Lesson 5 - Concepts of word stem and grammatical cases


The following chapters on sound alternations will be very hard. The key is to take time and learn everything by heart. It is a good idea to listen to Meänraatio every now and then to have better grasp on how sound alternations work (since there are not many listening resources available in Kven).

As mentioned in the first lesson, Kven is an agglutinative language with 13 grammatical cases, and these cases appear in the form of suffixes. When the suffix is to attach to a word, it is added to the "stem" of a word.

In English, when we add any ending to the word "box", we cannot add it directly for phonological reasons, thus we need the stem.





There are two stems for the word "box". "boxe-" is used for for example, the plural marker "-s" or past tense marker "-d", as in: boxes, boxed. "box", on the other hand, is used for verbal noun marker "-ing".

This is the same as in Kven, except there are more changes than just ending, and we will touch on that later.

Remember that the stems of all words have to end in a vowel.

Stems exist in both singular and plural. As the chart shows below, some words only have one stem; some words have two types of stems that are meant for different cases; some words have three.


Singular stem

Plural stem

tärkkee (important)



korjoitus (writing)



kontti (meat bone)



laki (law)



In Lesson 3, we’ve learnt how syllables work. But pay close attention to some words and how they are conjugated because their stem has an additional syllable than the original (nominative) form.

For examples, the word "kirjoitus" meaning "writing" has 3 syllables: kirjoitus

But the stem for "kirjoitus" is “kirjoitukse-” with 4 syllables: kir • joi • tu • kse-

Remember that we always conjugate by adding suffixes to the stems, so it is important to know how many syllables each stem has.


With that in mind, let’s now talk about grammatical cases.

What are they?

We all know that noun, adjective, and pronoun can play different roles in a sentence. The most common ones are "subject", "object", and "complement". Kven has 13 grammatical cases, more than most European languages.

Function of cases is similar to preposition in English or other Indo-European languages, while the difference is that they take the form of suffixes. Learners of English may already know nominative, genitive, and accusative, while those who have knowledge of Finnish may find all cases familiar.

Bear in mind that all cases are always added to the stem.

For example:

Uslu                   oon                            Ruija-ssa.

Oslo                   is                                Norway-in

Oslo is in Norway.