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Old Literary Finnish

Old Literary Finnish is defined as the form of written Finnish that was used in the period between the publication of the first book printed in Finnish (Mikael Agricola’s ABC -book published in the 1540s) and the year 1810, which marked the start of the battle between the western and eastern Finnish dialects. The Finnish literature of this extensive period is often also referred to as the literature of the Swedish period.

Old Literary Finnish is largely based on western dialects of Finnish. Its vocabulary is also somewhat different from that of Modern Finnish. There was considerable variation in the orthographic rules that were applied, and often these rules would follow the practice adopted in other languages, particularly Latin and Swedish. A considerable proportion of the texts from this period are translations, which is evident from the many features of sentence construction that are unfamiliar to Modern Finnish.

The texts published in this period were mainly of a religious nature, ranging from translations of the Bible to funeral sermons. There were also a number of legal texts, and these too were translations. Almanacs were produced as well, containing material more closely linked to everyday life.

There are very few texts from this period that can be classified as works of literature. However, the prevailing intellectual trends and the changes in people’s views and opinions can be observed in certain religious works (e.g. books of sermons) and in the official texts of administration and governance (e.g. decrees), as well as in the emergence of a greater variety of texts over this period.