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Re: Voro-Seto natives out there??

From:SuomenkieliMaa <suomenkieli@...>
Date:Saturday, August 11, 2001, 2:57
--- Roger Mills <romilly@...> wrote:
> Matt33 wrote: > >Just wondering if anyone on this list would happen > to > >be a native speaker of Voro-Seto? Would anyone > here > >happen to know this natlang or any grammar of it? > > > >I found the following site: > > > > > I keep getting "Connection could not be > established", but I'll keep trying. > Are you sure the URL is correct? > > Where is Voro-Seto spoken? Must confess, I've never > heard the name.....
Hi Roger, That's funny because when I click on, the url comes up right away. Any luck yet? Well, I've pasted it for your easy reference. ------------------------------------------------------- Võro-Seto Language There are people all over the world who have heard at least something about the Finnish or Estonian language as well as about the two nations using these languages. Some people have even heard that those languages are very similar but very different from other modern European languages. It is extremely rare, however, to meet somebody who has heard that there are still more tiny tongues related to Finnish and Estonian and that they all belong to the Finno-Ugric family of the Uralic languages and come from the Balto-Finnic branch. The majority of these small languages are native to tiny groups, which primarily inhabit northwestern Russia except for one, the Livonians, who are situated on the Baltic coast of Latvia. But there is still one more. This language is spoken in southeastern Estonia, where the borders of Estonia meet those of Latvia and Russia. The speakers of that language are usually looked upon as Estonians and they themselves think and feel like Estonians. Nevertheless it is becoming increasingly clear that their language is actually a special one and must be considered as an independent Balto-Finnic language. The language is called Võro-Seto. The name consists of a double ethnonyme because there are two ethnic groups that share the language. Despite a similar language, these two are rather different. The larger group, the Võro people, is Lutheran Protestants when they belong to any religion at all. Generally, Võro culture is very much the same as the all-Estonian one except for the language. The smaller ethnic group, the Seto people, is Greek Orthodox. Their culture has some Russian features in it, but is nevertheless their own. The Seto runo song culture is a very ancient one and has parallels in the way the Mordovian peoples sing in the Middle Volga region of Russia. Not everything is quite clear in the history and historical development of these ethnic units. There are many problems and unanswered questions to which the students of Estonian and Balto-Finnic as well as the Baltic humanitarians provide different explanations. Most of them would agree, however, that there were Balto-Finnic tribes inhabiting the northern part of the eastern coastal region of Baltic during the first centuries of our age. These tribes were generally divided in two groups - the North Estonians and the South Estonians. The border between them has remained almost untouched since the beginning of 20th century. Except for the coastal belt of the Livonian Bay, which was settled in the early Middle Ages by North Estonians, and for some of the islands, the language used across southern Estonia remained South Estonian. The precise range of this language to the South and especially to the East during the earlier times remains disputable. It is possible, however, that the regions currently called North Latvia and Pskov (Russia) were at one time linguistically South Estonian and were subsequently Latvianized and Russified in the course of centuries. It is still under debate whether the South Estonian-speaking pockets or the language islets, such like Lutsi (Ludza) and Kraasna (Krasino), have ancient roots or were formed by refugees during the lasting and devastating wars of the 1500s and 1600s. One thing is quite clear - there were distinctive dialects in Estonia that were essentially South Estonian. Those were the Mulgi dialect South of the town of Viljandi, the Tartu dialect accordingly South of the town of Tartu, and the Võro dialect, which extended over the provincial border from the German-oriented Livonian province to the "real" Russia, where lived the ethnic group called the Setos lived. The history of written Estonian began with the beginning of the Reformation. There are some records about a Lutheran book printed in Germany in the early 1500s, but the book has not been preserved. Attempts to develop written Estonian continued and by the end of 16th century we have some printed examples of both Estonian languages. It must be mentioned that the text in South Estonian that was translated from Latin by Polish Jesuits may be a far better example of a "good language" than all the contemporary works produced by the German and Swedish clergymen in the North. It should be said that a similar fate befell both languages until the end of the 1700s. Although the written South Estonian language was much closer to the language of people, richer in vocabulary, and the first one used in the translation of the New Testament in 1686, the Northern Estonian language obtained step by step greater significance especially during the period when the Russian Empire conquered Estonia from the Swedish kings in the beginning of 18th century. By the end of the century, there were more books in the North Estonian and there was a full translation of the Bible into Northern Estonian while the South had none. Nevertheless, the coexistence of two Estonian languages continued until 1880. Then, under the influence of the European-liberal oriented nationalist movement it was more or less unanimously decided that there must be "one nation and one language". The beginning of the 20th century was the period for the rapid development of the Northern-based Estonian literary language. By the 1930s, the language iwas ready for all the tasks and purposes that one could ask from any modern European civilized language. At the very same time another process began that has been as rapid in many ways. This has been a sort of disappearance of the local peasant dialects of Estonia. This must be understood as a process during which the local dialects lose most of their specific features and as a time when those dialects that are left are used sporadically or mixed with other words and grammatical forms. This is what happened in the case of the Mulgi and Tartu districts of southern Estonia. Those dialects have even been somewhat closer to the Northern language than others. This, however, has not been the case with Võro and Seto dialects. Although these dialects experienced many changes and lost some differences, they continued to exist as languages. One essential difference between the complex relations that could be described as " a language and its dialects" that occur in the majority of European national languages and the Estonian case is the duration of the course of history we have had to deal with. It may well be that at the same time when the first stones were put into the walls of Rome, the differences between the two languages that were to become South Estonian and North Estonian already existed. There are some phonetic features that have been considered especially old. First of all kt > tt must be mentioned, while the corresponding change in the Finnish and in the North Estonian is: kt >-ht *koktu > kõtt "stomach" n. Estonian kõht; vatt "foam", compare with N. Estonian vaht or the Finnish kohtu (*okten > ote(n) (gen) an ancient word for "bear", nowadays in place names, for example Otepää, a rather well-known ski resort in Tartu shire near the Võro shire´s border). As old as the previous development is considered to be: pts > ts. *laptsi > lat´s "child", N. Estonian laps, Finnish lapsi. There are some morphological features as well that are considered to represent the older developments of the South Estonian. For example the Indicative Present Singular Person 3 has usually a suffix -B < pi as with the ending or alternative suffix *ksen. The last is rather rare in the North Estonian - one can find it in only few words . The contemporary South Estonian suffix is -s; kir´otas´" (he) is writing, (he) writes". Compare the North Estonian kirjutab. But there is another type of Ind Pr Sg 3 in the South Estonian, the one without any ending or suffix. For example and "(he) gives, (he) is giving", the North Estonian annab, which has been *antapi; tege, " (he) does, (he) is doing", the North Estonian teeb, which has most probably been *tekepi. The development occurs among the Balto-Finnic languages in only South Estonian and probably represent a development that occurred as the whole Balto-Finnic language group began to split. The majority of the differences, such as the case vowel harmony, are more recent of course. . With Balto-Finnic languages there is a general rule that if there is a front vowel at the beginning of a word only front vowels can follow. Accordingly, if the word begins with a back vowel then it must be followed by other back vowels. The North Estonian has lost this Balto-Finnic feature, possibly due to the influence of German, Low German and especially Swedish. Küla (est.) village - külä (s. est.) - kylä (fin.) - tshülä (vot.). In everyday life one can notice the difference first in vocabulary . Here are some pairs of words: North Estonian South Estonian English koer pini a dog lind tsirk a bird saba hand a tail kask kõiv a birch oder kesv a barley loom elläi an animal But more often there are phonetic differences that are so serious one would have difficulty understanding them if not prepared: juuksed hiussõq the hair teivas saivas a pole There are many words in both Estonian languages, however, that coincide entirely or in some grammatical case: North Estonian South Estonian Finnish Vepsian English vesi vesi vesi vesi water kivi kivi kivi kivi (kibi) a stone, rock jalg jalg jalka jaug a leg, a foot Very often such words are common in all the Balto-Finnic languages. The contemporary South Estonian and North Estonian languages contain a number of differences. They are different in their vocabulary and phonetics, but the most remarkable are the grammatical parallels and the use of their devices in the process of forming speech. Fortunately, the differences in vocabulary are not due to different ways of obtaining loan words, that is true with a couple of exceptions. Let us deal here with one of them. The Võro people drink "tsäi" while the North Estonians have "tee". Both are the equivalent of English "tea". Both are also originally Chinese words, but the first one has travelled along the Silk Route on camelback and comes from Mandarin while the other has taken a different route, possibly with Portuguese caravans, and comes from Cantonese. Of course, the first arrived with the help of the Tartars and the Russian merchants and the nother has something to do more with the Dutchmen and the Low German-speaking merchants of the Hanseatic League. These are more or less exceptions, but the main differences in vocabulary occur in the oldest strata of the word stock. The easiest difference to notice in South Estonian is negation. When the North forms the Grammatical Negative with a Particle "ei", both in the Present and in the Past. "(I ) do not write", ei kirjuta, (I) did not write," ei kirjutan(u)d - the South says the same thing as: ei kir´ota, es kir´ota; or even kir´ota aiq, kir´ota õs. Now let us demonstrate both the differences and the similarities between the two languages: the Estonian and the Võro (the South Estonian) saying the same thing in the both tongues: Me ei saanud onu talus teed juua. (est.) Saaq õs miq lellä eloh tsäid juvvaq. (s. -est.) We could not have a tea at the uncle's farm. (English) The modern, recently developed literary Võro language uses a grapheme "q" to mark a glottal stop. This sound is one of the most difficult things for non-native speakers to learn in the Võro speech. The sound itself makes the Võro way speaking somewhat sharp. Thus, the Võro people "chop" when speaking while other Estonia more or less "sing". The version of North Estonian spoken on the Estonian Western Archipelago especially sounds like a sort of singing. Thus, the Võro-Seto language, more often called simply Võro, is a remnant from