Kola Saami Documentation Project (KSDP):
Linguistic and ethnographic documentation of the Kola Saami languages
The aim of the project is to provide comprehensive linguistic and ethnographic documentation of the endangered Saami languages of Russia, which are spoken in the northwestern-most region of Russia (Murmansk Region – Murmanskaja oblast') on the Kola Peninsula. The Kola Saami languages Skolt, Kildin, Ter and Akkala belong to the group of eastern Saami languages. Saami itself is a branch of the Uralic language family.
Today only a minor part of the approximately 1800 Kola Saami speak and understand their mother tongue fluently. Most of them are elder speakers. The middle generation has either a very limited knowledge of Saami, or does not know the language at all. There is almost no member of the younger generation who actively uses Saami. The absence of a language environment in which the language is spoken by everyone all the time as well as a lack of social motivation for language use pose a threat to the survival of the languages. Taking into account the age of the active speakers, the end of the Saami speech communities in Russia is probably not far away.schlitten

A reindeer sleigh
There are probably less than 300 speakers of Kildin who actively use their language. The situation is even more dramatic in the case of Skolt and Ter. There are only a few Ter and Skolt Saami (in Russia) who use their mother tongue today. Akkala is is moribund.
Languages Countries Speakers Degree of endangerment
Western Saami South Norway, Sweden 300–500 seriously endangered
Ume Sweden < 20 nearly extinct
Pite Sweden < 20 nearly extinct
Lule Norway, Sweden 2 000–3 000 seriously endangered
North Norway, Sweden, Finland 30 000 endangered
Eastern Saami Inari Finland 300-500 seriously endangered
Kemi Finland, Russia extinct (19th century)
Skolt Norway ? nearly extinct
Skolt Finland 300–500 seriously endangered
Skolt Russia < 20 nearly extinct
Kildin Russia 300–700 seriously endangered
Ter Russia < 20 nearly extinct
Akkala Russia < 5 nearly extinct
The Saami languages: number of speakers and degree of endangerment. Sources: Sammallahti (1998), Hasselblatt & Blokland (2003), Salminen (1993), own estimates (for Kola-Saami).
Comprehensive linguistic documentation must thus focus on Kildin. Recording language practices in the social lives and social interactions of Kildin Saami speakers of different generations is the main objective of the project. Language data is recorded during various field trips to the Kola Peninsula. We plan to work with Kildin speakers in both rural and urban environments. The principal methods used are extensive interviews, group discussions and speaking with local experts. In addition, recordings will be made of speakers in natural situations. Documentation will also include the small number of people with native-speaker competency among the Skolt, and Ter Saami in order to produce as complete a survey as possible.

Transcribing Saami recordings
One primary goal of the project is to systematically record, transcribe and translate the widest possible variety of spoken language data from the Kola Saami languages. The recordings will be supplemented with rich linguistic and ethnographic annotations. The documentation is expected to reflect active and passive native-speaker competence, situational and social structuring as well as the geographical distribution of the Kola Saami languages according to their current patterns of use. The work in Russia focuses on transcription and translation of the recorded data, while processing the recorded language data is carried out mainly in Germany.
  Last update: 5.7.2012    
Dobes Volkswagen-Stiftung Nordeuropa-Institut Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin