Of mother tongues and other tongues is the blog of a young man living in Finland and learning the language—and when I say “learning the language,” I mean doing it up right: he’s got nearly the complete set of the Finnish etymological dictionary (and I’m jealous). He has a post comparing Finnish and its cousin Hungarian:

There’s a sentence that gets quoted a lot showing relations between Hungarian and Finnish, as each language retains similar words. It and more such sentences can be found here, along with more of those fancy -v- words. Pretty nifty!

Hun.: Jég alatt télen eleven halak úszkálnak.
Fin.: Jään alla talvella elävät kalat uiskentelevat.
‘In wintertime living fish swim under the ice.’
Ki ment mi előttünk?
Ken meni meidän edessämme?

‘Who went before us?’

Thus, I must suggest the possibilities for Northern Sámi: jieŋa vuolde dalvet ealli guolli vuodjala, and gii manai min ovddas.
The first sentence (or at least my version) is not so transparent/related. In NS, alde is probably actually related to Finnish yllä ‘under, below’; similarly vuodjalit ‘to swim (freq.)’ might well come from another root (relating to Finnish ajaa?).

Fun stuff!

Update (Oct. 2020). I tried to replace the dead links, but it turns out the Wayback Machine has only a single record of the site, from 2008; I’ve substituted it for the first link, and the others will just have to stay defunct. I guess we can be grateful it was archived that once…


  1. Jim Tucker says

    Just a couple of corrections for the Hungarian:
    1) “Jég alatt” (not “ég alatt,” which would mean “under the sky”) – this also more closely shows the correspondence with “Jään”
    2) “úszkálnak” (long ú – less of a big deal than 1)
    3) előttünk (long ő, not short ö); also, modern Hungarian would write “mielőttünk” as one word.

  2. Thanks! (I’ve corrected them silently, since I expect Ryan will make the corresponding corrections on his blog.)

  3. The Finnish word for under or below is allayllä means the opposite. Furthermore, could vuodjalit be from vuo ‘stream’?

  4. Goodness. I ought to get a Hungarian etymological dictionary, Languagehat? Gulp.
    Do you know any Finnish or Estonian, Jim?

  5. Markus: Thanks—fixed.
    mark: Heh. I don’t mean one can’t learn a language well without one, just that to me etymology is the icing on the cake of language-learning.

  6. Fascinating! Because I emigrated to Canada as a child, my Finnish is not as good as it should be for lack of practise. However, I do find the language sources and the connections to cousins very interesting. Thanks for the links!

  7. My son’s dentist when he was a child was an Estonian-American woman. He enjoyed going to the dentist because of the laughing gas, and some of his fondest memories are of listening to her chat to her assisant while she was working. His favorite:
    Dentist: “I’ve really been having trouble finding a good Estonian-English dictionary”
    My son: “Yeah, I’ve had the same problem”.
    Dentist: “No, really! They’re hard to find.”

  8. Jim Tucker says

    No, Mark. Wish I did.

  9. Actually, the first Hungarian sentence is gramatically correct, but quite odd as far as colloquial word order is concerned. I find more cognates between Turkish and Hungarian, in fact – Bartok used to have a sentence that he would pull out while collecting Turkish folk music, using all kinds of loans such as ‘alma’ (apple) ‘birka’ (sheep) and ‘kapu’ (gate.)
    I’ve been to Finland twice, and used to have a Finnish clarinetist in my band. I can tell you that a Hungarian hears our “linguistic relatives” in Finnish the way an English speaker hears a Bengali speaker.

  10. Zaelic, the word order is kind of strange in Finnish too, so I don’t know what they were going for exactly in all these comparisons. It makes it seem to me that it might be ‘fish that live at winter’, as opposed to ‘fish that live at summer’, say.
    Anyway, wanted to point out a little typo. alde is likely related to yllä, somehow; not alla. The NS alde looks more like FI. alla, so I was confused, but that would make no sense because alla is ‘under’, while alde is ‘above’. It’s actually NS vuolde that’s related to FI. alla; which matches up with the NS. vuodjit and FI. ajaa. Sorry for the confusing correction war, but thus is life 😉

  11. Heh. OK, I’m changing it back!

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