World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Kven language

Article Id: WHEBN0003732565
Reproduction Date:

Title: Kven language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Finnish language, Languages of Norway, Norway, Kven language, Kainun institutti
Collection: Finnic Languages, Finnish Dialects, Finnish Language, Kven Language, Languages of Norway
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Kven language

Native to Norway
Native speakers
2,000–8,000  (2005?)[1]
Official status
Official language in
(Minority language)
Regulated by Kven language board
Language codes
ISO 639-3 fkv
Glottolog kven1236[2]

The Kven language is a Finnic language spoken in northern Norway by the Kven people. For political and historical reasons, it received the status of a minority language in 2005 within the framework of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Linguistically, however, it is seen as a mutually intelligible dialect of the Finnish language, and grouped together with the Peräpohjola dialects such as Meänkieli, spoken in Torne Valley in Sweden.

Contrary to popular belief, the dialects spoken by the Kvens and Kainuu peoples are not closely related. The Kainuu dialect is one of the Savonian dialects that was formed from the 16th century onwards, when immigrants from Savonia started to settle in the northern wastelands.

The Kven language has come to incorporate many Norwegian loanwords, such as tyskäläinen (from the Norwegian word tysk, meaning German) instead of standard Finnish saksalainen. The Kven language also uses some old Finnish words that are no longer used in Finland.


  • Official status 1
  • Geographic distribution 2
  • Phonology 3
    • Vowels 3.1
    • Consonants 3.2
  • Example 4
  • External links 5
  • References 6
    • Notes 6.1
    • General 6.2

Official status

From the 1860s onwards the Norwegian government attempted to assimilate the Kvens. For example, the use of the Kven language became forbidden in schools and government offices, and Kven town names were replaced by Norwegian names. From 1970s onwards, the Kvens and the Sami in Norway have openly been allowed to use their original mother tongues, the Kven language and the Sami languages, respectively, and to teach them to their children in schools. Despite its recent gain of status as a minority language, there is still a major discussion among the Kven about whether the Finnish orthography should be applied to the language or if a new orthography should be devised.

Since 2006, it has been possible to study the Kven culture and language at the University of Tromsø,[3] and in 2007 the Kven language board was formed at the Kven institute, a national centre for Kven language and culture in Børselv, Norway. The council will work out a written Kven language, but use Finnish orthography to maintain inter-Finnish language understanding.[4]

Geographic distribution

Today, most speakers of Kven are found in two Norwegian communities, Storfjord and Porsanger. A few speakers can be found other places, such as Bugøynes, Neiden, Vestre Jakobselv, Vadsø, and Nordreisa.

In northeastern Norway, mainly around Varanger Fjord, the spoken language is quite similar to standard Finnish, whereas west of Alta the people speak Kven due to its close ties to the Torne Valley, and the closely related Meänkieli, spoken in the Torne Valley in the border areas of Finland and Sweden, which is also the ancient core area of the Kvens.

In government report from 2005, the number of people speaking Kven in Norway is estimated to be between 2,000 and 8,000, depending on the criteria used. However, there are very few young people who speak it, making it an endangered language.[1]


The phonology of Kven is basically the same as that of Finnish. It is however worth noting that while Standard Finnish has been replacing /ð/ by /d/, it is retained in Kven. For instance, the word meiđän ('our') in Kven is meidän in Standard Finnish.


Kven has 16 vowels, if one includes the vowel length:
Front Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Close i iː y yː u uː
Mid e eː ø øː o oː
Near-open æ æː
Open ɑ ɑː

In writing, the vowel length is indicated by doubling the letter, e.g. yy /yː/ and öö /øː/.

The graphemes representing /ø/, /æ/ and /ɑ/ are ö, ä and a, respectively.


Kven has 14 consonants found in native vocabulary, and four consonants found in loanwords:
Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ h
voiced ð
Trill r
Approximant ʋ l j

/b, d, ɡ, ʃ/ are only found in loanwords.

/ʋ/ and /ʃ/ are represented in writing by v and š, respectively.

/ð/ is represented in writing by đ.

/ŋ/ is represented in writing by n if followed by /k/, and ng if geminated, i.e. nk /ŋk/ and ng /ŋː/

Gemination is indicated in writing by doubling the letter, e.g. mm for /mː/ and ll for /lː/



Kvääninkieli oon se kieli mitä kväänit
oon puhuhneet ja vielä tääpänäki puhhuuvat,
ja mikä oon säilyny ruottalaistumisen
ja norjalaistumisen läpi minuriteettikielenä.
Minun mielestä Torniolakson «meiän kieliki»
oon vanhaa kvääninkieli tahi vanhaala
meiđän kielelä kaihnuunkieli.

Standard Finnish:

Kveenin kieli on se kieli, jota kveenit
ovat puhuneet ja vielä tänä päivänäkin puhuvat,
ja joka on säilynyt ruotsalaistumisen
ja norjalaistumisen läpi vähemmistökielenä.
Minun mielestäni Torniolaakson "meidän kielikin"
on vanhaa kveenin kieltä tai vanhalla
meidän kielellämme kainun kieltä.

Literal English translation:

The Kven language is the language which the Kvens
have spoken and still today speak,
and which has survived through Swedenization
and Norwegianization as a minority language.
In my opinion "meänkieli" of Torne Valley
is also an old Kven language
or in our old language, Kainu language.

External links

  • Kven country names (ISO 3166) – Page with translations of all country names to Kven, Finnish, Norwegian and English.



  1. ^ a b Kainun Institutti
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kven Finnish". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ University of Tromsø
  4. ^ Andreassen, Irene: Et nytt skriftspråk blir til
  5. ^ "Miksi kvääninkieli kirjakielenä" by Terje Aronsen. Ruijan Kaiku 1/2004


Kven language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
The grammar above can be found in the Kven language here.
The grammar above can be found in the Norwegian language here.

Kven language resources at Giellatekno

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.