Finnish phonetics

Pronunciation

One helpful thing when studying Finnish is the regular pronunciation; we use to say that "Finnish is always pronounced like it's written". In ideal case each letter corresponds to one and the same sound, and each sound corresponds to one and the same letter.

Here are all the sounds and letters in Finnish. There are 8 vowels: a, e, i, o, u, y, ä and ö; and 14 consonants d, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v. They are similar to other European languages, but some consonants are left out, and there are two extra vowels, ä and ö. Other sounds (or letters) appear only in the loan words, such as "byrokratia".

Click the button to listen to the example.

Finnish sound system
Sound Finnish example Sound in English
a auto listen car
bnot in use 
cnot in use 
d sydän listen David
e esine listen egg
fnot in use 
g gaselli listen gate
h hevonen listenhello!
i iso listen wit
j jano listen young
k kivi listen key
l lapsi listen lip
m mies listen man
n nainen listen nail
o osata listen four
p pelata listen pool
qnot in use 
r ruma listen roof
s saada listen soap
t tie listen tear
u uida listen blue
v vaja listen verb
wnot in use 
xnot in use 
y ystävä listen like /i/, but lower
ä äiti listen cat
ö öljy listen bird

Notes:

Borrowed consonants

The following consonants may occur in words borrowed recently into Finnish from other languages:

Consonants c, f, q, w, x, and z don't exist in Finnish words. Also, b is very rare and possible only in loanword (such as bussi).

Diphthongs

A diphthong is a sound made by combining two vowels. In many other European languages, such as English that is interpreted as a single vowel, in Finnish usually as a combination. It means that both vowels are pronounced.

Diphtongs in Finnish language are:

ai, ei, oi, ui, yi, äi , öi, au, eu, iu, ou, äy, öy, ie, uo, yö

Examples:

Lenght and double letters

The length of the sound is important in Finnish. The word can have a separate meaning depending on the length.

Examples:

tuli : tulli : tuuli
fire : customs : wind
Tule tänne!
Come here!
Pekka tulee.
Pekka is coming.
Ulkona ei tuule.
Wind isn't blowing outside.
Ulkona tuulee.
Wind is blowing outside.
Tuli polttaa.
Fire burns.
Tulli pysäytti miehen.
The customs stopped a man.

Loanwords

Finnish has borrowed many words, especially from Swedish, so it has lot's of common vocabulary with English and other European languages. Here are some examples how foreign words have assimilated into Finnish. These examples might help you to understand Finnish pronunciation.

There are very old loans, which Finnish speakers don't regognize as loan words, because they are assimilated into Finnish language. Then there are very loan words, which still stay in their original form and look foreign. Then there are loan words which are some what assimilated into Finnish form but are still regognizable.

Finnish words tend to end with a vowel

linkki
link
hotelli
hotel
globalisaatio
globalization
versio
version
Lontoo
London
kulta
gold

b, c, f, (g), q, w, x, and z don't exist in Finnish words

These consonants are possible only in some relatively new loan words, such as: bussi, fasismi, watti, xylitoli

kurssi
course
teksti
text
kulttuuri
culture
sentti
cent
pitsa
pizza
pankki
bank
pihvi
beef
taksi
taxi
sikari
cigar
kitara
guitar

Finnish doesn't like clusters of consonants

teema
theme
teatteri
theatre
koulu
school
kemia
chemistry
filosofia
philosophy
sampoo
shampoo
sekki
check
samppanja
champagne
viski
whisky
Ranska
France

Long vowels are written as double vowels

beeta
beta
gaala
gala
geeli
gel
moodi
mode
foorumi
forum
tuutori
tutor

How ever, these words are written with a single vowel, but the it's prounced long: bonus, laser, virus.


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