Indigenous Languages


Blog-entry by Sebastian Drude

The year 2019 is the ‘International Year of Indigenous Languages’. On this occasion, you may have wondered, “what exactly is an indigenous language”?

So, what exactly is an indigenous language? Starting with the expression itself, there are two words, and the meaning of each, “indigenous” and “language”, seems at first straightforward. Things are more interesting, though.

Let’s first consider “language”. It is clear that in this context, we do not mean “language” in general, a not countable word (similar to “wisdom”) referring to the human capacity to communicate via highly structured symbolic systems of sounds, gesture signs, written characters and the like. We here speak of individual languages, entities such as what we call “English”, “Finnish” or “Rapa Nui”.

For individual languages, there is the hairy problem to draw a line between a language and a dialect. And here we do not use “dialect” in the often pejorative and usually prejudicial sense of “inferior, underdeveloped, oral language”, often applied to indigenous languages. This use should be abandoned altogether. Instead, “dialect” is used here in the usual neutral sense of “linguistic variety of a language which is specific for a certain geographical region”.

…socio-cultural factors such an official status in a country, an established orthographical norm and an independent literary tradition may also make mutually intelligible dialects to be recognized as different languages.

The main linguistic criterion to establish whether two varieties are different languages or not is mutual intelligibility – if speakers of one cannot understand the speakers of the other without learning it, then these must be different languages. There are, however, complications, asymmetrical intelligibility for instance, or dialect chains, such as the Sami languages. Then, socio-cultural factors such an official status in a country, an established orthographical norm and an independent literary tradition may also make mutually intelligible dialects to be recognized as different languages. Taking such cases into account, most linguists would agree that there are roughly 6500 known languages, of which around 6000 are still spoken in the world today.

In turn, “Indigenous” originally means “native”, or being original to/from a certain place. If this was all to it, then any and every language would be “indigenous”, as they all come “originally” from some place – even abstracting from the problem of how far back we go in history to determine the “origin” of a language. But obviously, it would feel odd to call “English” an indigenous language, not even an (let alone the) indigenous language of England. Intuitively, it would be more natural to call, to stay on the British Islands, the Celtic languages (Irish, Welsh, Scottish-Gaelic, Manx, …) “indigenous”, although we know that their speakers, too, arrived some 1000 years earlier. Going back far enough, one could argue that only Basque and possibly the Sami languages are the true “indigenous” languages of Europe.


…the international year is a good moment to remind ourselves of the importance of linguistic diversity, and that languages are an asset for a society, even if they are not native (such as languages spoken by immigrants) nor minority (several languages, for instance, are endangered although they are spoken by a majority of a certain region).

Therefore, “indigenous” does not only mean “native”, but it implies a contrast with another people or, in our case, language, which arrived later and which to some degree is more hegemonic in the wider area. This is obvious in a colonial context, where the languages of the colonial powers were imposed over the languages which were spoken in the Americas and large parts of Africa and Asia before their arrival. In this sense, an indigenous language of a certain area is typically a native language to that area which is now a minority language co-existing with some other, socio-politically stronger language which has arrived later to the same region. The term is highly politicized and sensitive – for instance, the Chinese government claims that there are no “indigenous languages” in China, possibly to avoid problems of legal liabilities which come with the status of “indigenous” – internationally it is recognized that the rights of indigenous groups need special protection. Independently of such fights over words, it is clear that the coming year of indigenous languages covers all native minority languages, whether they are being recognized as “indigenous” by their respective governments or not. I would also defend that the international year is a good moment to remind ourselves of the importance of linguistic diversity, and that languages are an asset for a society, even if they are not native (such as languages spoken by immigrants) nor minority (several languages, for instance, are endangered although they are spoken by a majority of a certain region).

“What does this all have to do with multilingualism?”, may you, reader of this blog on this topic, have asked yourself. There are several answers to this question.

One interesting fact to point out in this context is that historically and even nowadays, multilingualism is much more common among speakers of indigenous languages than among speakers of non-indigenous ones. In many regions of the world, speaking not only your ‘own’ language, but also that of neighboring groups and peoples, was and is normal, the default case. In some regions, for instance in Central and Western Africa, it even does not make sense to single out one specific language as one person’s single mother tongue, as people grow up with several languages which are connected to several places or social groups to which they all belong in one way or another.

It is in the decision to use the indigenous language in different situations, especially with and among the youngest generation, that the fate of the survival of a language is fought.

