Monday, May 14, 2018

Dutch loanwords in Finnish

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Although Dutch has not become a world language, many languages in the world contain Dutch loanwords. As the Dutch etymologist Nicoline van der Sijs has demonstrated one of these is Finnish or Suomi, which has 5-6 million native speakers. It is reckoned that Finnish contains some five hundred Dutch loanwords. Many of these came into Finnish via Swedish, which was the language of education for many years in Finland and which is still spoken as a first language by a Swedish minority in South-West Finland. In the seventeenth century, Dutch was in some sense a lingua franca in the Baltic Sea as a result of extensive Dutch trading activity in the region. Many of the Dutch loanwords that came to Finnish via Swedish are seafaring terms. For example, the Dutch word matroos, sailor, has entered Standard Finnish as matruusi, denoting an experienced sailor The standard Finnish word for the captain of a ship is kapteeni, while in spoken Finnish the word kippari is used. This, it turns out, is derived from the Dutch schipper, a word which like matroos has been loaned to many languages. The lack of initial 's' in this form suggests it was loaned some time ago when Finnish words did not begin with two consonants.

Further reading: Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse Woorden Wereldwijd. The Hague: SDU, 2010.

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