Finnish Pronunciation

Learn how to pronounce Finnish



These Finnish lessons were written by Josh Pirie.

Need more Finnish? Try the Introductory Finnish Language course at Udemy or the audio-visual lessons at FinnishPod101.com

Learn Finnish with FinnishPod101.com 


Finnish Pronunciation

Pronouncing Finnish will certainly not be the hardest part of learning the language. There are some very simple rules that will facilitate the understanding of the phonological system of this language. First, stress in Finnish is completely predictable: you stress the first syllable in every word, regardless of its status either as a native Finnish word or as a foreign borrowing. Second, there exist certain phonotactic constraints in Finnish: there can never be more than one word-initial or word-final consonant. The word Franska, then, would have to undergo a change because the cluster Fr- is not allowed. Consequently, the language spoken in France is referred to as ranska in Finnish. Word-medially, though, as many as three consonants are allowed, provided that the first one is a sonorant, i.e. a consonant that can only be voiced, such as /l/ or /r/ or /m/ or /n/. Finally, remember to pronounce everything you see, including double consonants or vowels. Doubling is phonemic in Finnish, unlike English. This means that where we see two p's in English approach, only one is pronounced. In Finnish, if there are two of any letters, they must be pronounced double, or the speaker runs the risk of not being understood. For example, Finnish kuusi ("six") has a radically different meaning from Finnish kusi ("urine"); Finnish tapan ("I kill") similarly has a different meaning from Finnish tapaan ("I meet").

Finnish Vowel Orthography English (or Other) Equivalent 
uh as in the name "Dullah"
aa  ah as in "father"
ä  similar to "a" as in "hat" (consider German ä)
ää  similar to "bad" but without the glide
eh as in "met"
ee  longer "eh", no real English equivalent
ih as in "sit"
ii  long "ee" as in "read"
aw (but without the drawl) as in "cot"
oo  like British "sort"
ö  like British "erm" (consider German ö)
öö  like British "further"
halfway between the sound in "foot" and "boot"
uu  like "shoot" but further back in the mouth
similar to French u or German ü 
yy  longer version of y, somewhat like Scottish "stew"
ai  eye as in English "line"
äi  eh-y as in Australian "say"
ei  eh-ee as in "day" but with both vowels full
oi  oy as in "toy" but with both vowels full
öi  like Bronx "heard"
ui  like "ooh-ee" but far back in the mouth
yi  consider Chinese /üi/
au  ow as in "sour"
ou  oh as in "owe"
eu  eh-oo but without glides
iu  ee-oo but without glides, similar to Portuguese
äy  no English equivalent (ä+y)
öy  similar to British "oh"
ie  similar to Spanish "sierra"
uo  oo-oh but without glides
yö  no English equivalent (ö+y) 

 

Finnish Consonant Orthography  English Equivalent 
y as in "yes"
always pronounced, even before consonants
trilled, as in Spanish or Italian
nk  /ŋk/ as in "bank" (not as in "non-king")
always hard, as in "sod" (not as in "rose"); however, it is palatalized more than in English (primarily due to the lack of /z/ and /s/ and /z/). So technically it's halfway between "sod" and "shod".

 

Vowel Harmony

Finnish has vowel harmony, which means that roots that contain front vowels will couple with endings that too have front vowels. Finnish has eight pure vowels: three front (ä, ö and y), three back (a, o and u) and two "neutral": e and i. This means that if a word such as loma- can only take one of -llä or -lla as an ending, it must take -lla (back vowel harmony). This yields lomalla ("on leave"). Within a root, only the neutral vowels can coexist with both front and back vowels. Exceptions to this are compound words such as äänihuulet ("vocal cords").

 

Consonant Gradation

Plosives (stops) in Finnish undergo a process called gradation. Whereas some forms will naturally exist in "strong" grade, double consonants will appear, such as pp or kk. Some forms within the inflection, however, will require a "weaker" grade, in which case the doubling is removed, or a sonorant is inserted. Consider the following:

Strong Grade  Weak Grade 
pp  as in tappaa > tapan
kk  as in kakku > kakun
tt  as in tyttö > tytön
k -  nothing or as in arka > aran
v (in the absence of b)  as in saapua > saavun
as in katu > kadun
nk  ng  as in Helsinki > Helsingin
mp  mm  as in vanhempi > vanhemman
nt  nn  as in antaa > annan
lt  ll  as in kulta > kullan
rt  rr  as in ymmärtää > ymmärrän 

 


 

Finnish Vocabulary and Grammar



Buy ielanguages.com language tutorials

If you enjoy the tutorials, then please consider buying French, Informal French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, or Dutch Language Tutorials as a PDF e-book with free mp3s and free lifetime updates.

Buy French Tutorial

Buy Informal French

Both French e-books

Buy Italian Tutorial

Buy Spanish Tutorial

Buy German Tutorial

Buy Swedish Tutorial

Buy Dutch Tutorial





Please consider sending a donation of any amount to help support ielanguages.com. Thank you!

Donate




Return to top of page






Learn languages with videos and subtitles at FluentU

FluentU offers authentic videos in French, Spanish, German, English, Chinese and Japanese. Learn from captions and translations and enjoy access to ALL languages!

Learn languages with videos and subtitles at Yabla

Learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and English with authentic videos by Yabla that include subtitles and translations.



Learn languages by reading Interlinear Books

Learn to read languages with interlinear bilingual books that include the original language and an English translation below in a smaller font.

Udemy Language Learning Courses

Hundreds of free and paid online language learning video courses at Udemy. By native speakers and experts, from Arabic to Zulu.






© Copyright 1997 - 2016 by Dr. Jennifer Wagner About | Contact | Blog | Blog RSS | Affiliate Program | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy