The Sami languages are Uralic languages spoken in parts Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The area traditionally inhabited by the Sami people is known as Sápmi in North Sami, Saemie in South Sami and Sameland in Norwegian and Swedish. The Sami languages are divided into two groups: Western and Eastern, and there are various subdivisions within each group.
The Sami languages and people are sometimes referred to as Lap(p), and the area where they live as Lapland. These words are considered offensive by Sami people in Norway, Sweden and Finland when used in a hostile way by non-Samis. However, they are used to some extent among the Sami in an ironic way [source].
According to the 2015 edition of Ethnologue, the Sami languages are collectively spoken by about 30,000 people. The statistics below for the individual Sami languages come from the same sorce.
There is quite a lot of mutual intelligibility between neighbouring Sami languages, however speakers of more widely separated languages cannot understand one another without learning or extensive exposure to the other language.
In Norway Sami 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 Sami 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 Sami, Skolt Sami and Inari Saami are offically recognised in Finland and Sami people have the right to use Sami languages for all government services. Sami languages have offical status in the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari, Sodankylä and Utsjoki.
The Sami people are recognised as an indigenous people in the Russian Federation, however their languages have no official status.
The first Sami language to be used extensively in writing was Ume Sami: an Ume Sami translation of the New Testament was first published in 1755, and a complete translation of the Bible in 1811.
Six of the Sami languages currently have standard written forms:
The other Sami languages are:
Information about the Sami languages and people
Saami University College
Sametinget / Samediggi / Sami Parliament of Sweden
Page last modified: 17.11.22
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