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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Multilingual Names on the Finnish Basic Map

A Leino
University of Helsinki, Finland

There are several languages spoken in modern-day Finland that can
be considered indigenous. In the south, Finnic and Germanic
languages have been in contact with each other long before they
developed into Finnish and Swedish; in the north, some Sámi
languages still survive. This millennia-long multilingual history can still be seen in toponyms.

This study looks at the multilingual environment from a
present-day point of view. The computerised Place Name Register
maintained by the Finnish National Land Survey has place names in
five different languages: the official Finnish and Swedish, and
three semi-official Sámi languages. Roughly one percent of the
named places on the Finnish basic map have names in more than one

As one would expect, distributions of the various languages
overlap. Finnish is the majority language, and it is no surprise
that Finnish toponyms have a non-Finnish alternate only near the
borders of the Finnish-speaking area. Similarly, Finnish
alternates for Swedish toponyms occur in regions that can be
considered bilingual. Somewhat surprisingly, Northern Sámi is also
a strong enough language to exhibit this phenomenon, while Enare
and Skolt Sámi are so small that even in the core areas virtually
all toponyms have an alternate in another language.

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