Is it wrong to call Finland a Scandinavian country?

Hi

Is it wrong to call Finland a Scandinavian country? I’ve seen it referred to Fennoscandian, but I’m not sure if it’s incorrect to simply call it Scandinavian.

I look forward to your feedback.
davidmich

You mean morally?

They don’t speak a Scandinavian language and as a former colony of Sweden I think Finns can be slightly touchy about being lumped in with their former colonists. These days they are not normally defined as part of Scandinavia. But they do tend to get associated with Scandinavia, like it or not.

As someone living in Sweden, here is how I see it:

Scandinavia is a cultural rather than geographic term. It refers to the three countries that speak mutually intelligible languages and have a shared history: Denmark, Sweden, Norway.

Finland is not an integral part of this history. The name of the Finnish people comes from the old Swedish word ‘finn’, which meant ‘wanderer’ and set them apart from Scandinavian sedentary farmers. And its language has nothing at all to do with any other Scandinavian language.

So no, I don’t think Finland can be considered a Scandinavian country. It is definitely a Nordic country though

If referring to Finland as part of the neighboring countries, I’d use Nordic countries.

Scandinavia is Denmark+Norway+Sweden. No Iceland, either, although they are Scandinavian/North Germanic speakers. Many Finns of course do speak a Germanic language. Over 5% of the population speaks Swedish as a first language. Finns of all stripes of course may speak English or Swedish as a second language, other Scandinavian or Germanic languages, or anything else.

However, part of Finland juts out right below Norway, so I believe that part of Finland is considered to be on the Scandinavian peninsula. Fennoscandian works well, depending on context.

How does Iceland fit in with that? Is it considered a Scandinavian country? I’m no expert, but I seem to recall that Icelandic is related to the Scandinavian languages but not mutually intelligible with them, being closer to old Norse. If I am wrong someone please correct me.

I am no expert, but I’m pretty sure Swedish, Danish, and Bokmål Norwegian speakers find Icelandic mostly hard to understand, and vice versa. Closer is the Nynorsk standard of Norwegian, which is used in 27% of municipalities in Norway, or 12% of people (I think this does not include places that have no strong preference towards either). But even then, a conversation may be difficult.

ETA: Generally speaking, Iceland is not in Scandinavia. But they speak a Scandinavian language…

Edit 2: I believe Faroese is closer to Icelandic. A language from the Faroe Islands, an autonomous part of Denmark.

Here’s the relationship tree of the Scandinavian languages as given in Ethnologue:

http://www.ethnologue.com/subgroups/north-1

And here’s the Wikipedia entry on Old Norse:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Norse

As you can see, Ethnologue considers Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Jutish, Faroese, and Icelandic to be separate languages. Ethnologue tends to error on the side of splitting up things into separate languages rather than dialects of a language, so these languages may be similar but not quite mutually intelligible. They are all descendants of Old Norse.

I am a frequent traveller to Finland, and my friends & colleagues there have been very clear in correcting me when i call it a Scandanavian country. They were also pretty contemptuous regarding Sweden.

Exactly. Knowing Swedish, I can read a text in Icelandic and understand the gist of it about 50% of the time - that already makes it better than Finnish. But our languages and cultures drifted apart a long, long time ago, so Icelandic has to be classed as Nordic, but not Scandinavian.

I think that has to do with the cultural meaning of ‘Scandinavia’. Sweden, Norway and Demark have spent centuries fighting and dominating each other. Even as recently as the 1940s, Sweden pretty much allowed the Nazis to march into Norway. And yet there has always been, and still is, some degree of respect between the three countries and their peoples. Finland is a completely different story. It was always on the receiving end of Scandinavian wars of invasion, always seen as an inferior nation, its people never respected. Finns have good reasons to not like Sweden.

(Having said that, Finland would have lost an entire generation of children were it not for the generosity of its Scandinavian neighbours. But I’m sailing off-topic now)

Old gag: What does Sweden have the Finland doesn’t have?

