Northern Sámi, or North Sámi, is a Western Sámi language spoken
by about 15-25,000 people mainly in northern Norway, and also in
northern Sweden and northern Finland. This language was formally called
Lapp or Lappish, however these terms are no longer used.
Northern Sámi was first documented in a grammar and dictionaries
published in the mid-18th century by Knud Leem. The current orthography
for Northern Sámi developed from the spelling system developed by
Rasmus Rask and first published in 1832. Rask worked on the principle
of one letter per sound. Separate orthographies developed in
Norway, Sweden and Finland, but the systems used in Norway and
Sweden were combined from 1948, and an official orthography for
use in all three countries was adopted in 1979, and last modified in
In Norway Northern Sámi is an official language in two
counties (Finnmark and Troms) and six municipalities (Kautokeino,
Karasjok, Nesseby, Tana, Porsanger and Gáivuotna (Kåfjord)).
In Karasjok and Kautokeino approximately 90% of the people speak
Northern Sámi is taught in some kindergartens, primary
schools and secondary schools. Some college courses are available
in or taught through Northern Sámi, and there are also language
courses for adults. The language is used in local administration
in areas where it is widely spoken, and there is one newspaper,
Ávvir, in Northern Sámi.
Northern Sámi alphabet and pronunciation
Northern Sámi alphabet
Northern Sámi pronunciation
b, d and g are unvoiced at the beginning of words
i = [j] when followed by a vowel
á = [a] before htt, hpp, hkk, hcc or hčč
d = [ð] between 2nd and 3rd syllables
t = [ʰt] when at the end of a word, but when a word ending in t is in the middle of a sentence, the t is dropped. For example, Bures dat manná [b̥ures d̥ah manna:]
p, t & k are often pre-aspriated after vowels, e.g. dat = [d̥aʰt]
A schwa (ə) can be added when a consonant is followed by two consonants, e.g. golbma = [g̥oləbma], and is always added between lg, rd, rv; e.g. olgun [oləg̥u:n]
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Buot olbmot leat riegádan friddjan ja olmmošárvvu ja
olmmošvuoigatvuođaid dáfus dássásažžab.
Sii leat jierbmalaš olbmot geain lea oamedovdu ja sii gálggaše
leat dego vieljačagat.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)