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Proto-Uralic to Finnish sound changes


  • Here, /@/ is NOT an ASCIIfication of /ə/, but any vowel that assimilates to the preceding vowel. This comes useful with cases of compensatory lengthening and echo vowels.
  • Similarly, /A O U/ are harmonic vowels which will assimilate to either /a o u/ or /æ ø y/ depending on the harmony. /a/ is to be understood as [ɑ].
  • /ˣ/ is the assimilatory final, pronounced as lengthening of the next word's initial consonant, or in case of null initial, [ʔː] or hiatus. Very rarely, it occurs within words, too (usually sandwiched between two instances of the same vowel.)
  • /C/ represents any consonant; /V/ represents any vowel; and /X/ represents any 2nd mora in a syllable (be it consonantal, diphthongal or chronemical).

I've grouped similar changes together under sub-headings, so the order of unrelated changes might not be exactly chronological whenever no reference was available. Also, since the document is headed towards Standard Finnish, I've had to cut a few corners anyway when maneuvering around dialectal changes... in a few cases picking the most represented outcome wasn't all that clear.

Proto-Uralic to Pre-Finnic

The existence of a "Proto-Finno-Samic" ("-Volgaic", "-Permic", "-Ugric") as distinct from PU is unclear, hence "Pre-Finnic". Traditionally this period is dated at 4000 BCE to 3000 BCE, but probably this was a shorter and much more recent period, perhaps 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE.

Changes shared with Samic are in indigo, those also shared with Mordvinic in green, and those with even wider distribution in orange.

Back raising (West Uralic; mostly Permic, possibly Hungarian/Mansi? Probably not in Mari.)

  • o > u / _Cə, front consonant (lumi luu puhua purra suu tulla uni, probably uusi)
    • retained before a back consonant (hokea koiras kokea noutaa poika povi soida tuoda)
    • From Janhunen (1981). The front/back conditioning is proposed by myself.

Coda nasal simplification (SKRK pp. 52–53, 58)

  • m > n / _{t tsʲ #} (Finnic, Mordvinic; medially also Permic, Hungarian, Mansi)
    • word-final examples: 1PS ending; accusative; superlative; muuan on seitsen sydän vasen ydin; instrumentals in -in
    • root-medially: antaa kansi lansi ontelo tuntea, possibly kinnas (← Baltic), ranta (← Gmc)
    • partitives: lientä lunta nientä tuonta
    • but: contrast with a vowel stem in imeä (ˣintä)

Spirant fronting

  • d₁ > ð (Samic, Finnic, Mordvinic; but in Mari, d₁ > ∅)
  • d₂ > ð (Samic, Finnic, Mordvinic, Mari)
    • A merger *ð > *t applies later in Finnic, Mordvinic, and widely in Samic, but Lehtinen's Law shows this to be secondary.

Stressed vowels — unconditional changes

  • ë > a (possibly earlier than introduction of length)
    • Unambiguous examples: ahtaa ala- anoppi appi hapsi jakaa kangertaa maksa valkama; kaari maa; nuoli suomu suoni tuomi. Probably also kanto lansi lapsi matka sakea valkea; nuori vuosi

Stressed vowels — conditional changes?

  • å > a / _Cʲ, _a
  • e > i / #j_ (ilma ~ OU *jeeləm, itse ~ Ms *(j)is, irvi- ~ P/Ms *jer-, jyvä ~ IE *jewa, ihme ~ Kh #jem "hyvä", ikä ~ IE *jegʷaa, ihminen ~ IE *ǵnh₁-)
    • This change proposed by myself.

Pre-Finnic to Proto-Finnic

Changes not shared by other branches of Uralic.

Monophthongization (dubious; not apparent in Sami, evidence ambiguous in Mordvinic)

  • speculatively: iw > y / _C (sydän)

Consonant stems

  • ə > ∅ / stem-finally after a coronal or *m (needs elaboration)

Unstressed vowels

  • aw > o (the presence of -w rarely is shared, so this may also be analogical)
  • əw > u (apparent in nomina verbum; not shared, but probably contemporary with *Aw > o)
  • a > ä / [+front]X*_ (if not an original distinction; vowel harmony fails only in Samic and Permic)
  • ə > e (probably later than syncope)
  • e > i / _#
  • e > ɤ / {a o u}X*_ (if not just South Finnic; not evident in NF)


  • ŋ > x (phonetically probably [ɰ]; suggested by myself to explain the next change)

Introduction of primary non-close long vowels (Lehtinen's Law)

