The Uralic Origin of Finngreek: A Sami Source

Finngreek started out as a project that was based on lyrics in Finnish music, which I recognized as similar to Greek words. Because of this, the Finngreek language has a Finnish bias from the comparisons I’ve made, which can also be seen in the name Finngreek itself. I have spent more time comparing Greek with Finnish than I have any other Uralic language, in part due to its accessibility online.

However, Finngreek is much more than just a proposed relationship between Finnish and Greek: It also involves the Uralic language family as a whole. Sometimes, a word in Estonian, Hungarian, or a minority language in Russia – like Moksha – can phonologically parallel Greek more closely when compared with its cognate Finnish reflex. This is because the hypothetical Finngreek contact period would have likely taken place when Proto-Finno-Ugric was a living language, with cognates also proposed in Samoyedic, making it applicable to Proto-Uralic etymology as a whole (however, these are complicated, given that Greek-Samoyedic comparisons are often too close to Proto-Indo-European to ascertain an exclusive connection).

The reason I’m bringing this up in a blog post is because I am in the process of enriching Finngreek vocabulary with a variety of non-Finnish Uralic words – especially from Sami. The Sami languages contain various words which are comparable with Greek, but may have been lost in Finnic languages, or preserve certain phonemes which have changed in Finnish from a common source. This means that Finngreek, while named after the Finnish language, has certain vocabulary that is not always going to be recognizable to Finns. Some examples include:

Wife (Inari Sami) = Kálgu = Hálokho = Άλοχος
Drum (Northern Sami) = Gobdis = Kopti = Κόπτει (Strike/Beat/Pound/Knock)
Rain (Ter Sami) = Âbbʹre = Ambre = Όμβρε
Squirrel (Inari), Tail/Rear = Uárree = Órre = Όρρε
Eye (Lule Sami) = Tjalmme = Thalmé = Οφθαλμέ
Air/Wind (Inari) = Alme = Anme = Άνεμε

Additionally, there are words in Greek which can be equally compared with Finnish and Sami, resulting in multiple forms of a word, like Ourá (compare Orava, related to Uárree), or Noitá/Noitis (compare Noita/Noaidi, in Finnish/Northern Sami, respectively). This variety can either be the result of related Greek terms – like Finngreek Ourá/Órre – or because of different endings between Finnish and Sami which are both found in Greek – like Noitis/Νοητής being nominative, and Noitá/Νοητά being vocative. This is a complex situation that is relevant throughout Helleno-Uralic comparisons, and plays into the overall unique vocabulary of the Finngreek language.

Some of these proposals go against the organization of phonological developments from Proto-Uralic into descendant languages, meaning that I have certain disagreements with the reconstructions of some Uralicists, where I may believe a certain vowel or consonant to be more suitable than what is currently accepted (eg: Instead of the current PU reconstruction for ‘eye’, *śilmä, I would instead reconstruct *tʰalmé/*tʰəlmé/*tʰelmé, (with a/ə/e depending on whether Οφθαλμέ is really Pre-Greek, or if it has an IE origin). Having more Uralic reflexes to compare with Greek means that I can make more thorough comparisons, due to the different phonological shifts that have taken place in sub-Uralic language groups.

At this moment, I am focusing on discovering and including more Helleno-Samic comparisons, because I’ve been introduced by some kind Sami people to resources which allow me to do so. Over time, I hope to not only add more Sami words to Finngreek, but from all the Uralic languages where they can be found. This means that, while Finngreek will always have a Finnish foundation, it will become a more enriched mosaic of Uralic terms, spanning all the way from Nganasan to Hungarian – from Selkup to Sami – and every language inbetween.

I am debating whether or not to continue using the name Finngreek, as I want the name of my project to accurately portray that the language, with its included etymological proposals, involves a tapestry of Uralic vocabulary and grammar. It may be that certain Uralic groups were either more relevant to, or better preserved, my proposed historical connection with Greece.

For example, I believe the gender dualism of Phoibos/Phoibē (Φοίβος/Φοίβη; pronounced as Fiivos/Fiivi in modern Greek), or Apollo/Artemis, may be best preserved in Northern Sami Beaivváš/Beaivi, showing that there is a masculine form of the name, whereas reflexes like Inari Peivi and Finnish Päivä are more obscure (although Finnish does have the given name Päivi for women, which is quite popular). This is an important situation to understand, because an underlying tone of my proposed Helleno-Uralic contact is that the Uralic people involved were, at least in part, the Phoibos-worshipping Hyperboreans, who helped to settle and manage religious rites at various spiritual centers of Greece. Of course, it is also possible that Proto-Uralic *päjwä is just the vocative form of Φοίβος, Φοίβε/Phoibe/Fiive, with the final –ä in Finnish being a shift specific to Finnish, as Proto-Samic *peajvē exhibits the final -e in most reflexes.

This particular word for ‘sun’ is only found in Finnic and Samic languages, which might imply that either the direct ancestors, or areal influencers, of the Finnic and Samic peoples were the main group involved in contact with Greece, while other Proto-Uralic peoples might have only played a peripheral role, or not have been involved at all. This is a complicated puzzle of relationships between Uralic languages and Greek, with the proposed periods of contact perhaps being as early as the Proto-Hellenes or Mycenaeans with the Proto-Uralic peoples (either including or excluding the Samoyedic peoples), and/or as recent (in the case of Hungarian) as a contact period between Byzantines living on the north coast of the Pontic Sea with the migrating Magyars. The ways which words were loaned among the diverse Uralic languages is obscure.

Hopefully, the additions of more Uralic languages into Finngreek can provide clarity. For now, Phåívånkheíli – The Language of the Sun – will continue to brightly burn with autumn’s approach.

(The featured image is sourced from this article on the genetic histories of Uralic peoples.)