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1. Grammar and Spelling
2. Punctuation
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
4. Hyphenation
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set

Section One – Grammar and Spelling

The characteristic features of the Estonian language are the three different lengths of vowels and consonants, the so-called gradation, and the lack of articles.

1. Case: Estonian has 14 cases: nominative, genitive, partitive, illative, inessive, elative, allative, adessive, ablative, translative, essive, terminative, abessive, comitative. These all take different endings but there are no noun genders, with the exception of a very few words, such as laulja (singer) male, lauljatar (singer) female, näitleja (actor) male, näitlejanna (actress) female, oinas (ram), utt (ewe), lehm (cow), pull (bull), etc.

2. Plurals: In nominative case the plural ending is always '-d' which is added to the genitive singular.

3. One letter words: There are none in Estonian!

4. Compound words: These cause difficulties in Estonian because there are compound verb forms and compound declinable words (nouns, adjectives, numerals and pronouns). Here the general rule should be followed: declinable words are compounded if they form specific and integrated concepts, i.e. talupoeg (peasant, farmer) is compounded from the words talu (farm) and poeg (son).

5. Accent: Words of Estonian origin and Estonianized foreign words and loan-words have the main accent on the first syllable: i'nimene (man), a'rmastama (to love), ko'ntsert (concert). In many foreign words and foreign proper names the accent does not fall on the first syllable, but on the second, third, or even on the last syllable. Examples: kultuur, meloodia, Pariis, Euroopa; in these examples the accent is indicated by a long vowel. Similarily, a long (double) consonant after a short vowel in foreign words indicates that the vowel is stressed: flanell, parkett. Foreign words ending in - ant, -ent, -ants, -asm, -ast, -ents, -ints, -ism, -ist, -ment have the accent on the last syllable. Examples: agent, elegants, tendents, provints.

6. Capitalisation: Capital letters are not as frequently used as in English.

- Names, days, months, nationalities, names of countries and states in the genitive and when used attributively (= English adjectives), adjectives derived from proper names (e.g. shakespearelik), proper names that have become common names (e.g. diiselmootor), titles of books, reports, etc. (of which only the first word is written with a capital letter), are all in lower case.
- Names of places, institutions, periodicals, newspapers and ships, consisting of several words, take capitals, e.g. Lääne-Euroopa (Western Europe), EestiKirjanduse Selts (the Estonian Literary Society).
- Upper case is used with 'you' and 'thou' in letters (Teie and Sina).

Section Two – Punctuation

Punctuation is similar to English, but the comma is used more freely to set off dependent clauses of all kind.

1. Speech marks: Quotes are introduced with a colon and quotation marks, e.g.: "…"

1. "Anna mulle veel tööd!" hüüdis Chloe. ("Give me more work!", shouted Chloe.)
2. "Kas keegi sooviks teed?" küsis George. ("Would anyone like some tea?" asked George.)
3. "Ma olen tüdinud – kas ma võin koju minna?" ütles Michaela. (I'm bored – can I go home now?", Michaela said.) Or: "Ma olen tüdinud ja tahaksin koju minna," ütles Michaela.

2. Brackets: If the whole sentence is put into brackets it starts with a capital and ends with a full-stop, e.g. Rahva mälu järgi elanud soosaarel üks erak. (Dokumendid seda küll ei näita.) Tema olevat tulnud Järvamaalt. Shorter remarks in brackets are in lower case: Iherus (meriforell) kaalub 2–5 kg.

3. Apostrophe: An apostrophe is used in declining names if it is necessary to refer to the nominative, e.g. Ants Metsa'le, Maie Kalda't; in declining foreign names to fit their pronunciation to Estonian cases, e.g. Dumas'le, Rabelais'd, Wilde'ist; in declining foreign quotes, e.g. show'ga, cupyright'ita; to refer to a missing letter (in poetry), e.g. lööb õitsel' armu koit.

Section Three – Measurements and Abbreviations

1. Measurements: In Estonian only the metric system is applicable/official, although inches are still used in some cases - when referring to nails, for example. Miles are not understood. Lbs may be understood by older people!

Time: the 24-hour clock system is used in Estonia. There are endless problems with 'am' and 'pm' - they should be converted into a 24-hr system,i.e. 10.00 and 15.00

Dates: are normally written in the format:

Numbers: a decimal point is indicated by a decimal comma, i.e. 3,7%.
Numbers over 9999 are separated by a space (not a comma/full stop).

A space is normally left between numbers and measurement abbreviations.

Mega: the abbreviated form is 'M' to distinguish it from 'm' for 'milli'.

