Celebrating 100 Years of Finnish Independence: The History & Future of the Finnish Language

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Grant Harris: Welcome,
Your Excellency, distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen. Good morning, and welcome
to the Library of Congress. I am Grant Harris. I’m Chief of the European Division. We would like to thank the
Embassy of Finland for working with the Library on this celebration of 100 years of Finnish
independence. This is really a great
year, great event. And we thank all of the
staff members at the Embassy and at the Library here who
made this event possible. Very briefly, let me say that
the Library of Congress is proud of its approximately 100,000
volumes from or about Finland. Among other things, we have an
extensive collection of monographs on the subjects of the Finnish
language, which is featured today, as well as Finns in the United
States and Finnish-Americans. Between 400 and 500 volumes from
Finland or about Finland arrive at the Library each year. The European Division is
responsible for providing reference and for developing the
Library’s collections relating to Continental Europe. We hope you will come again to
explore the Library’s collections, and that you have a
pleasant time here today. Now, for the inevitable
announcement — your cell phones, take a look
at them if you haven’t already. Be aware also that this
event is being recorded for Library of Congress webcast. This is not a live event for
the outside, but eventually, it will be made into a webcast. It is now my pleasure to introduce
Her Excellency, the Ambassador of Finland to the United
States, Kirsti Kauppi. She came to Washington as
the Ambassador in 2015, but she has previous experience
in the Embassy of Finland. She was here from 1997 to 2000. Ambassador Kauppi has over 30 years
of experience in foreign policy, and has traveled widely,
starting from her native Oulu area in northern Finland, which is not
too far south of the Arctic Circle. With a master’s degree in
economics, she began working in development cooperation. Then, moving to the political
side of foreign relations, she worked at Finland’s
permanent representation to the EU in Brussels, and at Finnish
Embassies in Bangkok and Berlin. Madame Kauppi has been Director
General of the Political Department at the Finnish State Department. Most recently, she served
as Ambassador to Austria, and Finland’s permanent
representative to the International Atomic Energy
Agency, and to other UN agencies. Don’t be surprised if you meet her
bicycling around in Washington, D.C. She is an avid reader,
also, of works on history. She’s fluent in English,
Swedish, German and French, so she could really take advantage
of our European collections. We’d like you to work in
our division, actually. After remarks by the Ambassador, we will meet our distinguished
panelists and hear their presentations, but
I give you now the Ambassador. Thank you for being here. [ Applause ]>>Kirsti Kauppi: Good
morning, [foreign language]. Thank you very much
for the introduction, and I’ll consider your offer. Sometimes my job as Ambassador
is quite demanding and stressful, and I wouldn’t mind switching
over to the Library of Congress, maybe, at some point of time. It’s — I’m very grateful to the
Library of Congress, and, of course, to my own staff at the Embassy of
Finland, that this event has been — is now organized, and
is taking place. I think the Library of
Congress is really something like not only a national treasure
for the United States of America, but actually an international
treasure, and the facts that you
gave about Finland — connection to Finland and
the collections related to Finland are — show that this
institution is very important for Finland also, and I think for
basically every country on earth. So congratulations for that, and
we are very happy to cooperate with the Library of Congress. And we are very grateful for the
attention the Library has given to Finland, and the
Finnish language. Yes, we have the centennial
of our independence, 100 years of Finnish independence,
and our language is very much in the core of the national
identity of Finland and Finns. There is a twist there,
which is that we are — we have two official languages. So it’s not only the Finnish
language that is in the core of the national identity. It is also very much
the Swedish language, and the fact that we
are a Nordic country. That is a big part of our identity. Finnish language is beautiful,
difficult, very expressive, and I think really quite an exciting
environment to study, to live in. And the way — I mean, the
Finnish language is a little bit like Finland. It’s almost like an island, which
means you have an environment where you tend to develop
something quite special, and quite different
from anything else. And I think the Finnish language
has allowed that kind of a — you know, a world of its own
for Finns and Finnish speakers. And I think it also shows in the
way the language has evolved. Teaching the language, and studying
the language is very important. It is like, you know,
history or anything else. Like, if you walk the
streets of Washington, D.C. and you don’t know anything
about the history of the buildings, or what has happened
here, it’s only maybe 5% that you understand
about what you see. And that is a little bit
the same with the language. If you just hear it, or read it,
and take it, well, maybe it’s more than 5%, but you really get a deeper
understanding, and you can master — excuse me — master the language
only if you study the history, the structure, and
so on and so forth. I’m old enough to have
gone to school at the stage when you really studied the
language in much detail. And I don’t know the terms in
English, but the way you had to study your own language
was really quite something. And I think that is very
much still behind the fact that Finns are very literate, and they not only can
read, but they do read. And they love to read
different kinds of literature, and also factual literature. Reading is important,
and that is the area that I’m very worried
about also in Finland. People read less, especially
the young people, especially boys, read less. And I think that’s going to have —
unless we can do something about it, and I believe we can
do something about it, that can have a very negative
influence not only on the — how we speak and use the language, but on how we understand
the world around us. Reading different kinds of
literature is — it’s sort of — it’s really important in
reaching your own mind, and bringing the world to you. So — but I think today, we are
really going to hear and learn about the history of the Finnish
language, how it is today, and also how Finnish language
has evolved in this environment, in the U.S., which is very,
very interesting as well. And I’m very happy to
see that there are — there’s quite a lot of
material on the screens. Also quite funny material, which also is circulating
in our social media. And that’s great, because
some of the — some of the examples here
I think are very good in raising the interest
towards the Finnish language. The final point about, you know, how
the interest towards language rises, or sort of where are the
rules for the interest, that’s also sometimes interesting. When I served in Austria, there’s also Finnish language
teaching in the university. I went to meet the class. It was something like 20 people,
around — maybe from 17 to 35, and I was looking around. It was people with black
clothes, and black hair, and a little bit eccentric makeup. And I asked each of
them, “Why do you — why do you want to learn Finnish?” And they all referred to the
heavy metal bands in Finland. So — [ Laughter ]>>Very interesting,
but also, I love the — you know, that kind of
stories, because it shows that there are links —
different kinds of links, and people really are very creative. In any case, I’m very
happy to be here. I have to leave a little
bit early, but very grateful that this seminar takes place, and
very eager to hear from the experts. So thank you, everybody, for coming. [ Applause ]>>Good morning. [Foreign language], Finland 100. I’m Taru Spiegel from
the European Division. I work there with Nordic books. And I know that everybody’s eager
to hear from our presenters, so I will be brief
in the introductions. And I’m going to do this in order
of presentation, so this time, it will be gentlemen first. So Daniel Karvonen works at
the University of Minnesota. His Ph.D. is in linguistics with
a specialization in phonology, and his research and publications
are in word prosity, metrical theory and the phonology of loan words
with an empirical focus on Finnish. Dan is a fourth-generation
Finnish-American, and has spent much time in Finland. And this was the hardest part to
introduce because of all these words like word prosity, and
phonology, and so forth. But we’ll hear about it from Dan. Alli Flint was born
and raised in Finland. Her doctoral research was in
linguistics and Uralic studies, and she has had a long and distinguished career
at Columbia University. Alli and her late husband,
Professor Austin Flint, collaborated on translating
numerous works from Finnish. They were presented with a Finlandia
Foundation Award for their work on behalf of Finnish culture, and
Alli’s also a Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland. Hillary Virtanen comes from
Finlandia University of Michigan, as well as the University
of Wisconsin, Madison, where she received her Ph.D. in
Scandinavian studies and folklore. Her research interests center on
Finnish-American folklore, orality and literacy in folk culture, and on protest-oriented folk music
among Finnish-American laborers. She’s a fourth- and
fifth-generation Finnish-American. So please welcome our
distinguished panelists. [ Applause ]>>Daniel Karvonen:
Okay, [foreign language]. Good morning. I like the response. That’s very nice. You’re learning after the third
time, see, after the Ambassador, and after Taru both introduced that. My name is Dan Karvonen, and as
Taru said, I’m a lecturer of Finnish at the University of Minnesota. And I first want to say thank you to
Taru from the Library of Congress, and the Ambassador, and all of
the Ambassador’s staff, for this, for inviting us to
speak at this event. It’s really a pleasure and a thrill
to be at the Library of Congress. And back home, when I was telling
people what I was doing this week, why I wasn’t going to be at work,
I said, “Well, I’m giving a talk at the Library of Congress,”
and in Minnesota, that’s kind of a big deal. [ Laughter ] So anyway, here we are,
and it’s quite exciting. So, all right. So I’m going to talk
about why Finnish is so — why is Finnish so different? So there’s sort of — you know,
if you ask people about Finnish, and the Ambassador already
alluded to this, said, you know, Finnish is difficult. Finnish is different. You know, what — what is it? Why is it so different? And then, we’re going to look
at it both from the structure, and also sort of the history. So I wanted to start out
by talking about myths. So there are a lot of myths
going out there, and as we saw, the slideshow that was going
before I started talking, you saw all these nice memes
kind of coming across the screen. And a lot of people have
probably seen those memes. And here’s a couple that
you might have seen, the welcome to the Finnish language. I like that the Embassy had
the same one that I have. There’s — and there’s
also this other one with the 10 oldest languages
still spoken in the world today, and Finnish is apparently
one of those. That’s what people say. So this is what people say. People say, “Look at this. Welcome to the Finnish language. Look at this difficult language. You take — ” this graphic
in the middle is an example of where you take one word, and
you add all these different kinds of suffixes, and you can
create all these other words. So that must mean that Finnish is
just this crazy difficult language, right? Just by virtue of that. And then, on the right here, you
have this example of all the — the case system of Finnish. Finnish has 15 cases, and people
say, “Finnish is difficult because it has 15 cases.” Right? So instead of saying
something like “in”, in English, you would say — add the
suffix S-S-A, or S-S-ah, saw, sah [phonetic] for example. And people say, “That’s what
makes Finnish difficult.” And then, you have this sort of
idea out there that Finnish is one of the oldest languages
in the world today. I would really like to say
that none of this is true. And I’ll tell you why. So number one, I’ll start with
the oldest languages in the world. I mean, that’s kind of a crazy
idea, that languages are old. If the language is
spoken, it’s modern. It’s new. So this — anytime
I see something like this — and people forward things
like this to me all the time. I just say, “Wait,
wait, wait, what is — you know that that can’t be true.” Languages — what they — what
they’re trying to say, maybe, is that these are languages that
maybe have not changed a lot, but there’s really
different from saying that a language is old, or new. All languages are — that are
spoken now are equally modern. There’s nothing old about them. And then the whole idea of the case
endings making Finnish difficult — that’s not a difficult
thing to learn. In English, we say “in,”
we say “from,” we say “to.” In Finnish, you just learn the
endings that relate to those. That’s — there’s nothing
difficult about that. That’s 15 things to learn. That’s not a huge task. And I will argue about the
graphic in the middle if that — that actually is what makes
Finnish easy, not difficult. At the aspect of taking
a single word, and then basing all these
other words on this — this is what makes
Finnish easy to learn. So let’s take a look at that. So what is the Foreign
Service Institute saying? So I was looking for the original — there are people from the Foreign
Service Institute here today, but — and I’ve seen different
categorizations. But different sources that you
look at, they put Finnish as one of the more difficult
languages, right? So there are these different
categories, a language that is — and it’s based on sort of the
degree of relationship to English. These are all from the perspective
of an English speaker, of course. Right? There are two factors
that factor into this. One of them is the degree of
relatedness of the language to English, and the second one is
sort of the cultural differences. So we can see languages like
Dutch and Swedish, they’re related to English, being Germanic
languages. And then, culturally,
they’re — there’s — there’s a lot of similarities between American culture
and European culture. And then you see category two. You have German, but
then you have Swahili. So here, we have a different
culture, but we have a language that is maybe not so
difficult to learn, compared to Finnish,
for English speakers. And then we say Finnish is in
the same category as Kazakh, and then we see category four,