Even more obviously, as follows from our clarification of the meaning of the term, an indigenous language is by definition in contact with another hegemonic language, and that means that many, often all, speakers of the indigenous language are at least bilingual. It is in the decision to use the indigenous language in different situations, especially with and among the youngest generation, that the fate of the survival of a language is fought. For most endangered languages, and therefore for the preservation of linguistic diversity itself, they key for their staying alive is a stable, actively maintained bi- or multilingualism.



Sebastian Drude.

Sebastian Drude is the Director of the Vigdís World Language Centre at the University of Iceland. He obtained a Dr.Phil.-degree in linguistics at the FU Berlin in 2002. From 1998 on, he studied the Awetí language in central Brazil. He held a Dilthey-Fellowship at the University Frankfurt, was later Head of ‘The Language Archive’ at the MPI in Nijmegen, and General Coordinator at CLARIN ERIC.

Vigdis Finnbogadottir Insititute of Foreign Languages logo.

Siskkáldas kritihkka váilun ja heajos digitála sajáiduvvan leat áitagat sámegirjjálašvuhtii, mii boahtte jagi deavdá 400 jagi

This article written in Northern Sámi explores and discusses the content of a recently published report A Writing Hand Reaches Further, “Čálli giehta ollá guhkás”: Report on the recommendations for the improvement of the Sámi literature field. It suggests concrete ways to improve the visibility and dynamics of the Sámi literary based on the recommendations by Johanna Domokos and other writers. The report reveals structural obstacles that prevent Sámi literature to flourish. It also sheds light on the language political and historical contexts where Sámi people produce literature.

”Go eará álbmogat hállet das, mo gávdnat girjjiid, sámebirrasis sáhka lea baicce dávjjit dat, mo girji joksá lohkki.”​

Dát Harald Gaski sitáhtta varas sámegirjjálašvuođagietti čielggadeames speadjalastá bures sihke sámegirjjálašvuođagietti hástalusaid ja dan geavatkeahtes vejolašvuođaid.

Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus almmuhii golggotmánus 2018 viiddes čielggadeami A Writing Hand Reaches Further ”Čálli giehta ollá guhkás”: Recommendations for the improvement of the Sámi literary field, mii gokčá buot sámegielaid girjjálašvuođadiliid. Čielggadeami lea čállán ja čohkken jorgaleaddji ja girjjálašvuođadutki Johanna Domokos.

Eaŋgasgielat čielggadeami vuosttas oasis Domokos láhčá saji ságastallamii ja fállá sihke dutkandieđu ja vásáhusaid, mat sutnje muitaluvvui čielggadeami várás. Dáin vuođul son evttoha 15 ávžžuhusa buoridit sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dili. Ávžžuhusat vuođđuduvvet jearahallamiidda ovttas sámeásahusaiguin, sámečálliiguin, sámeservviiguin, jorgaleddjiiguin, girjerádjosolbmuiguin ja eará olbmuiguin, geat barget sámegirjjálašvuođagiettis. Son čállá:

”Ealli sámekultuvrii lea dehálaš, ahte sámegirjjálašvuohta ii šatta sámečállagiid musean, dahje dušše girjerájusin iežas systemain.”​

Čielggadeami nuppi oasis guorahallojuvvojit iešguđet sámegielaid čálálaš dilit. Dán bloggačállosis čalmmustahtán čielggadeami dutkandieđuid ja evttohusaid, mat sáhtášedje leat ávkin buohkaide, geaidda sámegillii čállin ja sámegielaid nannen lea váimmu ášši.

Sámegielaid čálálaš dilit guhkkin eret dásseárvosaš sajádagas: muhtun sámegielain ain váilu ortografiija, mainna čállit

Čielggadeamis gieđahallojuvvo sámegirjjálašvuođagieddi. Ieš alddes doahpaga gietti sáhttá geavahit dušše davvisámegielat girjjálašvuođa oktavuođas, danin go dat lea áidna sámegielain, mas leat girjjálašvuođagietti struktuvrrat. Bealli buot sámegillii čállon čáppagirjjálašvuođas lea čállon davvisámegillii. Davvisámegiela girjjálašvuođa dili ii oba sáhte buohtastahttit eará sámegielaid čálálaš diliide. Ovdamearkan bihtánsámegielas váilu dálá áiggi ortografiija, mainna obalohkái čállit!

