Mon, 18 Feb 2002 11:19:45 +0000
Most Samis live in Norway. In Norway, the Germanic language there
borrowed the word S=E1pmi, S=E1mi, as "same" with an adjective "samisk".
In Finland, where there are not very many Sami speakers compared to
Norway, particular orthographic practices of that language write long
vowels with double letters, hence "saami".
The English language borrows words from other languages and cultures
sometimes. English, like Norwegian, is a Germanic language. There is
no earthly reason why English should prefer a Finnish spelling to a
Norwegian spelling for this word. Indeed, as stated, it could lead to
error, as "aa" can be hypercorrected in Scandinavian contexts, to "=E5"
by English speakers.
=46urther, compare the native designation for the different Sami languages:
Northern Sami: s=E1megiella
Lule Sami: s=E1megiella
Kildin Sami: s=E2m' k=EEll
Southern Sami: saemien giele
Inari Sami: s=E4=E4megiella
Skolt Sami: s=E4=E4'mk^i=F5ll
None of these uses -aa-, and the use of -=E4=E4- in Inari Sami and Skolt
Sami is influenced by Finnish just as the Finnish word "saami" is.
> > John this has been argued a thousand times. The preferred form of the
> > word, as found on page 1644 of the New Oxford Dictionary of English
> > (2001) is "Sami", with no accent.
>Well, the New Oxford Dictionary of English may represent use in the
>UK in times past, but it does not necessarily represent English use
>worldwide, or even an international source.
The 9th edition of the Concise Oxford (1995, 1673 pp.) does not list
Sami as a headword, but under Lapp it gives the note: "The Lapps' own
name tor themselves, Sami, is now often preferred with reference to
The New Oxford Dictionary of English (2001, 2152 pp.) gives a similar
note at Lapp: "Although the term Lapp is still widely used and is the
most familiar term to may people, the people themselves prefer to be
The New Oxford Dictionary also *adds* a headword for Sami, showing
that its status as a lexical item in English is greater, perhaps,
than it may have been in 1998. It is noteworthy that the Concise
Oxford's 8th edition (1990) did not
contain the usage note, which was introduced in the 9th edition (1995).
>When it boils down to it it's a proprietary usage. Well used, I
>grant you, but it remains proprietary, and it is not explicitly
>accepted as a standard (UK or
>wider) in the same way that other reference sources (e.g. Duden in
>German speaking countries) is.
I'm sorry, John, but Oxford lexicographical practices are beyond
question. You can't weasel out of an actual argument about usage and
preference by saying, "well, I prefer another authority" -- which you
didn't do, you simply say that there are others. I give two arguments
(that a Germanic spelling sam- is preferable to a Finnic spelling
saam- and that the Sami themselves don't spell saam- in their own
>"Saami" certainly appears in some American general usage dictionaries
Does it indeed. Let's look at frequency for a moment. An initial
Google search on "Saami" yields 19,100 hits, the first of which
relates to the US National Shooting Sports Foundation. An initial
Google search on "Sami" yields 1,110,000 hits. A secondary search of
"saami lapp" yielded 692 hits, while "sami lapp" yielded 2570 hits.
Detect a pattern of usage preference here?
Merriam-Webster online http://www.m-w.com/dictionary.htm gives
neither form. Wordnet at Princeton http://www.cogsci.princeton.edu/
gives "Sami". Cambridge online http://dictionary.cambridge.org/ gives
neither. Microsoft's Encarta gives "Saami" only. The American
Heritage http://www.bartleby.com/61/45/S0054550.html gives both
"Sami" and "Saami" with "Sami" in first place.
> > "Saami" does not appear in this dictionary,
>which remains Oxford University Press's problem, rather than the rest
>of the world's problem. Generally - and certainly with the start of
>the Oxord Dictionary series of publications - they always prided
>themselves on recording various usages.
The usage "Saami" should not be recommended in English, even if it
occurs. As a borrowing it ought to come from Norwegian rather than
=46innish; -aa- is rare enough in English and "Sami" is natural enough
(cf swami, naturalized in English from Sanakrit for at least 200
> > and in any case should be avoided because people may
>> hypercorrect it to S=E5mi, confusing it with equivalences like =C5lborg
>> and Aalborg.
>The councils for Saami speakers in Norway, Sweden and Finland have
>recommended the use of the term "Saami" and they, more than anybody,
>are all used to needing to deal with specific uses of the string "aa"
These organizations can't make up their minds, quite honestly. This
has been discussed on and off since at least 1996. On one of their
pages, http://www.saamicouncil.org/, they give both "Sami Councils
page of Welcoming' and "Saami Council's Homepage".
>If the Saami and non-Saami speakers in Norway, Sweden and Finland can
>cope with it, and indeed recommend it, I don't see why anybody should
>propose over their heads that they have to think that what is done by
>a UK publisher
The lexicographical work done at Oxford set the standard for modern
lexicography world-wide. Do not pooh-pooh Oxford by belittling them
as just a UK publisher.
>just because we on standards committees think we know
>better, particularly when the term that they recommend is already in
>widespread use in various English language publications worldwide,
>in both linguistic and more general publications.
My views on the orthography of this word in English is not based on
my participation in standards committees. They are based on my
knowledge of English, phonetics, orthographic principles, etymology,
and common sense. That the Oxford editorial staff have come to the
same decision I have is an indication that there are sensible
criteria one can apply to making orthographic decisions based on good
sense and taste.
Yes, it is my view that the councils for Sami speakers in the Nordic
countries have erred in choosing "Saami" over "Sami", which is by far
an away the more natural spelling in English, just as it is in
Norwegian and Swedish.
Michael Everson *** Everson Typography *** http://www.evertype.com