with Chinese and Japanese. And one of the big things about those two languages
is the writing systems. But not only that. Japanese, for example,
is the politeness levels. So there’s all kinds of factors that
go into what makes a language — learning a language difficult. Right? So it’s not just —
it’s not just people out there. There are experts out there that say
that actually, we need more weeks — more weeks to actually learn
Finnish than we do to learn Dutch. And you can see this
in practice, if you — I was an exchange student in Finland
in high school, and most of us were in Finnish-speaking
homes, but some people were in Swedish-speaking homes. And occasionally, during the
year, we would get together. And the ones that were in
Swedish-speaking homes, after three months, they
could already speak. And the ones in the Finnish-speaking
homes were just barely able to get a single word
out of their mouth. So there’s the proof right there. The proof is — and
this is from the — the perspective of
an English speaker. So one of the reasons that Finnish
is so difficult is this, is this. So how many people do not know
Finnish in the room at all? Okay, so there’s some. I know there are a lot of people — I’ve talked to a lot of people
[inaudible] know Finnish. But people that don’t know Finnish,
can you guess what this is about? Can you have any guesses? This is from the Finnish news. I just plucked it off yesterday. I wanted to get fresh news. I just took a paragraph
from a news article. Any guesses to what this is about? Is it a letter to grandma? Is it about the weather? Is it about, you know, the hurricane
that sort of went to Ireland? Is it about any of those things? Is there anything we can grab onto? No. Nothing.>>Asia.>>Daniel Karvonen: Pardon?>>Asia.>>Asia.>>Daniel Karvonen: Asia? Yeah, no. That’s actually not Asia. That’s actually not Asia. Yeah, that’s asia. Yeah, it’s actually not even Asia. Yeah. That’s not — that’s
actually — asia means matter. So you don’t — yeah. So there’s not even a
single cognate in this text. And this is the –>>Rosatom.>>Daniel Karvonen: Rosatom. That’s a name. Yeah, that’s a proper name. That’s the only thing, right? And there’s another surname
in there, Hanhikiven. But none of the other words
have any cognates in English. So this is what — this is one of
the reasons that Finnish is sort of, in a way, impenetrable
to English speakers, is that if you study a language
like French, or German, or Swedish, you can look at a text, and you
can just guess sort of what — what it — what it’s about. This is actually about
nuclear energy. So you wouldn’t know
by looking at this. And we can contrast
this with French. So I just pulled this out
of “Le Monde”, just also, just to give an example of
kind of a random article. And we look at this, and right away,
as English speakers, you don’t need to know French to recognize
all kinds of words, right? And we can see them — I’ve just
highlighted them here in yellow. My color scheme, by the way, is a — is a bow to the two official
languages of Finland. If you haven’t noticed that,
the blue and the white — the blue and the white,
and the yellow. So yellow is my accent color. But you can see malady,
neurology, generally — you can see that learning French, there’s just so much you
get for free, for example. Right? You don’t get that for free
when you’re studying Finnish, right? All these words are
just completely — I mean, there are definitely loan
words, and I’ll talk about that, from English and other languages. But they’re not as frequent,
and the overlap is much less. So this is one description that I
— someone told me a long time ago, and I use it all the time,
because I love it so much. So people have said, “Learning
Finnish is like a pyramid, and learning English is like
an upside-down pyramid.” So what does that mean? What does that mean? Well, if you take an example
of English — so the — what this means is that, at the
bottom of the pyramid for English, you don’t need to know
very much to get going. You can kind of just pluck words
out of a dictionary and speak, because English doesn’t
have much morphology. So if you take the
sentence on the left there, “The boys have two plates,” all you
have to do is go in the dictionary. The, boy, have, two,
plates, and you just have to put an S for the plural. You just slap it on, and
you’ve got your sentence. There’s absolutely no manipulation
you have to do to that sentence to make it a good English sentence. And it sounds perfect, right? Completely perfect. So it’s dictionary-plucking. So pull the words out,
and not much morphology. That exact same sentence in
Finnish is not at all like that. So [foreign language]. There’s a lot of manipulation that
the learner of Finnish has to do in order to make that
sentence sound correct. So one thing about it
is, the word in Finnish for boy is [foreign language]. So in Finnish, we don’t
have a verb for to have. Instead, we say at. So I would say, “I have a car.” [Foreign language],
“At me is a car.” So for one thing, the structure
is completely different. And here, we see [foreign language]. What we have to do the
word [foreign language], we have to add this L-L-A
ending on it, and then we have to do something called consonant
gradation, which means we have to weaken the consonant — in this
case, the K completely goes away. And we have to add the
plural ending of the I there. So there’s a lot you have to know
to go from [foreign language] to [foreign language], and
to make it sound right. And then, you see [foreign language]
then requires the partitive singular case after it. So you can’t just say
[foreign language]. It’s just — you can say it. My students say, “Can I say that?” I say, “You can say that. It’s just incorrect.” Everyone will understand you, but
it’s not right, and you’re not going to be my student, talking that way. [ Laughter ] So you have to know that there’s
a particular word type of words that end in N-E-N, and in
the partitive singular, they change like that. So the N-E-N becomes S-T-A. So, like my name, Karvonen,
if there were two of me, it’d be [foreign language]. First time I saw my name
written in a different way, I thought, that’s a misspelling. And they said, “No, no, that’s
how we do it in Finnish. We change the words like this.” So literally, what
you’re saying sort of is “Boys at is two plate of.” Right? Which makes no sense. So someone learning English, it’s
a lot easier to kind of get going at the bottom of the pyramid. But the thing about English is
that, as you get going in English, English has this immense
vocabulary, immense vocabulary. And native English speakers
are constantly reading English, and seeing words they
don’t understand. I mean, how many people
read English word — read words then they
don’t understand, or run across words
they don’t understand? Yes. Probably everybody. In Finnish, the Finnish speakers
here, how often do you run across Finnish words that
you don’t understand? Not often. Finnish people reading
Finnish, they rarely run across a word they don’t understand,
and there’s a reason for that. Because learning Finnish
is a pyramid. You need a huge base. Where — big. I don’t say — want to say huge, because then it makes
it sound too scary. You need a pretty big base to learn
Finnish, but as you get going, then it gets easier, actually. Everything starts to make sense. And when you get to the top, it’s
just like — it’s like nirvana. Everything really makes sense. And it’s really true. My students in my advanced
Finnish class, they start to see all these
connections at the end, and then they say, “It gets
so — it’s just easy now.” Whereas the students in the intermediate stage
really, really, really struggle. I’m having melt — I have meltdowns
every fall in my intermediate class. And I say — and I always
tell them, I say, “Oh, the advanced class,
they’re all relaxed. So just wait a year. It’ll be okay. You just have to — you just
have to move up the pyramid.” And that’s really, I
think, a good analogy for how learning English is
compared to learning Finnish. So, okay. So one of the
reasons about — that it is — Finnish is learning a pyramid,
is because the vocabulary is — a lot of words are sort
of built on a common root. So if we take the word
[foreign language], book, then we can create all these
different words based on it. [Foreign language], all
based on the same word. So a child learning — acquiring
Finnish learns a new word. Here’s — knows [foreign
language], of course. Then here’s [foreign language]. Oh, has something to do with a book. Okay. I don’t need to know exactly, but I know it has something
to do with a book. A kid learning English, here’s book,
and then someone says literature. No idea. No idea. Right? There’s a lot more learning
that has to go into learning that book, and literature, and
author, and library are all related to each other, conceptually. Because there’s nothing in the words
themselves that link them together. So that’s one of the things that
makes really Finnish easy, really, and not difficult, I would claim. So just a little bit about
the background of Finnish, is that English is an Indo-European
— is an Indo-European language, and Finnish is a Uralic language. So one of the reasons that
makes it so different is because they’re completely
different language families. Right? So English is Germanic. It’s in the Germanic sub-branch of
the Indo-European language family, and Finnish is Uralic
— a Uralic language. So just being — by virtue of being
in a different language family, the vocabulary’s different,
and the structure is different. So that’s really one of the
challenges of learning it, is that it’s just —
it’s very different. I wouldn’t necessarily so difficult. And just to give you —
if you’re not familiar with the Uralic languages, here’s
a nice map that kind of shows you where the Uralic languages
are spoken. We can see Finland
over there on the — on the left, and we can see the
languages that are related to it. Most people, when you — when you — they say, “What languages
is Finnish related to?” I will tell them Estonian
and Hungarian, and I always finish it off with, “and a bunch of languages
you’ve probably never heard of.” Because I rarely run into a
person that’s heard of any of the other languages, like Mari
or Udmurt, or Khanty, or Mansi, or Votic, or Livonian, or Veps. I mean, these don’t ring
any bells for most people. But they ring lots
of bells for people that speak these languages, right? Because they’re their languages. So these are the languages
that Finnish is related to, and as you can see,
they’re sort of far-flung across — mainly spoken in Russia. The reason that Finnish, and
Estonian, and Hungarian are doing so well is because they
all have national borders, and none of the other ones do. And all the other ones are seriously
endangered for exactly that reason. You get borders, your
language is going to do okay. That’s really the way that
you preserve a language, is by having borders, and, you know,
having education in your language, having media in your language. I mean, that’s — you know, that’s
why Finnish is so vibrant, really. If Finland were part of Sweden,
it might not be the same. Or part of Russia. It would be a very different story. And just a little bit about sort
of where did Finnish come from. We don’t really know for sure. Don’t really know. But this is a — this is a map that
kind of offers some suggestions. This is a DNA haplogroup. The Y DNA, haplogroup N, which is
actually my own haplogroup, and — which men inherit from their
father, and who inherited from their father,
going back in time. You can see here that the — 60% of
Finnish men — Finnish men have — belong to haplogroup N,
and you can see the — this is the concentration
of it in the world, where the darkest concentration
is the — is the — the darkest color is the
greatest concentration. So you can see, in Finland, it
has a really, really dark color, and also all the way across the top of northern Russia,
going all the way over. So those people are all genetically
related to those Finns that have that — that belong
to that haplogroup. Not all Finns belong
to that haplogroup. Some of the Finns, we say
some of them came from Europe, and the others came from the east. Some came from the west,
and some came from the east. But one of the — sort of the
migratory paths that one set of people came through is sort of
out of Africa, into the Middle East, and then into Asia, and then
finally reaching Finland as their sort of final terminus. And you can see that
in western Europe, there’s almost no incidence of it. So basically, Finland —
a little bit into Sweden, a little bit into Norway, and
then it completely drops off. In the British Isles, there’s almost
zero incidence of haplogroup N. So they just didn’t get
any farther than Finland. But that kind of tells us, alludes
to where the language is from. And if you notice, that previous
map with the Uralic languages, it — they overlap to quite an interesting
— in a very interesting way, right? So the fact that the languages —
language and genetics, of course, are not the same thing, and modern
Finnish people are not genetically the same as the other
Finno-Uralic speakers. But, there is a certain amount
of overlap, and this sort of– the DNA can kind of tell this, where
the linguistic ancestors of the — both the genetic and the linguistic
ancestors of the Finns were. And just a little bit about the
lexicon of Finnish, but first, I want to talk a little
bit about English. So English is a Germanic
language, right? As we all know. So it’s a Germanic language
in the Indo-European — Germanic sub-branch of
the Indo-European family. But in terms of its vocabulary,
only 20% — 26%, approximately, of its words are Germanic. So any time that any of
us are speaking English, only about a quarter of the time
are we really using those core words from English. The rest of the time, we’re
learning words that — we’re saying words that came from
French, that came from Latin, and that came from
Greek, for example, French and Latin being
the bulk of it. Right? That’s why that
newspaper article from “Le Monde” had so much overlap. Because really, English is
about a quarter French, or so, really, and then a lot of Latin. And that’s what makes it so tough
to learn, even as a native speakers, is because it’s not transparent
when you get into the higher levels. When you get into the fancy words
in English, if you don’t know Latin, you know, we have these tests
where you have to take the GRE and learn all this
crazy Latin vocabulary. And these are — you know, people
say, “These are English words,” and the kids are saying, “What? They’re not English words,”
we use in our daily life. But that is one of the reasons
that English has its sort of huge, huge vocabulary. So in — and Finnish
has also a similar — Finnish is not a pure language
anymore than English is. There is no such thing
as a pure language. That’s completely a myth. It’s another myth. There’s no — there are no pure