Čielggadeamis čálmmustahttojuvvo čielgasit, ahte girjjálašvuođa dilli laktása giela dillái – ja politihkkii. Joshua Wilbur (Pite Sámi Literary Texts) čállá ná:

“Kánske buot ávkkáleamos livččii, jus sámedikkit Ruoŧas ja/dahje Norggas dohkkešivčče bihtánsámegiela virggálaš sámegiellan. Dat soaittášii addit vejolašvuođa dasa, ahte stáhtat juolludivčče ruđa bihtánsámegiela lohkandáiddu ovddideapmái (ja maiddái oahpaheapmái).”

Sámegielaid girjjálašvuođaid dilit eai leat dásseárvosaš sajádagas. Davvi-, julev- ja máttasámegielat čállis lea vejolašvuohta oažžut girjjis almmustahttojuvvot Norggas sámegirjelágádusas ja oažžut čálli bálkká almmuheami ovddas. Dákkár vejolašvuohta ii leat anáraš- dahje nuortalašgiela čállis, gean lohkkit eanáš orrot Suomas, gos sámegirjelágádusat eai gávdno. Nuba girjjiid almmuheapmi lea ovttaskas olbmuid ja servviid duohken, dego Anarâškielâ servvi.

Askold Bazhanov ja eará sámečállit ortografiija fáŋgan

Vel rašit dilis leat Guoládaga sámegielaid (áhkkil-, darjje-, gieldda- ja nuortalašsámegielat) sámegirjjálašvuođaid dilit. Guoládaga sámegirjjálašvuohta lea eanáš čállon ruoššagillii čállin- ja ortográfalaš váttuid geažil. Áhkkil-, darjje- ja gielddasámegielaid ortográfalaš vuođđun mearriduvvui gielddasámegiella, mii lea dagahan hástalusaid buvttadit sámegillii čállosiid Ruoššabeal Sámis. Michael Riessler (Skolt Sámi literature) čállá čeahpes ja beakkán nuortalaš čállis, Askold Bazhanovis ná:

“Son lei Notozero guovllu nuortalašgiela eatnigielat (ja čeahpes) hálli, muhto son čálii dušše ruoššagillii. Ovdal go son jámii, son čilgii, ahte sivvan lei Ruošša eiseválddiid negatiiva miellaguottut su eatnigiela hárrái. Iige son livčče sáhttán čállit gielddasámegiela ortografiijain, danin go son ii livčče gulahallan dainna. Nuppe dáfus son livččii sáhttán čállit nuortalašgiela ortografiijain, mii lei dohkkehuvvon Suomabealde, muhto politihkalaš sivaid geažil dat livčče lean veadjemeahttun dalá Sovjetlihtus.”

Sámegirjjálašvuohta čállo – feara man gillii

Bazhanova ja eará Ruošša sámečálliid galgamuššan lei ja ain dávjá lea čállit ruoššagillii – giellapolitihkalaš sivaid dihtii. Sámegielaid lassin sámečállit čállet ruoššagiela lassin dáro-, ruoŧa- ja suomagillii ja maiddái eaŋgasgillii! Nappo sámegirjjálašvuođa iešvuođaide gullá máŋggagielatvuohta. Jorgalusat gávdnojit badjelaš 40 gielaide, muhto liikká menddo unnán davviriikalaš váldogielaide, mii dagaha dan, ahte hárve sámegirji joksá dáža, ruoŧŧelačča dahje suopmelačča.

Sámegirjji meroštallin ii leatge čállosa giella, muhto baicce čálli giehta, čálli identitehtta.

Sámegillii čallin adnojuvvo alla árvvus, muhto sámegielat girjji deaddileapmi ii livčče vejolaš stáhtaid juolludan ruđaid haga, eandalii ruđaid, maid Norgga sámediggi oažžu ja juolluda ovddosguvlui. Čielggadeamis čuoččuhuvvo Norgga sámediggi dehálaš rolla sámegirjjálašvuođagietti geađgejuolgin. Sivvan lea, ahte Norgga sámediggi gokčá 100 proseantta sámegielat girjji deaddileamis, go girjelágádusat mearridit deaddilit girjji.

Siskkáldas kritihkka váilun áitagin

Čielggadeamis čalmmustahttojuvvojit konkrehta hástalusat ja áitagat sámegirjjálašvuođagieddái, ja namuhan dain moadde.

Máŋggat čállit (Domokos, Gaski, Riessler) čalmmustahttet dárbbu sámegirjjálašvuođa áigečállagii, mii guorahalašii ja árvvoštalašii sámegirjjiid. Go dákkár struktuvra váilu, ii leat mekanisma, mii árvvoštallá sisdoalu, nanne sámegirjjiid vuostáiváldima ja juogašii dieđu. Dál diehtu almmustahttojuvvon sámegirjjiin báhcá dávjá riikkarájáid siskkobeallai, vaikko sámegirjjálašvuohta čállojuvvo miehtá máilmmi.

Hástalus, mii ii guoskka dušše sámebirrasa lea, ahte sámemánát, -nuorat ja nuorra ollesolbmot leat unnán čállin ja lohkkin. Sin oktavuođa nannen girjjálašvuhtii lea okta hohpoleamos bargguin, maidda bidjat návccaid ja jurddašeami. Go Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus ordnii 27.11.2018 ovttas Suoma sámedikkiin dilálašvuođa Anáris čielggadeami birra, ságastalaimet vugiin, mo movttiidahttit nuoraid sámegirjjálašvuhtii.

Oktan vejolašvuohtan livčče juogadit lohkandiploma daidda mánáide ja nuoraide, geat lohket dihto meriid girjjiid. Dákkár lohkandiploma lea geavahusas juo Soađegilis. Sáme Girječálliid Searvi celkkii maiddái dearvvuođaidis: sin ja Norgga sámedikki ordnen nuoraid čállingursa lea rabas buohkaide. Das lea leamašan stuorra váikkuhus Norggabeal sámenuoraid čállin- ja lohkanmoktii. Bágo čálliid siebrie Ruoŧabealde lea ealáskahttán sámegirjjálašvuođagietti beaktilit maŋimuš jagiid áigge sullasaš gurssain.

Čielggadeames Domokos maid ávžžuha lágidit Sámiráđi girjjálašvuođabálkkašumi lassin sámegirjjálašvuođa jahkásaš gilvvohallamiid iešguđet kategoriijain: oanehis bargui man beare sámegillii (man beare šáŋŋeris), sámegillii jorgaleapmái dahje sámegielas jorgaleapmái mannu eará gillii ja nuorra čálliide dahje/ja girjjiide, mat leat oaivvilduvvon nuorra lohkkiide.

Nuba vuogit nannet sámemánáid ja -nuoraid oktavuođa sámegirjjálašvuhtii livčče:

  • lohkandiplomat
  • čállingurssat
  • girjjálašvuođa bálkkašumit sierra kategoriijain

Sámegirjjiid rašes sajádat digitála birrasiin lea áitta sámegirjjálašvuhtii, maiddái sámegielaide

Sámegirjjálašvuođa sajádat lea rášit dilis eará dáiddasurggiid ektui. Sámegirjjálašvuhtii čuhcet gielalaš hástalusat: máŋggat sámit leat massán giela dahje eai leat hárjánan lohkat sámegillii dahje eai máhte čállit sámegillii. Sámegirjjálašvuođa nannen laktása nannosit sámegielaid rašes diliide. Danin sámegielat birrasiid galggašedje lasihit dohko, gos olbmot dán áigge leat: digitála birrasis. Domokos čállá:

“Dutkamušat čájehit, ahte gielain, main ii leat digitála sajádat, lea unna vejolašvuohta ceavzit.”

Son ávžžuhage bidjat searaid sámegielaid ja sámegirjjálašvuođa digitála sajáiduvvamii, mas teknihkalaš beaivádusat, applikašuvnnat, vloggat, e-girjjit, servviid ja ovttaskas čálliid neahttasiiddut, bloggat ja Instagram-lyrihkka gulahalašedje digitála áigodaga olbmo dárbbuiguin.

Anára ságastallamis loktojuvvui maid dárbu, mii veahkehivččii stuorraservodaga lágideddjiid: neahttasiidu, mas gávdnošedje dieđut ja govvabáŋku sámečálliin ja sin dáiddabuktagiin.

Girjerádjosiid ámmátolbmot fas čalmmustahttet, ahte e-girjjiid lassin sámit livčče beroštuvvan maid jietnagirjjiin ja girjjiin, mat leat čállon álkiduvvon gillii. Jietnagirjjit ja álkiduvvon gielat girjjit heivešedje máŋggáide iešguđet (sáme)joavkkuide:

  • mánáide ja boarrásot olbmuide
  • olbmuide, geain leat váttisvuođat lohkamis ja čállimis
  • sidjiide, geat leat oahpahallamin sámegiela
  • sidjiide, geat leat masssán aktiiva sámegieldáiddu

Girjerádjosiid ámmátolbmot maid čalmmustahttet, ahte sápmelaš nuorra olbmot ja nuorra ollesolbmot váillahivčče girjjiid buotlágan fáttáiguin degomat fantasiija, scifi ja rihkosvuođašáŋŋeriin. Dán nanne maiddái jearaldatdutkamuš, masa čielggadeamis čujuhuvvo:

”Norgga sámediggi čađahii jearaldatdutkamuša jagis 2016. Dan mielde nuorra lohkkit háliidivčče lohkat buotlágan girjjiid, eai dušše girjjiid, mat muitalit sámiid árbevirolaš eallimis.”​

Ávkkálaš gažaldat lea: Mo lasihit sámegirjjálašvuođa oidnoma juo dálá sámestruktuvrrain?

