Skip to main content

The Hunt for the Simplest Possible Vocabulary: Minimal Finnish Meets Easy Finnish

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Minimal Languages in Action

Abstract

In the current European context, the term Easy Language (previously easy-to-read language) refers to a language form that has been modified to be easier to read and understand for people with various linguistic challenges. This empirical pilot study combined Minimal Finnish and Easy Finnish, investigating whether Minimal Finnish could provide core vocabulary for Easy Finnish. Easy Finnish experts adapted a Standard Finnish text on discrimination, using both conventional Easy Finnish guidelines and the 300-word lexicon of Minimal Finnish, then presented the texts to test readers. The study found that Minimal Finnish is beneficial for explaining abstract concepts, and the semantic primes and molecules may be considered a list of ‘safe’ words. However, it can also give rise to more complex grammar or lengthen the text.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Notes

  1. 1.

    Not to be confused with Plain Language (or Plain English), a language modification targeted at average language speakers with no special linguistic needs.

  2. 2.

    Finnish is a Uralic language with a complicated morphosyntactic system and vocabulary which differs significantly from Indo-European languages. These characteristics set special requirements for Easy Finnish guidelines, especially in the area of morphosyntax. The international guidelines for Easy Language are mainly developed for audiences of the Indo-European language family, and thus, not unreasonably, ignore features relevant to the languages of other language families. It has been of great importance to develop guidelines that are adapted to the Finnish language (Leskelä 2019: 111–112).

  3. 3.

    The conventional genitive form itself is not considered problematic in EF (compared to e.g. Easy German), but in a list construction it may cause comprehension challenges.

  4. 4.

    There is no maximal word per sentence recommendation in EF, but Virtanen (2009: 97) recommends considering shortening a sentence if it contains over 14 words.

  5. 5.

    The decision to keep complex or non-frequent words in an Easy Language text is related to earlier studies on relatively complex but important vocabulary in German Leichte Sprache: 93% of people with intellectual disability and functionally illiterate people recognised the words Arbeitgeber ‘employer’ (frequency ranking <2000) and Zuschuss ‘grant’ (ranking >3000) (Bock 2019: 36).

  6. 6.

    For space saving purposes, the examples provided here do not follow the EF layout guidelines. The translations from Finnish to English are approximate.

  7. 7.

    ‘Safe’ in the sense that they can be used freely with minimal risk of misunderstanding, and with no need for explanation.

References

  • Arle, Solveig. 2018. Hur används primord för att skriva lättläst? En undersökning av tre återberättade romaner. MA Thesis. University of Helsinki.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bock, Bettina M. 2019. Leichte Sprache. In Kein Regelwerk. Sprachwissenschaftliche Ergebnisse und Praxisempfehlungen aus dem LeiSA-Projekt. Leipzig: University of Leipzig.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bock, Bettina M., Ulla Fix, and Daisy Lange. 2017. ‘Leichte Sprache’ im Spiegel theoretischer und angewandter Forschung. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bohman, Ulla. 2017. Easy-to-Read in Sweden. In ‘Leichte Sprache’ im Spiegel theoretischer und angewandter Forschung, ed. B.M. Bock, U. Fix, and D. Lange, 447–456. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bredel, Ursula, and Christiane Maaß. 2016a. Leichte Sprache. Theoretische Grundlagen, Orientierung für die Praxis. Berlin: Duden Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2016b. Ratgeber. Leichte Sprache. Die wichtigsten Regeln und Empfehlungen für die Praxis. Berlin: Duden Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2019. Leichte Sprache. In Handbuch Barrierefreie Kommunikation, ed. Christiane Maaß and Isabel Rink, 215–271. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

    Google Scholar 

  • EtR Finnish Meter. 2018. Selkeästi kaikille. Selkomittari [Clear to Everyone. Easy Language Meter]. Accessed 26 February 2020. https://selkokeskus.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/SELKOMITTARI_2018_11.10.18.pdf.

  • Goddard, Cliff and Anna Wierzbicka. 2018. Minimal English and How It Can Add to Global English. In Minimal English for a Global World: Improved Communication Using Fewer Words, ed. Cliff Goddard, 5–27. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-62512-6_2.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • IE (Inclusion Europe). 2009. Information for All. European Standards for Making Information Easy to Read and Understand. Accessed 26 February 2020. https://easy-to-read.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/EN_Information_for_all.pdf.

  • IFLA (International Federation of Library Association). 2010. Guidelines for Easy-to-Read. International Federation of Library Association and Institutions IFLA Professional Reports, No. 120. Accessed 26 February 2020. https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/publications/professional-report/120.pdf.