a considerably larger South-Estonian language. In a way it has a task to continue a very ancient line of linguistic tradition that is doomed to disappear. After the rather rapid liquidation of the South-Estonian literary tradition at the end of the 19th century, the written use of South-Estonian dialects remained predominantly a domain of poetry. The local Mulgi dialects especially found their poets. One example, a song, "Kodukotus" '(my)home(site)' by A. Rennit, which became very popular all over Estonia and even a number of North Estonians could recite the song by heart in its original dialect. Another field in which the southern dialects have found some use has been in humorous and pejorative texts. It has been a rather widespread practice to translate some foreign fiction that has some dialect dialogue in its text by means of translating these passages into some variety of South Estonian. Unfortunately the translators do not bother to do it in a proper way. Very often these passages have been in a mixture of dialects, often only something like South Estonian. This use of language is connected with such categories as social values and status. From the end of the 19th and during the first decades of the 20th century, the status of the southern local dialects has been lower then that of the northern dialects. The attitude of the average Estonian to the speakers of the southern dialects has been somewhat similar. This has been the case especially with the Seto ethnic group. At the same time, the number of admirers of the Seto runo song traditions continues to increase and not only in Estonia. There is also a growing interest in the colorful Seto folk costumes, which are unique since the women's full dresses decorated with heavy silver. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- By the end of the 1970s the attitude began to change. Among the educated Võro-born people there rose an idea of the Võro language. If became clear that while the other South-Estonian dialects were merging rapidly into common, colloquial Estonian the Võro (and Seto) language had different ways. By the time it had become obvious that the Võro-speaking people had continued to speak their language even though there existed a heavy Estonian influence, especially in vocabulary. The idea of restoring the Võro literary language did not die out. In the beginning of the 1980s, language activists received some information about children's difficulties when taught in a comparatively alien language. For instance there are problems understanding the Võro Present Tense since in many cases it sounds just like the Estonian Past Tense. So the schoolchildren mixed up all the grammatical time categories and this confusion also damaged their understanding of the English or the Russian verb. There were only a few opportunities to do something under the heavy regulatory system of the Soviet Union. But the ideas were moving and becoming more ripe, and when Gorbatchov's "perestroika" broke out the Võro-Seto activists were ready to act. Thus, a volunteer foundation was born in 1988 and energetic work could begin. Many texts have been published during the following years. At the same time, the task of unifying the orthography was undertaken and a variant of it accomplished. In 1995 the Võro Institute was founded. The tasks of the Võro Institute are to deal with all aspects of cultural life in southeastern Estonia and to seek solutions to the specific regional problems as well. The institute is financed by governmental resources and has thus become part of a national policy. After the first steps were taken to build up the Institute as a working body, the main effort were focused on writing an Estonian-Võro/Võro-Estonian dictionary and publishing a handbook of Võro-Seto semi-normative grammar. Nevertheless, some quite remarkable steps have been taken in the organization of school programs in the students' mother tongue. There is no previous experience with such programs in Estonia and the information about similar programs and activities in other countries is still very scarce. Some progress has been made in the organization of theatre plays in the Võro-Seto language. Not surprisingly, it turned out that the theatre itself had to change when it had to find expression through another language. The soul and the genius of the Võro-Seto language is different if compared with that of the Estonian or Finnish language. The Võro culture is happy enough to currently have its own real playwright. Madis Kõiv is probably the best contemporary playwright of Estonia and we are ready to believe that he is talented enough to be known even outside of Estonia. Happily enough, there are several people among the young generation of Estonian actors who can and want to speak the language of the South. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The problems of identity between the Võro and the Seto people are somewhat tricky. In addition to different identity problems, the regional and political developments of these two groups have been different for a long time. It is absolutely clear that the language of the two groups is much the same. But nobody can say if the two branches were spoken by the same tribe before both the foreign conquest came and the settlement of the political border between the two peoples. The fixation of the border happened during the 13th century when a border was drawn between the so-called Livonian Confederation, which was more or less under the hegemony of the Teutonic Crusaders, and the Russian Merchant Republic of Novgorod. The Russian lands were united later by the Muscovite Czars and the western side experienced a succession of Poles, Swedes and thereafter a sort of German autonomy under the Russian imperial government. The border remained the same all this time . So it was to become true that the Setos were very sure that they were a part of Estonian. First of all they were a special people, the Setos, and after that something else - Orthodox Christians, and therefore the subjects of the Czar, and then maybe something close to Estonians. The latter happened to be so important that during the Estonian War for Independence 1918-1920 the Setos and their country became a part of