Florian Siegl florian.siegl at gmx.net
Mon Oct 29 12:44:27 UTC 2012

Over the last month, the Department of Finno-Ugric studies in Helsinki 
has collected and re-evaluated existing statistical data concerning 
estimated numbers of speakers (!) of individual Uralic languages. As 
this data is biased, we have decided to make our estimations available 
on Ura-List in order to gather feedback and suggestions. The overall 
intention is NOT to present an exact number of speakers (see also 
principles in the attached file) which would result in a sanctioned 
list, but to arrive at a reasonably realistic estimation which can be 
used e. g. in teaching, research or PR work. Although this should not 
need any further explanation, we wish to exemplify this with two 
instances which demonstrate the urgency of such an endeavor; the number 
of Lule Saami speakers has been estimated as roughly 1500-2000, and this 
number has been around for a longer period. Recent estimations from 
within the Lule Saami community operate with roughly 700 speakers only – 
the resulting discrepancy is 50%. A similar case is to be expected for 
Forest Nenets. The number of speakers has been reported exceeding 1000 
for quite a while now, but may actually not exceed 700 when taking 
general demographic trends into consideration.

Further, several languages were once a while reported as extinct (e. g. 
Livonian, Ume Saami and Pite Saami) though for all languages L1 speakers 
could still be found. Possibly Akkala Saami could also be added to this 

As Ura-List, unfortunately, does not stimulate much online discussion, 
we encourage subscribers to comment this particular matter online. Of 
course, we also welcome offline comments. These should be sent to 
florian.siegl at helsinki.fi <mailto:florian.siegl at helsinki.fi>. Please 
state on which kind of evidence your assumptions rest and if possible 
provide links to further online resources, own work etc. Please also 
state if we are allowed to quote your data/assumption publicly as p. c. 
if this would become necessary.

A summary will be posted on Ura-List. A more “official” mode of 
representation is currently also thought of perhaps resulting in an 
updated version of the 1992 map /Geographical Distribution of the Uralic 
Languages/ (then compiled by Grünthal & Salminen). A suitable online 
forum is also currently debated on.

Last, but not least, please forward this message to colleagues and 
language activists who are not subscribers of Ura-List.

Florian Siegl

PhD, researcher

Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies,
P.O.Box 24
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

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