  • A > Aː / _{m n l r ð}ə (kieli liemi mieli niele- pieli sieni vieri ääni; juoni kuole- kuori nuole- nuoli nuori puoli suoli Suomi suomu suoni tuomi vuode vuole- vuori vuosi + Livonian sūoŗ "root"; exception: pane-)
  • also a > aː / _jə (hoi-taa koi "dawn" koi "moth" voi; cf. no raising in täi, which could be secondary re-shortening however)
  • possibly ä > äː / _wə (Livonian kēv "mare" ~ Samic *kēvë)
    • Fed by *ë > *a.
    • These long vowels were previously explained by reconstructing a special structure *-Vx- in Proto-Uralic, which would have led to a long vowel at a much earlier date, but this does not appear to hold up. For full discussion see Aikio (2012)

Long vowel raising

  • äː aː > eː oː

Affects all instances of *Aː from the previous change; and newer IE loans incl. at minimum huone tuohi (Baltic), suoja (Iranian), hieta lieka neula miekka; ruoka (Germanic); possibly also further Germanic loans (candidates heittää hiema lieko seula sietää; ruoho muoto), but this is difficult to tell. Exception: ääni, due to initial position?
— An areal change shared with Germanic. Likely later in Samic, given PGmc *ē > Proto-Norse *ā → Pre-Samic *ā > Proto-Samic *ō in a couple of loanwords.

Palatal unpacking. A change proposed by myself; traditionally a distinctive cluster *ŋś has been reconstructed.

  • ∅ > j / {e ä a}_ĆV (-ise- paina- seiso- seitsemän veitsi, possibly niiska 'roe' suitsu. Unlikely for oinas)
  • nʲ > nj / #(C)i_ä (i.e. after a short stressed /i/; miniä?)
       > @n / ü_V (kyynel kyynärä)
       > n (by default)
    • Given no glide epenthesis in kato, it seems that *d₂ had already depalatalized by this point.
    • Feeds *aj *äj *ej > ëj ej iː.
    • May predate monophthongization, given O-stem conditionals such as toisi < *toojci < *toxəjćə < *toxəćə? Unless these are simply analogical.

Diphthong smoothing

  • possibly: ej > iː (likely in niiska piimä tiine — cf. PII *paiman, PIE *dʰeinah₂. Yet seemingly later than ti > ci?!)
  • possibly: ow > uː (likely in kuusi 'Abies', given Mansi *kaawt; potentially also kuule- juuri muu tuuli uudin. Earlier than *x > *w)
  • The origin of several instances remains unclear, including viisi kuusi kuule-.

Other vowel changes

  • V# > Vː (affects most old CV words, eg. muu nuo tuo. Exceptions me te he se ne, the first two of which display -k in Livonian, -t in Far Northern dialects.)
  • *ê *ô > e o / _(X)Cə (new hypothetical vowels for PU, possibly semi-rounded [ɪ ʊ])
            > y ɯ > y i / _(X)CA
  • əj > i / _C, unstress'd (but *-əjV > *-ejV remains at this point)
  • i > y / _wä (hyvä jyvä syvä)
  • ä > e / _j unstress'd
  • a > e / {o u}[+STR](X)C_j
       > o / {a e i}[+STR](X)C_j
       > a / elsewhere

(Other instances of unstressed /aj/, eg. in plurals of derivativs, shift too, but analogical leveling has render'd it impossible to tell whether the original result was /ej/ or /oj/.)


  • u > o / _x (puo souta-; juo-, unless this had *ë)
  • i > e / _x ?? (keima-; but contrast unlowered/re-raised? kiima)

Loss of *x, *ŋ & medial *w, leading to secondary long vowels. These may have merged in some ways. Medial cases:

*x *w
(N/A) UŋA > Oː (myö-tä; but syyhy ~ S. *sëŋē ) UwA > Oː (hyö-tä- lyö- suo- syö-kse- vuo)
(cf. retention variants hyvä suvaitse- syvä uv-e)
uxə > oː (juoda puo, see abov)
Uŋə > Uː (kuu pyy uu-ttu; but ŋ > w in suvi tyvi) Uwə > Uː (luu puu suu tyyni)
(cf. retention variant tyven)
exə > øː/eː? (myö-; vie-?) eŋə > øː (pyörä) ewə > øː (syö- työ)
ixə > iː? (siili) iŋə > iː, (hiiri pii 'tooth' riihi sii 'beam' vii-me) (no change: kivi)
Axə > Aː (jää- maa saa- sää "filament" sääri ääri) Aŋə > Aː (jää kaari pää sää 'weather') (no change in savi; *äwi > äw in käy-, but > eew in Liv. kēv)
oxə > oː (tuo-) oŋə > oː (luo luoda ) (lovi is ← Gmc despite probable Mo/Ma cognates)
possibly > w (arvo ← II argʰa) ŋ > w / _{U O}, elsewhere _A (pivo vävy, avaa- kevät) (no change: kevyt kova nivo- etc.)
  • Parts of this might be post-MPF and perhaps in part post-LPF. Note *uwa > Liv. õvā.
  • A distinct PF *-ww- or *-wŋ- may have occurred in some words, incl. ovi povi savu (cf. Es. õu põu sau ~ Vo. õvvi põvvi savvu; Olon. savu ~ savvu). But cf. auvo neuvo sauva?
  • suo may be an irregular development from PU *toxə, or from *soxə ← preGmc *soigʷ-.
  • syy may have had any of *x *w *j
  • vie- may be a dissimilation *wexe- > *weje- (expected **wewe-).
  • Possibly in suffixal formations, x > w / {U O}_C (souta- nouta-), > j / {I E}_C (keima-). May be identical with the development of *ŋ. Potentially, viisi kuusi belong here too?
  • ŋ remains / _k
       possibly > n / _t (ensi, unless *e-nti-; onte-, unless < *omtə *)
       > w / _C (jauha- jousi joutsen), C_ (aivo ahven pilvi sauva)

Loss of medial *j in i/e-stems (retention elsewhere, sija etc.)

  • jə > @ / {i e ü}_ (kiehu- pii "Si" tie; kyy?)
       > j / {A o u}_ (koi soi- tai- täi uida voi, ?? koira, unless simply consonant-stem *koj-ra)
       > i / C_{# C) (järin neli- nurin veli vihi väli, perhaps rähise- ärise-; väri ~ värjää- is straight from Sw.)
  • /yje/ > */øː/ >


  • ∅ > v / #_oː (at least vuo vuohi vuona vuosi vuota; possibly vuole- vuori if *v-loss preceded this)

Notable exception: uoma. Before *øː, treatment is inconsistent: vyö 'belt', but 'night'. Homonym avoidance? Or perhaps *UwA > *OO was older than *Owə > *OO?

This change would have to be massively postdated in case the isolated *voohela > vohla 'goat kid' (*voohi > vuohi 'goat') is not simply thru a Southwestern dialect that shortened vowels before *h, or in parallel from Baltic with analogical /v/.

  • Vː > V / _i (keittä-, cf. kiehua; voi voi-; imperfects myi söi toi etc; obliq plurals maita puita teitä etc. Possibly nai-, cf. naaras, täi.)
    • Postdates v-epenthesis: voi < *vooji
    • Postdates palatal unpacking: saisi < *saaći
    • Postdates *ej-raising: vei < *veej

Initial deaffrication. Newer apparent initial affricates are found in loanwords, onomatopoeia, and via *ti- > *ći-.

  • ʧ > ʃ / #_ (häntä henki hetki huveta, perhaps hama hapan hieno hinta huosia. Contra UEW, hukka- is ← Gmc.)
  •  ? ʦʲ > sʲ / #_ (may have occurred early in sääri solmu: cf. Võ säär' sõlm synn', but Komi ćër 'stem', ćań 'foal'; Hungarian csomó 'knot')
    • Both changes appear to be shared with Mordvinic, yet the first is reverted in Erzya (where also *š- > /ʧ/).
CCC simplification
  • ntt > tt (kattaa tuta) (or just *mtt?)
  • pst tst kst > st
    • partitives: kystä lasta; veistä; susta usta; sormusta etc. Last two forms archaic in F. (suksea uksea). Later in peistä. NB lapsta uksta, suormõks in Liv.
    • infinitives: juosta syöstä piestä
  • wst > st / o_ ? (nouse- > nosta-)
  • Common also in loanword adaptation since an early date.
    • Late PIE *arktos > F/Mo *okti "bear" (but path of loaning unknown)
    • Gmc ntj nsj nkj > tj šj kj (asia rasia; ohja; originals TBA. Cf. Koivulehto (1982))

Middle Proto-Finnic to Late Proto-Finnic

The period after the separation of South Estonian and Livonian as distinct dialects. Changes continued to diffuse into these two

Diphthong raising (Heikkilä's Law)
  • ai > ëi / {l r s š}_ (i.e. after continuants)
    • leipä; reikä reisi; seinä seistä seiväs; heimo heinä
    • perhaps likewise äi > ei in leinä seitsen heisi? yet also: neiti köysi veitsi
    • Proposed in Heikkilä (2013).

