Northern Sami

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Northern Sami
Region Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia
Native speakers
ca. 25,000 (1992–2013)[1]
Latin (Northern Sami alphabet)
Northern Sami Braille
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Finland; Norway; Sweden[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-1 se
ISO 639-2 sme
ISO 639-3 sme
Glottolog nort2671[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Northern or North Sami (davvisámegiella; disapproved exonym Lappish or Lapp), sometimes also simply referred to as Sami, is the most widely spoken of all Sami languages. The speaking area of Northern Sami covers the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The number of Northern Sami speakers is estimated to be somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000. About 2,000 of these live in Finland[4] and between 5,000 and 6,000 in Sweden.[5]


A page from the 1638 edition of Svenske och Lappeske ABC Book with the Lord's Prayer in what is believed to be Northern Sami

Among the first printed Sami texts is Svenske och Lappeske ABC Book ("Swedish and Lappish ABC book"), written in Swedish and what is likely a form of Northern Sami. It was published in two editions in 1638 and 1640 and includes 30 pages of prayers and confessions of Protestant faith. It has been described as the first book "with a regular Sami language form".[6]

Northern Sami was first described by Knud Leem (En lappisk Grammatica efter den Dialect, som bruges af Field-Lapperne udi Porsanger-Fiorden) in 1748 and in dictionaries in 1752 and 1768. One of Leem's fellow grammaticians was Anders Porsanger, who studied at the Trondheim Cathedral School and other schools, but who was unable to publish his work on Sami due to racist attitudes at the time. Unfortunately, the majority of his work has disappeared.


The roots of the current orthography for Northern Sami were laid by Rasmus Rask who, after discussions with Nils Vibe Stockfleth, published Ræsonneret lappisk sproglære efter den sprogart, som bruges af fjældlapperne i Porsangerfjorden i Finmarken. En omarbejdelse af Prof. Knud Leems Lappiske grammatica in 1832. Rask opted for a phonemic orthographic system. All of the orthographies that have been used for Northern Sami trace their roots back to Rask's system, unlike the orthographies used for Lule and Southern Sami, which are mainly based on the orthographical conventions of Swedish and Norwegian. Following in the tradition of Rask meant that diacritics were used with some consonants (č, đ, ŋ, š, ŧ and ž), which caused data-processing problems before Unicode was introduced. Both Stockfleth and J. A. Friis went on to publish grammar books and dictionaries for Sami. It can be said that Northern Sami was better described than Norwegian was before Ivar Aasen published his grammar on Norwegian.


Northern Sami was and is used in three countries, each of which used its own orthography for years. Friis' orthography was used when work on translating the Bible into Northern Sami commenced, in the first Sami newspaper called Saǥai Muittalægje, and in the Finnemisjonen's own newspaper Nuorttanaste. The groundwork for Northern Sami lexicography was laid by Konrad Nielsen who used an orthography of his own creation in his dictionary Lappisk ordbok. Starting in 1948, the orthographies used in Norway and Sweden were combined into a single Bergsland-Ruong orthography. It was not greatly used in Norway. In addition, the authorities there instituted a policy that prohibited Sami from being used in practice.

In Sweden, classes were taught in Sami in the Sami schools, as the policy of Lapp ska vara lapp (Sami should be a Sami) was applied to those reindeer herders with the intention of keeping them separated from larger society. In 1979, an official orthography for Northern Sami was adopted for use in Norway, Sweden and Finland.


Area number 5 illustrates the approximate distribution of Northern Sami in northern Scandinavia.
Trilingual border sign (Finnish, Swedish and Northern Sami) on the E8 road at the border between Norway and Finland, at Kilpisjärvi, Finland

The mass mobilization during the Alta controversy as well as a more tolerant political environment caused a change to the Norwegian policy of assimilation during the last decades of the twentieth century. In Norway, Northern Sami is currently an official language of two counties (Finnmark and Troms) and six municipalities (Kautokeino, Karasjok, Nesseby, Tana, Porsanger and Gáivuotna (Kåfjord)). Sami born before 1977 have never learned to write Sami according to the currently used orthography in school, so it is only in recent years that there have been Sami capable of writing their own language for various administrative positions.



The consonant inventory of Northern Sami is large, consisting of three different series of plosives/affricates (voiceless, voiced and preaspirated) and two series of nasals (plain and glottalized). In addition, length (gemination) is contrastive for almost all consonants.

Northern Sami consonants[7]
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal plain m n ɲ ŋ
glottalized ʔm ʔn ʔɲ
Plosive /
voiceless p t t͡s t͡ʃ k
voiced b d d͡z d͡ʒ ɡ
preaspirated ʰp ʰt ʰt͡s ʰt͡ʃ ʰk
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced v ð
Approximant central j
lateral l ʎ
Trill r
  • /v/ is realised as a labiodental fricative [v] in the syllable onset (before a vowel), and as bilabial [β] or [w] in the syllable coda (before a consonant).[7] Although [v] is a fricative, it behaves phonologically like an approximant, in particular like /j/.