Anára dilálašvuođas lei ollu sáhka maid ruđas: geas lea ruhta doarjut sámegirjjálašvuođa ja geas ii. Ruđalaš dárbbuid ii ábut badjelgeahččat ja lea namalassii Davviriikkaid geatnegasvuohta fuolahit sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dilis ja boahttevuođas. Álo čovdosat eai goit gávdno ruđas, muhto baicce jurddašeami viiddideamis. Domokos ávžžuhage smiehttat vejolašvuođaid, mo lasihit sámegirjjálašvuođa oidnoma juo dálá struktuvrrain. Soames informánta evttoha čielggadeamis ná:

”Divttaid sáhtášii láktit eará kulturdáhpáhusaide, degomat Ijahis idjii dahje Skábmagovaide. – – Dat sáhtášii bohciidahttit beroštumi girjjálašvuhtii daid olbmuid gaskkas, geat muđuid eai boađáše guldalit girjjálašvuođa. Dat seammás divošii ovdagáttuid divttaid, girjjálašvuođa hárrái.”​

Dát evttohus oaččui olu doarjaga Anára ságastallamis: mo mii ieža sáhtášeimmet buktit sámegirjjálašvuođa mielde sámedáhpáhusaide, mat juo lágiduvvojit jahkásaččat?

2019 – sámegirjjálašvuođa ávvojahki lea vejolašvuohta loktet sámegirjjálašvuođa

Čielggadeamis buktojuvvo máŋgii ovdan, ahte sámegirjjálašvuođas váilojit jeavddalaš dáhpáhusat, degomat festiválat, gos čállit, jorgaleaddjit ja sin lohkkit sáhtášedje gulahallat. Harald Gaski ja David Kroik čalmmustahttiba, ahte boahtte jagi lea gollan 400 jagi vuosttas sámegielat girjji almmuheamis. ABC – ja lávlungirjjáš ilbme Ruoŧabealde jagis 1619 ja dat ledje sihke bihtán- ja máttasámegillii. Gaski evttoha:

“Ávvojagi dihtii livččii ánolaš, jus boahtte jagi sámedikkit Norggas, Ruoŧas ja Suomas bijašedje návccaid loktet sámegirjjálašvuođa máŋggabealálaččat.”

Jahki 2019 lea sámegirjjálašvuođa oaidninčiegas erenomáš jahki maid dáid sivaid geažil:

Čielggadeapmi sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dilis gullá prošektii Multilingualism and diversity as a resource in the cultural field – employment and integration through literature in the Nordic countries ja dan lea jođihan Kultuvra buohkaide -bálvalus.

Prošeakta nohká dál, muhto jus lea juoga, mo Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus sáhttá veahkehit, doarjut dahje rávvet sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dili ovddideames – áinnas gánniha leat oktavuođas. Sámegirjjálašvuohta goit ii játta – dan jietna gullo, jus mii beare nákcet dan guldalit.


Čálli, Helga West lea bargan čavččadálvve 2018 Kultuvrra buohkaide -fitnus prošeaktakoordináhtorin. Su bargguide lea earet eará gullan čielggadeami juolgáidahttin.


A Writing Hand Reaches Further, “Čálli giehta ollá guhkás”: Report on the recommendations for the improvement of the Sámi literature field: Domokos_report

Gullá prošektii: Multilingualism and diversity as a resource in the cultural field – employment and integration through literature in the Nordic countries

Ruhtadan: Davviriikalaš ministarráđđi

Jođiha: Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus

Čállit: Vuosttas oasi lea čállán Johanna Domokos ja nuppi oasi artihkaliid iešguđet sámegielaid diliid birra leat čállán David Kroik, Joshua Wilbur, Päivi Alanen, Lill Tove Fredriksen, Harald Gaski, Sigbjørn Skåden, Petter Morottaja, Michael Riessler ja Irene Piippola

Lassedieđut: Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalusa jođiheaddji Rita Paqvalén,