Loss of and *ʧ

  • ð > t (may be gradation-related, shared with Mordvinic but not Samic.)
  • ʧː > tʃ (kaha kehä piha, possibly johtaa)
  • ʧ > t (Exceptions: haahka puhki.
    • In pre-South Estonian, *ʧ > ts / _k (*kačke- *kačku *kičke- *nočko *pučki *sičkajn)
    • Possibly in pre-Livonian and pre-SE: *tk > *kk before this (*kutki *kütke-j-mä > kukki kikiim, but eg. *piðka > pitka, *počka > potka).
    • Cf. also *kočka > F. kotka ~ kokko; *lakki- ~ latkia is prob contamination from li/atise-)


  • t > ʦʲ / _i
  • tj > ʦʲ(ː) (found only in IE loans: katsoa kutsua metsä; shortened in asia rasia)

except after a coronal obstruent (the clusters /tt st ʃt/) or before a derivational suffix

    • Includes *t from older *č, *dₓ. Cf. e.g. *edə- > esi-, *künčə > kynsi.

Depalatalization, commonly attributed to Germanic superstratum influence.

  • nʲ ʦʲ(ː) sʲ > n ʦ(ː) s
  • A shift lʲ > l has traditionally been assumed as well (for e.g. kalvo kulma), but the evidence for a separate original *lʲ is poor.

Coda spirantization

  • p k > h / _t
    • Probably via *xt *ft, though there is no explicit evidence for such a stage.
    • Postdates *ti >> *ci: cf. *kakti > kaksi.
    • With IE loanwords continuing to feed new /pt kt/, this rule remained active up until the 20th century.


  • i > ∅ / _#, 3rd+ syllable; VC_, ks_ suffix-finally

Final clusters

  • ks nʦ nt > s s t / _# (jänis etc, kolmas etc, tuhat. First and last retained in Liv.)


  • ʃ > ʂ > x (postdates old Baltic and Germanic loanwords; as well as the previous on account of blocking assibilation. Per Permic, the retroflex stage may date back quite far)
  • k t > ∅ / _x (cases with *kš: ahtera hihna huhta huuhto- mahi mehiläinen vaahtera vaha, possibly pahka, Estonian jähe pähn. For *tš see abov)
  • s > x / _{n l} (ahnas hähnä pahla pihlaja. Cf. late cr > sr > Fi. hr.)


  • wC > *Cw / C ∈ {j r s} (laiva raivo; järvi karva tarvas torvi; kasvaa rasva)
    • Later than Heikkilä's Law.

Nasal simplification part 2. Probably postdates the previous, given no simplification in *nx (inhimi- inho vanha etc.)

  • n > ∅ / _(t)s (nisä osa otsa kusi) (distribution?)

Paradigmatically reverted in cases of *-ntsi ~ *-nte- such as kansi, ponsi; not however in ordinals: kolmas ~ kolmante- (also note Est. kaas vel. sim. - a later reprise per compensatory lengthening? - and Liv. vuontsa - suggesting Gmc. loan origin?)

  • ln > lː (alla halla pellava yllä, -llA -lle if clitickized yet)

Consonant gradation. These all occur on the general condition that the folloing syllable is closed. At this stage gradation remained allophonic.

  • pː tː ʦː kː > pˑ tˑ ʦˑ kˑ / {sonorant}_V (the half-long stage can still itself trigger gradation; no gradation is found in Veps or Livonian)
  • p t ʦ s k > b d s z ɡ / {sonorant}_V

(NB: gradation of modern /ht hk/ is analogy-borne)

Suffixal gradation (needs elaboration)

  • p t s k > b d z ɡ / V[-STR]_V


  • b d ɡ > β ð ɣ / except N_
    • May be actually much later; the change is not evident in Veps. β ð ɣ > v ∅ g in Votic is probably a Russicism.

Fricativ collapse

  • ʦ > s (short only; isä kasa 'corner' …)
  • z > h
  • x(ː) > h (a largely graphical shift: a spirant pronunciation can still be found in coda position)

Results as:

Phonology of late Proto-Finnic

Consonant inventory
Lab. Dnt. Alv. Vel.
Nasals m n
Stops & affricate p t ʦ k
Fricatives s h
Lateral l
Rhotic r
Semivowels v j

(I'm marking *w > [ʋ] as /v/ from now on, for brevity. The change is practically impossible to date.)

Syllable structure (C)V(@, i, U, C)(C). Coda /p/ only occurred morpheme-internally. /ʦ/ only occurred as geminate.

/#ji #je #vu/ did not occur.

