Estonian 101

Estonian (eesti keel (help·info); IPA: [ˈeːs.ti ˈkeːl]) is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and by some ten thousand in various émigré communities. It is a Finno-Ugric language and is closely related to Finnish.

One distinctive feature that has caused a great amount of interest in linguists is that Estonian has what is traditionally seen as three degrees of phoneme length: short, long, and "overlong", such that IPA /toto/, /toːto/ and /toːˑto/ are distinct, as are /toto/, /totːo/, and /totːˑo/. In actuality, the distinction isn't purely in the phoneme length, and the underlying phonological mechanism is still disputed.

Another feature that sets Estonian apart from most languages is the vowel õ ([ɤ]), a close-mid near-back unrounded vowel, which is farther back than the schwa ([ə]), but fronter than [o].

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