Estonia. The Tartu Peace Treaty between Estonia and Russia in 1920 finally fixed the Seto case. During the following decades the Seto identity grew closer and closer to that of the Estonians. Nevertheless, a unique Seto identity remained. After the Second Soviet Occupation in 1945, the Seto country was cut into two or, to be more exact, into six pieces. Three parts of it remained in the so-called autonomous Estonian SSR. The three remaining parts of Seto shire were under direct Russian administration, which meant the devastation of Seto villages, the immigration of additional Russian inhabitants - in short, it meant tragedy. The Seto situation of 1945, when approximately one third of the Seto habitat and one half of their total population was under direct Russian rule, changed dramatically in 1990. The territorial division of the Seto's land remained the same but most of the inhabitants have moved out - the majority to Estonia. In fact. they have become refugees in Estonia although the word is not used. Estonia fought for its independence once again, but the three parts of the Seto shire were excluded from the independent Estonian state. During this process, the border was drawn along the same line it had been in 1945 between "Estonian SSR" and "Russian SFSR" . Thus, for the first time during written history, tan actual border has divided the Seto territory. Before that, the territory had been a whole, but only on one or the other side of the border. During the Soviet period, the border between the "SSR-s" had to do with the administrative affairs and did not impede the free cross-border movements of the inhabitants. But after the restoration of Estonia, Seto relatives remained behind the border, so did the homes, their ancestors graves's, the school, the stores, the mail facilities... . Nowadays the border crossing is a tiresome and nervous business. In the Russian-ruled villages today one has to go to St. Petersburg or Pskov when looking for permission. The same thing is true in Estonia, where one must go to Tallinn or Tartu. The identity of the Võro people is that of all Estonia and it has been like this for a long time. Sometimes it seems to be more Estonian than the identity of Estonians in the other parts of the country. After the Soviets occupied the country, the guerilla warfare in Võroshire was more fierce than in other parts of Estonia. Every second family has lost somebody in this war. When the Gorbatchov's new times broke out, Võroshire was the third centre of the national awakening, on many occasions actually the first. There is yet another bad development to report. After the restoration of the independent republic, the administrative division duringthe pre-war period was not restored. In the middle of Estonia it is perhaps not a tragedy, but here in the South-East the problems persist, especially taking into account the survival of the language and the culture. Thus, the historical Võroshire is divided into three parts. The Seto habitat is also divided and united together with two of them. Thus, nowadays the Võro people and what remains of the Seto people are combined into three counties of Estonia. County is the English translation for the term of the administrative unit used officially by the government. In this booklet we use the word as to mark the administrative unit of contemporary Estonia and still use another English word "shire" for the historical and ethnical unit. Both are translations of an Estonian word "maakond" or "maakund" in the local language. Fortunately, some things are changing. The Võro Institute's activities extend through the whole historical Võroshire not only in just one or another county. It is well known that there are no easy answers to the questions that should be asked in the post-communist countries of Eastern Europe. All these problems are also quite apparent also in Võroshire. In addition, it is obvious that Tallinn is developing quicker than the other, more perpheral places in Estonia. After the liquidation of the Soviet system of large-scale agribusiness and the split of the Russian market, the agriculturally oriented parts of Estonia are encountering real problems. There are no jobs, the brains and skilled labor are moving away. There are also increasingly serious social problems. The national aid programs have on the whole not been started yet. Still there are some possible ways out. The tourist industry is a promising idea especially if there is an additional word "eco" in front of tourism. As a matter of fact, southeastern Estonia has quite a clean environment and to think of the region as a recreational area for middle class families with children is not a bad idea at all. But the problem of investments arises here and there is little money for realizing the idea. There is some money in Tallinn but a very small portion of it reaches South past the university town of Tartu. Nevertheless one could see a good omen in all of this. The generally positive attitude towards southern speech and the use of the dialect has been increasing. This process is spreading all over Estonia. Two years ago a music hit sung in South Estonian remained in the top seven list of Estonia for a couple of months. The song was called "Just Leave Me Your Telephone Number" and was performed by a band of newcomers called "Ummamuudu" (In One´s Own Manner). It is becoming quite clear that the solution of problems of the people who live in South Estonia lies in the complex development program involving the local language, which is closely connected with teaching problems, and, thus with the whole educational system. The solution lies in the profound analysis of the regional economic problems and in the discovery of solutions reasonable for the area. It means gathering the energy of all people who have roots are in Võroshire and the Seto homeland. These problems can and must be solved by the local people - the Võro and the Seto people. A government-designed and financed development strategy of hi-tech industry could be a real solution too, to be sure. There is a lot of experience in this field in other countries. __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Send instant messages & get email alerts with Yahoo! Messenger.