Sami – The smallest languages in the world

The Sami languages consist of the 5 smallest languages in the world. There are only 2 people who can speak Ter Sami, 10 people who can speak Ume Sami, 10 people who can speak Kayardild, 20 people who can speak Votic and 20 people who can speak Pite Sami. Sami consists of a group of languages which fall under Uralic languages. There are about 24,500 people who can speak this language. Sami has official status in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Sami is also spoken as a minority language in Russia but it does not have an official status. Towards the end of the 19th century, there were about 6 Ter Sami villages in the Kola Peninsula, with several hundred speakers. Currently, most of the speakers have shifted to Russian, and only a few elderly people can speak the language. The decline of the Sami language is further accentuated by the fact that there are very few Sami language teachers. One of the ways to help ensure that the language does not completely disappear is by the training of more Sami language teachers, especially in Sami speaking areas.

For Sami speakers who live around the same areas, there is a lot of mutual intelligibility among the languages. Sami speakers who live in areas that are widely geographically separated cannot understand other Sami languages, unless they have a degree of exposure to those languages. The Sami languages are closely connected to the Finnic languages, even though this view has been dissented by some scholars. The Sami languages have a lot of loan words from Russian and Scandinavian.

6 out of the 9 Sami languages that are currently spoken have a written form. Ume Sami was the first dialect to have a written form, which has been extensively used. The New Testament was first published in Ume Sami in 1755 and the whole bible was published in Ume Sami in 1811. Other sami dialects with a written form include North Sami, Kildin Sami, Lule Sami, Skolt Sami, Inari Sami and South Sami.

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