Finnish syllables

Syllables play an important role in Finnish. By understanding the syllabic boundaries in Finnish, you can adhere to correct syllable stress and vowel harmony, and reduce the effort of grasping the concept of consonant gradation. With practice, you can sound more like a native speaker if the vowels and consonants within a word belong to the correct syllable.

Syllable rules

In the following table, V stands for vokaali (English: vowel) and K stands for konsonantti (English: consonant).

Table 1. Finnish syllable rules
Rules Examples
V-V1 no-pe-a, rus-ke-a, pi-me-ä
V-KV huo-men-ta, päi-vä, Puo-la
VK-KV öl-jy, il-ta, ik-ku-na
VKK-KV Rans-ka, Tans-ka, pork-ka-na

Syllable stress

In a Finnish word, the primary stress is always on the first syllable. For example, Nokia is stressed as /'nokia/, not /no'kia/. Likewise, Helsinki is stressed as /'helsiŋki/, not /hel'siŋki/.

In a compound word, a secondary stress falls on the second word's first syllable. For example, isoäiti (English: grandmother) is stressed as /'isoˌæiti/.

1 The V-V rule only applies to monophthongs; if two vowels make up a diphthong, this rule does not apply.