I am kind of writing a book, which is set in medieval times and I have a kind of conflict between a drunk and a tavern-keeper that takes offence to the drunk calling him a Finn because his accent sounds like a Finnish one. I really need an ethnicity/mother tongue for the tavern-keeper to be of for this misunderstanding to work.

This might not be the right place for this question but thanks in advance if I do get answers.

Edit:I guess it boils down to estonian then. Those dialects and languages people propose are in finland or in areas that are in my book norse. And they wouldn't work since the only finns that are left in my books universe live on the east side of ladoga and the only estonians that are left lives in Ingermanland(Ingria) and maybe ryazan.

Thanks for the answers everyone.

  • An anecdotal evidence, there is a Russian comedy where several Russians and a Finn went fishing and began understand each other after getting drunk. Here's the scene with English subtitles (YouTube) and a longer scene w/o subs (YouTube). Caveat, by the medieval times, its name was Muscovy, and arguably, the phonology of Northern Muscovy has not underwent dramatic changes since then. May 4, 2017 at 15:05

4 Answers 4


Estonian and Finnish existed in Medieval times as numerous dialects. I am not sure if the ethnonim for Finns existed then. Besides, it's an exonim; the name of Finnish people as they could call themselves would be something like 'Suomi' or 'Soomi' or perhaps even 'Soom' (pronounced with long 'o', not like in, say, 'boot'). I don't put here the correct name for the nationality (which differs from a name for language, unlike in English) intentionally.

The difference among Finnish and even among Estonian dialects has survived up to modern days. Since a borderline between a language and a dialect is often arbitrary (and it was so especially during Medieval times), the options would be:

If you choose to be more Tolkien-like and less punctual about centuries, you could mention Forest Finns as well. As we can see from Ukrainian story, neighbors and kins are more likely to have an issue with human lives than more distant nations.

Karelian and Votic have a lot of consonant clusters (unlike Finnish). Same with Veps.

So, my offer is either to use one of these survivors among dialects, or (if the consonant clusters are OK for you) to choose for one of the Saami languages. It's Fenno-Ugric (although not as much Fenno-Ugric as to be mistaken for Soomi by anything save its name), and the Saami tribes were driven northwards by Finnish and Germanic tribes since Medieval period.

Another interesting option is Komi language. Despite of being heavily russified by now, it has an interesting history, a fantastic grammar and even its own writing system that predated the Cyrillic alphabet.

  • IMO Saami would not be a good candidate, since despite the genetic relation, Saami does not sound like Finnish.
    – user6726
    May 4, 2017 at 21:14
  • No do most of other Balto-Fennic languages.
    – Manjusri
    May 4, 2017 at 21:26
  • I disagree: an Estonian accent is enough like a Finnish accent that they could be confused, if you don't know what to listen form.
    – user6726
    May 4, 2017 at 21:36
  • If you mistake A for Z, you should have a notion of both A and Z. Estonian accent is specific enough by the specific tempo and first-syllable stress, which are not found in Finnish
    – Manjusri
    May 4, 2017 at 21:40
  • "Predated the Cyrillic alphabet" is at least misleading: The Old Permic alphabet is clearly a derivative from the Cyrillic alphabet and thus cannot predate it. It is kind of trivial that it predates the contemporary use of the Cyrillic alphabet for the Komi language. May 6, 2017 at 18:19

Some candidates are Estonian, Karelian, Votic, and Livonian. These languages are quite close but probably all existed as distinct languages in medieval times (there is not a huge amount of old documentation of these languages, and Finnish is directly documented only in the post-medieval period). Karelian is similar enough to Finnish that some people classify it as a dialect of Finnish.


I think it would depend on the sample, but it would probably be a Finnic language, such as Karelian or Estonian. Also, where is it? This could help with what language is likely enough to be spoken by a tavern-keeper, but not so common that it would be instantly recognizable.


A few more suggestions.

Võro and Seto, spoken in South Estonian are sufficiently distinct from Finnish but have both retained vowel harmony and have a bit of Finnish sound to them for my ear personally. That is of course the sound of the language.

Another option, is a reconstruction of proto Balto-Finnic language (sounds to me like a mix of Finnish and Võro-Seto and some alien elements).

Here's a clip (actors are natives Estonian speakers): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5uzosXc2tc

Other than that, I don't see Vepsa and Izhorian mentioned here, could be worthwhile candidates as well.

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