Pite Sami language

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Pite Sámi
Native toNorway, Sweden
Native speakers
25 to 50 (2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sje
Sami languages large.png
Pite Sámi is 3 on this map.
The approximate area in which Pite Saami was traditionally spoken

Pite Sámi or Arjeplog Sámi (bidumsámegiella) is a Sámi language traditionally spoken in Sweden and Norway. It is a critically endangered language[3] that has only about 25–50[1] native speakers left and is now only spoken on the Swedish side of the border along the Pite River in the north of Arjeplog and Arvidsjaur and in the mountainous areas of the Arjeplog municipality.


Pite Sámi is a part of the Western Sámi group, together with Southern Sámi and Ume Sámi to the south, Lule Sámi and Northern Sámi to the north. Of these, Pite Sámi shows closest affinity to Lule Sámi, but a number of features also show similarity to Ume and Southern Sámi.



The Pite Sámi consonant inventory is very similar to that found in neighbouring Lule Sámi, but lacks contrastive voicing of stops and affricates entirely.

Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive / Affricate p t t͡s t͡ʃ k
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced v (ð)
Semivowel j
Lateral l
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).
  • /ð/ is present only in the language of some elderly speakers. It is otherwise replaced by /r/ or /t/, depending on dialect.


The Pite Sámi vowel inventory has a relative lack of phonemic diphthongs, compared to other Sámi languages and particularly neighbouring Lule Sámi. Instead, there are more vowel height distinctions.

Pite Sámi vowels[4]
Monophthongs Diphthongs
Front Back Front Back
Close i u (ie̯) (uo̯)
Close-mid e o uæ̯ uɑ̯
Open-mid ɛ ɔ ɔː
Open a
  • The close vowels /i/ and /u/ are realized as laxer [ɪ] and [ʊ] respectively, in unstressed positions.
  • Close-mid /e/ and /o/ are diphthongized to [ie̯] and [uo̯] respectively, when stressed.
  • /ɔ/ contrasts with /ɔː/ in near-minimal pairs such as båhtet /ˈpɔːhtet/ "to come" vs båhtjet /ˈpɔhtet/ "to milk".
  • /ɛ/ does not occur in unstressed syllables.
  • /ɔ/ can occur in unstressed syllables, but only when a preceding stressed syllable contains /ɔ/.



Sammallahti[5] divides Lule Sami dialects as follows:

Features of the northern dialects are:

  • Lack of /aː//eː/ umlaut.
  • Voicing in quantity 3 of plain stops (thus strong /bː.b/ ~ weak /p.p/ etc.), like in Lule Sámi.
  • /t/ as the outcome of Proto-Samic .

Features of the southern dialects are:

  • /r/ as the outcome of Proto-Samic .


Pite Sámi is one of the four Sámi languages that does not have an official written language. A working orthography has been developed in 2008–2011 by the Sámi Association of Arjeplog.[6] It closely resembles the orthography of neighbouring Lule Sámi.

Letter Phoneme(s) Notes
A a /a/
Á á /aː/
B b /p/
D d /t/
Đ đ /ð/
E e /eː/ Only unstressed.
F f /f/
G g /k/
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 /oː/ 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 /ɔ/, /ɔː/
Ä ä /ɛː/



Pite Sámi has 9 cases:

The inflectional paradigm for the noun guolle 'fish' by Israel Ruong, archived at the Swedish Institute for Language and Folklore in Uppsala.



Pite Sámi verbs conjugate for three grammatical persons:

  • first person
  • second person
  • third person


Pite Sámi has five grammatical moods:

Grammatical number[edit]

Pite Sámi verbs conjugate for three grammatical numbers:


Pite Sámi verbs conjugate for two simple tenses:

and two compound tenses:

Negative verb[edit]

Pite Sámi, like Finnish, the other Sámi languages and Estonian, has a negative verb. In Pite Sámi, the negative verb conjugates according to mood (indicative, imperative and optative), person (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and number (singular, dual and plural). This differs from some other the other Sámi languages, e.g. from Northern Sámi, which do not conjugate according to tense and other Sámi languages, that do not use the optative.

   Non-past indicative       Past indicative                           
   sg.  du.    pl.           sg.     du.        pl.      
1  iv   ien    iehp        1 ittjiv  iejmen    iejmeh    
               iep                   ittjijmen ittjijmeh           
2  ih   iehpen iehpit      2 ittjih  iejten    iejteh    
        ähpen  ihpit                 ittjijten ittjijteh                               
3  ij   iepá   ieh         3 ittjij  iejkán    ittjin     
        iepán                        ittjijka

For non-past indicative versions that have more than one form, the second one is from the dialect spoken around Björkfjället and the third is from the Svaipa dialect. The plurality in the other forms is due to parallel forms that are not bound by dialect.

   Imperative                Optative
   sg.    du.     pl.        sg.    du.      pl.                        
1  -      -       -       1  alluv  iellun   iellup
                                    allun    allup
2  ieleh iellen iellit    2  alluh  ielluten ielluteh
                                    alluten  alluteh
3  -      -       -       3  allus  ielluska ielluseh
                                    alluska  alluseh


  1. ^ a b At least 25 speakers in 2010 according to researcher Joshua Wilbur. At least 30 active, native speakers in 2010; at least an additional 20 native speakers who do not use the language actively according to the Pite Sámi dictionary project leader Nils Henrik Bengtsson.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pite Saami". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger
  4. ^ (Wilbur 2014: 63–70)
  5. ^ Sammallahti, Pekka (1998). The Saami Languages: An Introduction. Kárášjohka: Davvi Girji.
  6. ^ (Wilbur 2014:18–19)


  • Lagercrantz, Eliel (1926). Sprachlehre des Westlappischen nach der Mundart von Arjeplog. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia. 25. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Lehtiranta, Juhani (1992). Arjeploginsaamen äänne- ja taivutusopin pääpiirteet. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia. 212. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura. ISBN 951-9403-55-8.
  • Pite Saami Documentation Project. www2.hu-berlin.de/psdp. 2009.05.03.
  • Wilbur, Joshua (2014). A Grammar of Pite Sami. Studies in Diversity Linguistics. 5. Berlin: Language Science Press. ISBN 978-3-944675-47-3. Retrieved 2014-10-10.

External links[edit]