|Estonia Wiki Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
For word lists and help researching in Estonian records, see:
- Russian Genealogical Word List
- German Genealogical Word List
- Latin Genealogical Word List
- Latin Genealogical Word List
- Swedish Genealogical Word List
The official language, Estonian, belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. Estonian is closely related to Finnish, spoken in Finland, across the other side of the Gulf of Finland, and is one of the few Languages of Europe that is not of an Indo-European origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of its origin, Estonian and Finnish are not related to their nearest geographical neighbours, Swedish, Latvian, and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages.
Although the Estonian and Germanic languages are of very different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and German, for example. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from Low Saxon (Middle Low German) during the period of German rule, and High German (including standard German).
South Estonian (including Võro and Seto varieties), spoken in South-Eastern Estonia, is genealogically distinct from northern Estonian, but traditionally and officially considered as dialects and "regional forms of the Estonian language", not separate language(s).
Russian is still spoken as a secondary language by forty- to seventy-year-old ethnic Estonians, because Russian was the unofficial language of the Estonian SSR from 1944 to 1991 and taught as a compulsory second language during the Soviet era. In 1998, most first- and second-generation industrial immigrants from the former Soviet Union (mainly the Russian SFSR) did not speak Estonian. However, by 2010, 64.1% of non-ethnic Estonians spoke Estonian. The latter, mostly Russian-speaking ethnic minorities, reside predominantly in the capital city of Tallinn and the industrial urban areas in Ida-Virumaa.
From the 13th to the 20th century, there were Swedish-speaking communities in Estonia, particularly in the coastal areas and on the islands (e.g., Hiiumaa, Vormsi, Ruhnu; in Swedish, known as Dagö, Ormsö, Runö, respectively) along the Baltic sea, communities which today have almost disappeared. The Swedish-speaking minority was represented in parliament, and entitled to use their native language in parliamentary debates.
From 1918 to 1940, when Estonia was independent, the small Swedish community was well treated. Municipalities with a Swedish majority, mainly found along the coast, used Swedish as the administrative language and Swedish-Estonian culture saw an upswing. However, most Swedish-speaking people fled to Sweden before the end of World War II, that is, before the invasion of Estonia by the Soviet army in 1944. Only a handful of older speakers remain. Apart from many other areas the influence of Swedish is especially distinct in the Noarootsi Parish in Lääne County where there are many villages with bilingual Estonian and/or Swedish names and street signs.
The most common foreign languages learned by Estonian students are English, Russian, German and French.
Historical records are written mostly in German but also in Russian, Swedish, Estonian, and Latin.
Estonia Postal History can be used to study writing.
Estonian Language Resources
- Estonian language overview
- Online Estonian dictionary
- Estonian language resources
- Estonian grammar and basics
Laakso, Johanna; Sarhimaa, Anneli; Spiliopoulou Åkermark, Sia; Toivanen, Reeta. https://books.google.ee/books?id=xQKkCwAAQBAJ&pg=PT76&dq=Towards+Openly+Multilingual+Policies+and+Practices+V%C3%B5ro+Seto&hl=et&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Towards%20Openly%20Multilingual%20Policies%20and%20Practices%20V%C3%B5ro%20Seto&f=false (1 ed.). Bristol; Buffalo: Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781783094950. Retrieved 23 December 2016.