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Sámi languages

The Sámi languages are Uralic languages with about 24,500 speakers in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The area traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people is known as Sápmi in North Sámi, Saemie in South Sámi and Sameland in Norwegian and Swedish. The Sámi languages are divided into two groups: Western and Eastern, and there are various subdivisions within each group. The Sámi languages were formerly known as Lapp, but that name is now considered derogatory.

Mutual intelligibility

There is quite a lot of mutual intelligibility between neighbouring Sámi languages, however speakers of more widely separated languages cannot understand one another without learning or extensive exposure to the other language.

Official status


In Norway Sámi languages have offical status in the counties of Finnmark and Troms, and in the municipalities of Kautokeino, Karasjok, Gáivuotna (Kåfjord), Nesseby, Porsanger, Tana, Tysfjord, Lavangen and Snåsa.


Since 2002 Sámi languages have been recognised as minority languages in Sweden and have official status in Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Kiruna municipalities. In these areas they can be used in government agencies, courts, pre-schools and nursing homes.


North Sámi, Skolt Sámi and Inari Sámi are offically recognised in Finland and Sámi people have the right to use Sámi languages for all government services. Sámi languages have offical status in the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari, Sodankylä and Utsjoki.


The Sámi people are recognised as an indigenous people in the Russian Federation, however their languages have no official status.

Written languages

The first Sámi language to be used extensively in writing was Ume Sámi: an Ume Sámi translation of the New Testament was first published in 1755, and a complete translation of the bible in 1811.

Six of the nine living Sámi languages currently have standard written forms:

The other Sámi languages are:

Tower of Babel in North and South Sámi


Information about the Sámi languages and peopleámi.htm

Online Sámi lessons

Sámi phrases

Online Sámi Radio

Saami University College

Sametinget / Samediggi / Sámi Parliament of Sweden

Sámi languages

Inari Sámi, Kildin Sámi, Lule Sámi, Northern Sámi, Pite Sámi, Skolt Sámi, Southern Sámi, Ter Sámi, Ume Sámi

Other languages written with the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets