Lule Sámi

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Lule Sámi
Native toNorway, Sweden
Native speakers
650 (2015)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2smj
ISO 639-3smj
ELPLule Saami
Lule Sami language area (red) within Sápmi (grey)
As of 2010, Lule Saami was classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Lule Sámi (Lule Sami: Julevsámegiella, Norwegian: Lulesamisk, Swedish: Lulesamiska) is a Uralic, Sámi language spoken around the Lule River, Sweden, and in the northern parts of Nordland county in Norway, especially the Hamarøy (formerly Tysfjord) municipality, where Lule Sámi is an official language. It is written in the Latin script, having an official alphabet.


The language was originally only spoken around the Lule River, in Sweden. During the 18th century some Sámi migrated to Nordland in Norway, and their descendants still live in Norway, and speak Lule Sámi.[3] The first book written in Lule Sámi, Hålaitattem Ristagasa ja Satte almatja kaskan, was published in 1839 by Lars Levi Læstadius.[3]


With 650 speakers, it is the second largest of all Sámi languages. It is reported that the number of native speakers is in sharp decline among the younger generations[citation needed]. The language has, however, been standardised in 1983 and elaborately cultivated ever since.



Some analyses of Lule Sámi phonology may include preaspirated stops and affricates (/hp/, /ht/, /ht͡s/, /ht͡ʃ/, /hk/) and pre-stopped or pre-glottalised nasals (voiceless /pm/, /tn/, /tɲ/, /kŋ/ and voiced /bːm/, /dːn/, /dːɲ/, /gːŋ/). However, these can be treated as clusters for the purpose of phonology, since they are clearly composed of two segments and only the first of these lengthens in quantity 3. The terms "preaspirated" and "pre-stopped" will be used in this article to describe these combinations for convenience.

Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive /
voiceless p t t͡s t͡ʃ k
voiced b d d͡z d͡ʒ ɟ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced v
Semivowel j
Lateral l ʎ
Trill r
  • Stops before a homorganic nasal (pre-stopped nasals) are realised as unreleased stops.
  • /v/ is realised as a labiodental fricative [v] in the syllable onset (before a vowel), and as bilabial [w] in the syllable coda (in a consonant cluster).


Lule Sámi possesses the following vowels:

Short vowels Long vowels Diphthongs
Front Back Front Back Front Back
Close i u ie̯ uo̯
Mid e o ea̯ oɑ̯
Open a
  • /ea̯/ can be realised as a true diphthong, or a long monophthong [ɛː].
  • Long /eː/ and the diphthongs /ea̯/ and /oɑ̯/ occur only in stressed syllables.
  • Long /iː/ and /uː/ are very rare, as is short /e/. They also only occur in stressed syllables.
  • Short /o/ and long /oː/ can occur in unstressed syllables, but only when a preceding stressed syllable contains /o/.

Consonant length and gradation[edit]

Consonants, including clusters, that occur after a stressed syllable can occur in multiple distinctive length types, or quantities. These are conventionally labelled quantity 1, 2 and 3 or Q1, Q2 and Q3 for short. The consonants of a word alternate in a process known as consonant gradation, where consonants appear in different quantities depending on the specific grammatical form. Normally, one of the possibilities is named the strong grade, while the other is named weak grade. The consonants of a weak grade are normally quantity 1 or 2, while the consonants of a strong grade are normally quantity 2 or 3.

  • Quantity 1 includes any single consonant. It originates from Proto-Samic single consonants in the weak grade.
  • Quantity 2 includes any combination of consonants (including two of the same) with a short consonant in the coda of the preceding syllable. It originates from Proto-Samic single consonants in the strong grade, as well as combinations of two consonants in the weak grade.
  • Quantity 3 includes any combination of consonants (including two of the same) with a long consonant in the coda of the preceding syllable. It originates from Proto-Samic combinations of two consonants in the strong grade.

Throughout this article and related articles, consonants that are part of different syllables are written with two consonant letters in IPA, while the lengthening of consonants in quantity 3 is indicated with an IPA length mark (ː).

