Sami again

Michael Everson
Tue, 19 Feb 2002 12:59:08 +0000

At 00:29 +0000 2002-02-19, John Clews wrote:

>As a speaker of English, living in England, I maintain that it's not
>true that "the -aa- is certainly unnecessary in English."

It is unnecessary in this word. And it is not helpful, nor arguably necessar=

Sami would on the face of it rhyme with swami, giving it without any 
vowel doubling the vowel required. In point of fact the word swami, 
by your argument, ought to be written swaami, as it contains a long 
vowel. Yes, I have seen Indo-Iranian languages transliterated with 
-aa-. Saag paneer is one of my favourite dishes. I would 
transliterate it s=E2g pan=EEr, with macrons, but there you have it.

But Sami isn't Indo-Iranian, and indeed, isn't being transliterated.

Sami looks like swami, which rhymes with Finnish saami and Norwegian sami(sk=

>In addition, the name "Sammy" with its usual short "a" pronunciation
>is what many people will supply when they see the name "Sami" without
>knowing the name.

Well, considering that *in* Northern Sami the word "S=E1mi" sounds very 
much like "Sammy" that would hardly be so terrible.

>Again, the interjection "Aah" is well used, but its pronunciation is
>generally fixed with a long "a" and rhyming with "Saami." That's
>probably the only "natural" English language word I can think of.

That interjection, John, is normally written "ah". Ah, there you are.

>Thus the term Saami is prefered

No it isn't.

>(a) as it fits with English language expectations;

No it doesn't.

>(b) as the Sami language councils in Scandinavia recommend it as an
>     English term;

They have made an error, as the Finnish spelling is not more suitable 
than the Sami spelling.

>(c) as it is also coming into more general use in reference works;

More sources cite Sami than cite Saami by my reckoning. I note that I 
cited sources to support my assertion where you have not done so.

>(d) as it's also listed that way in the Ethnologue, which is the most
>     widely cited linguistic reference work for names of languages.

It shouldn't be. The Ethnologue should prefer the spelling Sami.

>"Sami" by contrast is too ambivalent in possible pronunciation.
>If you want to see the language name mispronounced, or cater for
>older usage, fine.

I disagree with you.

>However, there's no point in trying to pretend that "Saami" isn't a
>help - and indeed a necessary spelling, ideally as a main spelling of
>the word.

I consider it an available variant spelling, inferior to the spelling 
"Sami", and I have argued that Sami spelling and pronunciation, 
Norwegian spelling and pronunciation, and English spelling and 
pronunciation have more reason to be alike in this matter than for 
English to adopt a Finnish spelling for these people.

>Please let's retain it as it is in the Ethnologue, and ideally please
>also allow Saami to be included as a language name in ISO 639 (and
>also to permit references to Sami as well, in the ordered list) so
>that people looking at the list don't miss the version that they are
>familiar with.

Sami should have primacy over Saami in the Ethnologue.
Michael Everson *** Everson Typography ***