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Sounds familiar? It’s because it’s an English loan word

If you're an English speaker new to the Finnish language you may have wondered why some words seem so familiar, while others seem so utterly foreign. You’re not losing your mind. Those comforting sounding terms may just be English-language loan words incorporated into Finnish by popular usage.

Lexicographers say that new loan words entering the Finnish language reflect popular trends, but they're often not recommended for official purposes. Image: Yle Etelä-Karjala

Bloggaaja, deitti, downshiftaus, hybridiauto, netti, nude, pimpata, spoilata, trolli, video, videoblogi, hipsteri. There's a reason why some of these words may seem comfortingly recognisable to English-speakers. It's because they've been first borrowed, then firmly established in the Finnish language by popular usage.

According to Tarja Heinonen, a lexicographer with the Institute for Languages in Finland, Kotus, the number of English-language loan words making their way into Finnish conversations is growing every year.

“I would say that most words that have been recently adopted have been related to computer and internet. Like 'spammata' to spam,  'googlata' or 'googlettaa' to google, print and scan are in Finnish 'printata' and 'skannata'," Heinonen told Yle News.

Youth culture, sport, music and fashion popular sources

Heinonen says that other areas are also making their mark in everyday Finnish communication. They include youth culture, music, even fashion -- and especially social media.

There’s also evidence of other languages creeping into Finnish, but perhaps to a lesser extent. According to Heinonen, these influences are more often related to cuisine, for example. And sports fans will no doubt recognise the Italian term “tifo", as well as the Portuguese “futsal”.

New loan words included in Finnish online and printed dictionaries reflect their popular usage. But Heinonen cautions that this doesn't necessarily mean that their use is officially sanctioned.

"Actually there exist Finnish words that are equivalent in meaning, but for some reason we tend to adopt them (loan words) anyway because they are familiar and widely used. They are not official recommendations once they are taken into the dictionary. We often mark them with special signs, like "arkinen", or “colloquial” so people know that you can use it, but perhaps not in all contexts," she added.

Lexicographers recording, not sanctioning trends

According to Heinonen, this loan word trend reflects increasing direct contact with the English language - in much the same way that Swedish impacted on Finnish in a bygone era.

“It used to be that most loan words came either through or directly from Swedish. About 100 years ago that was the major source where our loan words came from – it was from Swedish. Even though they were originally from French or English or Latin,” she explained.

The lexicographer says the trend towards using English-language loan words may unsettle lingusitic purists, but she couldn't offer any real words of comfort.

“I feel that we are serving people by offering the information about the recent loan words in Finnish. We don't take responsibility for it. It's just something that we register. We are not taking a stand on whether this is fine or less favourable,” she concluded.

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