"Our language"

Johanna Laakso johanna.laakso at UNIVIE.AC.AT
Mon Dec 16 10:39:55 UTC 2002

Dear all,

as we know, numerous ethnonyms around the world denote simply "people" or
"real people". Isn't it simply logical that the corresponding languages -
unless there are other grounds for  naming them - can only be distinguished
from other languages by calling them either "(real) people's language" or
"our language"?

Among the Finnic peoples, the best example are the Vepsians, whose ethnonym,
itself of an obscure origin, was (until the 20th century) only used by a
part of the people. Some speakers of Vepsian called themselves "Ludians"
(now better known as the name for a transition dialect between Vepsian and
Karelian; the name, of course, goes back to Russian ljudi 'people'), but --
according to E. N. Setälä who visited the Vepsians in 1889 and 1916 -- the
Vepsians east of the River Ojat' did not have a special name for their
ethnicity and language: they "just say 'speaks this language' or 'speaks
like us'." (For more information, Riho Grünthal's book on Finnic ethnonyms,
with an extensive summary online as well:
http://www.helsinki.fi/jarj/sus/julkaisut/ct/ct51grunthal.html, is warmly

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Johanna Laakso
Institut für Finno-Ugristik der Universität Wien
Universitätscampus, Spitalg. 2-4 Hof 7, A-1090 Wien
Tel. +43 1 4277 43009 | Fax +43 1 4277 9430
johanna.laakso at univie.ac.at | http://mailbox.univie.ac.at/Johanna.Laakso/

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