Allowed medial clusters included the following (and possibly more, depending on how many consonantal root forms were in existence yet by this stage):

  • /pː tː tk ʦː kː/
  • /mp nt nʦ ŋk/
  • /nx/
  • /ps ks/ (/kst/?), including older *pʦ *kʦ
  • /tn km/ (only intermorphemically)
  • /sm st sn sl sk hm ht hn hl hr hk/
  • all liquid + non-liquid combinations other than /ln/
  • Vj + any consonant
  • VU + /p t ʦ k s h m (n l?) v/
  • /ntː ŋkː rtː rkː lkː/?
  • various CC combinations preceded by Vj, VU or V@

VU + /j r/ are forbidden and metathesize to /jv rv/ in loans (haiven häivä laiva raiva- raivo, järvi karva tarvas torvi; kaivata with analogous gradation?). At an older stage, this included VU + /s x v/ → /sv (hv?) @v/ (kasva- rasva, haava kaava naava), but this was disrupted by the development *ŋ > U (jousi jauha- sauva). Cf. Koivulehto (1970, 1986)

Note also kauha ~ kahva, kiuru ~ kirvinen, kuilu ~ kulju, pälvi ~ S. *pēvlë.

Vowel inventory
/i iː y yː      u uː /
/e eː   øː      o oː /
/æ æː      a aː      /
/ej ew          oj ow/
/æj æw    aj aw uj   /

/i e A o (u?)/ could occur in non-initial root syllables (plus /ej oj/ due to suffixal j).

Proto-Finnic to Proto-Finnish

[Ca. 2000 BCE to 1000 CE] (Needs to be broken into the previous and the last two sections.)

Difthong paradigm shift j w > i U / V_{C #} (not really phonetical; required for pre-diphthongal consonants not to gradate) - wait, but they do gradate in some dialects; needs bumping, then

Around this time there's also a paradigm shift wrt. /f/ in loanwords: the reflex of initial /f/ changes from /p/ to /v/. This could signify a change of [w] to [ʋ] in the position, but also of [ɸ] to [f] in the loaning languages (or even the onset of Grimm's law)! Medial /f/ does not seem to ever turn to /p/.

Loss of /v/ before labial vowels

  • v > ∅ / #_{o u y} (perhaps also: non-initially? kärventää ~ käry, kalvaa ~ kaluta — but late in *hehvo > hieho, maybe laiho ~ Vo laivo)

The consonant may have persisted before long vowels, but since a glide was epenthetically added there anyway (see next), there's no way to tell. Compensatory lengthening may have occurred before *u (*woðʲə > uusi). Shared with Samic, Mordvinic & Mari, but note that this seems to be a late areal change — it is later than the South Finnic change from *o to *ɤ per *wo-tta- "to take" > *vɤtta- > Es. võtma- (however, note the counterexample *wolka > õlg).

Loss of initial */j/ before /i/ is likely of similar age. The medial change in *velji > veli is late: cf. Olonets veĺĺi, Veps & Ludic veĺĺ, Votic velli~ velji.

Vowel lengthening

  • a > aː / _rn (aarni haarniska kaarna kaarne saarna saarni vaarna (check dating!))

Assimilation of many consonant clusters to geminates, etc. (Dating provisional for most, perhaps older.) All of these require a morpheme boundary somewhere in the cluster. A basically equivalent criterion is requiring a preceding unstressed syllable. Of these, /rn pt kt/ occurred root-medially, and were retained (though rn > rː may have occurred in aarre; cf. aarni - and kt > tː is required for tytär, which appears to be the only loan with the cluster around this timeframe. Võro has even root-medially pt kt > tː.)

  • kt(s) pt(s) > tː(s)
  • xk > kː (happens also across word boundaries, precluding the formation of /?/)
  • (t)(ː)sn > sː
  • rn > rː
  • pn tn kn ktn ptn (etc.) > nː (in later loans may be retained: linna ~ Vo lidna, Ve lidn, also Võ liin; vuona ~ Vo võdna. Original vuonna ~ Vo voona.)
  • pm tm km (etc.) > mː (lumme mämmi)

(The consequent obscuring of many inflected forms due to this and the previous change, esp. the essiv, however eventually caused many words to revert back, commonly with vowel insertion. Eg. *sut-na, *laps-na > sunna lassa > sutena lapsena. Note also *pekstä, *pekse- > piestä, piekse-)

  • e > @ / h_ in suffixes

Late Proto-Finnic to Proto-Northern Finnic

Changes shared with Ingrian and Veps but absent from some dialects of Estonian and Votic.


  • ä > a / eC_C*o (elanto emakko erakko eranto kesakko kesanto venakko; ? epatto), eC_C*u (elatus sepalus), iC_Ca (iankaikkinen)
  • o > ö / {y ä ö}X*_ (analogically generalized to certain suffixes even in i/e-words, eg. heittiö, itiö, nimistö, vaaleaverikkö)

Proto-Northern Finnic to Proto-Finnish

[Ca. 500-1000 CE]
Changes common to the Western and Eastern dialects of Finnish (many also extending to Karelian, but generally not Veps). These may be areal in nature.

