The Sámi languages are Uralic languages with about 24,500 speakers in Norway,
Sweden, Finland and Russia. The area traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people
is known as Sápmi in North Sámi, Saemie in South Sámi
and Sameland in Norwegian and Swedish. The Sámi languages are divided
into two groups: Western and Eastern, and there are various subdivisions
within each group. The Sámi languages were formerly known as Lapp,
but that name is now considered derogatory.
There is quite a lot of mutual intelligibility between neighbouring Sámi
languages, however speakers of more widely separated languages cannot
understand one another without learning or extensive exposure to
the other language.
In Norway Sámi languages have offical status in the counties of Finnmark
and Troms, and in the municipalities of Kautokeino, Karasjok, Gáivuotna
(Kåfjord), Nesseby, Porsanger, Tana, Tysfjord, Lavangen and Snåsa.
Since 2002 Sámi languages have been recognised as minority languages
in Sweden and have official status in Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Kiruna
municipalities. In these areas they can be used in government agencies, courts,
pre-schools and nursing homes.
North Sámi, Skolt Sámi and Inari Sámi are offically recognised in
Finland and Sámi people have the right to use Sámi languages for all
government services. Sámi languages have offical status in the municipalities
of Enontekiö, Inari, Sodankylä and Utsjoki.
The Sámi people are recognised as an indigenous people in the Russian Federation,
however their languages have no official status.
The first Sámi language to be used extensively in writing was
Ume Sámi: an Ume Sámi translation of the New Testament was first
published in 1755, and a complete translation of the bible in 1811.
Six of the nine living Sámi languages currently have standard written forms:
Northern Sámi (davvisámegiella / sámegiella),
a Western Sámi language spoken by about 15,000 people in Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Lule Sámi (julevsámegiella), a Western Sámi
language with about 1,500 speakers in Norway and Sweden
Southern Sámi (åarjelsaemien gïele),
a Western Sámi language with around 600 speakers in Sweden and Norway.
Inari Sámi (anarâškielâ), an
Eastern Sámi language with about 500 speakers in Finland.
Skolt Sámi (sää'mǩiõll /
nuõrttsää'm), an Eastern Sámi language with about
400 speakers in Finland and Russia.
Kildin Sámi (кӣллт
an Eastern Sámi language spoken in the Kola peninsula of Russia by about 600 people.
The other Sámi languages are:
Pite Sámi (Bidumsámegiella), a Western Sámi language with about 25-50 speakers in Sweden.
Ume Sámi, a Western Sámi language spoken in Norway and Sweden by about 10 people.
Ter Sámi (saa'mekiill), an Eastern Sámi language spoken in Russia by 2 people.