Many towns, mountains, rivers in Swedish Lapland bear the names given to them by the Sámi people, usually describing their characteristics. When reading a map of Swedish Lapland, knowing the meaning of some Sámi words adds another, fascinating dimension to the landscape.
The Sámi language and the Finnish language, from the Finno-Ugric language tree, are related to each other, not very closely though (scholars argue about their closeness). It’s a language with many different expressions and synonyms for nature and reindeer husbandry.
The Sami language can be grouped into Eastern, Southern and Central Sámi. The groups may be further divided into varieties and ultimately individual languages, some of which are extinct today.
Sámi people in Russia speak Eastern Sámi, Central Sámi is spoken i Finland, Norway and Sweden, and Southern Sámi in Norway, although these divisions are only theoretical since people move all over Sápmi and the varieties change over time.
In Sweden, the most common varieties are Northern Sámi, Lule Sámi, Arjeplog Sámi, Southern Sámi and Ume Sámi. The dissimilarities in the different varieties are not unlike the differences in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
But the differences in Sámi varieties grow with geographical distances and varieties far away from each other, have as much in common as the Swedish and German language has.