"Flavor": Voiced prenasal stops become geminate nasals, and (around the same time as in a whole lot of other European languages!) long mid vowels become opening diphthongs. Also, the weak grade of geminates coincides with the strong grade of singletons:

  • mb nd ŋg > mː nː ŋː
  • øː oː > ieuo (could be older; Estonian has uo > oo)
  • pˑ tˑ ʦˑ kˑ θˑ > p t ʦ k
    • ʦ(ː) > θ(ː) (remains gradational; etsi- itse joutsen katso- kitsas lietso- loitsi- kutsu- metsä ratsu otsa paatsama vatsa veitsi virtsa vitsa)

Spirant loss, part 1. Found also in Estonian and Votic.

  • β > v
    • v > ∅ / _UC (aulis auttaa haukka hius keuhko kiukku köykäinen liueta liukas liukua reuhtoa riuska soukka säyseä tyyssija, possibly aukko loukko saukko)

Proto-Finnish to Standard Finnish

[Ca. 1000-1900 CE] Most of these changes occurred in only a particular Finnish dialect area, and have been chosen for inclusion in Standard Finnish during the evolution of the written language.

Actor noun shift

  • e > i / _jA (itkijä lukija menijä pesijä etc.)

Widespread in Finnic, but not universal: archaisms are attested from certain varieties of southwestern Finnish (cf. Ojansuu 1901: 110-111), as well as varieties of Votic (e.g. lukõja, pesejä). Hence, separate from the closed unstressed syllable assimilations *əj > i (common Finnic) and *Aj > *ej > *ii > *i (Northern Finnic).

More shifts with /h/

  • Vh > hV / {j v n r l}_# (aihe vaihe sauhu venhe unho parha- erhe perhe orhi murhe urho alhainen ylhäinen valhe; löyhä? dialectally regular)
    • dubbelmetathesis: imeh > *imhe > ihme
    • speaking of metathesis, also sn > ns (känsä runsas)
  • Lengthening before coda h (cf. T. Itkonen 1987)
    V > Vː / h_hC (haahka haahti hieho (< *hehvo) hiihtää huuhkaja huuhtoa; regular in eastern dialects and Karelian)
    irregular cases / _ht: kiihtelys paahtaa piehtaroida vaahtera vaahto; jäähtyä if not by analogy with jää. Length original in tuohtua (← tuohi), vyyhti (< *viühti)
    irregular cases / _hk: kiihko kyyhky nyyhkiä pyyhkiä ruuhka
    irregular cases / _hR: kiehnätä.
    Western dialects show short vowels, which is secondary at least in lyhde mähnä (< *liühteh *mädähnä), tohtua vyhti, inflected forms such as rihtä tohta (: riihi tuohi).
  • k h > ˣ / _#
  • s > h / _r (ahrain ihra kehrä ohra)

Pre-sonorant stop vocalization (with an intermediate spirant stage)
Predominantly Germanic loanwords; a few Baltic, and (not necessarily too reliable) Uralic etymologies exists for *kopra *kotva *kupla *nakris *süklä. By the evidence of other Finnic languages, would-be *tl in loanwords is substituted by *kl (eg. *seeθla > *seekla).

  • p > U / _S (hauras kauris koura seura taulu teuras vauras äyräs; also note kupla, from a conservativ dialect)
    > v / _j (avio kavio)
  • t remains _{v, j} (katve kotva latva patvi; ketju lotja patja vitja)
    > i /_m (Loimaa)
    > U / _r{A, O, U} (aura hauru 'bladderwrack' nöyrä peura puuro, possibly uuras)
    > @ / _r{i, e} (teeri; w/dialectal variants teiri, teyri, töyri; also cf. vöyreä ~ vetreä)
  • k > @ / _j (laaja raaja taaja vaaja, cf. Koivulehto (1982))
    > i / {i, e}_S{i, e} (eilen keila leili leiri neilikka peili teili teini tiili; probably in part occurred in loaning Finland Swedish dialects, except eilen, of unkno'n origin & where Karelian explicitly retains /kl/; dialectal variants eylen öylen. Also note kekri from a conservativ dialect, variants köyri etc.)
    > U / {A, O, U}_S (S≠j) (hauli kaula kaura käyrä kyyry myyrä mäyrä naula nauris naura- paula vaula väylä sauna syylä taula uuni vaunu; note vuokra, from a conservativ dialect); {i e}_Sa (neula seula siula siuna-)

Initial-syllable labialization

  • ey > øy (exception: leyhyä. The regular variant löyhyä also exists)
  • i > y | _C*y (in non-productiv forms; at least lytty nyky- pysty pysy-, possibly pylly; vieri- > vyöry- may be contamination with pyörä)

The former is pan-Finnish (general also in Veps and South Estonian; conditional in Estonian and perhaps Karelian), but postdates coda stop vocalization (nöyrä; cf. also dialectal köyri nöyle töyri vöyreä öylen as mentioned above). The latter is absent from a number of Eastern dialects.