All consonants can be geminated (held longer), except for /h/. This distinction is phonemically contrastive and widely productive as a grammatical feature. Geminated glottalized nasals are realised with the glottalization in between the two consonants (/mʔm/, /nʔn/, /ɲʔɲ/). In geminated preaspirated consonants, it is the preaspiration that lengthens rather than the occlusion (/hːp/, /hːt/, /hːts/, /hːtʃ/, /hːk/).[7]

Except for glottalized or preaspirated consonants, /h/, /j/ or /ʎ/, all consonants also possess a third "overlong" length. Overlong consonants are somewhat longer still than regular long consonants. However, vowels are shortened by a following overlong consonant, so it is unclear whether the consonant or the vowel length is contrastive. Overlong consonants are not indicated in the standard orthography, but are commonly denoted with an apostrophe between the two consonant letters (p'p, m'm etc.) in reference works when the distinction is relevant.[7]


Northern Sami possesses the following monophthongs:

Front Back
Close i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /e/ o /o/
Open á /a/ a /ɑ/

Several diphthongs also exist, all of the opening type. They are only present in stressed syllables.

Front Back
Close to mid ie /ie̯/ uo /uo̯/
Mid to open ea /eæ̯/ oa /oɑ̯/

Closing diphthongs such as ái also exist, but these are phonologically composed of a vowel plus one of the semivowels /v/ or /j/. The semivowels still behave as consonants in clusters.


Stress is generally not phonemic in Northern Sami, the first syllable of a word is normally stressed. Like most Sami languages, Northern Sami follows a pattern of alternating (trochaic) stress, in which each odd-numbered syllable is relatively stressed and even-numbered syllables are unstressed. The last syllable of a word is never stressed, unless the word has only one syllable.

Consequently, words can follow three possible patterns:

  • A single stressed syllable.
  • An even number of syllables: Ending in a stressed odd-numbered syllable followed by an unstressed even-numbered syllable.
  • An odd number of syllables: Ending in a stressed odd-numbered syllable followed by an unstressed even-numbered syllable, and a stressed odd-numbered (final) syllable.

This gives the following pattern, which can be extended indefinitely in theory. S indicates stress, _ indicates no stress:

  • S
  • S _
  • S _ _
  • S _ S _
  • S _ S _ _
  • S _ S _ S _
  • etc.

The number of syllables, and the resulting stress pattern, is important for grammatical reasons. Words with stems having an even number of syllables inflect differently from words with stems having an odd number of syllables. This is detailed further in the grammar section.

Some recent loanwords such as kultuvra ("culture") or advearba ("adverb") have a stressed second syllable instead. The stress pattern is the same as for words with initial stress, except shifted by one syllable.

In compound words, which consist of several distinct word roots, each word retains its own stress pattern. If the first element of a compound has an odd number of syllables, then there will be a sequence of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one, which does not occur in non-compound words. Hence, stress is lexically significant in that it can theoretically distinguish compounds from non-compounds.

Conjunctions, postpositions, particles, and monosyllabic pronouns tend to be unstressed altogether, and therefore fall outside the above rules.


Northern Sami is an SVO language.


Northern Sami has a long orthographic history, which has had no fewer than 9 Latin alphabets.

Until the official orthography currently in use was adopted in 1979, each country had its own, slightly different standard, so it is quite possible to come across older books that are difficult to understand for people unacquainted with the orthography:

  1. Maanat leät poahtan skuvllai.
  2. Mánát leat boahtán skuvlii.

(The children have come to school.)

The first sentence is from Antti Outakoski's Samekiela kiellaoahpa from 1950; the second one is how it would be written according to the current orthography.


The most recent alphabet was approved in 1979 and last modified in 1985:

Sami Name IPA English approximation
A a a /ɑ/ spa
Á á á /a/ chai
B b be /b/ bat
C c ce /ts/ lets
Č č če /tʃ/ chew
D d de /d/ do
Đ đ đe /ð/ this
E e e /e/ sleigh
F f áf /f/ fun
G g ge /ɡ/ go
H h ho /h/ help
I i i /i/, /j/ (after a vowel) me
J j je /j/ yes
K k ko /k/ cat
L l ál /l/ lip
M m ám /m/ myth
N n án /n/ no
Ŋ ŋ áŋ /ŋ/ sing
O o o /o/ go
P p pe /p/ park
R r ár /r/ (trilled) rat
S s ás /s/ sip
Š š áš /ʃ/ shed
T t te /t/ told
Ŧ ŧ ŧe /θ/ thick
U u u /u/ do
V v ve /v/ vex
Z z ez /dz/ rods
Ž ž /dʒ/ joke

The phoneme /j/ is written as j when a vowel follows, as i otherwise.