Answer: Good Neighbors (look at a map)

Scandinavia consists of the two countries on the Scandinavian peninsula Norway and Sweden pluss Denmark, in part because of the cultural connection between the three, and in part because Denmark consists mainly of sand scoured off Norway during the last Ice Age. (Yeah, not really.)

Finland isn’t on the peninsula, the main language isn’t Indo-European, and thus isn’t considered Scandinavian by the vast majority of Scandinavians and Finns. There are a lot of cultural similarities though, due to proximity and Swedish rule, but in all cultural and political cooperation the term Nordic is used, such as for the Nordic Council.

Iceland, while sharing a close history and being ruled by Norway and/or Denmark until fairly recently, is distinct because it’s way off in the ocean and has a language which has kept a lot of Norse characteristics. To a Scandinavian untrained in Norse or Icelandic, reading Icelandic is a bit like reading Old English to an English speaker, although probably not quite as hard. Faeroese is similar but, I believe, slightly closer to Danish.

Got to get my disclaimer out of the way: I am not from any of the involved countries, and therefore get no say in what they prefer to be called and stuff. Nor am I any kind of expert in their language and/or culture. What I offer is anecdotal and/or layman’s opinions.

Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are very similar cultures with very similar languages. I have often been told (once by a scholar of Danish descent who spoke Danish and specialized in Danish Literature and Danish History) that if three men gathered in a room, one Dane, one Swede, one Norwegian, they could each speak nothing but their native language and be perfectly understood by both of the others (occasionally with the proviso that the Swede is limited to a 3rd grade vocabulary), so they are not separate languages so much as dialects of the same language.
Finnish is a totally different language. As in, not only not like those languages, not only not Germanic, but I am told that linguistically Hungarian is the only language on earth that is related to Finnish, and that is distantly at best.

So you can see why Finland might consider itself apart from Scandinavia, and vice-versa.

On the other hand, they come from very similar climates and terrain, they are neighbors, and so you’d expect certain similarities. I made a casual overview of their pre-Christian religions and found them to be very similar.

On the other other hand, recent history has reinforced the differences, as Finland tried to keep on the good side of the USSR at least far enough to not get invaded (again), while Sweden, Norway, and Denmark had the luxury of being more anti-USSR due to not sharing border with it.

Batistuta writes:

> But our languages and cultures drifted apart a long, long time ago, so Icelandic
> has to be classed as Nordic, but not Scandinavian.

Icelandic is definitely a Scandinavian language. Look at the relationship tree I linked to in my post. Icelandic began drifting away from the other Scandinavian languages when Iceland was first settled in 874 A.D. Icelandic is thus no further from the other Scandinavian languages than English is from the other West Germanic languages like Dutch or German, so calling it Nordic is misleading. It’s reasonable to say that Iceland is not a Scandinavian country, since it’s not on the same peninsula as the other Scandinavian countries, but Icelandic is a Scandinavian language:

http://www.ethnologue.com/subgroups/germanic

SpyOne writes:

> I have often been told (once by a scholar of Danish descent who spoke Danish and
> specialized in Danish Literature and Danish History) that if three men gathered in a
> room, one Dane, one Swede, one Norwegian, they could each speak nothing but
> their native language and be perfectly understood by both of the others
> (occasionally with the proviso that the Swede is limited to a 3rd grade vocabulary),
> so they are not separate languages so much as dialects of the same language.

I think this is an exaggeration. They would not perfectly understand each other. From what I’ve read on the subject, it would be a stretch to understand each other. There’s no hard and fast distinction between dialects and languages, but most people would say that they’re different languages.

> Finnish is a totally different language. As in, not only not like those languages, not
> only not Germanic, but I am told that linguistically Hungarian is the only language
> on earth that is related to Finnish, and that is distantly at best.

Here is the relationship tree of Uralic, the family that Finnish is in. It’s related to 37 other languages, some of which aren’t well known. Estonian is the closest one that you’ve probably heard of:

http://www.ethnologue.com/subgroups/uralic

Thanks for the knowledgeable input. I stand corrected :wink:

Norwegians and Swedes understand each other perfectly. Danes and Norwegians also understand each other very well. The only real problem comes between Danes and Swedes, who have more trouble talking to each other. It would seem that Norwegian is the ‘in between’ language that bridges Danish and Swedish.