— genetically pure people. There’s no pure language. So Finnish definitely — even
though I showed that page where you saw that, you know,
Finnish looks sort of kind of impenetrable, it has had lots of
influences from all different kinds of languages over its
thousands of years of existence. So we have sort of
these strata in Finnish. And if we go from the bottom, the
bottom would be the native stratum. Those are words that are shared
with most all Uralic languages. And then, moving up — this
is sort of a time-depth thing. So the first context that the
ancient Uralic people had was with Indo-European people, and
then Baltic peoples, Germanic — I mean, the proto-Finnic people. Germanic, Slavic, Swedish,
and English. And you can see — based on
this going from the, you know, 6000 years ago or so
up to the present, you can see the different kinds of
people that the linguistic ancestors of the Finns interacted with, right? So originally, the fact that Indo-European loans
was the first group tells us that the Finns have not
always been in Finland, or at least the linguistic ancestors of the Finn have not
always been in Finland. Because they had these interactions
with Indo-European people, probably in central Russia. And then, the Baltic loans
tells us that they got to the Baltic at some point, right? And then the Germanic loans tells
us that there was also interaction with Germanic-speaking
peoples at that time. So we think of sort of these
strata as just like archaeology, the graphic there with
the archaeological layers. Finnish has these layers in its
vocabulary of — it has its basic — basic native stratum, and then
it has these accumulated layers. Modern Finnish speakers can’t tell
you this, “This word is from Baltic, and this word is from Germanic,” any
more than English speakers can say, “This word is from French,” or
“This word is from Arabic,” at all. Unless it’s a really, really
recent loan, people — speakers have almost
no intuition about it. It has to be a recent loan for
people to have an intuition. So the native stratum, an
example would be body parts, or words from animals and nature,
of course, because those are words that people have needed
all the time, regardless of where they lived. Right? Regardless of
your environment, you need to talk about body parts. You need to talk about
animals and nature. The kinds of animals and
the kind of nature can vary, depending on your environment, of
course, but this tell us something about the — where the
Finns originally lived. You see that the word
“birch,” [foreign language], is a very, very old word. So that suggests that where
the Finns originally were, birch trees existed. And, for example, [foreign
language], river, that there was water, of course. And they had dogs and fish kind
of everywhere, [foreign language]. Then, the — one of the — I’m not
going to talk about all the strata, but another stratum that’s really
interesting is the Baltic stratum. So the Baltic stratum tells
us, then, at one point, that the linguistic ancestors
of the Finns met with people — interacted with people in the Baltic
area, so the ancestors of current, modern-day Latvians and Lithuanians. And you can see the kinds
of words that were — were borrowed into Finnish
really reveal something about the nature of the contact. So here, we can see —
I’ve kind of done a couple of different colors here, to
kind of show that we have words like [foreign language],
hay, goat and seed, and those clearly relate
to agriculture, right? So agriculture was something that
kind of happened during this period when the linguistic
ancestors of the Finns met, encountered the Baltic peoples. They didn’t have — they were
hunter-gatherers to that point, and then they encountered
agriculture. And they needed words for things that they had never needed
to talk about before. Interestingly, there are three
really interesting words, daughter, sister and bride, that were
also introduced in this area. Which, you might just want
to speculate at home tonight about what happened there. But it’s a — really intriguing to
think about those kinds of things. Why would a language — certainly,
there were daughters, and sisters, and brides before this point, but why were these particular
words introduced at this point? Again, it tells you something about
the nature of the contact, right? What was happening. It wasn’t just a culture sharing. It was more intimate
sharing, of course, right? And then, we see there are
other words related to food. So we have, for example,
salmon, pea and porridge, and then we have the sea. That’s really interesting. So the word [foreign language],
the sea — so in other words, this is the first time
they ever saw the sea. Right? They didn’t see the
sea at — they don’t — you don’t need to talk about
the sea if you don’t have a sea. And then you have a sea, and
then you need a word for bay. So it’s really revealing, these
layers of the vocabulary, if you — if you — you know, the people
that do this kind of research, you can really see what kinds of
cultural contact sort of happened. Moving onto the Germanic
stratum, we have a similar kind of cultural contact here, where
we have a lot of farming words. So chicken, sheep, plow, all
the words for grains, right? So all the grains were
introduced at this point. So they were — you know,
again, the linguistic ancestors of the Finns were hunter-gatherers,
and now, suddenly, they were — they were living in places where
they were — they were growing — growing food, and staying
in one place at one time. A very, very interesting — and also, we see all the words for
the different metals, so gold, tin, iron, [foreign language],
for example, ore, and a very, very interesting word is
[foreign language], mother. Which is just always — the students
are — my students are always just, how could mother be a loan word? Didn’t they have mothers before? And I always say, “Well,
the Finns were hatched.” No, not really. It goes back to the Kalevala
egg kind of idea, but — but — if you know anything
about the Kalevala. But it’s a very interesting word. So there is a — there’s a —
the original word for mother, which is [foreign language]
and [foreign language], then is used only for animal
mothers, now, in modern Finnish. So what happened was, the
original word became smaller, in terms of its semantic field, and then this new word [foreign
language] came in and supplanted it. So then — and that, again, suggests
a different kind of contact. Not just cultural contact,
but people contact, right, which is really interesting. When students learn
[foreign language], they have to learn we divide
words in Finnish that end in I into old words and new words. And they have to learn that that is
a new word, even though they want to think it’s an old word. Because they say, “That language — the word has to have been in
the language for a long time.” I said, “Yeah, a couple
thousand years, but not 6000. It’s relatively new.” So — and then we get to
the most recent stratum, and this is the stratum that
is really happening right now. This is what’s happening in
Finnish, and there are just tons of words every single day coming
into Finnish from English. So we have words like [foreign
language], to work out, for example. [Foreign language],
very recent word, right? This came up with Skype. Then they have — they need
a verb, [foreign language]. To Google, [foreign language]. You can also say [foreign language]. There’s two verbs for that. [Foreign language],
to hang out, right? Just plain old show, for
example, [foreign language]. There were perfectly good ways in
Finnish for saying these things, but suddenly, they say this. And then, my absolute
favorite is yes. Which does not, in
Finnish, mean yes. It means good or excellent. So what happens when — you know,
when a language borrows a word, it just — there are
no rules, right? It’s like you give something
— you give a gift to somebody, and they do whatever
they want with it. And Finnish took this word, and
just went and did what it wanted. So now, in Finnish, it’s
totally normal to say — you say [foreign language],
how was the movie? They say [foreign language] yes. It was really yes. Which is something in English
we would never say, right? We would never do it that way. Yes means yes and yes only. It’s not an adjective. In Finnish, it has
become an adjective, which is really fascinating. So yeah. So — and this — this group is being
added to all the time. Okay, then, moving away from the
vocabulary and into the morphology, just — this is kind of a familiar
concept to a lot of people, is that one of the things — the characteristics of
Finnish that make it different, not necessarily difficult, is
just this ability to add suffixes onto words, and to
build longer words. So we say [foreign languages]
means house, [foreign language] in the house, [foreign language]
in my house, [foreign language] in my house also, [foreign
language], make it a question by adding the ko [phonetic],
[foreign language] in my house also, and then you can say “I wonder.” So [foreign language]. I wonder in my house also,
are there rats, maybe? Your neighbor has rats,
and you would say — because you would think,
no one would ever say that. No, no, I can think of a context. Your neighbor has rats. Oh, [foreign language]. I wonder if there are
rats in my house, too. Totally natural context. This is not a crazy word. So that’s one thing that people
say makes Finnish difficult. There’s nothing difficult about it. You see the word. You know the endings. You know what they mean. You add them on. That aspect of it is not difficult. Making long words based on these
little suffixes is not difficult. What is — okay, yes, and here’s
another graphic that’s gone around. This is from Scandinavia
in the world. This is kind of one of these memes. Finnish has a word for “I wonder
if I should run around aimlessly,” and in Finnish, that
is [foreign language]. And you see that same
-han suffix, right? So again, this is what people
think makes Finnish difficult. I don’t think that’s what
makes Finnish difficult. So I would say Finnish is different, but one of the things is the
vocabulary is so different, right? So learning the vocabulary
is an enormous task. You just have to learn that this
is called [foreign language], which has no relation
to table, right? Or you have to learn that
this is [foreign language], which has no relation to shoe. You just have to memorize that. There’s nothing you can do about it. But, one of the challenges
of Finnish is what — something that we call [foreign
language], which are word types. So in Finnish, as you notice
from the previous slide — or, two slides ago, when you
have the word [foreign language], if I would’ve written it — I
didn’t write it here by itself, but if I wrote it by itself, then
you just do add the ending on, and you don’t do anything to it. However, not all words
are so friendly. There are a lot of words in Finnish
that are — you have to know more. So you have to know what
we call [foreign language]. So you remember from my
initial slide, my early slide, the one with the two plates,
the words that end in N-E-N, you don’t just add
the ending to the — you don’t slap it on
the end of the word. What you do is, you
have to know the root. And the root is the — is the
form on the far right there, that has the little dash, and
the dash means I’m not complete until I get a suffix added onto me. So [foreign language] means
red, and if you want to say “in the red house,” for example,
you say [foreign language]. So the student has to learn, okay,
[foreign language] is a “nen” word. “Nen” words, their stem is in “se.” So “nen” becomes “se,” and
then I add my ending on. So then I have to say
[foreign language]. But, if I have a word ending
in S-I, then it’s different. Then a word like [foreign
language], which means water, becomes [foreign language]. Okay, so “in the water” then
has to be [foreign language]. Or, if I have a word like [foreign
language] at the very bottom, “beautiful,” then I want to say “in
the beautiful house,” then I have to say [foreign language]. This is definitely a task to learn. And I have — I don’t know
how many, five, 10 types here. There are about 40. So I don’t tell the students
that at the beginning. If I would, they would — they
would run out of the room screaming. We introduce them a
little at a time. But that is definitely one
thing that I would say, not the fact that there
are case endings. This is one of the
things that makes Finnish, not difficult, but challenging. And just another couple
examples here, is people will — students will say me — say to me,
“How do you say dogs in Finnish?” I’m like, oh, it depends. So in English, “The
dogs are running. I have two dogs. There are dogs in the yard.” Dogs, dogs, dogs. In Finnish, [foreign language]. All depends on the sentence. I can’t answer that question. I cannot answer that
question without a sentence. And in a similar way, how
do you say “for” in Finnish? This is even worse. How do you say for? Oh, “This is for you. I’m waiting for the bus. She went there for a year. Buy a ticket for the movie.” No, in Finnish, [foreign language]. For — there’s, like, five different
— four different endings there, depending on the context. There’s not a one-to-one mapping. That definitely is a
challenge to learn. Not the fact that there
are case endings, but that there is this
really — this — not a one-to-one match
between the two languages. So what I would say is
that Finnish is different, not necessarily difficult. And so the proof of that is me. I did not grow up speaking Finnish,
and I am not a genius by any means. And I have learned
Finnish, and the — on the picture on the right
is a group of my students who all speak Finnish very well. And I’ve had 15 years of
these kind of students coming through my program, and
they’re not all geniuses. Well, some of them are. But not all of them are
geniuses, and they do really well. So that’s it. Thank you. Thank you for your attention. [ Applause ]>>Alli Flint: Well, Dan
is a hard act to follow. I just have to say, before I launch
into what I want to say in — at length, is that when I
kept getting new information about this conference, and
was very happy to be invited to it, and really honored. I then thought, oh, yes, but — and I finally then looked at
exactly where, and at the Library of Congress, this was
going to take place. And it was — and then,
oh, now, wait a second. That reminds me of something. In — I want to take you back
to January 24th, 1985, where — when there was a symposium
on the Kalevala at — on the 150th anniversary of
the first Kalevala, in 1820 — 1835, which is now referred to as
the Old Kalevala, since the ’40 — 1849 was then the canonic version. There was a really wonderfully
designed conference of folklorists, and people in literature, and people who had thought deeply
about the Kalevala. The — but there was also the
sound of the Kalevala being heard after Alan Jabbour, who was the
head of the folk life center at the time, had welcomed us in. And then — and Lauri Honko, a
professor of folklore in University of Helsinki, and a very
major figure in epic — study of epics, internationally
respected. They had started it with
brief announcements. Then my — I, and my husband — late husband, Austin Flint,
had been from Columbia. Both of us were asked to give a
bilingual reading of the Kalevala, and those of you who know something
about the Kalevala would — when one says [foreign
language], mother of Lemminkainen at Tuonela River would
mean something. You immediately see an image of
the mother of one of the heroes of the Kalevala, or scandal — heroes or scoundrels
of the Kalevala. Lemminkainen, who always
got into trouble, and was — finally met his end, having thought
that he was invincible, was very — was killed, and was
in pieces in the River of Tuonela, the abode of the death. Now — so it’s not a cheerful text,
but it’s a very interesting — it’s a very dramatic
scene in the Kalevala, where Lemminkainen’s mother, with
her shamanic powers, is putting — is first of all, raking with
an enormous rake these pieces of her son from the
River of the Dead, and then bringing him back to life. So I read it in Finnish, but I
read it from the Old Kalevala, which is — which is the same
story, but slightly different words, in honor of that we were
celebrating the 18 — 1835 version. And then my husband
read it in English, and then we were later told that,
yes, the English version made it to the Finnish TV, and they had
seen it, which pleased me no end. So I just really want to
— and there was so much — now that I go back to think about
that symposium, it really — I mean, I had studied the Kalevala. I had taught the Kalevala
at Columbia. I had done various things, and
I realize now how much that kind of gathering, of getting together
folklorists, literature people, anthropology — cultural
anthropologists, music — ethnomusicologists. And then, in a way, looking at all
the pieces, and what — what — you can, in a way, to get the
essence of it, and get a sort of grip on what all it can mean. And so — and I thought that, just
in case there are people here — which, I think in any audience,
there might well be, who don’t — the Kalevala, what is it? I will read the pithy —
is of my humble photocopy of the program, of
the ’85 conference. “The Kalevala is the
Finnish national epic. It was compiled by Elias Loennrot
from folk poems collect in rural — in rural Finland, and
first published in 1835. The symposium will explore the
role of the Kalevala as a symbol of Finnish national identity,
and reflect upon the development of its symbols of identity in
American-Finnish communities.” And so then it when it on — the whole day went on to
discuss what other aspects, what other tokens of
identity might there be in Finnish-American communities. And then, Yvonne Hipakaluk
[assumed spelling], who gave a very interesting talk
on — a cultural anthropologist, gave a wonderful talk on the
various — on [foreign language], but also pasties, which became big. However, they were a Cornish —
Cornish immigrants had brought those to the country, and the Finnish — they seem probably enough
like a [foreign language] that they became very
much taken by the — and I’ve had students
at Columbia who just — “Oh, pasties, oh, my mother’s
going to send me some pasties. I’ll bring some to class.” And we had them. And I had them also at Hancock, so it was my first time
of ever getting pasties. So that the — and
then, the last item that Yvonne Hipakaluk
[assumed spelling] would — spoke about was the St. Urho myth,
which was of totally newfangled — new, new celebration, day
before St. Patrick’s Day. So there was a certain kind of inter-European jealousy
of the saints. So very unlikely, really
a tall tale. But so — that day was sort of —
it was — it really was excellent, in terms of looking at the Kalevala. Of course, it can — we
can just read it as a — read it, or be exposed
to it one way or another as a work of art, which it is. Loennrot was a collector. He was first a medical doctor. That was his, as one would say —
maybe his day job for a good while, and he was — in eastern Finland, he
was the district doctor in Kajaani, and — way, way, eastern
— northeastern Finland. And he then started
listening to the folklore, people who still knew the
old songs and the old poems. And this was a very — it was
very poor area, and the whole — but he would — usually on
foot, and sometimes he got sort of a horse ride, but mostly
on foot, he collected, and he then got the sort of
cultural [inaudible] to collect it. And there was the Finnish
Literature Society, which had the intelligentsia of — interested in seeing
how these could be — come to fruition and be published. And, in fact, the Finnish Literature
Society was established just in time to publish the Kalevala, and to
fund it, and really use — when — if anyone has ever had anything
to do with trying to get funds for certain cultural
— you’re nodding. Cultural efforts, it’s always
a — it’s also political. And also, we have to keep in
mind that the — that in — so 1835, where was Finland? Finland was — had, in 1809,
stopped being part of Sweden. And the Peace of Hamina
decreed that the border was to be made more eastern, and the
border was — more western, rather. It was to be moved west
between Finland and Sweden. So Finland suddenly wasn’t part
of Sweden, and then from — so 1809 to 1917, Finland was the
autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. And so that there was room
to — what — now what? And so there was this —
actually a very dramatic — by the end of the 19th
century, dramatic shift where Finnish intelligentsia who
were deciding things, who, in fact, spoke with each other — they negotiated these
issues within Swedish, because that was the language of the ruling class,
and the cultural great. So the — and many families
— and to hold the drama — and I think it’s not much has been,
in fact, paid attention to the drama of Finnish families who had,
until then, spoken Swedish, because they would know Finnish. But they would — Swedish was,
in a way, the going language, and they would then, within
a couple of generations, totally shift the family
language into Finnish, and be very conscious about it. And the political discussion is
interesting, but we won’t go there. So after had — had these wonderful
days of this Kalevala conference, I then got on the Amtrak train
and went back to New York. And in — but, like, five
days later, we had a symposium at Columbia called
From Folk to Nation. Now, folk in Finnish
is [foreign language]. Nation in Finnish is
[foreign language]. So that — in a way
— and that sort of — when you talk about the transparency
of Finnish vocabulary, and one says, “Well, [foreign language],
lots of folks there, right?” Very informal, not
organized, but then, the same semantic root was also
used for the collection of people who were Finns, who were
— lived in Finland. That was [foreign language]. So the — and then, we have — so
[foreign language], the folk poetry, but then [foreign language],
the derivational suffix of what sort are you, the citizen. So that, in a way, it —
root Finnish really does — I was happy that you brought that
— brought that in, that for a Finn, it’s intuitively easy to say
what has got to do something — it has got to mean
something about people, right? Yes. Okay. So then — and I think what — what I think, when you said
at the intermediate year of learning Finnish, teaching
Finnish, is very frustrating, because the first year is okay. Because when you add
something to zero, it feels like an accomplishment,
and you’re happy. Because you learn — you
do learn a fair amount. And then, if the teaching
is being done well, then — or if the class is designed
sort of in a sound way, the — you will have learned sort of — you will have learned
it in different kinds — different ways of complexity. But the intermediate
is — then you begin to know what all else is ahead. And — but then, exactly, advanced
students, once that’s past, then that can — that
can really change. So we had another conference,
and then, obviously, life went on at Columbia. Now, I will move to Columbia, and
I want to tell you about the — that Finnish has been at Columbia — there has been some Finnish
at Columbia since 1940s. The first person teaching it was
Professor John B. Oley [assumed spelling], who was also a — who
was a professor at City University in Germanic and Slavic languages. And so he taught them in courses. By 1960s — the ’50s, ’60s,
it was more and more included in the academic curriculum of the
university, and then was offered as — by ’60s in Uralic — Uralic studies within the
department of linguistics. And so — and there were a
great many theoretical — theoretical courses in
Uralic studies as well. The contemporary — the most — very
recent maps reminded me of the — of the less pretty maps,
but the same information of the related languages. And so those of us who
were at Columbia — and I did my doctoral
work at Columbia, and sat in — Ken, where are you? There you are. With Kenneth Neradi [assumed
spelling] of the Library of Congress, and of
the European section. We sat in Uralic seminars,
and we were working on entirely different things, right? And then, I have to just — to sort
of — the Finnish wouldn’t continue, or the Uralic languages
wouldn’t continue at Columbia if it hadn’t been for someone
like Professor Robert Austerlitz. Who might be familiar to some
of you who are not too young — who are not so young as not to have
met him, who was a very multi — multilingual, multi-talented
human being. And his — with his
seminal research in Finnish and with Uralic languages, as
well as many other languages, and scholarly publication,
he was one who was the — at some point, he was the head of
the American Linguistic Society. And he was very active in the entire
country, as well as internationally. So he brought a lot of the
knowledge of that to the, say, American academia, and always
— I don’t know how about in — in Minneapolis, whether you
have students in linguistics who flock to your classes. Yeah? Most?>>Daniel Karvonen: Some.>>Alli Flint: Some. Yeah, okay. Some. Because it’s a
really interesting thing, that if you have students who are
in linguistics, and they really want to do Finnish, or they are required to learn a non-Indo-European
language, which immediately puts them on
the different — on the heavier — heavier workload languages, they — they get delighted when
there is [foreign language]. And that’s an easy one, obviously. But the more suffixes, the better,
whereas the student who says, “Look, please, not — no more grammar
today,” then it — there’s a — so that there are kind of all kinds
of pyramids that — in the contrast. So Columbia certainly — when I
was first teaching at Columbia, Finnish at Columbia, I was —
most of the students — maybe — really, I would say more students
than not were from linguistics. Because they truly
had that requirement, that they had to learn one
— that they had to have — and many of them wanted to, and quite willingly
were studying Finnish. And they were also always
students from different fields, so that Columbia — in those years, when the graduate student
population was also helped by the NDFL legislation,
which helped graduate students to study an odd language,
or a less commonly-taught — I think in those days, they
were called neglected languages. Now, we all said, who were
teaching, “These languages, we never neglected them.” Then, I think the — they were
beginning to be called less common. Now, the polite — politically
okay phrase, I believe, that’s used is less-commonly-taught. And then, of course, we
would say amongst ourselves, “Teach them every Monday,
Tuesday, Thursday.” So it’s not less — it’s not
less common, but they are — they have this different status. And so, the — so linguists
have always been interested, but we had — but over the years,
there have been master’s theses and doctoral dissertations in
anthropology, for, like, almost, like, three generations of
anthropology graduate work. Students who then been professors in
various places, including Columbia and — I think Michigan
State, and Brooklyn College, at the City University of New York. And sociology, literature,
and linguistics, obviously, as well as in music,
where the people who were in music also sometimes
came to the Uralic seminars. Now, Ken Neradi [assumed
spelling] was working on Komi, which I was a part of — was very
exciting, because I was also trying to learn enough Komi in
order to be able to go to the Finno-Ugric Congress in
Syktyvkar, Komi at the — in 1985. It was a big seminal year. And so you — I was so impressed by
Ken Neradi’s opening the newspaper and just reading, reading fully
all these things about Komi. And I was working on Komi
riddles in folklore, and there, there was always a man with axe
walks into woods, and what is it? So that my — my sort
of — kind of — the texts that I was reading
were very different from yours. But we — the whole seminar was run
in such a way that Austerlitz — in fact, he just simply started as
an extra thing for everybody, that, well, in two years, there’s going
to be this Finno-Ugric Congress in Syktyvkar, in Komi land. And it would be good if quite a
few of us went, and gave papers. Now, if we’re going to Syktyvkar,
we should really do something about their language, shouldn’t we? It would be polite. And some of us said, “Well,
we don’t know enough,” or — he said, “Well, we have two years.” Every week, we had an extra Komi
— an extra session on these. So we worked on them,
and four of us did go. So it is — but with
Columbia, it tends to be that Finnish has always been sort of in the midst of
many other languages. Columbia still teaches over four
— there are 40 foreign languages, plus — 40-plus languages taught. And so Finnish is one of them,
and Hungarian is another. And — which you also
studied, right? And so the — so it’s
a very kind of — in a way, the context in
which Finnish is taught at Columbia is very much
in the context of many, many other languages, as
many other fields, as well. The students, at this point, aren’t
writing doctoral dissertations because the — in a way, the
graduate program has waned. And the under — there are
more undergraduate students. But they’re doing very well,
and many have — many have — over the years, have been
helped by Finland, which has — Finland has a very generous system
of inviting foreign students, who have to apply, to summer
courses, and get a really heavy dose of being among others — being
with students from other countries, studying Finnish in
Finland, in the location. And so their — they have a lot
of contact with Finland as well. The other thing that happens,
and it’s been very much design, and sort of we’ve wanted it
that way, is that when — people who come to the United
States from Finland, they somehow — lots of planes land on
the — at the airports. And people who don’t even
mean to come to New York, they happen to come through. And so they very often then are in
touch, and come by, and so that — we’ve had — just even naturally
— [inaudible] visitors — visitors from Finland,
so that the dialogue and the contact can continue. And we’ve had a great many organized
events of symposia and lectures, as well as — as well as informal
— and readings, poetry — a flock of Finnish poets were
in New York at a given year. And they were also at Columbia,
where we had then a trilingual event of Finnish, Swedish and
English poetry being read. And so students have,
over the years, met everybody from Neils
Aslakvolkyapa [assumed spelling], a Sami performer and singer, and
all-purpose — he was a very gifted, gifted individual for that group. And so then, the one thing that —
and we go through, you know, the — where every — I think in every
place, the language is the same, and students need to learn it. And it — we are — we
have really used a lot — some of the Austerlitzian
way of looking at the sort of morphophonemics of Finnish,
and — for the linguists, you — it can be done explicitly. And then, for the non-linguists,
it needs to be softened, and shown in the right context. But so, the — our students
are used — or certainly were, and they still are,
used to meeting Finns. And they are from the very — when
they first walk in, they’re greeted in Finnish, and they’re
expected to make a noise in Finnish at that point. And it is indicated
what it might be. And — so that, in a way, they
start expressing themselves in Finnish from the very start. And that’s — I think with
many languages at Columbia, that’s usually — very often
is the case, that it’s — the target language is what
is — what you hear in class. I certainly have heard it in — having been reviewing the
Chinese teacher, and hearing — not that I know — but I was — as an external reviewer of a
particular Chinese teacher, and there was an elementary
Chinese Mandarin class where there was just this
noise in the classroom that the students were producing. And she was keeping
it very organized at the same time as
it was exuberant. So the fact that they meet — that students have gotten used
to the idea that Finnish — Finns might come anytime. Because I very often them have — I used to, and my younger
colleagues who’ve followed after, have often done it as well,
having a Finn visit a class. And then, the Finn is sort of —
they really have to be kind of a — kind of interested person,
who is not going to say, “Why are you studying Finnish?” Which, of course, very many
people will ask, but I sort of — I said, like, that’s
not one thing we’d say. And we will not — we will
not slip into English. We will stay in Finnish. But it then has to be — that person
has to be sensitive to children, because you have to have someone
who doesn’t start telling them, “Oh, you speak better than you,”
or something like that. No. But in most cases — in
just about all cases, it is — it has been very successful. So that then, when President
Ahtisaari gets his honorary doctorate at Columbia in 2000, and
after various cajoling of the — of getting the permit to get the
students to meet him afterwards, and he addresses the students. And they have a meeting,
and everyone can — is able to say something in Finnish. And then, Ahtisaari also
spoke a lot in English, dealing with world sort of affairs. But they had the meeting. And another one, when President
Tarja Halonen, in the fall of 2005, I believe it was, gave
the opening lecture at Columbia’s World
Leaders Forum, where — when all the heads of state
arrive at the UN for those weeks, they are — they are then,
very often come to Columbia. And she met them, and spoke Finnish
with them, and told a funny story. And so these events become
then part of the curriculum of that particular year, and that — those classes, and the students
then go back and research more about the people whom they’ve met. Now, we’ve met — we’ve
also had people who are not presidents, as well. But in a way, that — the fact
that you’ve spoken with a Finn, or with some Finns, lets you
be natural when the President of Finland shakes your
hand, and you say — he says something, or
she says something. And you can — you know
that there’s something that you might say,
or you might ask. So then, I will also move to one of
the events that we’ve used a lot, which has — it doesn’t
seem possibly — perhaps, it doesn’t seem likely. That if you declare that you’re
going to have a multilingual, multicultural evening on Kalevala
poetry in many, many languages, it might not seem part
of language teaching. But it ends up being, which is
really very kind of interesting. It — the fact that
we’ve now had many — several Kalevala marathons
of anything from [inaudible]. The first one was eight hours, and
second — then it was six hours, and then it’s been four or five
hours of Kalevala in just this — there would be tables with
translations into other languages. And since the Kalevala
has been translated into over 60 foreign
languages by now, and if Columbia still teaches
more than 40 foreign languages — so it seems like — and then, 40% of
Columbia faculty are foreign-born. And New York is — I don’t even
frankly know how many languages, but it’s somewhere around 200
languages spoken around New York. All you need to do is
to be in a subway car, and you know that there are
languages you don’t know that are being spoken. So that there’s —
the milieu, in a way, is hospitable to something
like this. Then, the fact that many young
Finnish artists come to New York — some of them are performing
artists, and some are — and many musicians come to New York. And they get sort of slightly
homesick for tribal events, too. So they’re happy to
come and perform. So one person who has been
solid, always on hand and willing to do her piece is Stina
Elt [assumed spelling], who lives not far from
the university. And she has always been part
of the Kalevala marathon, and done it in Finland Swedish, which was actually her first
language, and then in Finnish. And she’s done wonderful things. Younger artists, such
as Thomas Hildanen and Ulla Swalko [assumed
spelling], who are both musicians and wonderful performers, have
also been very steadfastly — but when they’re — now,
they have both left New York. So we’ll see what happens. But we will — we will — there
definitely are musicians who are — and they’re usually interested. And it’s always done with a
sort of [foreign language], sort of work party/barn raising, that you’ll perform,
and then we’ll eat. That’s a little bit — and when — those years when the Consulate
General has been able to — and it has to do with
their budgets, too, has been able to have his
chefs do wonderful things, like [foreign language], and
sort of basic Finnish happy — comfort foods, and treasures. So those have been very —
they’ve been very, very successful. And sometimes, the students — in
a way, that when you have students who — and — but it always
centers around the students. And so, that the students are
either studying Finnish language and culture in Finnish
language classes, but then also, I’ve taught a great many folk
— Kalevala [foreign language] and Finnish folklore classes, that those students become really
quite knowledgeable about it in a way, from having read it. In a — and then the
— once the — that — those courses can also be English,
so that the translation comes in. And there are five excellent
translations into English, and they can choose
which they like best, which they find suits them best. But there also — we’ve
had sometimes 21 languages, sometimes 26 languages
that have been — including Hindi, including Quenya. Now, then came the whole notion of
the Tolkien fans, who, these days, truly flock — I mean, the
past — I’d say past 15 years, there have been many Tolkien
specialists among the students. And they almost know
their Tolkien by heart. I don’t, but — so one
year, a student said, “Well, I’m learning Quenya on the — on
the internet, and there’s a course. And I’m taking it. And I’ve learned quite a bit.” And then, as she got bolder about —
learned more, then she said, “Now, for the Kalevala marathon,
would it be really — would it be okay, would it be dumb if I translated some
of it into Quenya?” And the class said, “Why don’t you? I mean, please do.” So she chose the second
rune, or second canto, where Sam Sapellervoinen
[assumed spelling], a tiny lad, sows all the trees, and
puts them into the — and has them growing in
the right kind of soil. It almost sounds like a forestry
specialist’s workbook, in — because it lists the trees. And she said, “Oh, yeah,
well, I’m doing it. It’s just that Quenya doesn’t have
as many different names for trees, so I’ll have to be kind
of brief about it.” And then, they — then the — her
classmates encouraged her to — well, you’ll read that at
the marathon, won’t you? And she said, “Oh, yes. Yes, yes, I will.” And she did, and it was a big hit. There were other Quenya in — sort
of oriented people there as well. And so the — part of the
— and the students — but then, it also gives the students
agency, that Finnish is a — sometimes not an easy
challenge to get through. They also will need — need a sense
of — that they can — they can — they can have a lot
of say how it is done. So one year, particularly
— in 2005, I think it was. There was a class that was —
had one city planner, had very — had one computer specialist, and they all took different
parts on how to do it. And they just took it, and
ran with it, and did it. And so their agency in putting on an
event to which 90 performers came, and people appreciated their
efforts — also, everyone I could — and yet, there was the affective
effort — effect of the — of the music, of everything
that went into the — into the marathon was very
helpful in their learning. So — and my time is up.>>About.>>About. Okay. I shall then — I shall
then wrap up. There’s a — one starts
thinking about — there was a question of how — I will then just say
a couple of things. My new colleague, Haley
Sylvia [assumed spelling], who has just started this
year, is involved in a — in an arrangement with
Columbia where students at Yale and Cornell can take
courses at Columbia if their universities
don’t offer it. And so she’s teaching Finnish now,
and they are using their virtual — the virtual Yale person and the Cornell person are
going to be also involved. Also, through the consortium of —
with Julliard School and others, people from other universities can
also study Finnish at Columbia. And so it seems to be — it’s
been a good start this year. And there are Tolkien
fans, again, and — so they are — they’re
charging ahead. And maybe some of them
will follow the footsteps of the earlier students who
really have made major — for whose careers the study of Finnish has been very
central and important. So we keep on working. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Hillary Virtanen: My
name is Hillary Virtanen, and I’m the assistant professor
of Finnish and Nordic studies at Finlandia University
in Hancock, Michigan. And my presentation is called
“My Grandma Used To Say That: Finnish As A Heritage
Language In The Upper Midwest.” I also — well, the camera’s on, and my family will be
watching this later. Happy birthday to my
youngest sister, Erin — my second-youngest sister. We’ll call her the youngest. Thank you for letting
me be out of town today. So the day was May 12th, 2017,
and I had just arrived in Helsinki with my study abroad class from
Finlandia University for a few weeks of observation, documentation,
and interviewing, to learn about Finland’s
past, present, and future. My own excitement at returning to
a country I know as a researcher and as an ethnic Finn
from America was bolstered by the excitement of my students. Two of my three students were
also ethnic Finns, and one was — experienced her first
moments on Finnish soil. I had already begun my process
of re-acclimating myself to Finnish language by
greeting our travel agent, Mikho [assumed spelling],
and telling him all about our day layover in Iceland. As we settled into the bus, my
attention turned to my student, Leia, who has Finnish heritage
on both sides of her family. She had an intent expression
on her face that I had seen others make before. She was drinking in the
land her family had left over 100 years earlier
for the first time. As we drove from the
airport into Helsinki, we all looked around at the
modern city, the cars, the Finnish and Swedish language road signs. [Foreign language] I heard the voice
next to me, and nodded in agreement, until I realized that the person
who quietly said to look was Leia, who had never spoken a
word of Finnish to me in the conversational context. I looked at her in
amazement, and she continued. “My grandma used to say that. That means look, right?” I smiled, and said, “Yeah, it does.” Leia, in her first
moments in Finland, was channelling what she knew
of the language of the country that her family had
left so long ago, but which hadn’t entirely
left them yet. It shouldn’t be incredibly
surprising that Leia, a young woman, would be able to recall words
and their meaning in a language in which she was not fluent. Her home community
in Houghton County, Michigan boasts the
largest concentration of ethnic Finns outside of Finland,
and over the past 100 years, Finnish language and culture have
continued to have an important place in the community’s
private and public life. According to the 2013 U.S. Census
American Community Survey estimate, just under 32% of Houghton County
residents indicated Finnish as being either their primary
or secondary ethnic ancestry. This means that, in this
county, they are the largest — they are the ethnic majority. As can be seen in this map that we
can’t see, but I can show you later if you’re interested, Finnish
ancestry is a rather common trait across the Lake Superior region,
which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, upper Michigan, and areas
around Ontario, too. And so we affectionately know of
this region as being the Sauna Belt. And if you ever need a
sauna, just drive around. You’ll see one. You can ask. In everyday terms, this means that
Finnish culture is a visible part of the community for those
who are Finnish or not. Finns, though originally heavily
stigmatized as being undesirable, second-wave, eastern European
immigrants in the late 1800s, have gradually come to a place
of semi-esteem in the region, and have asserted pride in their
culture in a number of ways. In Houghton County and places
like it, towns with Finnish names like Doyvila [assumed
spelling], Isanti, Tapiola and Oulu dot the map,
though the pronunciation of these words may differ from
how we would hear them in Finland. Businesses have Finnish names, either because of the
proprietor’s surname, or because of a conscious
decision to use a Finnish name. Restaurants may offer Finnish baked
goods, and churches originating from the Finnish State
Lutheran Church or the Northern Nordic Laestadian
Lutheran Movement are found in abundance in this region. And there are people who speak
this language in varying degrees from native and near-native fluency