"Sievers' Law" (requires elucidation)

  • j > i(j) / C_ suffix-initially; including cases where the plain root isn't found: asia kavio etc.) Parts of the "actor noun shift" may have passed thru this as well (*menəjä > *menjä > menijä?)

Spirant loss, part 2

  • ið > j / V[-STR]_V
  • ð remains V[+STR](X)_
        > l / l_
        > r / r_
        > ∅ / elsewhere
  • ɣ > j / C_e (exception forms from eastern dialects: ahertaa)
        > v / U_U
        > ? / V1V2_V2 (including the cases of V1=V2; also V2≠U)
        > j~v / V[-STR]_V (jalava kajava kataja petäjä salava etc.)
        > ∅ / elsewhere
  • h > ∅ / V[-STR](X)_V

Unstressed diphthong simplification

  • oi > o / [-STR]. Analogically reverted in many, though not all, cases where the -i was morphological; remains more general in colloquial Finnish. Retained in Savo and Western Uusimaa.

Unstressed vowel contractions (unfinished, may need to be meshed with the prev. section)

  • AO > Aː, Oː or Uː (seemingly irregularly)
  • Ae > Ai
  • Ue > eː
  • VU > Vː / _# (in the 3PS ending, from *-βi)
  • iU > Uː
  • OU > Oː (kokoontu-; but aitous etc.)

The final stages of interdental loss began after or around the time of the creation of the literary language, seen in spellings such as <tz dh>. By standardization it was however practically complete. The standard outcome is largely a spelling pronunciation based on the example of German and Swedish:

  • θ(ː) > ts
    • Exceptions: > tː in mittumaari; > ht in vihta
    • Related hypercorrection ht > ts: otso
  • ð > d (commonly alveolar)
    • Exceptions: > ∅ in auer ehättää kahareisin kohentaa lähettää muuan navetta rehennellä rehellinen veikata viehättää yhyttää, perhaps tuho; > l in railo talikko. Loota 'box' has been loaned independently of Ostrobothnian *looða > loora.

Most common dialectal variations for the former are t(ː) and ht~t, for the latter r and ∅.

Modern Standard Finnish

Modern Standard Finnish has the following consonant phonemes:

p t    k (ʔ)
b d    ɡ
m n    ŋ
f s (ʃ) h
ʋ l r j

/b ɡ f ʃ/ only occur in loanwords and neologisms. /ʃ/ is rather marginal and usually replaced by /s/. [ʔ] occurs optionally word-initially before a vowel, and between two identical vowels.

The vowels are /i e æ ø y ɑ o u/. Vowel harmony continues to apply to suffixes, however in loanwords and neologisms /æ ø y/ and /ɑ o u/ can co-occur (psyko-, hyla, sekundääri). Examples of /æ/ and /ɑ/ co-occurring remain rare; even the lexicalized compound tällainen is usually pronounced [ˈt̪ælːæ(i)ne̞]. All vowels may occur long at any position of the word; however, (C)VVCC syllables occur only in very recent loans (pointti).

Any difthongs that end in -i/-y/-u and adhere to vowel harmony and the Obligatory Contour Principle are possible, tho in stressed syllables /ey/ is exceedingly rare (due to the change to /øy/; found only in the verb leyhy-) and /iy/ nonexistant.

The following sound changes (mostly old ones!) are commonplace in spoken Standard Finnish:

  • n > ∅ / _#
  • d > ∅ or r, in inherited vocabulary
  • Va > Vː / unstress'd
  • ie yö uo > ii yy uu / _A
  • ne le > @ / CVCV verb stems (mee paa oo tuu)

Proto-Finnic to Livonian


Palatalization 1 (everywhere except in ?Votic, Finnish proper, some Estonian & Karelian dialects; possibly needs splitting)

  • t ts s(C) n l r > tʲ tsʲ sʲ(C) nʲ lʲ rʲ / _i

Deaffrication (near universal in Finnic, but note the exception here)

  • ts(ʲ) > s(ʲ) / except n_ (vuontsa)

Common South Finnic changes (Estonian, Võro, Votic)

  • e > ɤ / _C(C){a o u}
  • ä > a / [-STR] (phonemicizes the prev. - also in Veps. Not evident in Võro, but might be a later reintroduction of harmony)
  • h > ∅ / {# C}_ (initially only dialectally in Estonian)
  • Vn > Vː / _s (in Livonian only in new loans *kansa, *pensas; in E/Võ/Vo also from *nts, see prev.)


