suuret /ˈpojɑt ˈsuːret/, [ˈpojɑt‿ˈʃuːred̥]
    pojat ovat /ˈpojɑt ˈoʋɑt/, [ˈpojɑd‿ˈoʋɑd̥]
  • Word-initially, plosives and sibilants are generally voiceless. Some speakers, however, may pronounce Russian loanwords, deriving from Russian words with a word-initial voiced plosive, with a voiced initial consonant:[4]
    bocka [ˈpot͡ɕkɑ] ~ [ˈbot͡ɕkɑ]; compare also pocka [ˈpot͡ɕkɑ]

Nasal assimilation[edit]

A word-final dental nasal (/n/) assimilates to the following stop and nasal:[7]

meehen poika [ˈmeːhem‿ˈpoi̯ɡ̊ɑ]
meehen koira [ˈmeːheŋ‿ˈkoi̯rɑ]
kanan muna [ˈkɑnɑm‿ˈmunɑ]

Some speakers also assimilate word-final /n/ to a following liquid, glottal fricative or bilabial approximant:[7]

meehen laps [ˈmeːhel‿lɑps]
joen ranta [ˈjoer‿rɑnd̥a]
miul on vene [ˈmiul oʋ‿ˈʋene]
varis on harmaa [ˈʋɑriz ox‿ˈxɑrmɑː]

Ala-Laukaa dialect[edit]

Consonant inventory of Ala-Laukaa
Labial Dental Postalveolar/
Velar Glottal
Plosive p /p/ b /b/ t /t/ d /d/ k /k/ g /ɡ/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ /ŋ/
Fricative f /f/ s /s/ z /z/ š /ʃ/ ž /ʒ/ h /h/
Lateral l /l/
Trill r /r/
Affricate ts /t͡s/ c /t͡ʃ/
Approximant v /ʋ/ j /j/
  • The velar nasal /ŋ/ only appears before the plosive /k/ (written ⟨nk⟩) or /ɡ/ (written ⟨ng⟩)
  • /t͡s/ may be realised as the consonant cluster [ts].
  • /t͡s/ sometimes corresponds to Soikkola /t͡ʃ/ and is thus written ⟨c⟩: compare mancikka (Soikkola /ˈmɑnt͡ʃikːɑ/, Ala-Laukaa /ˈmɑnt͡sikːə/).


In the Ala-Laukaa dialect, phonetic palatalisation of consonants in native words occurs first of all before the vowels {y, i} and the approximant /j/:[1]

tyttö ytːø̆] ("girl"); compare Soikkola tytːøi̯] and Standard Finnish yt̪ːø̞].

The palatalised /t/ and /k/ may both be realised as [c] by some speakers. Furthermore, palatalisation before /y(ː)/ and /i(ː)/ that have developed from an earlier */ø/ or */e/ respectively is rare:

töö tøː] ~ tyø̯] ~ tyː] ("you (plural)")

The cluster ⟨lj⟩ is realised as a long palatalised consonant in the Ala-Laukaa dialect:[7]

neljä [ˈnelʲː(ə)] ("four"); compare Soikkola [ˈneljæ]
paljo [ˈpɑlʲːŏ] ("many"); compare Soikkola [ˈpɑljo]
kiljua [ˈkilʲːo] ("to shout"); compare Standard Finnish [ˈkiljuɑ]

These same phenomena are noticed in the extinct Ylä-Laukaa dialect:[7]

tyttö ytːøi̯] ("girl")
neljä [ˈnelʲːæ] ("four")

Sibilant voicing[edit]

At the end of a word, the sibilant ⟨s⟩ is voiced:

lammas [ˈlɑmːəz] ("sheep")
mees [ˈmeːz] ("man")

Like in the Soikkola dialect, when preceding a word beginning with a voiceless stop, this sibilant is again devoiced:

lammas pellool [ˈlɑmːəs‿ˈpelolː(ə)]
mees kyläs [ˈmeːs‿ˈkylæsː(ə)]



Stress in Ingrian falls on the first syllable in native words, but may be shifted in loanwords. An exception is the word paraikaa (/pɑrˈɑi̯kɑː/, "now"), where the stress falls on the second syllable. Secondary stress falls on odd-numbered syllables or occurs as a result of compounding and isn't phonemic.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h N. V. Kuznetsova (2009). Фонологические системы Ижорских диалектов [The phonological systems of the Ingrian dialects]. Institute for Linguistic Studies (dissertation).
  2. ^ a b c d e V. I. Junus (1936). Iƶoran Keelen Grammatikka [The grammar of the Ingrian language]. Riikin Ucebno-pedagogiceskoi Izdateljstva.
  3. ^ A. Laanest (1966). "Ижорский Язык". Финно-Угорские и Самодийские языки. Языки народов мира. pp. 102–117.
  4. ^ a b c d e N. V. Kuznetsova (2015). "Две фонологические редкости Ижорского языка" [Two phonological rarities of the Ingrian language]. Acta Linguistica Petropolitana. XI (2).
  5. ^ a b c O. I. Konkova; N. A. D'jachinkov (2014). Inkeroin Keel: Пособие по Ижорскому Языку. Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography .
  6. ^ F. I. Rozhanskij (2010). "Ижорский язык: Проблема определения границ в условиях языкового континуума". Вопросы языкознания: 74–93. ISSN 0373-658X.
  7. ^ a b c d e f R. E. Nirvi (1971). Inkeroismurteiden sanakirja [Dictionary of the Ingrian dialects].