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Votic (Vaďďa; Estonian: vadja; Finnish: vatja; Russian: Водский) is a moribund Finnic language closely related to Estonian. It is spoken in Ingria in western modern-day Russia, near the coast of the Gulf of Finland. Several other Finnic varieties are known from Ingria, including the titular Ingrian, but Votic is thought to be the original language of the region.

Among the Finnic languages, Votic features some interesting archaisms (most of these are also found elsewhere). In several respects Votic resembles the also archaic Finnish-Karelian continuum more than the highly innovative (North) Estonian.


Two main dialects groups of Votic have been recorded, Western and Eastern (the latter is now extinct), both spoken in an area of about 25×15 kilometers. The language has been on the decay for a while: 34 Votic-speaking villages with a total population of ~6000 were known in 1848, 21 ones with a population of ≤1000 in the 1910s. A third dialect extinct since the early 19th century, Krevinian, is recorded from Curonia in eastern Latvia, descending from prisoners of war transported there by the Teutonic Knights circa 1450 CE.

A fourth supposed dialect was spoken in the village of Kukkozi in Ingria, separated a little ways from the main Votic-speaking area. This Finnic variety, however, shows crucial differences from the main dialects of Votic (e.g. general retention of /o/, /ns/, /wh/, /Vːh/, /k/, /NP/), and may be better considered a dialect of Ingrian with strong Votic influence. The language of Kukkozi is not treated further here.


No standard orthography of Votic exists. I use here Estonian conventions for the vowels: a e i o u ü ä ö õ, long vowels written doubled. Consonant-wise, č š ž stand for the postalveolars, ď ń ś (etc.) for palatalized consonants, c for the alveolar affricate. Both the medial fully voiced obstruents, and the final (non-contrastively) voiceless lenis ones are written as voiced b d ď z ž g (as also in Livonian and Veps).


By far most of this section is sourced from Lauri Kettunen (1915): Vatjan kielen äännehistoria.

A general point: Votic has loaned plenty of vocabulary from the adjacent Ingrian, Savonian etc. dialects, which has led to words appearing as exceptions to most of the soundlaws below. Typically when multiple such exceptions can co-occur, they will: thus, loaned *kewhä → keühä 'poor', in place of expected ˣčevä. Occasionally also an inherited and a loaned word will appear in parallel (e.g. *nëwvo > nõvvo 'fishing rod', but → nevvo 'advice'). Hence there is little reason to suspect the loan origin of such exceptions.

Core Finnic to Proto-Peipsian

Old sound changes (& such) shared with Estonian or its eastern dialects. Core Finnic originally split into Northern Finnic (= Finnish proper + Savonian + Ingrian + Karelian + Veps) and Central Finnic (= Estonian + Votic). According to Tiit-Rein Viitso the latter then split into Northern Estonian and "Proto-Peipsian", from which Votic and the distinctive Kodavere dialect of Estonian descend.

  • *b *d *g > *β *ð *ɣ, except before a nasal. Probably a fairly old change, being also found in South Estonian and most of Northern Finnic. Possibly even Proto-Finnic, if Veps and Livonian have simply reverted this.
  • *cr > *tr. Shared with rest of South Finnic, and somewhat strangely also found in Savonian (where it might be due to *cr > *sr > *θr > tr).
  • *Vn > Vː / _s (aasa 'trap', čüüsi 'nail', ees- 'first', kaasa 'with', kaasi 'lid', kõõz 'when', lääsi 'west', maazikaz 'strawberry', põõzaz 'bush', õõsi 'hollow'; tuusi- imperfect stem of tuntõ- 'to know'). Shared with rest of South Finnic.
  • Shortening: *Vː > V / _h (e.g. mehe- obl. stem of meez 'man', rihi 'room', roho 'grass', toho 'birch bark', voho 'goat'; also in illativs of monosyllabic roots, e.g. suu : suhõõ)
Loss of *h
  • *h > ∅ / #_ (not general across the Estonian dialects; some cases may be loans from Finnish)
  • *h > ∅ / C_ (e.g. anõ 'goose', vana 'old'; karu 'bear', tara 'yard')
  • *h > ∅ / V_V other than ˈV_V
  • The consonant remains syllable-finally (e.g. nahka 'leather'), and intervocally following the stressed syllable (e.g. raha 'money').
Delabialization of *o
  • *o > ɤ / _{u v}. Found thruout Estonian (also South E.). In five words (jevi kõva lõunad põuta sõutaa), unrounding occurs even in Livonian; these could be loans from Es., or they could indicate Proto-Finnic *ëw. The first four are of unknown origin.
  • *o > ɤ / #_ k_ (õcca õgaz õhja õhsa õhsõta õja õlla õma õra õrava õraz õssaa õsa õsata õzja õzra, kõhta kõlmõd kõta). This also extends to Kodavere. The original conditioning is statistically visible; apparent exceptions are probably loans from Ingrian etc. (oitaa 'to save, to reserve', orko 'valley', otava 'Big Dipper').
    — It's possible that this rather indicates *ɤ > o in North Estonian, and Votic & Kodavere merely share an archaism. In this case, "Proto-Peipsian" becomes identical to Proto-Central Finnic.
  • Other instances of õ shared with Kodavere: tõhtia võdna

Proto-Peipsian to Common Votic

All changes here are either evident in Krevinian, or chronologically demanded here. Changes that are ambiguous in their dating have been listed in the Old Votic section.

Further simplification of h-clusters
  • *wh > v (e.g. java- 'to grind', jevi 'bristle', kavi 'ladle', ravuud 'glands'; contrast *wh > hv in Estonian)
  • *jh > h (e.g. laha 'lean (of meat)', mähä 'cambium')
  • *k(ː) *ɣ > *c(ː) j / _[+front]
    • Also *tk > *cː, *jɣ *ɣj > jː.