  • a ä > ä e / _C*i

Vowel reduction

  • V > ə / [-STR] ≠a (*u *i survive in certain suffixes, but never in roots)
  • a > ə / [-STR] VC(C)aC(C)_#, also always in verbal stems

Early length

  • Vh > Vːɦ / _C (except hj hv?)

Liquid metathesis

  • LV > VL / [-sonorant]_ (*atra > *atar, *putro > *putor, etc.) (may need relocation)


  • p t(ʲ) k s(ʲ) > b d(ʲ) g z(ʲ) / when not initial or next to another voiceless segment (yes, final consonants voice too!)

Early glottalization

  • (C)VCV > (C)VʔCV


  • ə > ∅ / _#, VC_CV

Gemination etc.

  • C > Cː / ʔ_V
  • gj dj lj rj > jg dʲ lʲː rʲː
  • dv zv lv rv jv > d z lː rː jː
  • Cv > C / elsewh.

Length II / degemination

  • VCːa > VːCa / [+sonorant] (preceeds general presonorant lengthening since *a > ō, *o > ūo from here)
  • Cː > C / except V_ə in verbs (unless this is a reflex of the infinitiv!?)

Vowel shift 1

  • aː au > ɔː ɔu (some new *aː develop in words like *parma > _paarm_ "gadfly")
  • eː (øː) oː > iːe (yːø) uːo
  • ɤ(ː) > ɨ(ː)

2nd glottalization

  • ɦ > ʔ

Sibilants (hard to date)

  • (t)sʲ (d)zʲ > (t)ʃ (d)ʒ

Vowel shift 2

  • y ø > i e
    • except äy ey > äu eu (may be original)
  • V > Vː / _[+sonorant]C(C)a (including diphthongs in -i, eg. *aitta > āita)
  • a > aː / VC_
  • e o > eː oː / _Ca
  • o > oː / _[+sonorant]C#, _i
  • eː oː > je wo (= <ie uo>, UPA /ⁱe ᵘo/)
    • wo > vo / #_
    • wo > ʊ / [+bilabial]_
  • ɔ(ː) > o(ː) (or just ill-transcribed?)

Notes for other Finnic languages

Votic is now go.

  • All except Liv. (possibly reverted there by analogy): ks > s / _#
  • All except Savonian Finnish ~ Karelian: Vː > V / _h (old per no apocope: eg. Est. rohi, Veps roho)
  • Veps ~ Ludic ~ Karelian: ts(ː) > ʧ(ː)
    • Karelian proper: s > ʃ except / i_ (WTF? A 2nd round of depalatalization?), cr > tr
    • Ludic & Veps: medial voicing, cr > sr > zr
      • Veps proper: final voicing, degemination, s > ʃ / i_, palatalization / _i (viž kuź!), ä ü > a u / [-STR], iu eu > üu öu, loss of vowel length, l > u / V_C, dialectally: ei > iː, j > dʲ / #_
  • Estonian & Veps: trimoraic apocope
  • Estonian & Votic: o > ɤ / _(C*){i e}, _u
  • Estonian: jh wh > hj hv / V_, Vi > Ve / _{r v}, akj akR > ai aeR, V > ∅ / VXC_#, high V > mid V / _nonhigh V, ü > i [-STR] (> u in 3rd+ syllables, or anharmonic all along)


Note the following abbreviations for the main sources, as well as journals / book series:

This article is one of quite a few pages about Natlangs.

Indo-european natlangs:

Balto-Slavic Natlangs: Czech * Russian
Celtic Natlangs: Revived Middle Cornish * Pictish
Germanic Natlangs:
North Germanic Natlangs: Norwegian
West Germanic Natlangs: Anglo-Saxon * Dutch * English (Old English * Middle English * Modern English * Scots) * German (High German * Low German)
Indo-Iranian Natlangs: Pahlavi
Italic Natlangs: French * Italian * Latin * Spanish
Debated: Cimmerian

Uralic Natlangs: Finnish * Khanty * Mansi * Mordvinic * Proto-Uralic
Altaic (controversial): Japanese
Sino-Tibetan Natlangs:
Uto-Aztecan Natlangs: Nahuatl


Isolate Natlangs: Basque * *
Hypothetical/debated Natlangs and Natlang families: Danubian * Europic (obsolete)