Finnish Grammar

Jun'ichi SAKUMA Professor

Department: School of Letters / Graduate School of Letters

Class Time: 2008 Spring Tuesday
Recommended for: Sophomores and above in the School of Letters/ juniors and above in other schools/ Doctorates

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Course Contents

Linguistics is a field of study that focuses on the structure of human language. To understand the structure of human language, it is better to know many different types of language. There are similarities in human language, but they cannot be recognized without first understanding its diversity.

In this course, we will learn the basics of Finnish grammar. Though the language is spoken in Europe, its features differ greatly from those of other European languages, such as English, German, French, and Russian. Hopefully, the encounter with Finnish will give students an opportunity to think about the diversity and universality of human language.

Compared to English, the Finnish language has many declensions. This may give the impression that Finnish is rather difficult to master. However, because the declensions follow a strict pattern, understanding these patterns leave only a few exceptions to be learned. Besides the declensions, we will be studying the usage of cases, how to write interrogative and negative sentences, existential sentences and possessive sentences, and impersonal passive sentences.

Key Feature

In learning a new language, there are some things that must be memorized in order to progress, but with classes held only once every week, not all students can remember what they have memorized. If things continue in this manner, some may end up spending a full semester having learned essentially nothing. Increasing the frequency of lessons is perhaps the best way, but due to constraints in class scheduling, I instead give out assignments for the students to do at home.

The assignments also help students to get into the habit of reviewing each lesson thoroughly. The assignments are also handy in determining students' understanding of the previous lesson, and this allows for improvements in the following sessions. This requires the assignments to be turned in before the next session, by Friday after each session. The assignments can then be checked, graded, and corrected over the weekend, ready to be handed back to students on next Tuesday's session.

It would be difficult for anyone to maintain concentration for a full 90 minutes, if the session's contents were 100% grammatical lessons. Throughout the course, students will also enjoy a wide variety of audio-visual references and topics related to Finnish society and culture.

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Course Aims

The main objective of this course is to get a general view of the characteristics in the sentence structures of the Finnish language, and to understand the similarities and differences in basic grammar compared with other languages. This forms the basis from which students can discuss the universality of human language.

As this course is a linguistics course, we will not focus completely on the acquisition of the Finnish language. Still, when applying one's knowledge in considering the diversity and universality of language, a certain degree of skill in basic grammar is essential. Therefore, I would advise students to at least fully understand the basic grammatical patterns and basic expressions in Finnish.


There are no conditions on taking this course. Knowledge on the Finnish Language is not required, either.

Acquisition of a foreign language requires daily training. Since the once-a-week sessions do not meet this requirement, some assignments will be handed out, which will also act as a review of the day's lesson. Work on them and turn them in on the Friday following that week's session. Also, please work on the following week's chapter as well. These assignments should take some time to finish. Please keep that in mind as we progress through the course.


Session 3:
Assignments (PDF, 54KB)
Answers (PDF, 51KB)
Session 4:
Assignments (PDF, 61KB)
Answers (PDF, 54KB)
Session 5:
Assignments (PDF, 57KB)
Answers (PDF, 56KB)
Session 6:
Assignments (PDF, 72KB)
Answers (PDF, 70KB)
Session 7:
Assignments (PDF, 66KB)
Answers (PDF, 66KB)
Session 8:
Assignments (PDF, 59KB)
Answers (PDF, 61KB)
Session 9:
Assignments (PDF, 76KB)
Answers (PDF, 61KB)
Session 10:
Assignments (PDF, 73KB)
Answers (PDF, 67KB)
Session 11:
Assignments (PDF, 64KB)
Answers (PDF, 72KB)
Session 12:
Assignments (PDF, 74KB)
Answers (PDF, 58KB)
Session 13:
Assignments (PDF, 79KB)
Answers (PDF, 62KB)
Session 14:
Assignments (PDF, 80KB)
Answers (PDF, 68KB)
Session 15:
Assignments (PDF, 63KB)
Answers (PDF, 64KB)

Course Schedule

Session Contents
1 Basics of the Finnish language
2 Finnish Pronunciation
3 Basic Sentence Structures
4 Personal Conjugation
5 Interrogative Sentences
6 Local Cases
7 Cardinal Numbers
8 Impersonal Passive Sentences
9 Object
10 Existential Sentences / Possessive Sentences
11 Consonant Gradation
12 Complements
13 Postpositions
14 Possessive Suffixes
15 Honorific Style


Grading will be based on attendance (20%), overall performance in the assignments (30%), and the final examination (50%). Consistent effort is essential in learning foreign languages. Attendance and assignments will be used to determine students' motivation.

The final exam will test students' understanding of the basic structure of the Finnish language, while at the same time testing their knowledge of basic expressions and patterns in Finnish.

The final exam (PDF, 76KB) and the answers (PDF, 60KB) are posted here. The duration of the exam is 90 minutes, and students are permitted to bring in textbooks, handouts, and notes of their own. In addition, students are also given a list of the words (PDF, 69KB) that are used in the exams.

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Lecture Handouts

Note: All files are in Japanese.

Session 1: Basics of the Finnish Language
Session Objectives (PDF, 164KB)
Handouts (PDF, 78KB)
Session 2: Finnish Pronunciation
Session Objectives (PDF, 142KB)
Handouts (PDF, 65KB)
Session 3: Basic Sentence Structures
Session Objectives (PDF, 162KB)
Handouts (PDF, 57KB)
Session 4: Personal Conjugation
Session Objectives (PDF, 175KB)
Handouts (PDF, 69KB)
Session 5: Interrogative Sentences
Session Objectives (PDF, 160KB)
Handouts (PDF, 67KB)
Session 6: Local Cases
Session Objectives (PDF, 157KB)
Handouts (PDF, 81KB)
Session 7: Cardinal Numbers
Session Objectives (PDF, 178KB)
Handouts (PDF, 70KB)
Session 8: Impersonal Passive Sentences
Session Objectives (PDF, 189KB)
Handouts (PDF, 72KB)
Session 9: Object
Session Objectives (PDF, 189KB)
Handouts (PDF, 75KB)
Session 10: Existential Sentences / Possessive Sentences
Session Objectives (PDF, 191KB)
Handouts (PDF, 74KB)
Session 11: Consonant Gradation
Session Objectives (PDF, 156KB)
Handouts (PDF, 68KB)
Session 12: Complements
Session Objectives (PDF, 191KB)
Handouts (PDF, 48KB)
Session 13: Postpositions
Session Objectives (PDF, 171KB)
Handouts (PDF, 56KB)
Session 14: Possessive Suffixes
Session Objectives (PDF, 145KB)
Handouts (PDF, 70KB)
Session 15: Honorific Style
Session Objectives (PDF, 156KB)
Handouts (PDF, 74KB)

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Page last updated February 1, 2011

The class contents were most recently updated on the date indicated. Please be aware that there may be some changes between the most recent year and the current page.

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