When typing, if there is no way of entering the letters particular to Northern Sami (Áá Čč Đđ Ŋŋ Šš Ŧŧ Žž) correctly, an acute accent is sometimes placed over the corresponding Latin letter as a substitute.[8] These substitutions are still found in books printed after the common orthography was adopted due to system limitations when typing.


Northern Sami can be divided into four major dialect groups: Torne, East Finnmark, West Finnmark (written standard) and Sea Sami.


Northern Sami is an agglutinative, highly inflected language that shares many grammatical features with the other Uralic languages. Sami has also developed considerably into the direction of fusional and inflected morphology, much like Estonian to which it is distantly related. Therefore, morphemes are marked not only by suffixes but also by morphophonological modifications to the root. Of the various morphophonological alterations, the most important and complex is the system of consonant gradation.

Consonant gradation[edit]

Consonant gradation is a pattern of alternations between pairs of consonants that appears in the inflection of words. The system of consonant gradation in Northern Sami is complex, especially compared to that found in the Finnic languages. A word stem can appear in two grades: the strong grade and the weak grade. Historically, the weak grade appeared when the syllable in which the consonant appeared was closed (ended in another consonant), but the loss of certain vowels or consonants have obscured this in Northern Sami and it is now a more-or-less opaque process.

Consonants show a three-level gradation pattern, with higher level being "stronger" in some sense. A given word can alternate either between level 3 in the strong grade and level 2 in the weak grade, or between level 2 in the strong grade and level 1 in the weak grade. The level of a consonant depends on how it interacts with the preceding vowel: a vowel is always shortened when a level 3 consonant follows. Thus, all consonant clusters (combinations of different consonants) have level 3/2 gradation, only non-clusters can be level 1.


The full three-level patterns apply to short, long and overlong consonants of any type, except for long voiced/voiceless occlusives.

Level 2 → level 1 alternations:

  • Short preaspirated occlusives in the strong grade become short voiced in the weak grade. Note however that ht gradates to the fricative đ rather than the plosive d.
  • Short glottalized nasals in the strong grade become short plain nasals in the weak grade.
  • Long non-occlusive non-glottalized consonants in the strong grade become short in the weak grade.

Level 3 → level 2 alternations:

  • Long preaspirated occlusives in the strong grade become short preaspirated in the weak grade.
  • Long glottalized nasals in the strong grade become short glottalized nasals in the weak grade.
  • Overlong non-occlusive non-glottalized consonants in the strong grade become long in the weak grade.

Note that short lj does not occur, and the consonant only has level 3/2 gradation.

Level 3 Level 2 Level 1
hpp hp b
htt ht đ
hcc hc z
hčč ž
hkk hk g
bm pm m
dn tn n
dnj tnj nj
Overl. Long Short
m'm mm m
n'n nn n
n'nj nnj nj
ŋ'ŋ ŋŋ ŋ
f'f ff f
đ'đ đđ đ
s's ss s
š'š šš š
ŧ'ŧ ŧŧ ŧ
l'l ll l
r'r rr r
v'v vv v
llj lj

Long voiced/voiceless occlusives[edit]

Long voiced occlusives alternate with long voiceless occlusives. These behave as clusters, and are therefore level 3/2 in terms of weight.

Level 3 Level 2
bb pp
dd tt
zz cc
žž čč
gg kk

An exception here is dj, which has three levels.

Level 3 Level 2 Level 1
ddj dj j

Clusters ending with glottalized nasal[edit]

Clusters ending with glottalized nasals can behave in two ways. If the first member of the cluster is r, then the nasal changes from long glottalized to short glottalized. In other cases, the nasal changes to long plain.

Level 3 Level 2
rbm rpm
rdn rtn
rdnj rtnj
rgŋ rkŋ
*bm *mm
*dn *nn
*dnj *nnj
*gŋ *ŋŋ

Other clusters[edit]

All other clusters have doubling of the final consonant of the cluster in the weak grade. In clusters beginning with k, the k itself also changes to v.

Level 3 Level 2
+ short
+ long
*b *bb
*c *cc
*d *dd
*f *ff
*g *gg
*hl *hll
*hm *hmm
*hn *hnn
*j *jj
*k *kk
*l *ll
*p *pp
*r *rr
*s *ss
*t *tt
*v *vv
*z *zz
k + short v + long
kt vtt
kc vcc
ks vss
kst vstt

Diphthong simplification[edit]

Diphthong simplification is a process whereby a diphthong loses its second component and becomes a monophthong:

  • iei: viehkat "to run" → vihken "I ran"
  • eae: eadni "mother" → etniid "of the mothers"
  • oao: goarrut "to sew" → gorro! "sew!"
  • uou: guoika "waterfall" → guikii "into the waterfall"

Diphthong simplification mostly occurs when the next syllable contains one of the vowels e or o, or the sequences ii or ui. However, there are exceptions, both systematic and unpredictable, so the process is not purely phonological. For example, in nouns with stems ending in -u, simplification occurs in the illative singular (viessu "house" → vissui "into the house") but not in any of the plural forms (viessuide "into the houses").

