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Skolt Sámi

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Skolt Sámi
PronunciationIPA [nuɘrʰtːɕa̟ːmʰc͡çiɘlː]
Native toFinland, Russia
Native speakers
c. 330 (2002-2023)
  • Neiden
  • Paatsjoki


  • Njuõʹttjäuʹrr
  • Suõʹnnʼjel
Language codes
ISO 639-2sms
ISO 639-3sms
ELPSkolt Saami
Skolt Sami language area (red) within Sápmi (grey)
Skolt Sámi is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2010)
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.

Skolt Sámi (sääʹmǩiõll [ɕa̟ːmʰc͡çiɘlː], "the Sámi language", or nuõrttsääʹmǩiõll [nuɘrʰtːɕa̟ːmʰc͡çiɘlː], "the Eastern Sámi language", if a distinction needs to be made between it and the other Sámi languages) is a Uralic, Sámi language that is spoken by the Skolts, with approximately 300[2] speakers in Finland, mainly in Sevettijärvi and approximately 20–30 speakers of the Njuõʹttjäuʹrr (Notozero) dialect[3] in an area surrounding Lake Lovozero in Russia. In Norway, there are fewer than 15 that can speak Skolt Sámi (as of 2023);[4] furthermore, the language is[4] largely spoken in the Neiden area.[3] It is written using a modified Roman orthography which was made official in 1973.

The term Skolt was coined by representatives of the majority culture and has negative connotation which can be compared to the term Lapp. Nevertheless, it is used in cultural and linguistic studies.[5]

Sámi dialects and settlements in Russia:
  Skolt (Russian Notozersky)


Resettlement of the Skolt Sami from Petsamo[6][7]
Road sign for the Äʹvv Skolt Sámi Museum [no] in Neiden, Norway. Starting at the top, the lines are in Norwegian, Skolt Sámi, and Finnish.

On Finnish territory Skolt Sámi was spoken in four villages before the Second World War. In Petsamo, Skolt Sámi was spoken in Suonikylä and the village of Petsamo. This area was ceded to Russia in the Second World War, and the Skolts were evacuated to the villages of Inari, Sevettijärvi and Nellim in the Inari municipality.

On the Russian (then Soviet) side the dialect was spoken in the now defunct Sámi settlements of Motovsky, Songelsky, Notozero (hence its Russian name – the Notozersky dialect). Some speakers still may live in the villages of Tuloma and Lovozero.

In Norwegian territory, Skolt Sámi was spoken in the Sør-Varanger area with a cultural centre in the village of Neiden. The language is not spoken as mother tongue anymore in Norway.


A quadrilingual street sign in Inari in (from top to bottom) Finnish, Northern Saami, Inari Saami, and Skolt Saami. Inari is the only municipality in Finland with 4 official languages.
The village workshop in Sevettijärvi



In Finland, Skolt Sámi is spoken by approximately 300[8] or 400 people. According to Finland's Sámi Language Act (1086/2003), Skolt Sámi is one of the three Sámi languages that the Sámi can use when conducting official business in Lapland. It is an official language in the municipality of Inari, and elementary schools there offer courses in the language, both for native speakers and for students learning it as a foreign language. Only a small number of youths learn the language and continue to use it actively.[citation needed] Skolt Sámi is thus a seriously endangered language, even more seriously than Inari Sámi, which has a nearly equal number of speakers and is even spoken in the same municipality. In addition, there are a lot of Skolts living outside of this area, particularly in the capital region.





From 1978 to 1986, the Skolts had a quarterly called Sääʹmođđâz published in their own language.[9] Since 2013, a new magazine called Tuõddri peeʹrel has been published once a year.[10]

The Finnish news program Yle Ođđasat featured a Skolt Sámi speaking newsreader for the first time on August 26, 2016. Otherwise Yle Ođđasat presents individual news stories in Skolt Sámi every now and then.[11] In addition, there have been various TV programs in Skolt Sámi on YLE such as the children's TV series Binnabánnaš.



The first book published in Skolt Sámi was an Eastern Orthodox prayer book (Risttoummi moʹlidvaǩeʹrjj, Prayerbook for the Orthodox) in 1983. Translation of the Gospel of John was published (Evvan evaŋǧeʹlium) in 1988 and Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Pââʹss Eʹččen Evvan Krysostomoozz Liturgia, Liturgy of our Holy Father John Chrysostom) was published in 2002 [12] Skolt Sámi is used together with Finnish in worship of the Lappi Orthodox Parish (Lappi ortodookslaž sieʹbrrkåʹdd) at churches of Ivalo, Sevettijärvi and Nellim.[13]



Like Inari Sámi, Skolt Sámi has recently borne witness to a new phenomenon, namely it is being used in rock songs sung by Tiina Sanila-Aikio, who has published two full-length CDs in Skolt Sámi to date.



In 1993, language nest programs for children younger than 7 were created. For quite some time these programs received intermittent funding, resulting in some children being taught Skolt Sámi, while others were not. In spite of all the issues these programs faced, they were crucial in creating the youngest generations of Skolt Sámi speakers. In recent years, these programs have been reinstated.

In addition, 2005 was the first time that it was possible to use Skolt Sámi in a Finnish matriculation exam, albeit as a foreign language. In 2012, Ville-Riiko Fofonoff (Skolt Sami: Läärvan-Oʹlssi-Peâtt-Rijggu-Vääʹsǩ-Rijggu-Ville-Reeiǥaž) was the first person to use Skolt Sámi for the mother tongue portion of the exam; for this, he won the Skolt of the Year Award the same year.[14]

Writing system


In 1973, an official, standardized orthography for Skolt Sámi was introduced based on the Suõʹnnʼjel dialect. Since then, it has been widely accepted with a few small modifications.[15] The Skolt Sámi orthography uses the ISO basic Latin alphabet with the addition of a few special characters:

Letter Phoneme(s) Letter Phoneme(s) Letter Phoneme(s)
A a /ɑ/ Ǧ ǧ /ɟ͡ʝ/ Õ õ /ɘ/
 â /ɐ/ Ǥ ǥ /ɣ/ P p /p/
B b /b/ H h /x/ R r /r/
C c /t͡s/ I i /i/, /j/ S s /s/
Č č /t͡ʃ/ J j /ʝ/ Š š /ʃ/
Ʒ ʒ /d͡z/ K k /k/ T t /t/
Ǯ ǯ /d͡ʒ/ Ǩ ǩ /c͡ç/ U u /u/, /w/
D d /d/ L l /l/ V v /v/
Đ đ /ð/ M m /m/ Z z /z/
E e /e/, /ɛ/ N n /n/ Ž ž /ʒ/
F f /f/ Ŋ ŋ /ŋ/ Å å /ɔ/
G g /ɡ/ O o /o/ Ä ä /a/


  • The letters Q/q, W/w, X/x, Y/y and Ö/ö are also used, although only in foreign words or loans. As in Finnish and Swedish Ü/ü is alphabetized as y, not u.
  • No difference is made in the standard orthography between /e/ and /ɛ/. In dictionaries, grammars and other reference works, the letter ⟨ẹ⟩ is used to indicate /ɛ/.
  • The diagraphs ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ indicate the consonants /ʎ/ and /ɲ/ respectively.

Additional marks are used in writing Skolt Sámi words:

  • A prime symbol ʹ (U+02B9 MODIFIER LETTER PRIME) is added after the vowel of a syllable to indicate suprasegmental palatalization. Occasionally a standalone acute accent ´ or ˊ (U+00B4 ACUTE ACCENT or U+02CA MODIFIER LETTER ACUTE ACCENT) is used, but this is not correct.
  • An apostrophe ʼ (U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE) is used in the combinations ⟨lʼj⟩ and ⟨nʼj⟩ to indicate that these are two separate sounds, not a single sound. It is also placed between identical consonants to indicate that they belong to separate prosodic feet, and should not be combined into a geminate. It distinguishes e.g. lueʹštted "to set free" from its causative lueʹštʼted "to cause to set free".
  • A hyphen – is used in compound words when there are two identical consonants at the juncture between the parts of the compound, e.g. ǩiõtt-tel "mobile phone".
  • A vertical line ˈ (U+02C8 MODIFIER LETTER VERTICAL LINE), typewriter apostrophe or other similar mark indicates that a geminate consonant is long, and the preceding diphthong is short. It is placed between a pair of identical consonants which are always preceded by a diphthong. This mark is not used in normal Skolt Sámi writing, but it appears in dictionaries, grammars and other reference works.



Special features of this Sámi language include a highly complex vowel system and a suprasegmental contrast of palatalized vs. non-palatalized stress groups; palatalized stress groups are indicated by a "softener mark", represented by the modifier letter prime (ʹ).



The system of vowel phonemes is as follows:

front central back
close i u
close-mid e ɘ o
open-mid ɛ ɐ ɔ
open a ɑ

Skolt Sámi has vowel length, but it co-occurs with contrasts in length of the following consonant(s). For example, leʹtt ‘vessel’ vs. leeʹtt ‘vessels’.

