Southern Sámi

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Southern Sámi
åarjelsaemien gïele
RegionNorway, Sweden
Native speakers
(600 cited 1992)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Hattfjelldal, Røros, Snåsa and Røyrvik in  Norway[2]
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2sma
ISO 639-3sma
Corrected sami map 4.PNG
Southern Sámi is 1 on this map.
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.
Åarjel-saemiej skuvle (Southern Sámi school) and maanagierte (kindergarten) in Snåsa.

Southern or South Sámi (åarjelsaemien gïele, Norwegian: sørsamisk, Swedish: sydsamiska) is the southwesternmost of the Sámi languages, and is spoken in Norway and Sweden. It is a seriously endangered language; the strongholds of this language are the municipalities of Snåsa, Røyrvik, Røros (Trøndelag, Central Norway) and Hattfjelldal (Nordland, Northern Norway) in Norway.

It is possible to study Southern Sámi at Nord University in Levanger, Umeå University in Umeå, and Uppsala University in Uppsala. In 2018 there were two master's degrees written in the language at Umeå University.[4] Language courses are also offered in different Sámi language centres throughout the south Sámi area.

Writing system[edit]

Southern Sámi is one of the six Sámi languages that has an official written standard, but only a few books have been published for the language, one of which is an adequate-sized Southern Sámi–Norwegian dictionary.

Southern Sámi uses the Latin alphabet:

A a B b D d E e F f G g H h I i
Ï ï J j K k L l M m N n O o P p
R r S s T t U u V v Y y Æ æ Ö ö
Å å

The Sámi Language Council recommended in 1976 to use ⟨æ⟩ and ⟨ö⟩, but in practice the latter is replaced by ⟨ø⟩ in Norway and the former by ⟨ä⟩ in Sweden.[5] This is in accordance with the usage in Norwegian and Swedish, based on computer or typewriter availability. The Ï ï represents a back version of I i, however many texts fail to distinguish between the two.

C c, Q q, W w, X x, Z z are only used in words of foreign origin.


Southern Sámi has two dialects, the northern and the southern dialect. The phonological differences between the dialects are relatively small; the phonemic system of the northern dialect is explained below.


The vowel phonemes of the northern dialect are the following; orthographic counterparts are given in italics:

front central back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
close i ⟨i⟩ y ⟨y⟩ ɨ ⟨ï⟩, ⟨i⟩[a] ʉ ⟨u⟩ u ⟨o⟩
mid e ⟨e⟩ o ⟨å⟩
open ɛ ⟨æ⟩, ⟨ä⟩,[b] ⟨ae⟩[c] ɑ ⟨a⟩
  1. ^ The distinction between the vowels /i/ and /ɨ/ is normally not indicated in spelling: both of these sounds are written with the letter ⟨i⟩. However, dictionaries and other linguistically precise sources use the character ⟨ï⟩ for the latter vowel.
  2. ^ The spelling ⟨æ⟩ is used in Norway, and ⟨ä⟩ in Sweden.
  3. ^ Long /ɛː/ is written ⟨ae⟩.

The non-high vowels /e/, /ɛ/, /o/ and /ɑ/ contrast in length: they may occur as both short and long. High vowels only occur as short.

The vowels may combine to form ten different diphthongs:

front front to back central to back central to front back to front back
close to mid /ie/ ⟨ie⟩ /yo/ ⟨yø⟩, ⟨yö⟩ /ʉe/ ⟨ue⟩; /ɨe/ ⟨ïe⟩, ⟨ie⟩ /uo/ ⟨oe⟩
close to open /ʉa/ ⟨ua⟩
mid /oe/ ⟨øø⟩, ⟨öö⟩
mid to open /eæ/ ⟨ea⟩ /oæ/ ⟨åe⟩ /oa/ ⟨åa⟩


Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive unaspirated p ⟨b⟩, ⟨p⟩ t ⟨d⟩, ⟨t⟩ ts ⟨ts⟩ ⟨tj⟩ k ⟨g⟩, ⟨k⟩
aspirated ⟨p⟩ ⟨t⟩ ⟨k⟩
Fricative f ⟨f⟩ s ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨sj⟩ h ⟨h⟩
Nasal m ⟨m⟩ n ⟨n⟩ ɲ ⟨nj⟩ ŋ ⟨ng⟩
Lateral l ⟨l⟩
Trill r ⟨r⟩
Approximant β ~ w ⟨v⟩ j ⟨j⟩