Changes to word-final consonants[edit]

Only a limited number of consonants is allowed at the end of a word. Therefore, consonants will be modified when they come to stand word-finally. The following table shows these changes:

Original Final
b, hp t
d, ht t
g, hk t
c, z s
č, ž š
h t
j i
m n

When a consonant cluster appears word-finally, all consonants except the first are removed.

Inflection types[edit]

All inflected words, whether nouns, adjectives or verbs, can be divided into three main inflectional classes. The division is based on whether there is an even or odd number of syllables from the last stressed syllable to the end of the word.

  • Words with even inflection (bárrastávvalsánit, also called "vowel stems") have an even number of syllables from the last stressed syllable of the stem; usually two, but sometimes also four.
  • Words with odd inflection (bárahisstávvalsánit, also called "consonant stems") have an odd number of syllables from the last stressed syllable of the stem; usually three, but very rarely one or five.
  • Words with contracted inflection (?) have an even number of syllables from the last stressed syllable of the stem, but have the consonant gradation pattern of odd-inflection words. If the gradation has three levels, the strong grade is always level 3.

For nouns and adjectives, the stem is taken from the accusative/genitive singular rather than the nominative, as the latter often drops the final vowel and sometimes also the preceding consonant. For verbs, the infinitive is used to determine the stem, by removing the infinitive ending -t.

Words with even and contracted inflection can be divided further, based on the final vowel of the stem. For even-inflected words, this vowel is most commonly a, i or u, while for contracted words it is mostly á, e or o. Words with odd inflection are not differentiated by stem-final vowel.


Nouns inflect in singular (ovttaidlohku) and plural (máŋggaidlohku), and also for one of 7 cases. The following table shows the general endings; the actual forms can differ based on consonant gradation and the inflection type of the word.

Case Singular
Nominative (nominatiiva) -∅ -t Subject
Accusative (akkusatiiva) -∅ -id Object
Genitive (genitiiva) -∅ -id Possession, relation
Illative (illatiiva) -i -ide, -idda Motion towards/onto/into
Locative (lokatiiva) -s -in Being at/on/in, motion from/off/out of
Comitative (komitatiiva) -in -iguin With, in company of, by means of
Essive (essiiva) -n, -in As, in the role of, under condition of (when)

The accusative and genitive are always identical. There is no singular/plural distinction in the essive, so that for example mánnán is interpreted as either "as a child" or "as children".

Nouns with even inflection[edit]

Nouns with even inflection have consonant gradation of the last consonant in the stem. The strong grade appears in the nominative, illative and essive singular, while the weak grade appears in the remaining forms.

The most common of this type are the nouns with a stem ending in -a, -i or slightly rarer -u.

giehta "hand"
Stem in -a
oaivi "head"
Stem in -i
ruoktu "home"
Stem in -u
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative giehta gieđat oaivi oaivvit ruoktu ruovttut
Accusative gieđa gieđaid oaivvi oivviid ruovttu ruovttuid
Genitive gieđa gieđaid oaivvi, oaivve oivviid ruovttu, ruovtto ruovttuid
Illative gihtii gieđaide oaivái oivviide ruktui ruovttuide
Locative gieđas gieđain oaivvis oivviin ruovttus ruovttuin
Comitative gieđain gieđaiguin oivviin oivviiguin ruovttuin ruovttuiguin
Essive giehtan oaivin ruoktun

Even-syllable nouns with a stem ending in , -e or -o also exist, but are much rarer.

guoddá "pillow"
Stem in
baste "spoon"
Stem in -e
gáivo "well"
Stem in -o
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative guoddá guottát baste basttet gáivo gáivvot
Accusative guottá guottáid bastte basttiid gáivvo gáivvuid
Genitive guottá guottáid bastte basttiid gáivvo gáivvuid
Illative guoddái guottáide bastii basttiide gáivui gáivvuide
Locative guottás guottáin basttes basttiin gáivvos gáivvuin
Comitative guottáin guottáiguin basttiin basttiiguin gáivvuin gáivvuiguin
Essive guoddán basten gaivon

Even-syllable nouns with four or more syllables sometimes drop the final vowel in the nominative singular. Consequently, simplification of the final consonant occurs. The stem of these nouns always ends in -a.

sápmelaš "Sami person"
Case Singular Plural
Nominative sápmelaš sápmelaččat
Accusative sápmelačča sápmelaččaid
Genitive sápmelačča sápmelaččaid
Illative sápmelažžii sápmelaččaide
Locative sápmelaččas sápmelaččain
Comitative sápmelaččain sápmelaččaiguin
Essive sápmelažžan

Nouns with odd inflection[edit]

Nouns with odd inflection have consonant gradation. The weak grade appears in the nominative and essive singular, while the strong grade appears in the remaining forms. Some nouns also have other alternations in the stem of the strong grade, such as changes of i to á, u to o, or addition of a consonant.