I think you use the word “perfectly” too much.

It has been said, as a very loose rule of thumb, that spoken Norwegian is closer to Swedish and written Norwegian is closer to Danish.

Here is some information, although the cite isn’t clear. The pertinent part:

[spoiler]Fig. A. An understanding of the spoken language

Norwegians understand 88% of the spoken Swedish language and understand 73% of the spoken Danish language.

Swedes understand 48% of the spoken Norwegian language and understand 23% of the spoken Danish language.

Danes understand 69% of the spoken Norwegian language and understand 43% of the spoken Swedish language.

Norwegian and Swedish have 68% oral intelligibility.
Norwegian and Danish have 71% oral intelligibility.
Norwegian has combined 69% oral intelligibility of Swedish and Danish.

Swedish and Norwegian have 68% oral intelligibility.
Swedish and Danish have 33% oral intelligibility.
Swedish has 48% combined oral intelligibility of Danish and Norwegian, less than for Spanish and Portuguese.

Danish has 33% oral intelligibility of Swedish.
Danish has 68% oral intelligibility of Norwegian.
Danish has 50% combined oral intelligibility of Swedish and Norwegian, less than for Spanish and Portuguese.

Fig. B. An understanding of the written language

Norwegians understand 89% of the written Swedish language and 93% of the written Danish language.

Swedes understand 86% of the written Norwegian language and 69% of the written Danish language.

Danes understand 89% of the written Norwegian language and 69% of the written Swedish language.

Norwegian and Swedish have 87.5% written intelligibility.
Norwegian and Danish have 91.5% written intelligibility.
Swedish and Danish have 69% written intelligibility.

Norwegian and Swedish have 89% written intelligibility.
Norwegian and Danish have 93% written intelligibility.
Norwegian has combined 91.5% written intelligibility of Swedish and Danish.

Swedish and Norwegian have 86% written intelligibility.
Swedish and Danish have 69% written intelligibility.
Swedish has 77.5% combined intelligibility of written Danish and Norwegian.

Danish has 69% written intelligibility of Swedish.
Danish has 89% written intelligibility of Norwegian.
Danish has 79% combined written intelligibility of Swedish and Norwegian.

[/spoiler]
IIRC Danish grammar is complex, and the pronunciation harder (like English with its “ghoti” or French vs. Italian or Japanese). I’ve seen it referred to as “drunk Norwegian” when spoken.

Old thread.

ETA: grain of salt, that page’s author seems a bit nutty.

Not so much. I have a hard time understanding what those potato-throated Danes are saying, most of the time :slight_smile: Swedes are okay to understand tough.

Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, and Turkish are of the Ural-Altaic family of languages; most speakers are in central Asia.

However, as Tom Burnam pointed out:
“In case any should question Iceland (or, as sometimes happens, even Finland) as a ‘Scandinavian’ country, it should be pointed out that Icelanders and Finns certainly consider themselves Scandinavian, and somewhat resent the tendency to confine the application of ‘Scandinavian’ to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Even though the language of the Finns is not, like the others, Germanic [or even Indo-European, as has been noted above], all five of the countries consider themselves bound by common cultural ties. (Finland is bilingual; Finnish and Swedish are both official languages.) All five countries use national flags of identical design, only the colors differentiating one from another.”–Dictionary of Misinformation (1975), p. 291.

Sweden has exerted a marked cultural influence on Finland for over eight centuries now.
More than once one of these countries has been under the sovereignty of one of the others; before World War I, Finland was part of the Russian Empire.

Nowdays most linguists no longer believe that Ural-Altaic is a single family. It’s generally believed that Uralic and Altaic are two separate families:

Uralic:

http://www.ethnologue.com/subgroups/uralic

Altaic:

http://www.ethnologue.com/subgroups/altaic

Wikipedia article on why Ural-Altaic is no longer generally accepted:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ural–Altaic_languages