The Estonian language (eesti keel [ˈeːsti ˈkeːl] (listen)) is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people: 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 outside Estonia. It is a Southern Finnic language and is the second most spoken language among all the Finnic languages.
|1.1 million (2012)|
|Latin (Estonian alphabet)|
Official language in
|Regulated by||Institute of the Estonian Language / Eesti Keele Instituut, Emakeele Selts (semi-official)|
Estonian is closely related to Finnish and belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. Alongside Finnish, Hungarian and Maltese, Estonian is one of the four official languages of European Union that is not of an Indo-European origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of its origin, Estonian and Finnish are not related to their nearest geographical neighbours, Swedish, Latvian, and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages.
Although the Estonian and Germanic languages are of very different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and German, for example. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from Low Saxon (Middle Low German) during the period of German rule, and High German (including Standard German). The percentage of Low Saxon and High German loanwords can be estimated at 22–25 percent, with Low Saxon making up about 15 percent. Swedish and Russian are the other two important sources of borrowings.
Estonian is a predominantly agglutinative language, but unlike Finnish, it has lost vowel harmony, the front vowels occurring exclusively on the first or stressed syllable, although in older texts the vowel harmony can still be recognized. Furthermore, the loss of word-final sounds is extensive, and this has made its inflectional morphology markedly more fusional, especially with respect to noun and adjective inflection. Word order is considerably more flexible than English, but the basic order is subject–verb–object.
The two different historical Estonian languages (sometimes considered dialects), the North and South Estonian languages, are based on the ancestors of modern Estonians' migration into the territory of Estonia in at least two different waves, both groups speaking considerably different Finnic vernaculars. Modern standard Estonian has evolved on the basis of the dialects of Northern Estonia.
The oldest written records of the Finnic languages of Estonia date from the 13th century. Originates Livoniae in Chronicle of Henry of Livonia contains Estonian place names, words and fragments of sentences.
The earliest extant samples of connected (north) Estonian are the so-called Kullamaa prayers dating from 1524 and 1528. In 1525 the first book published in the Estonian language was printed. The book was a Lutheran manuscript, which never reached the reader and was destroyed immediately after publication.
The first extant Estonian book is a bilingual German-Estonian translation of the Lutheran catechism by S. Wanradt and J. Koell dating to 1535, during the Protestant Reformation period. An Estonian grammar book to be used by priests was printed in German in 1637. The New Testament was translated into southern Estonian in 1686 (northern Estonian, 1715). The two languages were united based on northern Estonian by Anton thor Helle.
Writings in Estonian became more significant in the 19th century during the Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840).
The birth of native Estonian literature was in 1810 to 1820 when the patriotic and philosophical poems by Kristjan Jaak Peterson were published. Peterson, who was the first student at the then German-language University of Dorpat to acknowledge his Estonian origin, is commonly regarded as a herald of Estonian national literature and considered the founder of modern Estonian poetry. His birthday, March 14, is celebrated in Estonia as Mother Tongue Day. A fragment from Peterson's poem "Kuu" expresses the claim reestablishing the birthright of the Estonian language:
In the period from 1525 to 1917, 14,503 titles were published in Estonian; by comparison, between 1918 and 1940, 23,868 titles were published.
Writings in Estonian became significant only in the 19th century with the spread of the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, during the Estophile Enlightenment Period (1750–1840). Although Baltic Germans at large regarded the future of Estonians as being a fusion with themselves, the Estophile educated class admired the ancient culture of the Estonians and their era of freedom before the conquests by Danes and Germans in the 13th century.
After the Estonian War of Independence in 1919, the Estonian language became the state language of the newly independent country. In 1945, 97.3% of Estonia considered itself ethnic Estonian and spoke the language.
When Estonia was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in World War II, the status of the Estonian language changed to the first of two official languages (Russian being the other one). As with Latvia many immigrants entered Estonia under Soviet encouragement. In the second half of the 1970s, the pressure of bilingualism (for Estonians) intensified, resulting in widespread knowledge of Russian throughout the country. The Russian language was termed as ‘the language of friendship of nations’ and was taught to Estonian children, sometimes as early as in kindergarten. Although teaching Estonian to non-Estonians in schools was compulsory, in practice learning the language was often considered unnecessary.
During the Perestroika era, The Law on the Status of the Estonian Language was adopted in January 1989. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union led to the restoration of the Republic of Estonia's independence. Estonian went back to being the only state language in Estonia which in practice meant that use of Estonian was promoted while the use of Russian was discouraged.