ganjal "tear (eye)" lávlla "song"
Extra consonant
mielddus "copy"
Vowel change
+ monophtongization
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative ganjal gatnjalat lávlla lávlagat mielddus mildosat
Accusative gatnjala gatnjaliid lávlaga lávlagiid mildosa mildosiid
Genitive gatnjala gatnjaliid lávlaga lávlagiid mildosa mildosiid
Illative gatnjalii gatnjaliidda lávlagii lávlagiidda mildosii mildosiidda
Locative gatnjalis gatnjaliin lávlagis lávlagiin mildosis mildosiin
Comitative gatnjaliin gatnjaliiguin lávlagiin lávlagiiguin mildosiin mildosiiguin
Essive ganjalin lávllan mielddusin

Nouns with contracted inflection[edit]

Nouns with contracted inflection have consonant gradation. The pattern follows that of odd-inflection nouns, with the weak grade in the nominative and essive singular, and the strong grade in the remainder. If the weak grade is level 1, the strong grade will be level 3. The final syllable is generally altered along with the gradation as well.

čeavrris "otter"
Stem in -á-
boazu "reindeer"
Stem in -o-
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative čeavrris čeavrát boazu bohccot
Accusative čeavrá čeavráid bohcco bohccuid
Genitive čeavrá čeavráid bohcco bohccuid
Illative čeavrái čeavráide bohccui bohccuide
Locative čeavrás čeavráin bohccos bohccuin
Comitative čeavráin čeavráiguin bohccuin bohccuiguin
Essive čeavrrisin boazun

Possessive suffixes[edit]

The possessive suffixes are similar in meaning to the English personal possessive determiners my, your, their and so on. There are 9 possessive suffixes: one for each person in singular, dual and plural. Possessive suffixes attach to the end of a noun, after the case ending. Thus, for example, ruovttus "in a house" may become ruovttustan "in my house".

Like noun case endings, the suffixes have different forms depending on whether they are attached to a stem with an even or odd number of syllables, and (in the case of even-syllable stems) depending on the last vowel of the stem. The following table shows the suffixes:

1st sg. 2nd sg. 3rd sg. 1st du. 2nd du. 3rd du. 1st pl. 2nd pl. 3rd pl.
Even in -a -an -at -as -ame -ade -aska -amet -adet -aset
Even in -án -át -ás -áme -áde -áska -ámet -ádet -áset
Even in -e -en -et -es -eme -ede -eska -emet -edet -eset
Even in -i -án -át -is -áme -áde -iska -ámet -ádet -iset
Even in -o -on -ot -os -ome -ode -oska -omet -odet -oset
Even in -u -on -ot -us -ome -ode -uska -omet -odet -uset
Odd -an -at -is -eame -eatte -easkka -eamet -eattet -easet

The suffixes attach to a combination of noun plus case ending, so the stem that the suffix is attached to may not be the stem of the noun. Rather, a new "possessive stem" is formed from the noun with its case ending included. This stem is not always identical to the ending of the noun on its own; some case endings undergo modifications or the addition of a final vowel. Thus, certain cases may have possessive stems that inherently end in -a, other cases may have -i, but this is only significant if the combination has an even number of syllables.

The following table shows the possessive stems for each case, for four of the nouns whose inflection was given above. If the stem ends in a vowel, it is even and the suffixes with the matching vowel are used. If the stem ends in a consonant, it is odd and the odd endings are used.

giehta "hand"
Even in -a
oaivi "head"
Even in -i
ruoktu "home"
Even in -u
lávlla "song"
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative giehta-  ? oaivi-  ? ruoktu-  ? lávlag-  ?
Accusative giehta-, gieđa- gieđaid- oaivi- oivviid- ruoktu- ruovttuid- lávlag- lávlagiiddi-
Genitive giehta-, gieđa- gieđaid- oaivi- oivviid- ruoktu- ruovttuid- lávlag- lávlagiiddi-
Illative giehtas- gieđaidasa- oaivás- oivviidasa- ruktos- ruovttuidasa- lávlagasa- lávlagiiddás-
Locative gieđast- gieđain- oaivvist- oivviin- ruovttust- ruovttuin- lávlagistti- lávlagiinni-
Comitative gieđain- gieđaid- -guin oivviin- oivviid- -guin ruovttuin- ruovttuid- -guin lávlagiinni- lávlagiiddi- -guin
Essive giehtan- oaivin- ruoktun-  ?

In the comitative plural, the possessive suffix attaches between the possessive stem and the final -guin.

As can be seen in the table, for the nominative, accusative and genitive singular cases, the possessive stem is identical to the noun stem. The stem also undergoes consonant gradation in the accusative and genitive singular forms, and endings beginning with e or o also trigger diphthong simplification. The noun is in the strong grade with the first-person possessive suffixes, and in the weak grade with the second- and third-person possessives.