to the use of a sprinkling of terms that maintained for
a variety of reasons. And I will describe this variable
situation for you in this paper. Finns began to come to the upper
midwest starting in the 1860s, with work opportunities
in mining as a result of the Civil War production
and worker shortages. It is merely a coincidence that
these migrants should have come to a place that is geographically
so similar to Finland. A common idea among
Finnish-Americans and those that learn about them is that
this similarity drew the Finns, but this is not based in truth. It’s perhaps rather a
good deal of serendipity, especially when they started
farming, and they knew exactly how to farm in a rocky, frozen place that has a super short
growing season. When they came, they knew no
English, and they were relegated to the hard labor jobs that required
little talking beyond gestures, shouts indicating danger, and
basic mining vocabulary learned on the job. Under these circumstances, it was
rather common for Finnish-Americans to create a Finnish
language community in order to meet their basic needs
in their new setting. With a higher literacy rate than
similar recently-arrived groups, Finns had the means to create
their own infrastructure, and over the next half-century,
Finnish language businesses, newspapers, temperance
societies, churches, workers’ halls and other concerns
became rather common in the areas in which they settled. As many Finns still arrived to
the towns that offered jobs, others were able to retreat
into the countryside, and to create farming
communities based on homesteads and stump farms created on
the leavings of lumberjacks. Under these conditions,
and due to the fact that Finnish was incomprehensible
to any other linguistic community in the reason, Finnish was able to
live on in some form for much longer than many of the other immigrant
languages in the region. As Finns incorporated further
into the local community, a unique transitional dialect known
as Finglish or Fingliskad developed, merging Finnish and
sometimes Swedish words with Finnish word order, phonetics
and grammatical roles, and — actually, Dan probably — Dan has actually taught
me a lot about Finglish. I really appreciate his early
comments in some of my research when it first started out. So he probably has great
things to say about it. So this language, to say the least, is extremely creative
and fun to use. And an example of its creativity, which I don’t have the
visual graphic for, would be the sentence
[foreign language]. Is there anybody here who
knows what that means? Yes — yeah. Because we were pushed into
that [foreign language], right? Okay, so — but — so
this is actually — it takes English words and
uses Finnish case ending rules. And so [foreign language]
means to push. [Foreign language] is a baby buggy,
and it’s got the vestapt [phonetic], the genitive kind of form. You’re going to push
the whole thing. [Foreign language] means kitchen. So [foreign language]
means from the kitchen, and [foreign language] is a bedroom. Into the bedroom. So you’re pushing the baby buggy
from the kitchen into the bedroom. And oh — but now it’s just
the big TVs that don’t work. That’s okay. [ Laughter ] I’m allergic to computers,
so it’s — you know. So the Finnish brought over by the
immigrants also continued to live on in a number of areas
of daily life. The children of immigrants,
and their children, and so on, became further incorporated
into English-speaking life through public education,
employment, military service, inter-ethnic romances, and exposure
to mass media and popular culture. In 1937, Finnish-American scholar
John Komeinen [assumed spelling] notes these very factors in the language shift taking place
among the children of immigrants. Sorry. I’m just going to
turn this on, if it’ll work. If not, I’ll just keep talking. So anyway, John Komeinen
in 1937 notes that these very factors are
affecting language shift among the children of immigrants, though
some token nods to continued use of Finnish, mostly through Finnish-American social
organizations, were made. The pressures of Americanization
were compounded by local inter-ethnic social
problems, including suspicions against Finnish leftist
political and labor organizations from the 1910s to the 1950s.>>Yay.>>Hillary Virtanen: Yay. So there’s my sentence. So [foreign language] And
so I wrote this, you know — baby buggy, the B and
P relation sound, and you can see the case
endings that, of course, are quite famous in Finnish. [Foreign language],
from the kitchen, that S-T-A that Dan
had mentioned earlier, and then [foreign language],
that extra A-N at the end of that word means that
you’re going into it. So these are very, very common
Finnish-American sentences that you would hear, and
that have nothing to do — what is it, like, [foreign
language], right? Like, yeah, something like that. So it’d be quite different
in Finnish. Like, they’re very kind of
incomprehensible to each other. So I will scoot forward. So yes, this is, you know, some
radical Finns up in upper Michigan. There were a lot of
strikes that we end up seeing causing social
problems with people. Oh, wait here — sorry. Okay. So the pressures of
Americanization are compounded by these local inter-ethnic
problems, including suspiciousness against Finnish leftist
political and labor organizations from the 1910s to the 1950s. In the upper midwest, this
resulted from several divisive and deadly labor strikes,
resultant blacklisting and general social deprecation
of Finns, the residual effects which live on today in areas
such as the copper country. To speak Finnish in public areas
marked you as disloyal and radical at worst, and a provincial
bumpkin at best. It — this didn’t, however,
stop Finnish-Americans from using their language in
several venues that were safe to — safe to use it in, including
the church and the home. From 1962 until 2014, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America maintained a special
Suomi conference of the church to reflect the needs of
Finnish ethnic parishioners. And people to this day
still sing Christmas carols, make Finnish foods, take saunas,
and use a variety of obscure Finnish and Finglish words to
describe everyday things. This is where Finnish starts to
come in as a heritage language. A heritage language, though often
defined in many multiple ways by linguists, is meant here
by me as being a language that a person recognizes
as having a relationship with that person’s
own ethnic heritage, whether they speak any of it or not. So it has a significance to
them as a part of their own kind of internal sense of culture. In the 1960s and 1970s,
Finnish-Americans took part in a resurgence of ethnic identity that was also taking place among
many other white Americans, and this is also after
the Civil Rights Movement. So this was a whole
period in American life when people were asserting
different identities, and, you know, a lot of great, wonderful
things came out of that. It was also an opportunity for these
previously marginalized groups, including Finnish-Americans
in the upper midwest, to look at their heritage
in a new light. And this happened at
about the same time that longstanding Finnish
community groups, including temperance societies,
Finnish-language churches, and consumer cooperatives,
were having their last splash with the Finnish language,
and were moving to primarily English-language
groups, if not disbanding altogether. At this time, the loss of the
language became a source of distress within the community,
and they started throwing out ropes to rescue the language. The Salolampi Finnish Language
Camp was one of the first, most concrete examples
of an institution that was created specifically to
teach Finnish language to youth in the ethnic group, and also
outside the ethnic group. A lot of people from all walks
of life have gone to Salolampi. It’s a camp that’s run by Concordia
University in Morehead, Minnesota, and it provides a total immersive
language learning environment in which English is not used. For many Finnish-American youth, this camp has become an important
experience in their childhood. Finnish language has also been
offered, at least since the 1970s, at the University of
Minnesota Twin Cities. I think — was Boutier
[assumed spelling] maybe the one who started that?>>’60s.>>Hillary Virtanen: ’60s. Oh, okay. Good.>>Even before that.>>Hillary Virtanen:
Even before that. But, yeah, it kind of really
gets — gets in there. And it’s been taught off and
on at Finlandia University, which was known as Suomi
College until 2000, as well as the University
of Wisconsin, Madison. So this means that
ethnic Finns that live in the region have a wide variety
of study options for, you know, local and regional universities. Community language classes have
also been offered in varying degrees in small institutions across
the midwest that have a stake in maintaining Finnish traditions
in the everyday, including language. At the Finnish-American Heritage
Center in Hancock, Michigan, for instance, community Finnish
classes have been offered since the 1990s. In 2004, I undertook a
survey of students currently or previously enrolled in the
Finnish language classes offered in high schools in Houghton County, Michigan through a
distance learning program. These schools created the
distance learning program in order to increase course offerings in
the rural schools of the area. It was an opportunity to understand
both the cultural experiences of the students who studied Finnish,
their attitudes toward the language, and their ideas for its future through their own interactions
with it. High school Finnish
is no longer offered in the Houghton County
schools, unfortunately. Those students do have
the opportunity to take it through community enrichment
classes at Finlandia University, or in dual-enrollment programs
through Finlandia University, but that’s a little more
difficult, just scheduling-wise, and also because it’s
a very rural area. So kids would have to drive
pretty far for, you know, an hour-long class
four times a week. High school foreign language
classes are generally designed to create a certain
level of fluency, and to provide a very minimal
amount of cultural instruction. So if you’ve ever taken Spanish,
or French, and any other language at a public school in the U.S., you
know the basic formula for this. In the heritage context, however,
there are added imperatives and interests, and value-added
curricula address these concerns. Students attended concerts of
Finnish folk music and participated in Finnish Independence
Day celebrations. They conducted family
history projects. One of these students is standing
before you today, holding a Ph.D. in Scandinavian folklore, and taking
my own students to Finland each year for their own discoveries
and connections. So in my survey, I was connected
— I was concerned with the level and types of exposures students
had to aspects of Finnish culture in America, including language,
food ways, traditional arts, music, and popular culture from Finland. These students’ experiences differ
sharply from the experiences and motivations of non-ethnic
students, who I’ve also taught at the University of
Wisconsin and Finlandia. While Finnish popular culture and particularly heavy metal
music typically attract non-Finns, Finnish-American students will
often be completely unaware of Finnish pop culture,
and may know about, if not completely identify with,
the older Finnish-American culture of the 1940s and 1950s
that their grandparents and other elders have
presented as authentic. In the survey, nine of the 10
respondents explicitly cited their family heritage as being the
motivating factor for them to study Finnish, and the student who didn’t specifically say
this actually provided answers that indicated that this was
also the case for him or her. Students were interested in learning
about Finland’s history and culture, and many either had visited
Finland or had hopes to do so. Their language exposure outside of class typically included
the family use of small sets of vocabulary — for instance,
swear words or exclamations. A lot of us learned those as
our first words, me included. Through their language study,
they all increased their knowledge of Finland itself and
of Finnish America. As these were anonymous
surveys, I don’t have the ability to track these respondents today,
but they provide important clues to youth attitudes toward
Finnish as a heritage language. For many of these, languages served
to possibly rekindle the language, as their parents typically
didn’t speak Finnish, and many grandparents did. So a lot of students specifically
said, “I can talk to my grandpa, and my mom and dad don’t
know what we’re saying.” So, I mean, I think grandpa’s got
some juicy gossip or something. So these surveys reveal the fact that there are these positive
attitudes toward Finnish language that exist in Houghton County. Other, more observational,
data also supports this. Periodic birth announcements
in the local paper reveal that, over the past 15 years or
so, Finnish names are popular with parents naming
babies, and often, these names reflect a
Finnish-American past, as opposed to naming
trends in Finland today. So in 2013, I started teaching
an introductory Finnish language community enrichment class at the
Finnish-American Heritage Center, which I continued to
teach for three years. These classes were organized into
a fall term and a winter term, consisting of a weekly
hour-long session meeting for a total of 10 weeks. So this is very low contact, right? And when I first designed
this class, I did so with very little prior
knowledge of how to go about it, and how it would work
out in reality. And so as my teaching
continued, I learned a lot about the adult motivations
for studying Finnish, and about the context and dialects in which adults were
exposed to language. The majority of my students
were locals of Finnish heritage above the age of 50, though the
classes did also attract community residents outside of the heritage. And these are two of them. And — Marvin and Rebecca, actually. And so these people
typically who were outside of the heritage community were
going to go visit Finland, or they were just curious about
the language, and they had — you know, just kind of a
general avocational interest. Several times, parents or
grandparents also enrolled with a child or grandchild,
and so my youngest student was about eight years old, and my
oldest students were in their 70s. One of the challenges I first
discovered in this class was that each term was essentially a
fresh start, which meant that I had to start each term at the very
beginning with Finnish alphabet and basic pronunciation rules,
though many people caught on very quickly, or had
previous exposure to it. And so, each term,
the entire six terms that I taught included students who
also previously enrolled in a class. So one student took four
or five terms with me. And — you know, this
— I was like, oh, gosh, I better teach him some
other words, right? So several others came close
to this attendance record, too. And because of this, I
designed my classes to start with the basic pronunciation
and greetings, introductions, that kind of vocabulary, and then I
rotated the rest of the lesson sets around so that students enrolling in multiple years would get a
wider variety of vocabulary sets. So I would include things like
travel, work, food, home life, family and friends, animals,
all kinds of stuff like that. But that way, you wouldn’t
just be getting the same thing from me every time. Several times, my academic training
in Finnish language came at odds with the daily language that
my students heard in the home. Our food unit, for instance, often had people mention
other words they knew instead, making them wonder if
they knew the wrong word. The word “fork,” for
instance, [foreign language], caused one student,
very crestfallen to ask, “So you mean it’s not
[foreign language]? That’s the word we used at home.” This example made me
incredibly excited, because it revealed another
dimension of Finnish language use in the community, in which
Swedish words were Finnicized. The word she had used
for the fork came from the Swedish [foreign language]. No, you’re not wrong at all. Your family must’ve
come from a region that had contact with Swedish. That word is likely from
the Meankieli dialect, which is really interesting. And that’s a really
beautiful dialect of Finnish. Like, that’s exciting. So, you know, I got exposure to
these kind of things all the time. The word potato also
caused a lot of problems. [Laughter] They — I always
say [foreign language], and they always say
[foreign language]. So, as I continued my
teaching, it became clear early on that fluency was not the object
for the vast majority of students. They realized they were beyond the
peak language acquisition years of youth. So for them, instead, the emotional
component was much more important. They wanted to understand
the words to hymns and nursery rhymes
that they remembered. They wanted to talk about
food they still ate, and about cousins they
had visited in Finland. The language class was a window
to a whole world of Finnishness in which they were
active participants. Our class was a farm for nostalgia,
and for making connections between the Finnish-American
experience and Finnishness itself. Sometimes, the simple act of rolling
our ehrs [phonetic] and saying ah, ih, ew [phonetic] in rapid
succession was what was most important. Sometimes reflecting on the
Finland of today and the Finland that their ancestors knew
was what was most important. So one fall afternoon, in 2012,
I walked into Karvakko’s Market in Tapiola, Michigan with the
rather unusual task of picking up deer tongues that had been
promised to my husband for use in a pate he planned to make
in a Finnish cooking workshop. So I married a man who’s not
Finnish at all, but he has come to be a wonderful Finnish cook. So if you ever need one, and
you’re in Hancock, give me a call. A man maybe about 15 years
older than I entered, and began a conversation
with the store proprietor, who appeared to be in his 60s. And they spoke completely
in Finnish. So I grabbed a few other items and
waited for their conversation to end so I could ask for
these deer tongues. And periodically, the men would
cast mischievous glances my way, and I could tell that they really
enjoyed their talking in front of an unfamiliar woman in what they
assumed to be a secret language. Their conversation was
mundane, and not offensive, and so I let them have their
fun until another glance with a big grin came my way, and
I decided to call their game. [Foreign language]. So, we speak Finnish here, then? Their smiles erupted into laughter,
and they switched into English. I admitted that my grandfather
was from just up the road, and they promptly gave
me hugs and handshakes, and shared memories
of Frannie Virtanen. Finnish lives in pockets. Often at about 10 a.m. on
weekdays, you can find a small group of elders speaking together
in Finnish over coffee at a local bakery in Houghton. You can find Finnish hymns sung
at Laestadian religious services, and at funerals for members
of the Ladies of Kaleva, which is a Finnish-American
fraternal order. It is used symbolically
on bumper stickers. It is a resource for those needing
particularly satisfying swear words, and it is a greeting to use when native Finns visit the
Upper Peninsula a minute — upper Midwestern Finnish
communities. It comes out in local
Finnish-American festivals, on Saturday night saunas, and in the
kitchen, baking [foreign language]. Though researchers
have anticipated a day when Finnish will no
longer be spoken in the long-time Finnish stronghold
of the upper midwest, in ways great and small, it still persists. And it serves as a window to a
culture that persists as well. That’s all, folks. [ Applause ]>>Well, in the interests
of time, we have two things that I thought we could go on with. Questions from the audience, and then the Embassy has
provided an amusing video about Finnish language. So I thought if people
still have time — I don’t know how long the
Embassy video is, but –>>It’s just about one minute.>>Couple of minutes? Okay. Should we do that now,
to kind of freshen our minds?>>Oh, boy. [ Music ]>>Okay. [Foreign language].>>I don’t know how to
say this all at once. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>That was good, right?>>What is this?>>I have no idea. None.>>I think it’s some
kind of helicopter.>>A gift card for a
hot-air balloon flight?>>Oh.>>Huh.>>Jet engine mechanics student.>>How do you fit that
on a business card?>>I thought, like,
his resume is long.>>That’s the hardest word I’ll
ever pronounce, but now I know where to — how to buy my
hot-air balloon gift card, next time I go back to Finland.>>But it’s — in Finnish,
it’s one word.>>Oh, my God.>>Time is kind of running out,
so we’ll just take questions from the audience, and then we’ll
ask questions from each other, if we still have a few minutes. Okay?>>One of the tags here was the
future of the Finnish language, and I think I heard
two mixed messages. You said, well, if there’s a border, the language is a little
more firmed up, and a little more held
together, too. And you said not so many people
are really learning it anymore. I think you said that. It’s kind of reaching back
into their family history, but less of a — not as many people
learn Finnish to learn Finnish. And most of those students will
— so that’s in the U.S. context.>>Daniel Karvonen: Mm-hmm.>>But in Finland, is the
Finnish language holding strong? Are there lots of books
published, and newspapers published to reinforce its continued
existence, or do you think it’s in danger?>>Did everybody hear the question?>>Mm-hmm.>>Yeah.>>Okay.>>Daniel Karvonen: Well, I would say that Finnish is not
an endangered language at all. I mean, it’s — you don’t –>>Alli Flint: Uh-unh, no. No.>>Daniel Karvonen: As — the
real barometer of it is if you go to someone’s home, and if they’re
speaking it to their children, then it’s doing really well. And, you know, the minute
that stops happening, then — then there’s a change. One thing that people have
talked about is, in Finland, there’s so much at higher levels —
so, for example, in universities, there are a lot of programs now
that are taught only in English. And there is a little bit of
concern in Finland about sort of higher-level research
not being conducted as much in Finnish anymore, but being
conducted in English simply because the audience — if you write
a paper, you write a dissertation in Finnish, you — think about
writing a dissertation in Finnish. Okay, number one, just
think about who — who’s the audience for a
dissertation in the first place? Is pretty small. And then you think a
dissertation in Finnish, which is a potential population
of five and a half million, but that’s not your
dissertation audience, right? It’s very small. So a lot of people now, the kind of upper research will
be done in English. So there’s a little bit of sort
of maybe loss of English in — Finnish in certain higher-level
domains like that, but not at all, for example, in government,
or not at all in, you know — in education at other levels. So I would say really
there isn’t — you know. I mean, the influx of English
into Finnish is not the worry, because those words are
adapted, as you saw. They don’t say just shave. They say [foreign language]. It becomes a Finnish word. And then, in 100 years,
no one will ever know that that was an English word.>>Hillary Virtanen:
And could actually — could I just make one
comment really quick about the way it’s living
in the upper midwest? There’s a lot of really
small words that live on, and a lot of people do
things like nicknaming. You know, if you don’t
have a Finnish name, you get a Finnish nickname. I have a cousin named Matt. His name’s Mahtie [phonetic]. You know, I’m Helavie [phonetic]. And then there’s words like — for instance, my kids didn’t
know what the English word for bellybutton was until
they went to school. We also say [foreign
language] at home. And so, you know, they went
to school, and they’re — came home, and they’re like,
“Mom, what’s a bellybutton? Like, what is that?” And — and so, there’s a lot of
these words that continue to exist, and, you know, sauna
words and stuff like that. Like, those won’t die. So even though we aren’t
speaking Finnish every day, and even though the kids
aren’t learning it at home, which is the key thing
— at least — a lot of the kids aren’t
homing — learning it at home, there’s these words that continue
to live, very bafflingly, you know.>>Ma’am, as followup to what you
just said, does it seem, though, that in almost every language
in the world, or every country, when you’re getting to
the very higher levels, you’re going to do
papers in English?>>Daniel Karvonen: Right.>>But the two nuclear scientists
in Helsinki are still going to be speaking Finnish to each other when they’re discussing
their research.>>Daniel Karvonen: Presumably,
although I have run across Finns who sometimes find it difficult
to talk about their own research in Finnish, because all of the work
that they’ve done, all the writing that they’ve done, all
the reading they’ve done, and all the international
collaboration they’ve done is in English. So they just sometimes
lack the terms.>>Yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen: Because
they’re not familiar with the terms in Finnish, or maybe the
terms in Finnish don’t exist. Because it’s so — if it’s
incredibly specific, you know, I’ve — I run into
that in linguistics, where certain people will be — in
a particular theoretical framework, they don’t know the
exact technical terms.>>Sure, yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen: And so
people are always trying to come up with them, and make those
words so that people can. But yeah, I mean, if they’re
talking about something that isn’t so technical, of course,
it’ll be in Finnish. Of course. I mean, two Finnish people with
— why would they speak English? It would be exhaust — it would
be — you know, it’s way harder.>>[Inaudible] Okay, one
— I have two questions. One is totally politically
incorrect, okay, and the other one is for you, Dan. Okay, you — I appreciate it, and I think you highlighted
very much what is difficult or considered difficult. But there is one thing that
you completely omitted, which is the significance
of [foreign language], which is a spoken language. We have a situation in
Finnish, the same as in Arabic. There’s language — say,
modern, standard Arabic. Nobody speaks that. The same is true in Finland.>>Daniel Karvonen: Absolutely.>>If you offer a scripted
speech, including the President — he’s a little pompous
ass, so he can make — written language, but most of the Ministers will
switch to spoken language.>>Daniel Karvonen: Right. Of course.>>The form is very different.>>Daniel Karvonen: Of course.>>How do you deal with that
in — with your students? That difficult. Let me –>>Daniel Karvonen: Totally agree. I totally agree.>>Yeah. But today, the Department
of Education has issued materials, because there is an immigration, and
refugee problems, and all of that. Now, the materials that are issued
by the Department of Education, they published them
in spoken language. The videos are in spoken language. The transcripts of the videos are
now written in spoken language. How do you deal with that in here?>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah. Here, you mean in my teaching?>>In — well, in America,
because that adds a dimension.>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I always
say to the students, “You’re getting two
for the price of one.” Because they’re learning the spoken
language and the written language. Because you’re absolutely right. That — for people that don’t know,
I mean, English spoken language and English written language
are not that different.>>No, they aren’t.>>Daniel Karvonen: And
Finnish written language and spoken language
are very different.>>Very different.>>Daniel Karvonen: I mean, it’s
just mind-boggling sometimes, when — you know, and in the
old days, the traditional way of teaching Finnish was that you — all of the textbooks
taught only written language and no spoken language. And my predecessor, for example,
at the University of Minnesota, she refused to teach
spoken language, even though she spoke it, of course. But she refused to teach it. So the students would go to Finland,
be perfectly well understood by everybody, but then, when
the Finns spoke to them, they couldn’t understand anything. So it was a one-way sort of
intelligibility that was going on. Nowadays, the teaching materials
are much better, and they have — the teaching materials that I use
incorporate spoken language along the way, although I
would say not enough. And, in fact, I — you know, one of
my goals is to, you know, write a — my own textbook in
collaboration with a Finn. And one of the things that
I would like to do is start with the spoken language exactly. Because that is the
way — that is the — that is every Finn’s home
language, is spoken language. When a little kid says,
“Mom, let’s go,” or — no, let’s say, “We are going where? Where are we going? We are going — ” They don’t
say [foreign language]. No three-year-old kid is going
to say [foreign language]. They’re going to say
[foreign language]. And that’s just the way it is. And that should be the first
form that the kid learns — I mean, the student learns, too. Because they are most
likely to encounter that in speaking with
a Finnish person. So I would like to kind of
throw that — exactly what — they’ve been — they’re
doing this in Finland now. They’re actually starting
with the spoken language. So I think it’s — I think
it’s the right thing to do, and I’d like to start that. But you could also — instead
of using the written language, and then — and then bringing in the
spoken language little by little, start with the spoken language, and bring in the written