The return of Soviet immigrants to their countries of origin has brought the proportion of Estonians in Estonia back above 70%. And again as in Latvia, today many of the remnant non-Estonians in Estonia have adopted the Estonian language; about 40% at the 2000 census.
The Estonian dialects are divided into two groups – the northern and southern dialects, historically associated with the cities of Tallinn in the north and Tartu in the south, in addition to a distinct kirderanniku dialect, Northeastern coastal Estonian.
The northern group consists of the keskmurre or central dialect that is also the basis for the standard language, the läänemurre or western dialect, roughly corresponding to Lääne County and Pärnu County, the saarte murre (islands') dialect of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa and the idamurre or eastern dialect on the northwestern shore of Lake Peipus.
South Estonian consists of the Tartu, Mulgi, Võro and Seto varieties. These are sometimes considered either variants of South Estonian or separate languages altogether. Also, Seto and Võro distinguish themselves from each other less by language and more by their culture and their respective Christian confession.
Estonian employs the Latin script as the basis for its alphabet, which adds the letters ä, ö, ü, and õ, plus the later additions š and ž. The letters c, q, w, x and y are limited to proper names of foreign origin, and f, z, š, and ž appear in loanwords and foreign names only. Ö and ü are pronounced similarly to their equivalents in Swedish and German. Unlike in standard German but like Finnish and Swedish (when followed by 'r'), Ä is pronounced [æ], as in English mat. The vowels Ä, Ö and Ü are clearly separate phonemes and inherent in Estonian, although the letter shapes come from German. The letter õ denotes /ɤ/, unrounded /o/, or a close-mid back unrounded vowel. It is almost identical to the Bulgarian ъ /ɤ̞/ and the Vietnamese ơ, and is also used to transcribe the Russian ы.
Although the Estonian orthography is generally guided by phonemic principles, with each grapheme corresponding to one phoneme, there are some historical and morphological deviations from this: for example preservation of the morpheme in declension of the word (writing b, g, d in places where p, k, t is pronounced) and in the use of 'i' and 'j'. Where it is very impractical or impossible to type š and ž, they are substituted with sh and zh in some written texts, although this is considered incorrect. Otherwise, the h in sh represents a voiceless glottal fricative, as in Pasha (pas-ha); this also applies to some foreign names.
Modern Estonian orthography is based on the Newer Orthography created by Eduard Ahrens in the second half of the 19th century based on Finnish orthography. The Older Orthography it replaced was created in the 17th century by Bengt Gottfried Forselius and Johann Hornung based on standard German orthography. Earlier writing in Estonian had by and large used an ad hoc orthography based on Latin and Middle Low German orthography. Some influences of the standard German orthography — for example, writing 'W'/'w' instead of 'V'/'v' — persisted well into the 1930s.
Estonian words and names quoted in international publications from Soviet sources are often back-transliterations from the Russian transliteration. Examples are the use of "ya" for "ä" (e.g. Pyarnu instead of Pärnu), "y" instead of "õ" (e.g., Pylva instead of Põlva) and "yu" instead of "ü" (e.g., Pyussi instead of Püssi). Even in the Encyclopædia Britannica one can find "ostrov Khiuma", where "ostrov" means "island" in Russian and "Khiuma" is back-transliteration from Russian instead of "Hiiumaa" (Hiiumaa > Хийума(а) > Khiuma).
There are 9 vowels and 36 diphthongs, 28 of which are native to Estonian. All nine vowels can appear as the first component of a diphthong, but only /ɑ e i o u/ occur as the second component. A vowel characteristic of Estonian is the unrounded back vowel /ɤ/, which may be close-mid back, close back, or close-mid central.
In Estonian, nouns and pronouns do not have grammatical gender, but nouns and adjectives decline in fourteen cases: nominative, genitive, partitive, illative, inessive, elative, allative, adessive, ablative, translative, terminative, essive, abessive, and comitative, with the case and number of the adjective(s) always agreeing with that of the noun (except in the terminative, essive, abessive and comitative, where there is agreement only for the number, the adjective being in the genitive form). Thus the illative for kollane maja ("a yellow house") is kollasesse majja ("into a yellow house"), but the terminative is kollase majani ("as far as a yellow house"). With respect to the Proto-Finnic language, elision has occurred; thus, the actual case marker may be absent, but the stem is changed, cf. maja – majja and the Ostrobothnia dialect of Finnish maja – majahan.
The direct object of the verb appears either in the accusative (for total objects) or in the partitive (for partial objects). The accusative coincides with the genitive in the singular and with nominative in the plural. Accusative vs. partitive case opposition of the object used with transitive verbs creates a telicity contrast, just as in Finnish. This is a rough equivalent of the perfective vs. imperfective aspect opposition.
Although the Estonian and Germanic languages are of very different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and English, for example. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from Low Saxon (Middle Low German) during the period of German rule, and High German (including standard German). The percentage of Low Saxon and High German loanwords can be estimated at 22–25 percent, with Low Saxon making up about 15 percent.
Often 'b' & 'p' are interchangeable, for example 'baggage' becomes 'pagas', 'lob' (to throw) becomes 'loopima'. The initial letter 's' before another consonant is often dropped, for example 'skool' becomes 'kool', 'stool' becomes 'tool'.
The most famous reformer of Estonian, Johannes Aavik (1880–1973), used creations ex nihilo (cf. ‘free constructions’, Tauli 1977), along with other sources of lexical enrichment such as derivations, compositions and loanwords (often from Finnish; cf. Saareste and Raun 1965: 76). In Aavik’s dictionary (1921), which lists approximately 4000 words, there are many words which were (allegedly) created ex nihilo, many of which are in common use today. Examples are
Many of the coinages that have been considered (often by Aavik himself) as words concocted ex nihilo could well have been influenced by foreign lexical items, for example words from Russian, German, French, Finnish, English and Swedish. Aavik had a broad classical education and knew Ancient Greek, Latin and French. Consider roim ‘crime’ versus English crime or taunima ‘to condemn, disapprove’ versus Finnish tuomita ‘to condemn, to judge’ (these Aavikisms appear in Aavik’s 1921 dictionary). These words might be better regarded as a peculiar manifestation of morpho-phonemic adaptation of a foreign lexical item.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Estonian:
Kõik inimesed sünnivad vabadena ja võrdsetena oma väärikuselt ja õigustelt. Neile on antud mõistus ja südametunnistus ja nende suhtumist üksteisesse peab kandma vendluse vaim.
(All people are born free and equal in their dignity and rights. They are given reason and conscience and they shall create their relationships to one another according to the spirit of brotherhood.)
Abruka is an 8.78 km² Estonian island in the Gulf of Riga, 4 km south of the island of Saaremaa.
Together with few neighbouring smaller islands (Vahase, Kasselaid, Linnusitamaa and Kirjurahu) Abruka forms the village of Abruka, which is part of Saaremaa Parish, Saare County. The village has a population of 33 (as of 1 January 2011) and an area of 10.1 km².
The first records about the population on Abruka originate from the Middle Ages, when the Bishop of Ösel-Wiek founded a horse breeding manor (Abro) there. Permanent population developed in the 18th century. 1881–1972 an elementary school operated on Abruka.Abruka is the site of a Central European-type broadleaf forest, which is rare in the region. To protect this a nature reserve was created in 1937.
There's a library (located in the harbour building) and a museum which is located on the side of the former manor park in the oldest building on Abruka (The Abruka House).Abruka can be reached by postboat Heili from Roomassaare harbour in Kuressaare.The twin writers Jüri Tuulik and Ülo Tuulik (born 1940) were born on Abruka.Eikla
Eikla is a village in Saaremaa Parish, Saare County in western Estonia.Before the administrative reform in 2017, the village was in Lääne-Saare Parish.Esiliiga
The Esiliiga is the second division in the Estonian football league system. The Esiliiga is ranked below the Meistriliiga and above the Esiliiga B.
As in most countries with low temperatures in winter time, the season starts in March and ends in November. The league features several reserve teams of Meistriliiga clubs. According to the rules set by the Estonian Football Association, reserve teams are ineligible for promotion to the Meistriliiga, but can play in the Estonian Cup.Estonia national futsal team
The Estonia national futsal team represents Estonia during international futsal competitions such as the FIFA Futsal World Cup and the European Championships. It was formed in 2007 and is under the direction of the Estonian Football Association.Estonia national under-19 football team
The Estonia national under-19 football team represents Estonia in international under-19 football and is controlled by the Estonian Football Association (Eesti Jalgpalli Liit), the governing body for football in Estonia. The team's home ground is the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn, and the current manager is Argo Arbeiter.
Estonia qualified as hosts to the 2012 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, making it Estonia's first appearance in a major tournament and the first major football tournament to be held in the country. The team failed to get past the group stage, losing all three matches against Portugal, Greece and Spain.Estonia national under-21 football team
The Estonia national under-21 football team represents Estonia in international under-21 football competitions and is controlled by the Estonian Football Association (Eesti Jalgpalli Liit), the governing body for football in Estonia.
