Estonian/Lesson 1

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search

Alphabet[edit]

Estonian alphabet is based on Latin alphabet, with German influence. Full alphabet has 32 letters:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, Š, Z, Ž, T, U, V, W, Õ, Ä, Ö, Ü, X, Y

So-called "foreign letters" ('võõrtähed) F, Š, Z and Ž occur only in loanwords and foreign proper names. C, Q, W, X and Y do not occur in Estonian words, but are used in writing foreign proper names.

Loanwords[edit]

Estonian has "borrowed" many words from other languages. Many of them have been altered more or less in the process of nativization.

Examples:

  • baar, pubi – bar, pub
  • buss – bus
  • dieet – diet
  • elevant – elephant
  • paber – paper
  • pank – bank
  • raadio – radio
  • süsteem – system
  • šampoon – shampoo
  • tee – tea
  • televisioon – television
  • tšekk – cheque
  • turist – tourist

Exercise[edit]

Figure out what these Estonian words are in English.

  1. projekt
  2. faks
  3. galerii
  4. skandaal
  5. idioot
  6. klassik
  7. koopia
  8. pomm
  9. kaart
  10. füüsika

Sounds[edit]

Vowels[edit]

Writing IPA Rough pronunciation guide
a [ɑ] like the "a" in "car"
e [e] like the "e" in "net"
i [i] like the "i" in "pink"
o [o] like the "o" in "sock"
u [u] like the "u" in "put"
õ [ɤ] somewhat like the "e" in "roses"
ä [æ] like the "a" in "cat"
ö [ø] just like the German ö in "Österreich" or "u" in "burn"
ü [y] just like the German ü in "über"

There are three vowel lenghts in Estonian: short, long and over-long. Short vowels are marked with one letter, but both long and over-long vowels are marked with two letters, for example:

  • tore [tore] "nice", toore [to:re] "raw material", toore [to::re] "raw (gen.sg.)".

So, as you may see, vowel lenght is sometimes crucial to understand the meaning of a word correctly.

Diphthongs[edit]

Diphthongs sound like the sounds of two letters pronounced quickly after each other. Try to pronounce them:

ae ai ao au
ea ei eo eu
ia io iu
oa oe oi ou
ua ue ui uo
õa õe õi õo õu
äe äi äo äu
öa öe öi
üa üe üi üo

Consonants[edit]

  • Consonants "b", "d", "g" are usually pronounced voiceless in Estonian, similar to "p", "t", "k".
  • "Š" is pronounced like "sh" in English and "ž" like "zh".
  • Consonant "j" sounds like "y" in "yoghurt".
  • "N", "t", "s", "l" may sound palatalized, which is not indicated in writing, but changes the meaning of a word, for example: palk [palk] "salary", palk [palʲk] "log".

Three different lenghts are possible with consonants too:

  • short peni "hound", long penni "penny (gen.sg.)", over-long penni "penny (acc.sg)".

But with stops it works like this:

  • short kabi "hoof", long kapi "cupboard (gen.sg.)", over-long kappi "cupboard (acc.sg.)"
  • short kade "jealous", long kate "cover", over-long katte "cover (gen.sg.)"
  • short lage "bare", long lake "slop", over-long lakke "to the ceiling"