little by little. And actually, make
it task-appropriate. So, for example, if you’re —
if you’re doing a Facebook post, then teach them how to write
that in spoken language. If they’re writing a formal
business thing, teach them how to write it in written language. So make the — and if
they’re speaking a dialogue, have that be spoken language. If they’re doing a
formal job interview, make the language more formal. Like, make the — make the style
of the language fit the task, or fit the everyday sort of
context that they’re using it –>>Now can I ask the
politically incorrect question? And it’s mostly to you, Alli.>>Alli Flint: Yeah?>>Which is that I wonder if,
in America, American Finns, political correctness needs to
be fought in today’s society. Right? We agree on that. There’s too much political
correctness and emphasis on that. In Finland — Finland is ranked
very, very high in freedom of speech, very high
internationally. It was number one for a long time. Now I think it’s number two. Kalevala was a politically
correct thing, published 1835. Sole purpose of it
was nation-building, to get us to be recognized
as an independent duchy of Russia, not part of Sweden. Okay? Now, Loennrot
collected poems, tons more. The selection that was chosen for Kalevala was the
politically correct selection. Now they are in National Archives,
the ones that Loennrot collected, and there are attempts
to publish those now. For instance — and
this is so that — how could we have babies
if we didn’t deal with sex? Okay? There are tons and tons
of poems that explicit — because sex is not a
taboo in Finland, okay?>>Alli Flint: Anymore. Okay, 1800s, I tell you,
no, it would have been. [Laughter]>>So not in those poems,
and not in Kalevala poems, in the thousands of them. They are going to publish
them, sex in Kalevala. They’re going to National Archives. How will the American community
stay in touch with the — how Finns now interpret their
sacred things, like Kalevala?>>Alli Flint: First
of all, I would take — I would possibly not agree with
you fully on that it was only for its role — that it was
being published solely for –>>Nation-building.>>Alli Flint: — nation-building. Because, in a way, what
we — we did have — there were folklorists
before Loennrot, Denandev [assumed spelling]
who also had been — studied — was medical doctor, was
— became a folklorist, became a lexicographer
the way Loennrot did. And so that there was the
— and it was — start — in a way, it was while Finland
was still part of Sweden. There was an interest in
the Swedish Court, in fact, for collecting the
grand — the old — the value of old oral
tradition was being seen as a possibly important thing. It certainly was also central
European, German influence. So that there was really —
it was not just one purpose. It was — it was been — in a
way, Kalevala became rather sort of politically used
to an extent for that. But it was much more than that. It was, in a way, distilling –>>The collection, yes. The collection of poems was –>>Alli Flint: Right. But — But also — also,
that then — this was — we have to then look
at Loennrot’s work. To my mind, we have to
look at — he was — he saw himself very much more as one
of the singers, and he was also part of [foreign language], who had
immersed himself so much in the — in the poetry that
he was collecting. And the songs, really — they
were always songs, basically, except the — some
— some things were, quote unquote, prose without music. But most really had a —
had also a tune to them, so that there was the
artistic expression there. So I would say that the
— that you could — you can look at Kalevala
from so many different — different points of view. Now, as far as — as far as
what Americans would think about now something being
published that’s very explicit, about sex, I don’t know. I don’t know. Who knows? Whether those Americans
would learn enough Finnish to really actually read that — whether there’s anyone who
would want to publish — fund such research, I don’t know. That’s — that’s –>>We’ll wait for the
[inaudible] that wants to be published in a year or two.>>Yes. To Daniel, your
interesting presentation about layers, oh, there is –>>Daniel Karvonen: Right.>>Language [inaudible], anyways. The last one was the English, and you presented a
whole number of others. Finland has a Language Council,
of course, and I wonder how many of words really have been
approved for [laughter]. And I would say that –>>Daniel Karvonen:
That’s a good joke.>>[Inaudible] take off that
are perfectly Finnish words, which are now being used as an English version [inaudible]
translated into Finnish. [Inaudible] I think there is
responsibility for linguists and others also to try to use
the Finnish, if there exists one. There’s many perfectly correct
words, which are even shorter –>>Daniel Karvonen: Sure. Right.>>– than the English word. So I wonder whether the role
of the linguists should be to maintain the language and
not accept some [inaudible]>>Daniel Karvonen: What? [Laughter] I know. Alli and I are like –>>Alli Flint: Yeah.>>Hillary Virtanen: Yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen: Well, okay,
I would say as a linguist, as a trained linguist, I — I’m a
— I’m not a prescriptive linguist. I’m a descriptive linguist. So basically, we just — we just
look at language as a phenomenon, and study it, and we
don’t prescribe. Right? So the — you know,
the board that decides on what is a Finnish word and
what isn’t a Finnish word, what should be — that’s
a totally different thing. And those kinds of boards — like,
in France, too, the same thing. We don’t have one for
English, for example, but in France, they have one. They can — they can
prescribe all day long, but they cannot control what
people say on the street. And the mystery — and the
mystery of why one word — like, a native word versus a
word — a loan word sticks, nobody really understands. Sometimes it is length,
but there’s — sometimes, there’s
something about — people have extremely
strong feelings, emotional feelings about words. Oh, I wouldn’t use that word because
it just sounds a little something, or that just sounds better. And so, you know, you think about,
like, [foreign language], there’s — there’s — that’s just a
normal thing to say now.>>You heard about [inaudible]>>Daniel Karvonen: Yes,
[foreign language], all the time. All the time. You ask any 20-year-old, that’s
what they say, [foreign language]. Right? Yeah, I know. I know, and there’s a perfectly
good — [foreign language], but that’s just, like,
a — a — this is –>>Alli Flint: Old
folks do that, right?>>Daniel Karvonen: Yes. And so, this is one of those things that there’s a perfectly
good Finnish way, but you can’t control what
people are going to say. And then, when you get this younger
people growing up, they don’t — they don’t even think of it as
something necessarily from English. It’s just what they say. And again, you know,
Finnish is not going to be — is not the same it was
100 years ago, will not — even 50, won’t be 50 years
in the future, 100 years. We have no idea what
direction it’ll go. But –>>[Inaudible] factory, there are
large differences between coming from [inaudible], and those who are
— who are Germanic [inaudible]. So in other parts of Finland,
the words may be different.>>Daniel Karvonen: Yes. Abso –>>Huge place.>>Daniel Karvonen: Very, very true. Regional variation is huge, too. I mean, it is in the United
States, but it is in Finland. It’s very — it’s very big. But there is — there is a
certain level of commonality, where certain words that
all Finns will recognize and feel comfortable with. And then, you know, there
definitely is, you know — in Helsinki, for example, there’s
maybe a little bit more influence than other — I know the TAs that I
work with, some of them are from — I get a full right language
teaching assistant every year. And I have lived in Helsinki
when I had been in Finland, so that’s the kind of
Finnish that I speak, but the ones that don’t live there, sometimes they don’t use
the words that I say. Because they say, “Oh,
that’s so Helsinki.” Absolutely.>>Alli Flint: Yeah, yeah. And that’s not necessarily
a plus for you.>>Daniel Karvonen: No. [Laughter] It’s not a compliment.>>Alli Flint: No, no, it’s not. That is not a compliment to
you, by the people who say — for example, when students go to
Finland, and then I explain, yeah, well, so-and-so is going to be in
Kuopio, or Yoandso [phonetic], oh, good, away from Helsinki.>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah.>>Alli Flint: So we — I mean,
Finland has its, you know, regional loyalties, for sure.>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah.>>Alli Flint: And
— and then, also, the symbolism of what it means.>>Daniel Karvonen: Right.>>Hillary Virtanen: Right?>>Okay, we’re running out of time. So maybe two more questions. Yeah?>>Okay, mine is actually another
question about what she say about the [foreign language]. The form I heard, [foreign language]
so he shaved off a little bit. So he [inaudible] they
use it there, too.>>Daniel Karvonen: Mm-hmm.>>That if they gave me a little
less money, they shaved some, or –>>Daniel Karvonen: Right.>>Alli Flint: Right.>>Daniel Karvonen: You’re right. So it’s extension of the word. Yeah. Yeah, right. You know –>>So it sort of lives on, and takes
forms that are also used in English, but then it changes slightly, and –>>Daniel Karvonen: Right. And at a certain point, all
of us become a little unaware of how people 10 years
younger, 20 years younger, 30 years younger are
speaking, and we don’t — aren’t so in-tune with it. I mean, the best way — when I
go to Finland, I like to, like, ride the bus and sit in the back.>>Alli Flint: Yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen: So then I can
hear what the teenagers are saying. Then I can get — kind
of get in, you know, hear what people are saying. Otherwise, I don’t
have contact with that.>>Alli Flint: Can I
do a very short test? I just read it very
recently, a woman saying, “I don’t really want
— [foreign language].” Do we have any sense of what
that might possibly mean? It took me a while —
moment there, looking at it. It was a person dealing
with — her mother had died, and there was the home
with all the things that had been in mother’s life. And then, she was saying,
“Oh, well, I mean, they say one should
[foreign language], but since it didn’t happen,
we now have all of these.” Okay, that should be a
slight semantic hint. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Alli Flint: [Foreign language]. I had — I really looked
at it, and I said, okay, now, [foreign language]. Are we doing moneymakers,
or what are we doing here? [Foreign language], the Japanese –>>Oh, wow.>>Alli Flint: Organizer. So this had become a Finnish word.>>Daniel Karvonen: Wow.>>Alli Flint: So — not
that you start using it, because you maybe don’t
[foreign language], but –>>Daniel Karvonen: Wow.>>Alli Flint: But
— so I thought –>>Daniel Karvonen: Sure.>>Alli Flint: — but it’s — you — the minute you think about it
a little bit, having done a lot of work in sort of lexicon,
particularly from the structure of meaning, I thought, okay, well,
now this has got to mean something. So, okay, the only thing I
could do was to figure out –>>One last question.>>I have a very, very
basic question. Since the Finns call their
country Suomi, where did — what’s the derivation
of the word Finn?>>Hillary Virtanen: Take it away. [Foreign language]>>Daniel Karvonen: Well, so, there’s two answers
to that question. So –>>We have a linguist here. We can ask her.>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah, go ahead.>>Well, we have Suomi,
[foreign language]. They are all related, are coming
from the [inaudible] language. [Foreign language] over there, on that northern [inaudible]
on the — Asia. And you had a wonderful map
of the heavy concentration of the Uralic peoples, or Uralic
language speaker, or the haplo DNA. Not only language, but the
human DNA that is so [inaudible]>>Question was, what –>>Daniel Karvonen: No. No. No. It’s older.>>[Inaudible] that
this is the — yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen:
Yeah, it’s [inaudible]>>I am part of the eastern Finns, and then the others
are from the west. And you will clearly see it
even in the body structure, in dental structure,
and almost in the DNA. So anyway, [foreign language]
is the Lapp language. That’s also the same. [Foreign language],
Suomi, [foreign language], and there’s some [inaudible]>>Finland in English –>>Daniel Karvonen: But let
me just say that the — the — so the actual — so the ety —
so, okay, to answer your questions about Finns, so that’s
Tacitus, so — wrote about people living in the
north a couple thousand years ago, about people living in the
north wearing furs for clothing, and referred to them as
the Fenni, F-E-N-N-I. And that is where the
word Finland came from. So that’s a very old
word that came — and we don’t know if he was
really writing about the Finns, but it was people in the north that
that became associated with Finland. Pardon?>>Hillary Virtanen: Yeah,
associated with Finns or Sami.>>Daniel Karvonen: Or
the Sami, or the Sami. Now, the derivation of — the etymology of the word Suomi
is really shrouded in mystery, and there are two —
couple hypotheses. One of them is that there’s a
province in Finland called Hame, which some people have
said that Suomi and Hame are originally
from the same word. And so it’s one region of Finland
that then — the S had changed — the H changed to an
S, or whichever way, and then that became
generalized for the whole country. Another theory that’s
been proposed — you know, etymology is conjecture.>>Alli Flint: Yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen: There
are no firm answers with — when it comes to etymology,
rarely do you have the final word, unless you have some kind of text. But with Finnish, we don’t
have that depth of text, right? So it’s a lot of conjecture, and it’s just someone has a
better guess than someone else. One of the other suggestions that’s
been proposed is the old Latvian word [foreign language], which
means earth, and that Suomi and [foreign language] come — the word for Suomi actually
is a Baltic loan word. [Laughter] So, the — what
the really interesting answer to that question is — about
Suomi, we don’t know for sure. But those are a couple hypotheses,
and for Finland, it’s Fenni. And in — the word Suomi is used — the Estonians and the
Latvians both use a variant of Suomi to call Finland. There aren’t other — many
other countries in the world –>>Alli Flint: Yeah, Suomi. Yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen:
Yeah, [foreign language], and I think [foreign language], I
think is what they say in Latvian.>>Alli Flint: Yeah.>>Hillary Virtanen: Yeah.>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah. So, yeah, great question.>>Well, thank you very much. So thank you very much –>>Daniel Karvonen: Yeah, thank you. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *