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Climate change is altering this Arctic language: BBC

Andrew Blackman

March 1, 2024


A Sami reindeer herder tends to his flock on Norway’s Finnmark Plateau on June 16, 2018. (Stoyan Nenov / Reuters File Photo)

Sami, a group of languages spoken by indigenous people across the Arctic, has literally hundreds of words for snow. But does it have a future in a warming world, ask the BBC’s Erika Henke.

  • Climate change has already had a profound impact on Sápmi, the traditional Arctic homeland of the Sami people. Rising temperatures have altered Arctic ecosystems that Sami livelihoods such as reindeer herding and fishing depend on.
  • That process is endangering local words and expressions. One example is jiekŋaguolli, which refers to salmon in the spring, immediately after the ice on the river breaks up. Nowadays, it’s only used to refer to the past.
  • Researchers have studied the Sami reindeer herders knowledge of snow and ice, and have found more than 300 words in Sami languages that capture different kinds of snow, ice and snow conditions. Inevitably, some of the words that reflect colder weather are disappearing from use.
  • There’s a danger that other traditional knowledge — such as practices and skills to do with reindeer herding and fishing — will also vanish along with certain words and expressions, according to Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi, president of Sami Climate Council.
You can read the full story here.

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