Savonian Dialects
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Savonian Dialects
The area of Savonian dialects

The Savonian dialects (also called Savo Finnish)[1] are forms of the Finnish language spoken in Savonia and other parts of Eastern Finland. It belongs to the eastern Finnish dialects and it is divided into more specific dialect groups.

Savonian dialects are the most widely distributed dialects of Finnish. They are spoken in the Savonia region (Northern and Southern), but also in North Karelia, parts of Päijät-Häme, Central Finland, Kainuu, Koillismaa district of Northern Ostrobothnia, the lake section between Southern and Central Ostrobothnia as far north as Evijärvi and in the municipalities of Pudasjärvi and the Southern part of Ranua in Lapland. Also the language spoken by forest settlers in Värmland and Norwegian Hedmark of Central Scandinavia belonged to the old Savonian dialects. The area of Savonian dialects makes up one third of the whole area of Finland.


The Savonian dialects are of different origin than Western Finnish dialects. Savonian dialects form a dialect continuum with other Eastern dialects of Finnish and the Karelian language, with whom they have common ancestry in the Proto-Karelian language spoken in the coast of Lake Ladoga in the Iron Age.[2]


Although the Savonian dialects are spread over a large geographical area with significant variations, they are rather different from the standard language and are recognized as local dialects. There are large variations between different Savonian dialects, but a few of the most stereotypical features are:

  • Re-development of palatalized consonants from consonant + i, which is denoted by digraphs with a 'j', e.g. ⟨kotj⟩ /kot?/, ⟨moottorj⟩ /moottor?/ (standard Finnish ⟨koti⟩, ⟨moottori⟩). In conjunction, the word-final i is not generally added to stems ending in consonant + i. For example, standard ääni is reflected as iän.
  • Some long vowels and diphthongs have shifted with respect to the standard language; thus, where the standard language has a diphthong, Savo may have a long vowel, and vice versa.
    • Stressed (initial-syllable) /?: æ:/ become opening diphthongs, first /o eæ?/, and in most varieties further /u iæ?/. E.g. mua for Standard Finnish maa "land, country, ground", or piä for pää "head".
    • /i/ as the 2nd element of a diphthong lowers to /e/, e.g. laeta for laita "side", söe for söi "ate".
    • /u y/ lower similarly to /o ø/ or they may assimilate completely to produce a long vowel, e.g. kaoppa or kaappa for kauppa "store", täönnä or täännä for täynnä "full".
    • When unstressed, the bisyllabic combination of o/ö/e + a/ä is smoothed to a monosyllabic long vowel. E.g. ruskee for ruskea "brown", kyntöö for kyntöä "plowing (partitive case)". (This change is not specific to Savonian dialects and is found in most forms of spoken Finnish today.)
  • Word-medial simple consonants are geminated after a short initial syllable. Native Savonian do not say that they speak savoa; they say that they speak savvoo.
  • The combined effect of the three features above is referred to as speaking like one with a "crooked chin" (viäräleuka cf. standard vääräleuka). Whereas standard Finnish has a "declarative" rhythm, Savo has an "expressive" rhythm. The different way of producing speech is noticeable even if the speaker speaks perfect standard Finnish.
  • The glottal stop replaces word-final /n/, a trait common to many other Finnish varieties. For example, the genitive case is essentially marked by a glottal stop (e.g. isä' iän vs. isän ääni).
  • All syllable-initial consonants except the last one (which contacts the nucleic vowel) are systematically and completely removed in loans, e.g. traktori as raktorj.
  • An epenthetic vowel is inserted after a medial syllable coda of /l/, /h/ or, in certain cases, /n/, e.g. vanaha. This vowel is identical in quality to the preceding vowel. The resulting medial consonant is exempt from gemination.
  • Loi plural, e.g. risti - ristilöitä (standard: ristejä)

Although standard and known elsewhere, the usage of verb compounds is particularly prevalent in Savo Finnish and a prolific source of creative expressions. The first verb is in the infinitive and indicates the action, and the second verb is declined and indicates the manner. For example, seistä toljotat "you stand there gawking" consists of words meaning "to-stand you-gawk".

Northern Savonian dialects

Northern Savonian dialects are spoken in the municipalities of Hankasalmi (Eastern part), Haukivuori, Heinävesi, Iisalmi, Joroinen, Jäppilä, Kaavi, Kangaslampi, Karttula, Keitele, Kiuruvesi, Konnevesi, (Eastern part), Kuopio, Lapinlahti, Leppävirta, Maaninka, Muuruvesi (part of Juankoski since 1971), Nilsiä, Pieksämäki, Pielavesi, Pyhäsalmi, Rantasalmi, Rautalampi, Riistavesi (part of Kuopio since 1973), Siilinjärvi, Sonkajärvi, Suonenjoki, Säyneinen (part of Juankoski since 1971), Tervo, Tuusniemi, Varpaisjärvi, Varkaus, Vehmersalmi, Vesanto, Vieremä and Virtasalmi.

Southern Savonian dialects

Southern Savonian dialects are spoken in the municipalities of Anttola, Hirvensalmi, Juva, Kangasniemi, Mikkeli, Mäntyharju, Pertunmaa, (Eastern part) Puumala, Ristiina, Sulkava and Suomenniemi.

