Voice Over Sydney: Estonian is a Finnic language closely related to Finnish, and spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia. The main difference between these two languages is that Finnish has many loanwords from Swedish, while Estonian contains many words of German origin, plus some from Russian, Latin, Greek and English. There is considerable mutual intelligibility between Estonian and Finnish.
Voice Over Sydney: Estonian Dialects
Estonian has two groups of dialects: northern and southern. The northern dialects are associated with the city of Tallinn, and the southern ones with Tartu. Standard Estonian is based on the northern dialects. The southern dialects are sometimes considered separate languages.
Voice Over Sydney: Estonian History
Estonian was the state language of Estonia from 1919 to 1945. During the Soviet period Estonian was one of the the official languages, along with Russian, and most Estonians became bilingual in Estonian and Russian. Non-Estonians had to learn Estonian in school, however many considered learning the language unnecessary. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 Estonian became the state language once more, and Russian was discouraged.
Voice Over Sydney: Estonian Origins
The oldest examples of written Estonian are names, words, and phrases found in early 13th century chronicles. The earliest surviving longer text dates from the 16th century. An Estonian textbook first appeared in 1637. Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann published the comprehensive Estonian-German dictionary in 1869, and a grammar describing the Estonian language in 1875. Most Estonian literature has been produced since the early 19th century, and particularly in the early 20th century.
When Estonian was first written there was no standard alphabet. People used an ad hoc spelling system based on Latin and Middle Low German. In the 17th century Bengt Gottfried Forselius and Johann Hornung created a way of writing Estonian based on German. That was replaced by a Finnish-based orthography, known as the Newer Orthography, created by Eduard Ahrens in the second half of the 19th century. This was the basis for the current orthography.