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Estonian language

Estonian Language


Estonian belongs to the Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric languages. Estonian is thus related to Finnish, spoken on the other side of the Gulf of Finland, and is one of the few languages of Europe that is not Indo-European. Despite some minor overlaps in the vocabulary due to loaning, in terms of its origin, Estonian is not related to its nearest neighbours, Swedish, Latvian and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages.

Typologically, Estonian represents a transitional form from an agglutinating language to an inflected language. Over the course of Estonian history, German has exercised a strong influence on Estonian, both in vocabulary and syntax.

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 "a yellow house" (kollane maja) — "into a yellow house" is (kollasesse majja).

The direct object of the verb appears either in the accusative (for total objects) or in the partitive (for partial objects). The case accusative looks exactly like the genitive. Genitive vs. partitive case opposition of object used with transitive verbs creates a telicity contrast, just as in Finnish. This is a rough equivalent of the perfect vs. imperfect aspect opposition.

The verbal system lacks a distinctive future tense (the present tense serves here) and features special forms to express an action performed by an undetermined subject (the "impersonal").

Like Finnish, Estonian employs the Latin alphabet, in addition to which the Estonian alphabet contains letters š, ž, ä, ö, ü, and õ. 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. Ä, ö, and ü are pronounced similarly to their equivalents in German, the language from which they were originally borrowed.