Not cleanly evidenced in Krevinian, but some hints remain, and this seems likely to be earlier than the fortition *ɣ > g (see next).

Weak grade simplification
  • *mb *nd > mː nː
  • *lð *rð > lː rː
  • *β *ð > v ∅
  • *ɣ > g
  • *Cˑ > C (these occurred as the weak grades of original geminates *pː, *tː, *tːs, *kː; the half-long grade is retained in Estonian; shortened also in North Finnic)

The first three changes occurred widely across Finnic, but retention of *ɣ as a segment is an idiosyncracy of Votic. Possibly the value /g/ is due to Russian influence. It does not seem impossible that originally also *ŋg > ŋː occurred (in which case these changes could be predated to the common period with Estonian), and that this was reverted when the gradation pattern k : g was generalized (see below).

  • Cː[+voice] > C / VV_. Analogically reverted in infinitives (*vooldak > voolla 'to whittle')
Hiatus effects

In Votic brought about only by the loss of *ð, which shows that this all must have happened without genetic relationship to similar changes in Estonian, Finnish, etc.

  1. Epenthesis
    • ∅ > j / {iː eː}_V
    • ∅ > v / {VU Uː Oː}_V
    • No cases with *ɤː exist.
  2. Raising
    • *eː > iː / _j
    • *Oː > Uː / _v
    • This may indicate a temporary stage with /ie yø uo/ for the long vowels.
  3. Spirantization
    • Ij > jː
    • Uv > vː


  • *lewdän > *lewðän > *lew.än > *lewvän > levvän 'I find'
  • *püüdän > *püüvän > püvvän 'I catch (game)'
  • *viides > *viijes > viďjez 'fifth')
  • *voodën > *voovën > *vuuvën > vuvvõõ 'year.GEN'
  • but: *roogan > roogaa 'food.GEN', vs. e.g. Colloquial Finnish ruuan
Lenition in /s/-clusters
  • st > sː. Analogically restored in passive imperfects of s-stem verbs: *pes-tä-j-hin > pestii. Cf. the infinitive: *pes-täk > pesä(g).
  • ks ps > hs
  • hs > sː / _ˈV (the most probable original distribution; see below for complications)
Coda voicing assimilation
  • *p *t *s *k > b d z g / _C[+voice].

This also operated across word boundaries, introducing a form of sandhi.

  • Vn > Vː / _#. Final loss of *n is widespread across Finnic, but usually without compensatory lengthening.

Further reduction in *-inen/-inën > -in. -n has been restored in the 1PS verbal suffix, much as in Estonian. Irregularly *n > ∅ in the nominativ of the 1/2PS pronouns *minä, *sinä > miä, siä.

Generalization of /hs/ versus /sː/

The latter is generalized to some suffixes mostly found with original secondary stress, e.g. all forms of

  1. the translativ (e.g. *ˈsuurëmˌpaksi > suurõpassi 'bigger.TR', not ˣsuurõpahsi)
  2. the passive present (e.g. *ˈlaskëˌdaksën > laskõasõõ 'is counted', not ˣlaskõahzõõ)
  3. the conditional

The former is for some reason generalized to *ks-stem nouns, although secondary stress was most frequent here too (e.g. *ˈvarëkˌsët > varõhsõd 'crows').

Generalization of syllabic gradation

(The first two are found widely across Finnic; the others are particular to Votic.)

  • ht → ht : h
  • hk → hk : hg
  • hs → hs : hz (but only after short vowels with primary stress: cf. varõhsõd above, not ˣvarõhzõd; or suuhsõd 'skis', vaahsaa 'span.GEN', etc.)
  • sc → sc : zj
  • sk → sk : zg
  • tk → tk : dg
  • ts → tːs : ts / C_ (between vowels tːs : ts was inherited)
  • (l, r)s → s : z. Also generalized to rhythmic gradation!
Generalization of rhythmic gradation
  • *-Pi/ '3PS' is uniformly found as *-p, e.g. *andabi > annab 'gives'. (Cf. uniformly *-β > *-w > Vː in modern Finnish: antaa.)
  • *β (> v) generalized in participle 1 (as in Finnish).
  • *ð (> ∅) generalized after short vowels (but not difthongs, similarly to Finnish but more general: *vasarata, *vasarojta > vasaraa, vasaroita; *valkedata > valkeata, vs. standard Fi. valkeaa)
  • *ɣ (> g) generalized in 2PP, 3PS, 3PP imperativ forms: *ˈküpseˌntäkon > *cühzettäkoː → čühzettägoo 'let them bake'. This also extended to -g(aa)- being generalized when -j(ää)- would be expected: *küntägäten → čüntägaa (also with *ð > ∅ for -t-, cf. prev.)
  • s generalized in the illativ case (*vërkkohën > võrkkosõõ; cf. Finnish verkkoon), thence also to the inessiv (which originally had *ss).
    • An alternate possibility, however, seems to be that prior to *st > ss, Votic had a gradation pattern st : ss similar to Ingrian and Karelian, and this early ss > s.
  • *lː *rː generalized

Generalization in *k-stem nouns: probably generalized to *j.

Analogical generalization of long vowels in words showing Vns > Vːs.

Common Votic to Krevinian

Krevinian was never recorded by actual linguists, so much detail about the dialect has probably been lost. However, a small number of likely sound changes can be identified:

  • s > ʃ / _{i ü e c}
  • j > dʲ / _V
  • h > ∅ / _# (probably)

Common Votic to Old Votic

Changes that mostly take place between 1500 and 1900 CE, or must have been apparent as dialectal differences before the split of Krevinian.