Bjarmian languages
Native speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Map of Biarmia.jpg

Bjarmian languages are a group of extinct Finnic languages once spoken in Bjarmia (Arkhangelsk), in the Dvina basin.[1] Vocabulary of the languages in Bjarmia can be reconstructed from toponyms in the Arkhangelsk region, and a few words are documented by Norse travelers. However some Saamic toponyms can also be found in the Dvina basin.[2][3]

Influence in Russian

Some Finnic substrate words can be found in Northern Russian dialects, for example the words: лахта (lahta) 'marsh, moist place, meadow', луда (luda) 'rocky islet', каска (kaska) ‘young woods’ and щелья (schelja) ‘hill or steep bank by a river’, can be found in the Russian dialects around Pinega, and come from Finnic languages.[2]

Norse sagas


Gandvík is a name that appears in Norse poems, Gandvík was associated with Bjarmia, the word could have been a Norse translation of a Finnic word, which is "Kantalahti" in Finnish.


The word Vína appears in many Norse sagas, that refer to Bjarmia, it is likely related to the Finnish word "Vienanmeri" (White Sea).


Norse sagas documented a Bjarmian word "Jómali", which is likely related to Finnish "Jumala" 'God'.[3]


Many toponyms in the Arkhangelsk oblast are of Finno–Ugric origin, together with the Vologda oblast, according to Matveev, there are up to 100,000 toponyms of Finno–Ugric origin.[2]

Bjarmian English
*kaski burnt-over clearing
*hattara bush
*lauta board
*palttV slope
*lima slime
*kelta yellow
*petra wild reindeer
*pime dark
*haina hay
*leettek fine sand
*varkas thief
*kicca narrow
*ruske red
*kylmä cold


There were likely many Finnic languages spoken in Bjarmia, the first one was an archaic Finnic language with the diphthong *ai instead of Finnic ei, lack of consonant gradation and the vowel /ɤ/.

Later a Karelian-like language started to be spoken in Bjarmia, which did not have the Karelian sound shift of /aa/ into /ua/. Some toponyms in Bjarmia also have the sound /ʃ/ instead of /s/.

However there were likely some Saamic languages spoken in Bjarmia, alongside Finnic languages.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Hauge, Arne (22 November 2018). "Kadonnut, Mystinen Bjarmia". Ruijan Kaiku (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Saarikivi, Janne. Substrata Uralica: Studies on Finno-Ugrian Substrate in Northern Russian Dialects (PhD). Helsinki, Finland: University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4519-6.
  3. ^ a b Koskela Vasaru, Mervi (2016). Bjarmaland (PhD). Acta Universitatis Ouluensis B Humaniora 145. Oulu, Finland: University of Oulu. ISBN 978-952-62-1396-5.