The Máinnasheargi research project

The Máinnasheargi research project, lead by the Giellagas Institute for Saami Studies at the University of Oulu, studies the oral tradition of Saami people living in Finland, in other words the unwritten forms of tradition of North Saami, Skolt Saami and Inari Saami.
Syksyinen vesistönranta, tunturinrinne, mökki.

Project information

Project duration

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Contact information

Project leader

  • University lecturer in Sámi Cultural Studies, reseacher, developer of the Saami Culture Archive

Other persons

Project description

The Máinnasheargi research project, lead by the Giellagas Institute for Saami Studies at the University of Oulu, studies the oral tradition of Saami people living in Finland, in other words the unwritten forms of tradition of North Saami, Skolt Saami and Inari Saami.


The project aims to combine modern methods of culture studies, folklore studies, ethnomusicology and linguistics, especially perspectives of linguistic anthropology and computer linguistics. Our research material consists of old archive collections, both written and audio materials, and new interviews made in the studied communities.

The project includes aspects of repatriation as well, since the old archive materials are made available for the communities that participated in the original documentation. Some of the topics are also selected according to the wishes made by the members of the communities. Deep understanding of local views helps us to raise topics that are specific for the studied communities but mainly ignored by outsiders.


Luhkkáraččaid máinnasárbi

– The Oral Tradition of the family Luhkkáraš

(Karina Lukin – Marja Montonen – Taarna Valtonen)

This subproject has two main purposes. First, to analyze with modern folkloristic and linguistic methods the oral tradition collected in Áitejohka or Luhkkárbáiki (Utsjoki, Finland) inhabited by the extended family of Luhkkáraš.

The material consists of a large amount of already documented tradition and linguistic materials from 1920's to 1970's, but some additional new material has been collected in order to support the analysis. The analysis will mainly focus on the repertoire and the storytelling contexts of a master storyteller Aslak Guttorm (Luhkkár Jovnn' Ásllat 1891–1972).

The second purpose is to return the collected materials back to the local people in a format that is easily usable and accessible for them. A selection of Aslak Guttorm stories is also chosen to be published accompanied by several research papers.

Linguistic perspectives on Máinnasheargi

(Sierge Rasmus – Aino Valovirta)

This subproject focuses on some linguistic aspects of Aslak Guttorm’s storytelling (SKS 1956). According to previous research, his speech is characterized by rich use of allegro forms, expressive words, additional comments, extraordinary word order and lively use of pronouns and particles (Huuskonen 2004; Itkonen 1971). We have chosen specific linguistic features for further study.

Valovirta is studying syntactic formation of Guttorm’s utterances, especially with regard to clause hierarchy and clause linking. The results suggest that there is significant structural variation between the stories. This variation seems to be due to many factors: plausibility, familiarity of the story, and storyteller’s attitude or stage of enthusiasm.

Rasmus is studying aspectual derivations of verbs. In North Saami aspectual derivation modifies rather than changes verbs actual meaning and enriches language by adding information on for example duration, intensity, accomplishment and beginning of action.

Preliminary results show that aspectual derivations could reflect how motivated storyteller is to tell about different subjects: longer and richer-in-content stories tend to have more complex use of derivational suffixes. It is also noted that, for example, subitive verbs tend to be used in fast-paced dialogue.


(Sierge Rasmus – Aino Valovirta)

The Máinnasheargi-corpus is a part of the Saami Culture Archives Corpus of Spoken Saami Languages. So far Máinnasheargi-corpus contains 5 hours of transcribed audio-material (27 000 words) in North Saami (SKS 1956) that has been morphologically annotated using Giellatekno parserer. Our goal is to expand the corpus to contain stories in Inari and Skolt Saami and add syntactic analysis to the corpus.

Research group

Ph.D. Marko Jouste(1) (marko.jouste(at)

B.A. Miika Lehtinen(1) (miika.lehtinen(at)

Ph.D. Karina Lukin(2) (karina.lukin(at)

B.A. Marja Montonen(2) (montonen.marja(at)

B.A. Sierge Rasmus(1) (sierge.rasmus(at)

B.A. Aino Valovirta(1) (aino.valovirta(at)

Ph.D Taarna Valtonen(1) (taarna.valtonen(at)

1 University of Oulu, Giellagas Institute for Saami Studies &

2 University of Helsinki, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Folklore Studies


Huuskonen, Marjut 2004: Stuorra-Jovnnan ladut. Tenonsaamelaisten ympäristökertomusten maailmat. SKS 986. Helsinki.

Itkonen, Terho 1971: Uskomus-, tarina- ja satuaineistoa Tenon varresta. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja 71:5. Helsinki.

Archive Sources

The Finnish Literature Society (SKS): SKS KRA. Saami audio material collected in 1956 (Itkonen, E. & Hautala, J.).

The Finno-Ugrian Society (SUS): Litterations of SKS’s Saami audio material collected in 1956 (Aikio, S.).

The Saami Culture Archive of University of Oulu

  • Luhkkáraččaid máinnasárbi -Archive Collection
  • The Giellagas Corpus of Spoken Saami Languages