Middle dialects of Savonlinna area

Middle dialects of Savonlinna area are spoken in the Eastern Savonia, the municipalities surrounding the city of Savonlinna between Southern Savonia and North Karelia: Enonkoski, Kerimäki, Punkaharju, Savonranta and Sääminki (part of Punkaharju and Savonlinna since 1973).

The dialect spoken in Enonkoski has many similarities with the dialects of Northern Savo, while the dialect spoken in the Southern parts of Punkaharju resembles South-Eastern dialects in many ways. The difference between dialects in Savonlinna district has its roots in the colonization history. The area of greater Kerimäki (which consisted Enonkoski, Punkaharju and Savonranta) was settled by Karelian people till the 16th century, but from the 14th century the Savonian has started to settle to the Eastern side of Lake Pihlajavesi and the coasts of Puruvesi.

The differences between natural and governmental borders goes together in many ways. In Enonkoski the dialect is more Savonian in the Northern side of Hanhivirta. The other reason to this is that the Northern villages of Enonkoski belonged to Heinävesi in the 19th century, while the Southern villages were part of Kerimäki. The Northern border of Puruvesi goes through Lake Puruvesi. So the old Karelian-based dialect features have kept in Punkaharju much better than in Kerimäki, which is located in the Northern side of Puruvesi.

Eastern Savonian dialects or the dialects of North Karelia

Eastern Savonian dialects or the dialects of North Karelia are spoken in North Karelia in the municipalities of Eno, Ilomantsi, Joensuu, Juuka, Kesälahti, Kiihtelysvaara (now part of Joensuu), Kitee, Kontiolahti, Korpiselkä (now part of Russia, little part of Tohmajärvi since 1946), Outokumpu, Liperi, Nurmes, Pielisjärvi (part of Lieksa since 1973), Polvijärvi, Pyhäselkä, Pälkjärvi (now part of Russia, little part of Tohmajärvi since 1946), Rautavaara, Ruskeala (now part of Russia), Soanlahti, Tohmajärvi, Tuupovaara (now part of Joensuu) and Valtimo.

Dialects of Kainuu

Kainuu dialects are spoken in Hyrynsalmi, Kajaani, Kuhmo, Kuusamo, Paltamo, Posio, Pudasjärvi, Puolanka, Ranua (Southern part), Ristijärvi, Sotkamo, Suomussalmi, Taivalkoski and Vaala.

Dialects of Middle Finland

Dialects of Middle Finland are spoken in Hankasalmi (Western part), Karstula, Kinnula, Kivijärvi, Konginkangas (part of Äänekoski since 1993), Konnevesi (Western part), Kyyjärvi, Laukaa, Multia, Pihtipudas, Pylkönmäki, Saarijärvi, Sumiainen, Uurainen, Viitasaari and Äänekoski.

Dialects of Päijät-Häme

Päijät-Häme Savonian dialects are spoken in Joutsa, Jyväskylä, Jämsä, Korpilahti, Koskenpää (part of Jämsänkoski since 1969), Kuhmoinen, Leivonmäki, Luhanka, Muurame, Pertunmaa (Western part), Petäjävesi, Sysmä and Toivakka.

Middle dialects of Keuruu-Evijärvi

Middle dialects of Keuruu-Evijärvi are spoken in Alajärvi, Evijärvi, Keuruu, Lappajärvi, Lehtimäki, Pihlajavesi, Soini, Vimpeli and Ähtäri. This sub-dialect area is wedge shaped in the middle of Ostrobothnia, which has its own dialects and also Swedish-speaking population. This is the influence of Savonian slash-and-burn farmers who colonized the lake section in Southern Ostrobothnia in the 17th century.

Värmland Savonian dialects

The expansion of Savonian slash-and-burn agriculture, which started in the beginning of Modern era, expanded to Central Scandinavia. Mostly in the beginning of the 17th century Savonian settlers, mainly from the parish of Rautalampi, settled in Värmland, Sweden. In the beginning of the 19th century tens of thousands of people spoke the Savonian language as their mother tongue. These "Forest Finns" were an interesting group from a linguistic point of view because their language was kept safe from other influences. The practice of slash and burn agriculture was prohibited in Sweden in the middle of the 17th century and no new Finnish settlers moved to the area. The language of Forest Finns lacked the Schwa vowel and gemination, which are used now in the dialect spoken in Rautalampi. Nowadays the Savonian dialect of Värmland is extinct. The last Savonian speakers were Johannes Johansson-Oinonen (died in 1965) and Karl Persson (died 1969).


The band Verjnuarmu performs melodic death metal in the Savo dialect, while Värttinä perform folk music in the dialect. The folk song "Ievan polkka" is in the dialect, as well.



  1. ^ Gvozdanovi?, Jadranka (1983). "Typological characteristics of Slavic and non-Slavic languages with distinctive tonal accents". In A.G.F. van Holk (ed.). Dutch Contributions to the Ninth International Congress of Slavists (Kiev, September 6-14, 1983, Linguistics) (Vol. 3 of Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics (ISSN 0169-0124) ed.). Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 91. ISBN 90-6203-525-6. ISBN 978-90-6203-525-0. A system with tone bound to the second vowel of a prosodic word is found in Savo Finnish, where the second syllable nucleus has tone if the first syllable nucleus contains a single segment, [...]
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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