Native toSápmi
Extinctaround 500 AD
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Languages of northern Europe in the early iron age

Paleo-Laplandic is a hypothetical group of extinct but related languages spoken in Sápmi (northern Scandinavia). The speakers of Paleo-Laplandic languages switched to Sámi languages, and the languages became extinct around AD 500. A considerable amount of words in Sámi languages originate from Paleo-Laplandic;[1] more than 1,000 loanwords from Paleo-Laplandic likely exist. Many toponyms in Sápmi originate from Paleo-Laplandic. Because Sámi language etymologies for reindeers have preserved a large number of words from Paleo-Laplandic, this suggests that Paleo-Laplandic groups influenced Sámi culture.[2]

Due to irregular correspondences in Sámi loanwords from Paleo-Laplandic, it can be theorized that the words were borrowed from distinct but related languages that were characterized in the west by an s-type sibilant, while in the east it was an š-type sibilant.

Many words relating to the environment or reindeer such as ája ("spring") are likely loanwords from Paleo-Laplandic into Sámi.[3][4] The substrate words have no apparent parallels to any known language. Linguist Jurij Kuzmenko [de] compared them with the Pre-Germanic substrate words but found no similarities aside from a distinction between central and peripheral accentuation.[5]

List of substratum words

Northern Sami[6]
Substratum Word English
áidni bearded seal
ákču harbor seal
buovjja beluga
dealljá harp seal
deavut gray Seal
gáhtir seal's flipper
jeagis bearded seal
jiepma seal pup
morša walrus
noarvi seal
njuorjju seal
oaidu ringed seal
riehkku middle-sized harbor seal
roahkka harbor seal
rohka full-grown male seal
skávdu 2-year old harbor seal
skuogga baleen
vieksi young harbor seal


A large amount of Sami root words that start with the Č or K sounds tend to be from Paleo-Laplandic. Paleo-Laplandic like Sami had many different words for describing different types of animals, weather, and geographical features they often encountered.[6]


The time from 1 AD to 700 AD was a time of massive change in Sapmi, as Proto-Sami speakers migrated north from Southern Finland and Karelia to northern Fennoscandia. During this process the Paleo-Laplandic language was supplanted by Proto-Sami, though it is unclear if Paleo-Laplandic had any contact with Old Norse.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Weinstock, John (2018). Common Era Sápmi Language Replacement: Motivation and Mechanisms (Technical report). Austin, Texas: University of Texas. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.30925.33768.
  2. ^ Haarmann, Harald (2016). Modern Finland. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-1-4766-2565-2.
  3. ^ Aikio, Ante (2012). "An Essay on Saami Ethnolinguistic Prehistory" (PDF). Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia/Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne (266). Helsinki: 63–117.
  4. ^ Aikio, Ante (2004). "An Essay on Substrate Studies and the Origin of Saami". In Irma Hyvärinen; Petri Kallio; Jarmo Korhonen (eds.). Etymologie, Entlehnungen und Entwicklungen: Festschrift für Jorma Koivulehto zum 70. Geburtstag. Mémoires de la Société Néophilologique de Helsinki. Vol. 63. Helsinki. pp. 5–34 – via book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ Kuzmenko, Jurij K. (2008). Der samische Einfluss auf die skandinavischen Sprachen: Ein Beitrag zur skandinavischen Sprachgeschichte [The Sami Influence on the Scandinavian Languages: A Contribution to the History of the Scandinavian Language] (in German) (1 ed.). Berlin: Humboldt-Universität zu Bln Nordeuropa Inst. ISBN 978-3-932406-25-6. OCLC 244629279.
  6. ^ a b c Aikio, Ante (May 9, 2019). How did Lapland become Saami? Reconstructing the interaction of Proto-Saami, Proto-Norse and Palaeo-Laplandic language communities in the Iron Age. CONTACTS: Archaeology, genetics, languages - joining forces to shed light on early contacts (4000 BC - 1000 AD) between Indo-European and Uralic speakers. Helsinki. pp. 17–36 – via