The team's home ground is the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn, and the current manager is Karel Voolaid. Estonia have never qualified for the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship. They compete in the biennial Under-21 Baltic Cup and have won the tournament in 2014.Estonia national under-23 football team
The Estonia national under-23 football team represents Estonia in the International Challenge Trophy competition and is controlled by the Estonian Football Association, the governing body for football in Estonia.
The team's home ground is the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn and the manager is Urmas Kirs.Estonian Braille
Estonian Braille is the braille alphabet of the Estonian language.Estonian Football Association
The Estonian Football Association (EJL; Estonian: Eesti Jalgpalli Liit) is the governing body of football, beach soccer and futsal in Estonia, established on 14 December 1921. It organizes the football league, including the championship which is called Meistriliiga, Estonian Cup and the Estonian national football team. It is based in Tallinn. EJL became a member of FIFA in 1923, but following Estonia's annexation by the Soviet Union it was disbanded. It became a member again in 1992 after Estonia reinstated its independence.Estonian Reform Party
The Estonian Reform Party (Estonian: Eesti Reformierakond) is a liberal political party in Estonia. The party is led by Kaja Kallas and has 34 members in the 101-member Riigikogu, making it the largest party in the legislature.
The party was founded by then-President of the Bank of Estonia Siim Kallas as a split from National Coalition Party Pro Patria. At the 1995 election, it won 19 seats in the Riigikogu, making it the second largest party. The Reform Party replaced the Estonian Centre Party in government in autumn 1995, and remained there until 1996. In 1999, the party lost a seat, but returned to the cabinet in coalition with the Pro Patria Union and the Moderate People's Party. The party has remained in various coalitions since then, with Andrus Ansip as Prime Minister since 2005. At the 2007 parliamentary election, the party won 31 seats, becoming the largest party for the first time, and increased its seat tally again in 2011, with 33 seats. It narrowly won the 2015 general election, losing 3 mandates compared to its 2011 result, ending up with 30 seats. After being in opposition since November 2016, the party won the 2019 parliamentary election with a convincing lead and expanded its number of mandates to 34.
As the Reform Party has participated in most of the government coalitions in Estonia since the mid-1990s, its influence has been significant, especially regarding Estonia's free market and low taxes policies. The party has been a full member of Liberal International since 1996, having been an observer member between 1994–1996, and a full member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). The founder and the first chairman of the Reform Party, Siim Kallas, was a Commissioner of the European Commission between 2004 and 2014. He was also one of the five Vice Presidents of the Barroso Commission.Football in Estonia
Football in Estonia is governed by the Estonian Football Association (Eesti Jalgpalli Liit). The EJL controls the domestic club championships (Meistriliiga, II liiga, III liiga, IV liiga; Naiste Meistriliiga, Naiste Esiliiga, Naiste II liiga), the Estonian Cup, Estonian SuperCup, Estonian Small Cup and the national teams (Estonia national football team, Estonia women's national football team, all youth teams).Kallemäe
Kallemäe is a village in Saaremaa Parish, Saare County, Estonia, on the island of Saaremaa. As of 2011 Census, the settlement's population was 39.Kallemäe is home to a special school for children with lite mental disabilities. There's also a local shop in the village. A post office was closed there in November 2007.Kuusiku
Kuusiku is a small borough (Estonian: alevik) in Rapla Parish, Rapla County, Estonia. It has a population of 250. Kuusiku Manor and Rapla Airfield (Kuusiku Airfield) are located in Kuusiku.Käravete
Käravete is a small borough (Estonian: alevik) in Järva Parish, Järva County, central Estonia. As of 2011 Census, the settlement's population was 234.Leisi
Leisi is a small borough in Saaremaa Parish, Saare County in western Estonia.Before the administrative reform in 2017, the borough was administrative centre of Leisi Parish.Nasva, Saare County
Nasva is a small borough (Estonian: alevik) in Saaremaa Parish, Saare County in western Estonia. It has a population of 454 (as of 1 January 2011).The mouth of Nasva River is located in Nasva.
Shipbuilding company Baltic Workboats is located in Nasva.Randvere, Saaremaa Parish
Randvere is a village in Saaremaa Parish, Saare County in western Estonia.Before the administrative reform in 2017, the village was in Laimjala Parish.It is most notable for being the birthplace of philologist Johannes Aavik (1880–1973), a significant modernizator of Estonian language.Vahva
Vahva is a village in Saaremaa Parish, Saare County in western Estonia.Before the administrative reform in 2017, the village was in Lääne-Saare Parish.Viljandi County
Viljandi County (Estonian: Viljandi maakond) or Viljandimaa; (German: Kreis Fellin), is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is located in southern Estonia bordering Pärnu, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu and Valga counties.