Finnish language phonetics
This article deals with the sound patterns of the Finnish language
. The grammar of Finnish
and the way(s) in which Finnish is spoken
are dealt with in separate articles.
Originally, Finnish had no initial consonant clusters, this however is changing due to influence from other European languages.
Older borrowings from (e.g.) Swedish have had initial consonant clusters eroded. For example "koulu" <- school, "tuoli" <- stool.
More recent borrowings have retained their clusters, for example 'presidentti' = 'president'. However, it is common to hear these clusters eroded in speech ("resitentti") particularly, though not exclusively, by Finns who know little or no Swedish or English and who are not used to making sounds for letters such as d, c or x.
Like the Turkish language
, Finnish has vowel harmony
, i.e. only certain designated vowels can appear together in a morpheme. However, this vowel harmony is only partial:
are considered neutral vowels, but front vowels y, ö, ä
never mix with back vowels u, o, a
e.g., 'tyttö' = 'girl' is a possible Finnish morpheme because it has only front vowels, whereas *tytto is impossible because it has both front and back vowels.
Note that in the sections below, wherever a is mentioned, ä should also be understood, depending on vowel harmony.
- /a/ unrounded open back vowel
- /e/ unrounded mid-close front vowel
- /i/ unrounded close front vowel
- /o/ rounded mid-open back vowel 'o'
- /u/ rounded close back vowel
- /y/ rounded close front vowel - as in French 'but', Old English and Finnish spelling: 'y'
- /æ/ unrounded open front vowel - as in English 'bat', Finnish spelling: 'ä'
- /ø/ rounded mid-close front vowel - as in French 'deux', Finnish spelling: 'ö'
- /k/ voiceless velar plosive
- /p/ voiceless bilabial plosive
- /t/ voiceless dental plosive
- /d/ voiced alveolar plosive
;Finnish has no voiced plosives in native words - with the exception of /d/ that developed from /δ/ voiced dental fricative (as in English 'the'). \r\nWithout /d/, Finnish plosives have (in native words) no distinctive voice at all. The letters b
do occur in Finnish in loanwords, but more often than not, they are pronounced voiceless, /p/ and /k/ respectively. Furthermore, the voiceless plosives in Finnish are never
;The compound -ng- is present in mid-position in some inflected Finnish words, but it is pronounced /ŋŋ/.
- /m/ voiced bilabial nasal
- /n/ voiced alveolar nasal
- /ŋ/ voiced velar nasal
- /l/ voiced alveolar lateral
- /s/ voiceless alveolar fricative
- /h/ voiceless glottal fricative
;[š] (as English 'sh') and [f] only appear in non-native words.
- /r/ voiced alveolar trill
- /υ/ voiced bilabial semivowel
- /j/ voiced palatal semivowel
The consonant preceding the inflection of a word (either noun or verb) is subject to consonant gradation. Broadly, a consonant will adopt a 'strong' form if the following syllable is 'open' - containing a double vowel or not ending in a consonant - and a 'weak' form otherwise.
The following is a partial list of strong -> weak correspondences:
- 't' -> 'd'
- 'k' -> ''
- 'p' -> 'v'
Note that in any given grammatical situation, the consonant can grade either way depending on the word involved. Here are some examples:
- 'mäki' = 'hill' -> 'mäen' (genitive form)
- 'ranta' = 'shore' -> 'rannan' (genitive form)
- 'ranne' = 'wrist' -> 'ranteen' (genitive form)
- 'tavata' = 'to meet' -> 'tapaan' (I meet)
- 'tietää' = 'to know' -> 'tiedän' (I know)
There are rare exceptions to the general rule, some of which are noted in the noun cases section.
All phonemes except /υ, d, j/ have distinctive length except in dialects.
Some example word pairs:
- 'tuli' = 'fire', 'tuuli = 'wind', 'tulli' = 'customs'
- 'muta' = 'mud', 'muuta' = 'other' (partitive sg.), 'mutta' = 'but'
, Finnish always places the primary stress on the first syllable of a word.