The possessive forms of ruoktu are:

Case/number 1st sg. 2nd sg. 3rd sg. 1st du. 2nd du. 3rd du. 1st pl. 2nd pl. 3rd pl.
Nominative singular rukton ruktot ruoktus ruktome ruktode ruoktuska ruktomet ruktodet ruoktuset
Accusative/genitive singular rukton ruvttot ruovttus ruktome ruvttode ruovttuska ruktomet ruvttodet ruovttuset
Illative singular ruktosan ruktosat ruktosis ruktoseame ruktoseatte ruktoseaskka ruktoseamet ruktoseattet ruktoseaset
Locative singular ruovttustan ruovttustat ruovttustis ruovttusteame ruovttusteatte ruovttusteaskka ruovttusteamet ruovttusteattet ruovttusteaset
Comitative singular ruovttuinan ruovttuinat ruovttuinis ruovttuineame ruovttuineatte ruovttuineaskka ruovttuineamet ruovttuineattet ruovttuineaset
Accusative/genitive plural ruovttuidan ruovttuidat ruovttuidis ruovttuideame ruovttuideatte ruovttuideaskka ruovttuideamet ruovttuideattet ruovttuideaset
Illative plural ruovttuidasan ruovttuidasat ruovttuidasas ruovttuidasame ruovttuidasade ruovttuidasaska ruovttuidasamet ruovttuidasadet ruovttuidasaset
Locative plural ruovttuinan ruovttuinat ruovttuinis ruovttuineame ruovttuineatte ruovttuineaskka ruovttuineamet ruovttuineattet ruovttuineaset
Comitative plural ruovttuidanguin ruovttuidatguin ruovttuidisguin ruovttuideameguin ruovttuideatteguin ruovttuideaskkaguin ruovttuideametguin ruovttuideattetguin ruovttuideasetguin
Essive ruoktunan ruoktunat ruoktunis ruoktuneame ruoktuneatte ruoktuneaskka ruoktuneamet ruoktuneattet ruoktuneaset


Adjectives inflect the same as nouns do, and have the same cases and inflection types.

Attributive form[edit]

Adjectives also have an additional form, the attributive form (attribuhttahápmi). This form is used when the adjective is used attributively, where it precedes the noun. The attributive does not receive any endings, so it does not have cases or number. Its formation is also unpredictable: for some adjectives, it's formed from the nominative singular by adding an extra ending of some kind to the stem, while for others the attributive is formed by removing part of the stem. It may also be identical to the nominative singular. Some examples:

Nom. singular Stem Attributive Meaning
boaris boarás- (odd) boares old
čáppat čábbá- (contracted) čáppa beautiful
čielggas čielggas- (odd) čielga clear, transparent
čieŋal čieŋal- (odd) čiekŋalis deep
duohta duohta- (even) duohta true
duolvvas duolvas- (odd) duolva dirty
gievra gievra- (even) gievrras strong
guhkki guhkki- (even) guhkes long
mohkkái mohkká- (contracted) mohkkás complicated
ruoksat ruoksad- (odd) rukses red
šealgat šealgad- (odd) šealges shiny
uhcci uhcci- (even) uhca small

Not all adjectives have an attributive form. For example, the frequently-used adjective buorre "good" has only case forms. When there is no attributive form, this doesn't mean it can't be used attributively. Instead, the case and number of the adjective matches that of the noun it is an attribute of (as in for example Finnish).


buoret "better"
Odd inflection in -u
buoremus "best"
Even inflection in -a
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative buoret buorebut buoremus buoremusat
Accusative buorebu buorebuid buoremusa buoremusaid
Genitive buorebu buorebuid buoremusa buoremusaid
Illative buorebui buorebuidda buoremussii buoremusaide
Locative buorebus buorebuin buoremusas buoremusain
Comitative buorebuin buorebuiguin buoremusain buoremusaiguin
Essive buorebun buoremussan
boaráset "older"
Even inflection in -o
boaráseamos "oldest"
Odd inflection
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative boaráset boaráseappot boaráseamos boarásepmosat
Accusative boaráseappo boaráseappuid boarásepmosa boarásepmosiid
Genitive boaráseappo boaráseappuid boarásepmosa boarásepmosiid
Illative boarásebbui boaráseappuide boarásepmosii boarásepmosiidda
Locative boaráseappos boaráseappuin boarásepmosis boarásepmosiin
Comitative boaráseappuin boaráseappuiguin boarásepmosiin boarásepmosiiguin
Essive boaráseabbon boaráseamosin

Pronouns and determiners[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

The personal pronouns inflect irregularly, and also have a third number, the dual (guvttiidlohku). The dual is used to refer to exactly two people. The following table shows the forms.

Case mun, mon "I" don "you (sg.)" son "he, she"
Nominative mun, mon don son
Accusative mu du su
Genitive mu du su
Illative munnje dutnje sutnje
Locative mus dus sus
Comitative muinna duinna suinna
Essive munin dunin sunin
Case moai "we two" doai "you two" soai "they two"
Nominative moai doai soai
Accusative mun'no dudno sudno
Genitive mun'no dudno sudno
Illative mun'nuide dudnuide sudnuide
Locative mun'nos dudnos sudnos
Comitative mun'nuin dudnuin sudnuin
Essive mun'non dudnon sudnon
Case mii "we (all)" dii "you (all)" sii "they (all)"
Nominative mii dii sii
Accusative min din sin
Genitive min din sin
Illative midjiide didjiide sidjiide
Locative mis dis sis
Comitative minguin dinguin singuin
Essive minin dinin sinin


The five demonstrative determiners/pronouns inflect somewhat irregularly as well. The nominative singular and nominative plural are identical, and some other cases have endings not found in nouns.

dat "it, the (aforementioned)" dát "this (near speaker)" diet "that (near listener)" duot "that (not near either)" dot "that, yonder (very far)"
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative dat dat t t diet diet duot duot dot dot
Accusative dan daid n id dien dieid duon duoid don doid
Genitive dan daid n id dien dieid duon duoid don doid
Illative dasa daidda sa idda diesa dieidda duosa duoidda dosa doidda
Locative das dain s in dies diein duos duoin dos doin
Comitative dainna daiguin inna iguin dieinna dieiguin duoinna duoiguin doinna doiguin
Essive danin nin dienin duonin donin

When these words modify a noun rather than standing alone, the demonstrative is in the same case as the noun, with the following exceptions:

  • A noun in the illative or locative singular is preceded by a demonstrative in the accusative/genitive singular form.
  • A noun in the comitative plural is preceded by a demonstrative in either the comitative or the accusative/genitive plural form.


The interrogative/relative pronouns/determiners gii "who" and mii "what" are likewise irregular.

gii "who" mii "what, which"
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative gii geat mii mat
Accusative gean geaid man, máid maid
Genitive gean geaid man maid
Illative geasa geaidda masa maidda
Locative geas geain mas main
Comitative geainna geaiguin mainna maiguin
Essive geanin manin

In the accusative singular of mii, there are two possible forms. The "regular" form man is used when there is an implication of a choice from a limited number of options. The form máid has no such implication.

These two pronouns, as well as other interrogatives (which inflect regularly) can act as determiners and modify nouns. The rules for which case to use are the same as for the demonstrative. The form máid is followed by a noun in the accusative plural form.

Reflexive pronoun[edit]

The reflexive pronoun is ieš (dual and plural ieža), meaning myself, yourself, himself, herself and so on. In its base form, the pronoun occurs only in the nominative case and is never used on its own; it always occurs next to the subject of the sentence, where it acts as an adverb to strengthen it. Compare for example sentences such as I myself have never seen it..

The other cases can occur by themselves, but only in the singular, and are always used in combination with a possessive suffix that matches the subject of the sentence (i.e. always I see myself, never I see himself). These forms are irregular as well as suppletive: the illative and locative forms derive from completely different roots. There are also several alternative stems.

Case Possessive stem Notes
Accusative ieža- (iehča-) The stem iehča- is only used with first-person possessives.
Genitive ieža- (iehča-)
Illative alcces-, alcce-, allas- (alcca-) The stem alcca- is only used with first- and second-person possessives.
Locative alddi-, alddest- (alddiin-, alddán-) The stems alddiin- and alddán- are only used with dual and plural possessives.
Comitative iežain-
Essive iehčan-


Verbal categories[edit]

The conjugation of Northern Sami verbs resembles that of Finnish. There are three grammatical persons (persovnnat), and three grammatical numbers (logut), singular, dual and plural. There are four or five grammatical moods (vuogit):

  • indicative (indikatiiva or duohtavuohki), indicating real events or statements of fact.
  • imperative (imperatiiva or gohččunvuohki), indicating commands.
  • optative (optatiiva or ávžžuhusvuohki), indicating wishes, things that the speaker would like to see done or realised. The optative is not usually considered a distinct mood, but is generally combined with the imperative.
  • conditional (konditionála or eaktovuohki), indicating conditional or hypothetical statements, like the English subjunctive and the verb "would".
  • potential (potientiála or veadjinvuohki), indicating ability or possibility.

Tense is also distinguished, but only in the indicative. There are two tenses (tempusat):

Finally, there are several non-finite forms.

  • infinitive, the dictionary form of a verb.
  • Present participle, an adjective indicating a current or ongoing action.
  • Past participle, an adjective indicating a past or completed action.
  • Action noun, a noun that indicates the action itself. The locative and essive cases of the noun have additional uses in phrasal constructions.
    • Action essive, which indicates "in the process of" or "in the act of" and is used as a complement of the verb leat "to be".
  • Gerund, an uninflected adverbial form that indicates "while" performing the verb's action.
  • Verbal abessive, an adverbial form indicating "without" doing the verb.
  • Verbal genitive, an adverbial form often used to indicate the way/method, accompanied by a verb of motion. It only exists for some verbs and is not very productive.
  • Supine, which expresses "in order to". It is only used in western Northern Sami dialects.

