Language

Although Finns are genetically no different from other Europeans, the Finnish language is. As part of the Finno-Ugric phylum (to which Hungarian, Estonian, the Lapp- or Saami languages, Karelian, Vepsalainen, and a few other little known tongues and dialects also belong; see Northern Uralic Languages), Finnish does not share syntax or grammar with languages of the Indo-European phylum. Finnish is an agglutinating language with word-stems that have suffixes added, whereas in Indo-European languages prepositions are used. Nouns have no articles and "he" and "she" are not distinguished. Finnish words, usually rich in vowels, are always stressed on the first syllable irrespective of how long they are and they almost never begin with a b, d, f, or g. The Asian origins of Finnish are obscure and some linguists align ancient Finnish with Ural-Altaic languages, while others claim to find links to East Asian or south Indian Dravidian languages. Finnish as a written language existed since the Reformation when Mikael Agricola (c.1510-1557) had published the first Finnish ABC and translated the New Testament and other works into Finnish. During the 600 years Finland was under Swedish dominance however, the Finnish language had little opportunity to assert itself; however, under Russian rule (1809-1917) it flourished. Elias Lonnrot (1802-1884) published compilations of folk poetry, including the national epic Kalevala, and Aleksis Kivi (1834-1872) and later Mika Waltari (1908-1979) wrote widely popular novels in the Finnish language. Finnish is now ensconced as one of the official languages of the European Union and Finns are regarded as among the world's most voracious readers. The annual number of visits by Finns to Finnish libraries (6 million) is proportionally the world's highest; so is the number of newspapers, magazines, and books published in Finland per capita and per year.

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