The vowels can combine to form twelve opening diphthongs:

front front to central back to front back to central back
close to close-mid ie ue
close to open-mid
close to open ua
close-mid to open-mid
close-mid to open ea

Like the monophthongs, all diphthongs can be short or long, but this is not indicated in spelling. Short diphthongs are distinguished from long ones by both length and stress placement: short diphthongs have a stressed second component, whereas long diphthongs have stress on the first component.

Diphthongs may also have two variants depending on whether they occur in a plain or palatalized environment. This has a clearer effect with diphthongs whose second element is back or central. Certain inflectional forms, including the addition of the palatalizing suprasegmental, also trigger a change in diphthong quality.[16]

plain palatalized



The inventory of consonant phonemes is the following:

Labial Dental / Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar
plain sibilant sibilant
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive /
voiceless p t t͡s t͡ʃ c͡ç k
voiced b d d͡z d͡ʒ ɟ͡ʝ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x
voiced v ð z ʒ ʝ ɣ
Trill r
Approximant central w j
lateral l ʎ
  • Unvoiced stops and affricates are pronounced preaspirated after vowels and sonorant consonants.
  • Voiced stops and affricates are usually pronounced just weakly voiced.
  • Older speakers realize the palatal affricates /c͡ç, ɟ͡ʝ/ as plosives [c, ɟ].
  • In younger speakers, /t͡ʃ/ merges into /ʃ/, /ð/ into /z/, and /l/ into /w/.[17]
  • In initial position, /x/ is realized as glottal [h].

Consonants may be phonemically short or long (geminate) both word-medially or word-finally; both are exceedingly common. Long and short consonants also contrast in consonant clusters, cf. kuõskkâd 'to touch' : kuõskam 'I touch'. A short period of voicelessness or h, known as preaspiration, before geminate consonants is observed, much as in Icelandic, but this is not marked orthographically, e.g. joʹǩǩe 'to the river' is pronounced [jo̟ʰcc͡çe].



There is one phonemic suprasegmental, the palatalizing suprasegmental that affects the pronunciation of an entire syllable. In written language the palatalizing suprasegmental is indicated with a free-standing acute accent between a stressed vowel and the following consonant, as follows:

vääʹrr 'mountain, hill' (suprasegmental palatalization present)
cf. väärr 'trip' (no suprasegmental palatalization)

The suprasegmental palatalization has three distinct phonetic effects:

  • The stressed vowel is pronounced as slightly more fronted in palatalized syllables than in non-palatalized ones.
  • When the palatalizing suprasegmental is present, the following consonant or consonant cluster is pronounced as weakly palatalized. Suprasegmental palatalization is independent of segmental palatals: inherently palatal consonants (i.e. consonants with palatal place of articulation) such as the palatal glide /j/, the palatal nasal /ɲ/ (spelled ⟨nj⟩) and the palatal lateral approximant /ʎ/ (spelled ⟨lj⟩) can occur both in non-palatalized and suprasegmentally palatalized syllables.
  • If the word form is monosyllabic and ends in a consonant, a non-phonemic weakly voiced or unvoiced vowel is pronounced after the final consonant. This vowel is e-colored if suprasegmental palatalization is present, but a-colored if not.



Skolt Sámi has four different types of stress for words:

  • Primary stress
  • Secondary stress
  • Tertiary stress
  • Zero stress

The first syllable of any word is always the primary stressed syllable in Skolt Sámi as Skolt is a fixed-stress language. In words with two or more syllables, the final syllable is quite lightly stressed (tertiary stress) and the remaining syllable, if any, are stressed more heavily than the final syllable, but less than the first syllable (secondary stress).

Using the abessive and the comitative singular in a word appears to disrupt this system, however, in words of more than one syllable. The suffix, as can be expected, has tertiary stress, but the penultimate syllable also has tertiary stress, even though it would be expected to have secondary stress.

Zero stress can be said to be a feature of conjunctions, postpositions, particles and monosyllabic pronouns.



Skolt Sámi is a synthetic, highly inflected language that shares many grammatical features with the other Uralic languages. However, Skolt Sámi is not a typical agglutinative language like many of the other Uralic languages are, as it has developed considerably into the direction of a fusional language, much like Estonian. Therefore, cases and other grammatical features are also marked by modifications to the root and not just marked with suffixes. Many of the suffixes in Skolt Sámi are portmanteau morphemes that express several grammatical features at a time.



Umlaut is a pervasive phenomenon in Skolt Sámi, whereby the vowel in the second syllable affects the quality of the vowel in the first. The presence or absence of palatalisation can also be considered an umlaut effect, since it is also conditioned by the second-syllable vowel, although it affects the entire syllable rather than the vowel alone. Umlaut is complicated by the fact that many of the second-syllable vowels have disappeared in Skolt Sámi, leaving the umlaut effects as their only trace.

The following table lists the Skolt Sámi outcomes of the Proto-Samic first-syllable vowel, for each second-syllable vowel.

Proto *ā, *ō *ë, *u *i
Skolt a e â, u e
â âʹ õ õʹ
*o å åʹ o
*i e i
*u o u
ä äʹ a
*ea eäʹ, iẹʹ ieʹ
*ie ieʹ iõʹ
*oa uäʹ, uẹʹ ueʹ
*uo ueʹ uõʹ

Some notes:

  • iẹʹ and uẹʹ appear before a quantity 2 consonant, eäʹ and uäʹ otherwise.

As can be seen, palatalisation is present before original second-syllable and *i, and absent otherwise. Where they survive in Skolt Sámi, both appear as e, so only the umlaut effect can distinguish them. The original short vowels , *u and *i have a general raising and backing effect on the preceding vowel, while the effect of original and is lowering. Original is fronting (palatalising) without having an effect on height.





Skolt Sámi has 9 cases in the singular (7 of which also have a plural form), although the genitive and accusative are often the same.

The following table shows the inflection of čuäcc ('rotten snag') with the single morphemes marking noun stem, number, and case separated by hyphens for better readability. The last morpheme marks for case, i marks the plural, and a is due to epenthesis and does not have a meaning of its own.[18]

  Singular Plural
Nominative čuäcc [t͡ʃuatt͡s] čuäʒʒ [t͡ʃuadd͡z]
Genitive čuäʒʒ [t͡ʃuadd͡z] čuäʒʒ-a-i [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑj]
Accusative čuäʒʒ-a-i-d [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑjd]
Illative čuåc'c-u [t͡ʃuɔʰtt͡su]
Locative čuäʒʒ-a-st [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑst] čuäʒʒ-a-i-n [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑjn]
Comitative čuäʒʒ-a-in [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑjn] čuäʒʒ-a-i-vuiʹm [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑjvʲu̟i̟m]
Abessive čuäʒʒ-tää [t͡ʃuadd͡ztaː] čuäʒʒ-a-i-tää [t͡ʃuadd͡zɑjtaː]
Essive čuäcc-a-n [t͡ʃuaʰtt͡sɑn]
Partitive čuäcc-a-d [t͡ʃuaʰtt͡sɑd]

Like the other Uralic languages, the nominative singular is unmarked and indicates the subject or a predicate. The nominative plural is also unmarked and always looks 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 an -i. The genitive is used:

  • to indicate possession (Tuʹst lij muu ǩeʹrjj.' 'You have my book.' where muu is gen.)
  • to indicate number, if said the number is between 2 and 6. (Sieʹzzest lij kuõʹhtt põõrt. 'My father's sister (my aunt) has two houses.', where põõrt is gen.)
  • with prepositions (rääi + [GEN]: 'by something', 'beyond something')
  • with most postpositions. (Sij mõʹnne ääkkäd årra. 'They went to your grandmother's (house).', 'They went to visit your grandmother.', where ääkkäd is gen)

The genitive has been replacing the partitive for some time and is nowadays more commonly used in its place.


The accusative is the direct object case and it is unmarked in the singular. In the plural, its marker is -d, which is preceded by the plural marker -i, making it look the same as the plural illative. The accusative is also used to mark some adjuncts, e.g. obb tääʹlv ('the entire winter').


The locative marker in the singular is -st and -n in the plural. This case is used to indicate:

  • where something is (Kuäʹđest lij ǩeʹrjj: 'There is a book in the kota.')
  • where it is coming from (Niõđ puõʹtte domoi Čeʹvetjääuʹrest: 'The girls came home from Sevettijärvi.')
  • who has possession of something (Suʹst lij čâustõk: 'He/she has a lasso.')

In addition, it is used with certain verbs:

  • to ask someone s.t. : kõõččâd [+loc]

The illative marker actually has three different markers in the singular to represent the same case: -a, -e and -u. The plural illative marker is -d, 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 comitative marker in the singular is -in and -vuiʹm in the plural. The comitative is used to state with whom or what something was done:

  • Njääʹlm sekstet leeiʹnin. The mouth is wiped with a piece of cloth.
  • Vuõʹlǧǧem paaʹrnivuiʹm ceerkvest. I left church with the children.
  • Vuõʹlǧǧem vueʹbbinan ceerkvest. I left church with my sister.

To form the comitative singular, use the genitive singular form of the word as the root and -i'. To form the comitative plural, use the plural genitive root and -vuiʹm.


The abessive marker is -tää in both the singular and the plural. It always has a tertiary stress.

  • Vuõʹlǧǧem paaʹrnitää ceerkvest. I left church without the children.
  • Sij mõʹnne niõđtää põʹrtte. They went in the house without the girl.
  • Sij mõʹnne niõđitää põʹrtte. They went in the house without the girls.

The dual form of the essive is still used with pronouns, but not with nouns and does not appear at all in the plural.


The partitive is only used in the singular and can be replaced by the genitive in most cases. The partitive marker is -d.

1. It appears after numbers larger than six:

  • kääuʹc čâustõkkâd: 'eight lassos'

This can be replaced with kääʹuc čâustõõǥǥ.

2. It is also used with certain postpositions:

  • kuäʹtte'd vuâstta: 'against a kota'

This can be replaced with kuäʹđ vuâstta

3. It can be used with the comparative to express that which is being compared:

  • kåʹlled pueʹrab: 'better than gold'

This would nowadays more than likely be replaced by pueʹrab ko kåʹll


Personal pronouns

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

singular dual plural
1st person mon muäna mij
2nd person ton tuäna tij
3rd person son suäna sij
1st person muu muännai mij
2nd person tuu tuännai tij
3rd person suu suännai sij

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

  Singular Dual Plural
Nominative son suäna sij
Genitive suu suännai sij
Accusative suu suännaid siʹjjid
Illative suʹnne suännaid siʹjjid
Locative suʹst suännast siiʹst
Comitative suin suännain siʹjjivuiʹm
Abessive suutää suännaitää siʹjjitää
Essive suuʹnen suännan
Partitive suuʹđed

Possessive markers


Next to number and case, Skolt Sámi nouns also inflect for possession. However, usage of possessive affixes seems to decrease among speakers. The following table shows possessive inflection of the word muõrr ('tree').[19]

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Possessed Singular Nominative muõrram muõrrâm muõrrad muõrrâd muõrrâs muõrrâz
muõrran muõrrân muõrad muõrâd muõrâs muõrâz
Illative muõrˈrsan muõrˈrseen muõrˈrsad muõrˈrseed muõrˈrses muõrˈrseez
Locative muõrstan muõrsteen muõrstad muõrsteed muõrstes muõrsteez
Comitative muõrinan muõrineen muõrinad muõrineed muõrines muõrineez
Abessive muõrrantää muõrrântää muõradtää muõrâdtää muõrâstää muõrâztää
Essive muõrˈrnan muõrˈrneen muõrˈrnad muõrˈrneed muõrˈrnes muõrˈrneez
Plural Nominative muõrran muõrrân muõrad muõrâd muõrâs muõrâz
muõrrään muõreen muõrääd muõreed muõrees muõreez
Locative muõrinan muõrineen muõrinad muõrineed muõrines muõrineez
Comitative muõräänvuiʹm muõreenvuiʹm muõräädvuiʹm muõreedvuiʹm muõreesvuiʹm muõreezvuiʹm
Abessive muõrääntää muõreentää muõräädtää muõreedtää muõreestää muõreeztää



Skolt Sámi verbs inflect (inflection of verbs is also referred to as conjugation) for person, mood, number, and tense. A full inflection table of all person-marked forms of the verb kuullâd ('to hear') is given below.[20]

Non-past Past Potential Conditional Imperative
1st Person Singular kuulam kuʹllem kuulžem kuulčem -
2nd P. Sg. kuulak kuʹlliǩ kuulžiǩ kuulčiǩ kuul
3rd P. Sg. kooll kuuli kuulâž kuulči koolas
1st Person Plural kuullâp kuulim kuulžep kuulčim kuullâp
2nd P. Pl. kuullveʹted kuulid kuulžid kuulčid kuullâd
3rd P. Pl. koʹlle kuʹlle kuulže kuulče kollaz
4th Person kuulât kuʹlleš kuulžet kuulčeš -

It can be seen that inflection involves changes to the verb stem as well as inflectional suffixes. Changes to the stem are based on verbs being categorized into several inflectional classes.[21] The different inflectional suffixes are based on the categories listed below.



Skolt Sámi verbs conjugate for four grammatical persons:

  • first person
  • second person
  • third person
  • fourth person, also called the indefinite person



Skolt Sámi has 5 grammatical moods:



Skolt Sámi verbs conjugate for two grammatical numbers:

Unlike other Sámi varieties, Skolt Sámi verbs do not inflect for dual number. Instead, verbs occurring with the dual personal pronouns appear in the corresponding plural form.



Skolt Sámi has 2 simple tenses:

  • past (Puõʹttem škoouʹle jåhtta. 'I came to school yesterday.')
  • non-past (Evvan puätt mu årra täʹbbe. 'John is coming to my house today.')

and 2 compound tenses:

Non-finite verb forms


The verb forms given above are person-marked, also referred to as finite. In addition to the finite forms, Skolt Sámi verbs have twelve participial and converb forms, as well as the infinitive, which are non-finite. These forms are given in the table below for the verb kuullâd ('to hear').[22]

Verb form
Infinitive kuullâd
Action Participle kuullâm
Present Participle kuulli
Past Participle kuullâm
Passive Participle kullum
Progressive Participle kuullmen
Temporal Participle kuuleen
Instrumental Participle kulleeʹl
Abessive Participle kuulkani
Negative converb kuul, kullu (indicative and imperative mood, form depending on which person)
kuulže (potential mood)
kuulče (conditional mood)

Auxiliary verbs


Skolt Sámi has two auxiliary verbs, one of which is leeʹd (glossed as 'to be'), the other one is the negative auxiliary verb (see the following paragraph).

Inflection of leeʹd is given below.[23]

Non-past Past Potential Conditional Imperative
1st Person Singular leäm leʹjjem leʹžžem leʹččem
2nd P. Sg. leäk leʹjjiǩ leʹžžiǩ leʹččiǩ leäkku
3rd P. Sg. lij leäi leeʹžž leʹčči leäǥǥas
1st Person Plural leäʹp leeiʹm leʹžžep leʹččim leäkkap
2nd P. Pl. leäʹped leeiʹd leʹžžveʹted leʹččid leäkku
3rd P. Pl. lie, liâ (both forms exist, they underlie idiolectal variation) leʹjje leʹžže leʹčče leäkkaz
4th Person leät leʹjješ leʹžžet leʹččeš

Lee'd is used, for example, to assign tense to lexical verbs in the conditional or potential mood which are not marked for tense themselves:

  • Jiõm âʹte mon ni kõõjjče, jos mon teâđčem, leʹččem veär raajjâm ouddâl.

(negation (1st P. Sg.) – then – 1st P. Sg. – even – ask (negated conditional) – if – 1st P. Sg. – know (1st P. Sg. conditional) – be (1st P. Sg. conditional) – soup – make (past participle, no tense marking) – before)

'I wouldn't even ask if I knew, if I had made soup before!'[24]

Negative verb

Skolt Sámi, like Finnish, the other Sámi languages and Estonian, has a negative verb. In Skolt Sámi, the negative verb conjugates according to mood (indicative, imperative and optative), person (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th) and number (singular and plural).

Person Indicative Imperative Optative
1 Singular jiõm
Plural jeäʹp jeälˈlap
2 Singular jiõk jeäʹl
Plural jeäʹped jieʹlled
3 Singular ij jeälas
Plural jie ~ jiâ jeällas
4 jeäʹt

Note that ij + leeʹd is usually written as iʹlla, iʹlleäkku, iʹllää or iʹllä jie + leeʹd is usually written as jeäʹla or jeäʹlä.

Unlike the other Sámi languages, Skolt Sámi no longer has separate forms for the dual and plural of the negative verb and uses the plural forms for both instead.

Word order


Declarative clauses


The most frequent word order in simple, declarative sentences in Skolt Sámi is subject–verb–object (SVO). However, as cases are used to mark relations between different noun phrases, and verb forms mark person and number of the subject, Skolt Sámi word order allows for some variation.[25]

An example of an SOV sentence would be:

  • Neezzan suâjjkååutid kuårru. (woman (Pl., Nominative) – protection (Sg., Nominative) + skirt (Pl., Accusative) – sew (3rd P. Pl., Past)) 'The women sewed protective skirts.'

Intransitive sentences follow the order subject-verb (SV):

  • Jääuʹr kâʹlmme. (lake (Pl., Nominative) – freeze (3rd P. Pl., Present)) 'The lakes freeze.'

An exception to the SOV word order can be found in sentences with an auxiliary verb. While in other languages, an OV word order has been found to correlate with the auxiliary verb coming after the lexical verb,[26] the Skolt Sámi auxiliary verb leeʹd ('to be') precedes the lexical verb. This has been related to the verb-second (V2) phenomenon which binds the finite verb to at most the second position of the respective clause. However, in Skolt Sámi, this effect seems to be restricted to clauses with an auxiliary verb.[27]

An example of a sentence with the auxiliary in V2 position:

  • Kuuskõõzz leʹjje ääld poorrâm. (northern light (Pl., Nominative) – be (3rd P. Pl., Past) – female reindeer (Sg., Accusative) – eat (Past Participle)) 'The northern lights had eaten the female reindeer.'

Interrogative clauses

Polar questions

In Skolt Sámi, polar questions, also referred to as yes–no questions, are marked in two different ways. Morphologically, an interrogative particle, -a, is added as an affix to the first word of the clause. Syntactically, the element which is in the scope of the question is moved to the beginning of the clause. If this element is the verb, subject and verb are inversed in comparison to the declarative SOV word order.

  • Vueʹlǧǧveʹted–a tuäna muu ooudâst eččan ääuʹd ool? (leave (2nd P. Pl., Present, Interrogative) – 2nd P. Dual Nominative – 1st P. Sg. Genitive – behalf – father (Sg. Genitive 1st P. Pl.) – grave (Sg. Genitive) – onto) 'Will the two of you go, on my behalf, to our father's grave?'

If an auxiliary verb is used, this is the one which is moved to the initial sentence position and also takes the interrogative affix.

  • Leäk–a ääʹvääm tõn uus? (be (2nd P. Sg., Present, Interrogative) – open (Past Participle) – that (Sg. Accusative) – door (Sg. Accusative)) 'Have you opened that door?'
  • Leäk–a ton Jefremoff? (be (2nd P. Sg., Interrogative) – 2nd P. Sg. Nominative – Jefremoff) 'Are you Mr. Jefremoff?'

A negated polar question, using the negative auxiliary verb, shows the same structure:

  • Ij–a kõskklumâs villjad puättam? (Negation 3rd P. Sg., Interrogative – middle – brother (Sg. Nominative, 2nd P. Sg.) – come (Past Participle)) 'Didn't your middle brother come?'

An example of the interrogative particle being added to something other than the verb, would be the following:

  • Võl–a lie mainnâz? (still (Interrogative) – be (3rd P. Sg., Present) – story (Pl., Nominative)) 'Are there still stories to tell?'[28]
Information questions

Information questions in Skolt Sámi are formed with a question word in clause-initial position. There also is a gap in the sentence indicating the missing piece of information. This kind of structure is similar to Wh-movement in languages such as English. There are mainly three question words corresponding to the English 'what', 'who', and 'which' (out of two). They inflect for number and case, except for the latter which only has singular forms. It is noteworthy that the illative form of mii ('what') corresponds to the English 'why'. The full inflectional paradigm of all three question words can be found below.[29]

What Who Which
Singular Nominative mii ǩii kuäbbaž
Accusative mâiʹd ǩeän kuäbba
Genitive mõõn ǩeän kuäbba
Illative mõõzz ('why') ǩeäzz kuäbbže
Locative mâʹst ǩeäʹst kuäbbast
Comitative mõin ǩeäin kuäbbain
Abessive mõntää ǩeäntää kuäbbatää
Essive mââʹden ǩeäʹđen kuäbbžen
Partitive mââʹđed ǩeäʹđed kuäbbžed
Plural Nominative mõõk ǩeäk -
Accusative mâid ǩeäid -
Genitive mââi ǩeäi -
Illative mâid ǩeäid -
Locative mâin ǩeäin -
Comitative mââivuiʹm ǩeäivuiʹm -
Abessive mââitää ǩeäitää -

Some examples of information questions using one of the three question words:

  • Mâiʹd reäǥǥak? (what (Sg., Accusative) – cry (2nd P. Sg., Present)) 'What are you crying about?'
  • Mõõzz pueʹttiǩ? (what (Sg., Illative) – come (2nd P. Sg., Past)) 'Why did you come?'
  • Ǩii tuʹst leäi risttjeäʹnn? (who (Sg., Nominative) – 2nd P. Sg., Locative – be (3rd P. Sg., Past) – godmother (Sg., Nominative) 'Who was your godmother?'
  • Kuäbbaž alttad heibbad? (which (Sg., Nominative) – begin (3rd P. Sg., Present) – wrestle (Infinitive)) 'Which one of you will begin to wrestle?'

In addition to the above-mentioned, there are other question words which are not inflected, such as the following:

  • koʹst: 'where', 'from where'
  • koozz: 'to where'
  • kuäʹss: 'when'
  • mäʹhtt: 'how'
  • måkam: 'what kind'

An example sentence would be the following:

  • Koozz vuõʹlǧǧiǩ? (to where – leave (2nd P. Sg., Past)) 'Where did you go?'[30]

Imperative clauses


The Skolt Sámi imperative generally takes a clause-initial position. Out of the five imperative forms (see above), those of the second person are most commonly used.

  • Puäʹđ mij årra kuâssa! (come (2nd P. Sg., Imperative) – 1st P. Pl., Genitive – way – on a visit) 'Come and visit us at our place!'

Imperatives in the first person form, which only exist as plurals, are typically used for hortative constructions, that is for encouraging the listener (not) to do something. These imperatives include both the speaker and the listener.

  • Äʹlǧǧep heibbad! (start (1st P. Pl., Imperative) – wrestle (Infinitive)) 'Let's start to wrestle!'

Finally, imperatives in the third person are used in jussive constructions, the mood used for orders and commands.

  • Kuärŋŋaz sij tieʹrm ool! (climb (3rd P. Pl., Imperative) – 3rd P. Pl., Nominative – hill (Sg., Genitive) – onto) 'Let them climb to the top of the hill!'v329–330


  1. ^ Glottopedia article on Skolt Sámi.
  2. ^ K.H. "Språket bare en person snakker" [The language that only one person speaks]. 29 December 2020. Klassekampen. P. 29 "knapt 300 igjen som kan, som [...] Veikku Feodoroff fortalte til Klassekampen tidligere i år" [barely 300 left that can, as [...] Veikku Feodoroff told Klassekampen earlier this year]
  3. ^ a b Sergejeva 2002, p. 107.
  4. ^ a b Ole Magnus Rapp. 2023-11-06. Klassekampen. P.24
  5. ^ Sergejeva 2002, p. 103.
  6. ^ Rantanen, Timo; Tolvanen, Harri; Roose, Meeli; Ylikoski, Jussi; Vesakoski, Outi (8 June 2022). "Best practices for spatial language data harmonization, sharing and map creation—A case study of Uralic". PLOS ONE. 17 (6): e0269648. Bibcode:2022PLoSO..1769648R. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0269648. PMC 9176854. PMID 35675367.
  7. ^ Rantanen, Timo, Vesakoski, Outi, Ylikoski, Jussi, & Tolvanen, Harri. (2021). Geographical database of the Uralic languages (v1.0) [Data set]. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4784188
  8. ^ https://yle.fi/a/74-20074997. Yle.fi. Retrieved 2024-03-02
  9. ^ "Sää'mođđâz-lehti" (in Finnish). Saa'mi Nue'tt ry. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  10. ^ "Tuõddri peeʹrel 2014 – Tarinoita kolttasaamelaisesta kulttuurista, elämästä ja ihmisistä" (in Finnish). Saa'mi Nue'tt ry. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Yle Ođđasat koltansaameksi ensimmäistä kertaa" (in Finnish). Yle. 26 August 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  12. ^ "Jumala puhuu myös koltansaameksi – Vuâsppoʹd maainast še säämas" (in Finnish). Suomen ortodoksinen kirkko. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Lappi ortodookslaž sieʹbrrkåʹdd" (in Skolt Sami). Lapin ortodoksinen seurakunta. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  14. ^ Moshnikoff, Minna (3 December 2012). "Ville-Riiko Fofonoff on Vuoden koltta 2012" [Ville-Riiko Fofonoff is Skolt of the Year 2012] (in Finnish and Skolt Sami). Saaʹmi Nueʹtt. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  15. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 20, 37.
  16. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 37–38.
  17. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 92.
  18. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 137–138.
  19. ^ Feist (2010), p. 175.
  20. ^ Feist (2010), p. 115.
  21. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 115–136.
  22. ^ Feist (2010), p. 116.
  23. ^ Feist (2010), p. 135.
  24. ^ Feist (2010), p. 269.
  25. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 278–281.
  26. ^ Feist (2010), p. 284.
  27. ^ Feist (2010), p. 282.
  28. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 319–321.
  29. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 325–326.
  30. ^ Feist (2010), pp. 326–328.


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  • Feist, Timothy (2015). A Grammar of Skolt Saami. Helsinki, Finland: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Korhonen, Mikko; Mosnikoff, Jouni; Sammallahti, Pekka, eds. (1973). Koltansaamen opas. Castrenianumin toimitteita. Vol. 4. Helsinki, Finland: Castrenianum. ISBN 978-951-45-0189-0.
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  • Mosnikoff, Jouni; Sammallahti, Pekka (1991). Suomi-koltansaame sanakirja = Lääʹdd-sääʹm sääʹnnǩeʹrjj. Ohcejohka, Finland: Girjegiisá oy.
  • Moshnikoff, Satu (1987). Muu vuõssmõs sääʹmǩeʹrjj. Ruäʹvnjargg, Finland: Painatuskeskus Oy.
  • Sámi Language Act [Unofficial translation] (PDF) (1086). Helsinki, Finland: Suomen eduskunta. 2003.
  • Sergejeva, Jelena (2002). "The Eastern Sámi Languages and Language Preservation". Samiska i ett nytt årtusende [Sámi in a New Millennium]. Copenhagen, Denmark: Nordiska ministerrådet. p. 103.