Thursday. 30.11.2023

Who invented the Finnish language?

Hands flags Finland

Are you struggling with the infamous 15 cases or six verb types of Finnish? Maybe KPT-changes give you a headache. Have you ever wondered who is to blame for the Finnish grammar? Well, I will tell you the answer.

Today, 9th of April, is again one of Finnish flag days. Finnish people love their language so much that they celebrate every April a man who lived 500 years ago. This man was called Mikael Agricola and he is the father of written Finnish.

Agricola was the first person to write Finnish language. He was a clergyman and a bishop. At that time, in the 16th century, the catholic church was operated only in Latin. Agricola studied in Germany and learned from Martin Luther, the father of the protestant reformation, that people should use their own language in church and especially understand the message of the Bible.

So Agricola started a huge task to invent the rules of written Finnish in order to translate the Bible into Finnish. A remarkable thing is that he accomplished the work in three years.

Of course, Agricola didn’t invent Finnish language or grammar rules as such -Finnish and its ancestors had been spoken thousands of years before Agricola’s time. But before Agricola nobody needed to write it.

Keep studying, with all of you new Finnish speakers our beautiful language can develop and flourish yet another 500 years

What we really celebrate on 9th of April is that today we can use Finnish at all levels in society: Finnish is the official language of authorities, the language of universities and research as well as the language of literature and media. Surprisingly few languages in the world acquire this kind of position. Many languages never reach an official status.

What Agricola also teaches us is that a language is in constant change. If he came today to the Helsinki railway station, he wouldn’t understand much. 500 years is a long time for a language. Finnish language has changed a lot and continues to change.

Today’s Finnish is livelier and more international than ever. Probably you have started to learn Finnish with these loan words that didn’t exist in Agricola’s time: taksi, televisio, or bussi. At the same time, we still use many words invented by him: esimerkki (example), pääkaupunki (capital city) and many more.

I wish you a happy Finnish language day. This day is especially for all of you who are learning Finnish. Even if Agricola wrote the Finnish grammar in three years, it probably takes longer for students to fully learn it.

Keep studying, with all of you new Finnish speakers our beautiful language can develop and flourish yet another 500 years, and even longer.

*Jenni Turunen is a Finnish language teacher.

Who invented the Finnish language?