Not all consonants can occur in every quantity type. The following limitations exist:

  • Single /h/ is restricted to quantity 1, and does not alternate.
  • Single /j/ is also restricted to quantity 1, but alternates with /ɟ/.
  • Voiced stops and affricates only occur in quantity 3, except for /ɟ/ which can also occur in quantity 2.
  • /ʎ/ occurs in quantity 2 and 3, but not in quantity 1.

When a consonant can occur in all three quantities, quantity 3 is termed "overlong".

Phonological processes[edit]


Umlaut is a process whereby a diphthong in a stressed syllable changes depending on the vowel in the next syllable.

The first type of umlaut causes an alternation between /ea̯/ and /ie̯/ in words whose stems end with unstressed /ie̯/. For such words, these two diphthongs can be considered variants of each other, while in words whose stems end with another vowel, these vowels remain distinct. The following table shows the different patterns that occur with different following vowels:

Second vowel uo̯ ie̯ a u i
Stem ends in /ie̯/ ea̯ ie̯ ea̯ ie̯
Stem ends in another vowel ea̯ ea̯
Stem ends in another vowel ie̯ ie̯

The second type of umlaut, called "diphthong simplification" or "monophthongization", is similar to its Northern Sami counterpart, but works differently. The diphthongs /ea̯/ and /oɑ̯/ become /eː/ and /oː/ respectively, if:

  • The vowel in the next syllable is short (thus including also /a/), and
  • The following consonant is quantity 1 or 2.

The diphthongs /ie̯/ and /uo̯/ are unaffected. The reverse process also occurs, turning the long vowels back into diphthongs if the consonant becomes quantity 3 or the vowel in the next syllable becomes long.

The third type of umlaut, progressive umlaut, works in the other direction. It causes the unstressed vowels /a/ and /aː/ to be rounded to /o/ and /oː/ respectively, if the preceding stressed vowel is short /o/.

Unstressed vowel lengthening[edit]

If a stressed syllable contains a short vowel followed by a single (quantity 1) consonant, then a short vowel in the following syllable is lengthened.

  • dahkat "to do" ~ dagá (1st p. sg. present)
  • bådnjåt "to twist" ~ bånjå̄ (1st p. sg. present)


Sammallahti[4] divides Lule Sámi dialects as follows:

Features of the northern dialects of Lule Sámi are:

  • Long /aː/ is also rounded to /oː/ after /o/ in a first syllable.

Features of the southern dialects of Lule Sámi are:

  • Umlaut of short /a/ to /e/ before /i/.


The orthography used for Lule Sámi is written using an extended form of the Latin script.

Letter Phoneme(s) Notes
A a /a/
Á á /aː/
B b /p/, /b/
D d /t/, /d/
E e /eː/, /ie̯/ /ie̯/ when unstressed.
F f /f/
G g /k/, /ɡ/
H h /h/
I i /i/
J j /j/
K k /k/, /kʰ/ Postaspirated at the beginning of a stressed syllable.
L l /l/
M m /m/
N n /n/
Ŋ ŋ /ŋ/
O o /uo̯/ Only unstressed.
P p /p/, /pʰ/ Postaspirated at the beginning of a stressed syllable.
R r /r/
S s /s/
T t /t/, /tʰ/ Postaspirated at the beginning of a stressed syllable.
U u /u/
V v /v/
Å å /o/, /oː/
Ä ä /ea̯/
/oɑ̯/ Only stressed.
/e/ Only stressed.

Traditionally, the character Ń has been used to represent /ŋ/. In place of n-acute (available in Unicode and mechanical type writers, but not in Latin-1 or traditional Nordic keyboards), many have used ⟨ñ⟩ or even ⟨ng⟩. In modern orthography, such as in the official publications of the Swedish government and the recently published translation of the New Testament, it is usually replaced with ŋ, in accordance with the orthography of many other Sámi languages.



Lule Sámi has seven cases:


Like the other Uralic languages, the nominative singular is unmarked and indicates the subject of a predicate. The nominative plural is also unmarked and is always formally the same as the genitive singular.


The genitive singular is unmarked and looks the same as the nominative plural. The genitive plural is marked by a-j. The genitive is used:

  • to indicate possession
  • with prepositions
  • with postpositions.


The accusative is the direct object case and it is marked with -v in the singular. In the plural, its marker is -t, which is preceded by the plural marker -j.


The inessive marker is -n in the singular and the plural, when it is then preceded by the plural marker -j. This case is used to indicate:

  • where something is
  • who has possession of something


The illative marker is -j in the singular and -da in the plural, which is preceded by the plural marker -i, making it look the same as the plural accusative. This case is used to indicate:

  • where something is going
  • who is receiving something
  • the indirect object


The elative marker is -s in the singular and the plural, when it is then preceded by the plural marker -j. This case is used to indicate:

  • where something is coming from


The comitative marker in the singular is -jn and -j in the plural, which means that it looks like the genitive plural. The comitative is used to state with whom or what something was done.


The personal pronouns have three numbers - singular, plural and dual. The following table contains personal pronouns in the nominative and genitive/accusative cases.

  English nominative English genitive
First person (singular) I mån my muv
Second person (singular) you (thou) dån your, yours duv
Third person (singular) he, she sån his, her suv
First person (dual) we (two) måj our munnu
Second person (dual) you (two) dåj your dunnu
Third person (dual) they (two) såj theirs sunnu
First person (plural) we mij our mijá
Second person (plural) you dij your dijá
Third person (plural) they sij their sijá

The next table demonstrates the declension of a personal pronoun he/she (no gender distinction) in various cases:

  Singular Dual Plural
Nominative sån såj sij
Genitive suv sunnu sijá
Accusative suv sunnuv sijáv
Inessive sujna sunnun siján
Illative sunji sunnuj sidjij
Elative sujsta sunnus sijás
Comitative sujna sunnujn sijájn



Lule Sámi verbs conjugate for three grammatical persons:

  • first person
  • second person
  • third person


Lule Sámi has five grammatical moods:

Grammatical number[edit]

Lule Sámi verbs conjugate for three grammatical numbers:


Lule Sámi verbs have two simple tenses:

and two compound tenses:

Verbal nouns[edit]

Negative verb[edit]

Lule Sámi, like Finnish, the other Sámi languages, and some Estonian dialects, has a negative verb. In Lule Sámi, the negative verb conjugates according to tense (past and non-past), mood (indicative, imperative and optative), person (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and number (singular, dual and plural).

Imperative Optative
1st singular iv ittjiv
2nd singular i ittji ale allu
3rd singular ij ittjij allis allus
1st dual en ejma allon allun
2nd dual ähppe ejda al'le alluda
3rd dual äbá ejga alliska alluska
1st plural ep ejma allop allup
2nd plural ehpit ejda allit allut
3rd plural e ettjin allisa allusa


  1. ^ "Fant hemmelighetene i lulesamenes språk" [Found the secrets in the language of the Lule Sami]. Forskning (in Norwegian).
  2. ^ "To which languages does the Charter apply?". European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Council of Europe. p. 3. Archived from the original on 2013-12-27. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  3. ^ a b Andersen, Oddmund (6 February 2023) [14 February 2009]. "lulesamer" [Lule Sámis]. Great Norwegian Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ Sammallahti, Pekka (1998). The Saami Languages: An Introduction. Kárášjohka: Davvi Girji.


  • Grundström, Harald: Lulelappisches Wörterbuch
  • Kintel, Anders 1991: Syntaks og ordavledninger i lulesamisk. Kautokeino : Samisk utdanningsråd.
  • Spiik, Nils-Erik 1989: Lulesamisk grammatik. Jokkmokk: Sameskolstyrelsen. ISBN 91-7716-019-3
  • Wiklund, K.B. 1890: Lule-lappisches Wörterbuch. Helsinki: Suomalais-ugrilaisen seuran toimituksia ; 1

External links[edit]