Verbs with even inflection[edit]

Conditional Potential
1st singular viegan vihken vihkon viegašin, viegašedjen viegažan
2nd singular viegat vihket viega viegašit, viegašedjet viegažat
3rd singular viehká viegai vihkos viegašii viegaža, vieg
1st dual vihke viegaime viehkku viegašeimme viegažetne
2nd dual viehkabeahtti viegaide viehkki viegašeidde viegažeahppi
3rd dual viehkaba viegaiga vihkoska viegašeigga viegažeaba
1st plural viehkat viegaimet vihkot, viehkkut viegašeimmet viegažit, viegažat
2nd plural viehkabehtet viegaidet vihket, viehkkit viegašeiddet viegažehpet
3rd plural vihket vihke vihkoset viegaše, viegašedje viegažit
Connegative viega viehkan viega viegaše vieg
Conditional Potential
1st singular ealán ellen ellon ealášin, ealášedjen eležan
2nd singular ealát ellet ele ealášit, ealášedjet eležat
3rd singular eallá elii ellos ealášii eleža, el
1st dual elle eliime eal'lu ealášeimme eležetne
2nd dual eallibeahtti eliide eal'li ealášeidde eležeahppi
3rd dual ealliba eliiga elloska ealášeigga eležeaba
1st plural eallit eliimet ellot, eal'lut ealášeimmet eležit, eležat
2nd plural eallibehtet eliidet ellet, eal'lit ealášeiddet eležehpet
3rd plural ellet elle elloset ealáše, ealášedje eležit
Connegative ele eallán eale ealáše el
Conditional Potential
1st singular goarun gorron gorron gorošin, gorošedjen gorožan
2nd singular goarut gorrot goro gorošit, gorošedjet gorožat
3rd singular goarru gorui gorros gorošii goroža, gor
1st dual gorro goruime goar'ru gorošeimme gorožetne
2nd dual goarrubeahtti goruide goar'ru gorošeidde gorožeahppi
3rd dual goarruba goruiga gorroska gorošeigga gorožeaba
1st plural goarrut goruimet gorrot, goar'rut gorošeimmet gorožit, gorožat
2nd plural goarrubehtet goruidet gorrot, goar'rut gorošeiddet gorožehpet
3rd plural gorrot gorro gorroset goroše, gorošedje gorožit
Connegative goro gorron goaro goroše gor

Verbs with odd inflection[edit]

Conditional Potential
1st singular muitalan muitalin muitalehkon muitalivččen muitaleaččan
2nd singular muitalat muitalit muital muitalivččet muitaleaččat
3rd singular muitala muitalii muitalehkos muitalivččii muitaleažžá
1st dual muitaletne muitaleimme muitaleahkku muitalivččiime muitaležže
2nd dual muitaleahppi muitaleidde muitalahkki muitalivččiide muitaleažžabeahtti
3rd dual muitaleaba muitaleigga muitalehkoska muitalivččiiga muitaleažžaba
1st plural muitalit muitaleimmet muitalehkot muitalivččiimet muitaleažžat
2nd plural muitalehpet muitaleiddet muitalehket muitalivččiidet muitaleažžabehtet
3rd plural muitalit muitaledje muitalekoset muitalivčče muitaležžet
Connegative muital muitalan muital muitalivčče muitaleačča

Verbs with contracted inflection[edit]

Negative verb[edit]

Northern Sami, like other Uralic languages, has a negative verb that conjugates according to mood (indicative, imperative and optative), person (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and number (singular, dual and plural).

  Ind. pres. Imperative Optative Supinum?
  sg. du. pl.     sg. du. pl.     sg. du. pl.     sg. du. pl.
1 in ean eat 1 - - 1 allom allu allot 1 aman amame amamet
2 it eahppi ehpet 2 ale alli allet 2 ale alli allet 2 amat amade amadet
3 ii eaba eai 3 3 allos alloska alloset 3 amas amaska amaset

The negative verb in Northern Sami does not conjugate according to tense.


  1. ^ Northern Sami at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "To which languages does the Charter apply?". European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Council of Europe. p. 4. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Northern Sami". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ "Samediggi – Saamelaiskäräjät – Sámi language". Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  5. ^ "The Sami dialects". Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  6. ^ Original quote: ""med en regelmessig samisk sprogform""; Forsgren, Tuuli (1988) "Samisk kyrko- och undervisningslitteratur i Sverige 1619–1850." Scriptum: Rapportserie utgiven av Forskningsarkivet vid Umeå universitet, ISSN 0284-3161; p. 12[1]
  7. ^ a b c d Bals, Berit Anne; Odden, David; Rice, Curt (2005). "Topics in North Saami Phonology" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-11-08. 
  8. ^ Svonni, E Mikael (1984). Sámegiel-ruoŧagiel skuvlasátnelistu. Sámiskuvlastivra. III. ISBN 91-7716-008-8. 

External links[edit]