2. Abbreviations:

Equivalent abbreviations:

N/a = m.v. (mitte vajalik) [not used!]
No. = nr
e.g. = nt (näiteks)
Q&A = K.&.V. [not used!]
WxLxHxD = L x P x L x S [As far as I know there are only three measures in
our physical world. If for example furniture is in question we use l x s x k (laius, sügavus kõrgus = W x D x H)]
1st/2nd/3rd/4th = 1./2./3./4. = I/II/III/IV
Miss = preili (prl)
Dear Sir / Madam - not used in this way. Lp hr (family name) (Sir) or Lp pr (family name) (Madam)
m = m
cm = cm
lb - not used as abbreviation
g = g
km = km
EMEA - not used; Europe = Euroopa, Middle-East = Lähis-Ida, Asia = Aasia

Days of week: Mon = E, Tues = T, Wed = K, Thurs = N, Fri = R, Sat = L, Sun = P

Months: Jan = jaan, Feb = veebr, Mar = märts, Apr = apr, May = mai, Jun = juuni, Jul = juuli, Aug = aug, Sep = sept, Oct = okt, Nov = nov, Dec = dets

Seasons: Spring = kevad, Summer = suvi, Autumn = sügis, Winter = talv (not normally abbreviated in Estonian)

Other abbreviations:
a (aasta) = year
e (ehk) = or
jne (ja nii edasi) = etc.
s.o (see on) = i.e.
vt (vaata) = see
vrd (võrdle) = cf.

Section Four – Hyphenation

Line splits: this is the main use of hyphens in Estonian. It is advisable to hyphenate compound words at the normal break point, e.g. klaas-uks, kilogramm, or take over part of the word starting with a consonant. Otherwise, hyphenation generally follows the rules of syllabification, e.g. kõ-ne-le-mi-ne.
Two or more consonants call for the hyphen to be placed before the last consonant, e.g. vars-ti.

Long vowels or diphthongs must not be divided (hyphenated). A single letter must not be left at the end of a line or taken over to the beginning of the following line, e.g. words like kaua and ära cannot be hyphenated.

Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities

Arbitrary use of 'thou' and 'you' forms of verbs e.g. vaata! vs. vaadake!. No explanation can be given!!!! [It is not a miscellaneous peculiarity but just different conjugations. English you can be sina (sa) (used with a familiar person or a child) or teie (te) (used with more than one person or one unfamiliar person or person with whom we have only official relations, for example tellers or shop assistants say teie to their clients.]

Some place names have a different spelling: Pariis, Berliin, Kaplinn (Cape Town) etc.

Normally the first name comes before the family name: Anu Mets, Tiit Tamm. In documents family name can be before first name but then a comma is used: Mets, Anu.

Section Six – Geographic Distribution

Estonian is the native language of the Republic of Estonia, where it is spoken by about one million people, or two-thirds of the total population. Estonian is one of the Finno-Ugric languages, which constitute a branch of the Uralic language family. Its closest relative is Finnish, spoken across the Gulf of Finland. The two languages are sufficiently similar to be mutually intelligible, at least for those Estonians who speak the dialect of the north. Estonian is not, as is sometimes thought, in any way related to its nearest geographic neighbours, Latvian and Lithuanian. Like Latvian and Lithuanian, Estonian employs the Roman script. The alphabet contains the letter õ, found in no other language of eastern Europe.

Standard Estonian is spoken and understood by all Estonian native speakers and teaching, at both primary school and university level, is in Estonian – although there are also schools for Russian native speakers where the teaching language is Russian. There are also several Estonian dialects used nowadays mainly by the older population: võro language, seto language etc.

Estonian is spoken/used in the following country:

Language Family
Family: Uralic
Subgroup: Finno-Ugric
Branch: Finnic

Sources: - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Eesti keele sõnaraamat. (1999). Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus.
Erelt, Mati; Erelt, Tiiu; Ros, Kristiina (2000). Eesti keele käsiraamat. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus.
Saagpakk, Paul. (1992). Estonian-English Dictionary. Tallinn: Koolibri.
Sutrop, Urmas. (2000). Estonian Language. Estonian Institute.

Section Seven – Character Set

[ ] = Alt key codes

a ä [0228] A Ä [0196]
b B
c C
d D
e E
f F
g G
h H
i I
j J
k K
l L
m M
n N
o õ [0245] ö [0246] O Õ [0213] Ö [0214]
p P
q Q
r R
s š [0154] S Š [0138]
t T
u ü [0252] U Ü [0220]
v V
w W
x X
y Y
z ž [0158] Z Ž [0142]

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