Sound alternations[edit]

In Southern Sámi, the vowel in the second syllable of a word causes changes to the vowel in the first syllable, a feature called umlaut. The vowel in the second syllable can change depending on the inflectional ending being attached, and the vowel in the first vowel will likewise alternate accordingly. Often there are three different vowels that alternate with each other in the paradigm of a single word, for example as follows:

  • ae ~ aa ~ ee: vaedtsedh 'to walk' : vaadtsam 'I walk' : veedtsim 'I walked'
  • ue ~ ua ~ öö: vuelkedh 'to leave' : vualkam 'I leave' : vöölkim 'I left'

The following table gives a full overview of the alternations:

first vowel
Followed by
Followed by
Followed by
Followed by
Followed by
aa ae aa aa ee
*ea ea ie ea aa ee
*ie ea ie ea ïe ie
*oa åa åe åa oe öö
*uo ua ue åa oe öö
a e æ, å a, ï e
*i æ, ij i æ ïj i
*o å u å, a o, a, ov u
*u å, a u å o, ov u

On the other hand, Southern Sami is the only Sami language that does not have consonant gradation. Hence consonants in the middle of words never alternate in Southern Sami, even though such alternations are frequent in other Sami languages. Compare, for instance, Southern Sami nomme 'name' : nommesne 'in the name' to Northern Sami namma : namas, with the consonant gradation mm : m.


Southern Sami has 8 cases:

Case Singular ending Plural ending
Nominative - -h
Accusative -m -jte / -ite / -idie
Genitive -n -i / -j
Illative -n / -se / -sse -jte / -ite / -idie
Inessive -sne / -snie -ine / -jne / -inie
Elative -ste / -stie -jste / -jstie
Comitative -ine / -jne / -inie -igujmie / -jgujmie
Essive -ine / -jne / -inie (no plural form)



Southern Sámi verbs conjugate for three grammatical persons:

  • first person
  • second person
  • third person



Grammatical number[edit]

Southern Sámi verbs conjugate for three grammatical numbers:

Negative verb[edit]

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

Southern Sámi negative verb, indicative forms
Non-past indicative Past indicative
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1st im ean ibie idtjim idtjimen idtjimh
2nd ih idien idie idtjih idtjiden idtjidh
3rd ij eakan eah idtji idtjigan idtjin
Southern Sámi negative verb, imperative forms
Non-past imperative Past imperative
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1st aelliem aellien aellebe ollem ollen ollebe
2nd aellieh aelleden aellede ollh olleden ollede
3rd aellis aellis aellis olles olles olles


Like Skolt Sámi and unlike other Sámi languages, Southern Sámi is an SOV language.


  1. ^ Southern Sámi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Samelovens språkregler og forvaltningsområdet for samisk språk". (in Norwegian). Statsministerens kontor. 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2018-01-30. Forvaltningsområdet for samisk språk omfatter [...] Snåasen tjïelte/Snåsa kommune og Raarvihke Tjielte/Røyrvik kommune i Nord-Trøndelag.
  3. ^ "To which languages does the Charter apply?". European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Council of Europe. p. 5. Archived from the original on 2013-12-27. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  4. ^ "Umeå University". Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  5. ^ Magga, Ole Henrik; Magga, Lajla Mattsson (2012). Sørsamisk grammatikk [A Grammar of South Sami] (in Norwegian). Kautokeino: Davvi Girji. p. 12. ISBN 978-82-7374-855-3.
  • Bergsland, Knut. Røroslappisk grammatikk, 1946.
  • Knut Bergsland. Sydsamisk grammatikk, 1982.
  • Knut Bergsland and Lajla Mattson Magga. Åarjelsaemien-daaroen baakoegærja, 1993.
  • Hasselbrink, Gustav. Südsamisches Wörterbuch I–III

External links[edit]