  • Juusola, Markku. 2019. Selkokielen tarvearvio [Needs Assessment of Easy Finnish]. Accessed 26 February 2020. https://selkokeskus.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Tarvearvio-2019.pdf.

  • Kulkki-Nieminen, Auli. 2010. Selkoistettu uutinen. Lingvistinen analyysi selkotekstin erityispiirteistä [News in Easy-to-Read. A Linguistic Analysis of Special Features of Easy-to-Read Text]. Tampere: University of Tampere. (Doctoral Dissertation.)

    Google Scholar 

  • Leskelä, Leealaura. 2015. Von Selko zu Leicht Lesen. Ein nordischer Blick auf die praktische Durchsetzung eines Bürgerrechtes. In Leicht Lesen. Der Schlüssel zur Welt, ed. Klaus Candussi and Walburga Fröhlich, 169–186. Wien: Böhlau Verlag.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2017. Textgenre-orientierte Prinzipien für Leichtes Finnisch. In ‘Leichte Sprache’ im Spiegel theoretischer und angewandter Forschung, ed. Bettina M. Bock, Ulla Fix, and Daisy Lange, 431–446. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2019. Selkokieli. Saavutettavan kielen opas [Easy-to-Read. A Guidebook for Accessible Language]. Helsinki: Opike.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leskelä, Leealaura, and Auli Kulkki-Nieminen. 2015. Selkokirjoittajan tekstilajit [Text Genres in Easy Language]. Helsinki: Opike.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leskelä, Leealaura, and Camilla Lindholm. 2012. Näkökulmia kielellisesti epäsymmetriseen vuorovaikutukseen [Perspectives on Linguistically Asymmetrical Interaction]. In Haavoittuva keskustelu. Keskustelunanalyyttisia tutkimuksia kielellisesti epäsymmetrisestä vuorovaikutuksesta, ed. Leealaura Leskelä and Camilla Lindholm. Helsinki: Kehitysvammaliitto.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leskelä, Leealaura, and Hannu Virtanen. 2006. Selkokielen ABC. [ABC of Easy Language]. In Toisin sanoen. Selkokielen teoriaa ja käytäntöä, ed. Leealaura Leskelä and Hannu Virtanen, 7–14. Helsinki: Opike.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindholm, Camilla, and Ulla Vanhatalo, eds. Forthcoming. Easy Language in Europe. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

    Google Scholar 

  • NLS (Netzwerk Leichte Sprache). 2013. Die Regeln für Leichte Sprache. Accessed 26 February 2020. https://www.leichte-sprache.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Regeln_Leichte_Sprache.pdf.

  • Rajala, Pertti, and Hannu Virtanen. 1986. Selkokieli. Miten sanoma perille? [Easy Language. How to Get the Message Through?]. Helsinki: Kirjastopalvelu.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rink, Isabel. 2019. Kommunikationsbarrieren. In Handbuch Barrierefreie Kommunikation, ed. Christiane Maaß and Isabel Rink, 29–66. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sainio, Ari, and Pertti Rajala. 2002. Ohjeita selkokirjoittajille. [Instructions for Easy Language Writers]. In Selko-opas, ed. Hannu Virtanen, 23–32. Tampere: Kehitysvammaliitto.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vanhatalo, Ulla, and Camilla Lindholm. 2020. Prevalence of NSM primes in Easy-to-Read and Standard Finnish: Findings from Newspaper Text Corpora. In Studies in Ethnopragmatics, Cultural Semantics, and Intercultural Communication. Vol. 3. Minimal English (and Beyond), ed. Lauren Sadow, Bert Peeters, and Kerry Mullan, 213–234. Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vanhatalo, Ulla, and Juhana Torkki. 2018. Introducing the Concept of the ‘65 Words’ to the Public in Finland. In Minimal English for a Global World: Improved Communication Using Fewer Words, ed. Cliff Goddard, 225–258. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-62512-6_2.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Virtanen, Hannu. 2009. Selkokielen käsikirja [The Handbook of Easy-to-Read]. Helsinki: Opike.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1972. Semantic Primitives. Frankfurt am Main: Athenaum.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Leealaura Leskelä .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Leskelä, L., Vanhatalo, U. (2021). The Hunt for the Simplest Possible Vocabulary: Minimal Finnish Meets Easy Finnish. In: Goddard, C. (eds) Minimal Languages in Action. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-64077-4_3

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-64077-4_3

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-64076-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-64077-4

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics