Suomi/Suomen kieli


New Member
I have a question. In Finnish, the language is often called Suomen kieli, which makes sense, but often also simply Suomi, which is also the name of the country. Can anybody tell me:

(1) why?
(2) which meaning came first?
(2) do we know when Suomi started to be used with the meaning "Finnish (language)"?

  • Maunulan Pappa

    Someone more knowledgeable will no doubt answer your questions, so I will only draw your attention to the ortography. In Finnish, the names of the languages are not capitalized: we write suomi and suomen kieli. Of course, you can also write Suomen kieli, which translates to "the language of Finland".
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    Senior Member
    Actually the name of the country and the name of the language are not written in the same way:
    Suomi (= country)
    suomi / suomen kieli (= language)

    The adjective "Finnish" is suomalainen, e.g.:
    suomalainen ruoka (Finnish food)

    The adjective in the Germanic languages often corresponds to the genitive form in Finnish:
    Suomen presidentti (genitive)
    English: the Finnish president (adjective)
    German: der finnische Präsident (adjective)
    Swedish: den finska presidenten (adjective)

    In the same way:
    suomen kieli / Finnish language
    Here the initial letter is small, because all the language names are written systematically with a small initial letter.

    I did not answer the third question. If anyone of you knows the answer, please write your comment. Thank you.
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    New Member
    Thank you very much Maunulan Pappa and Marko55. But what I was asking was:

    (1) why one can simply say suomi/Suomi (capitalised or not, in speech there is no distinction) for both language and country?
    (I mean, in other languages we could not say 'I speak England' or 'jag pratar Sverige/Finland', or 'Ich spreche Deutchland');
    (2) which use came first: I mean, was the term suomi/Suomi used first about the language and then about the country, or viceversa?
    (3) and in case that Suomi was first the name of the country, when did people start using that word on its own to mean the language? (instead of using Suomi only to refer to the country, and calling the language only suomen kieli).

    With many thanks again.


    Senior Member
    Question 1:
    I am sorry to say, but it is difficult for me to understand this question. It seems that the orthographic difference (Suomi/suomi) is not enough for you. This is not strange from the point of view of the native speakers. When we hear a sentence like (Hän puhuu saksaa), we don't think of a situation where the country is coming out of his mouth. :rolleyes:

    If I just think of my mother tongue, I could ask many questions about English in the same way. E.g.:
    suomalainen ruoka = Finnish food
    Suomen presidentti = the Finnish president
    Here I could ask, why you speak about "suomalainen presidentti". It sounds strange to me.


    Senior Member
    The language names would be much longer, if we used the adjectives in Finnish. Compare:
    Hän puhuu englantia, saksaa ja ruotsia.
    *Hän puhuu englantilaista, saksalaista ja ruotsalaista.


    New Member
    Not a native Finnish speaker, only been here for 4 years, but that puts me in the same position of questioning the language.

    1) because it's how the language is. The word for the country and the language just happens to be the same (with the exception of capitalization). Just as sink is both where you do the dishes and the verb for going underwater.

    2/3)the name of the language is "suomi" while "suomen kieli" means "the language of Finland". Try to think of it this way: you don't ask people "Do you speak the English language?". But when you're writing about the language, it's nice to use both expressions to refer to it, so your text isn't repetitive of one expression.
    So it's not about when one became more used over the other - they both are current and present.