The Estonian language (eesti keel ) is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people: 922,000 people in Estonia and 160,000 outside Estonia. It is a Southern Finnic language and is the second most spoken language among all the Finnic languages.
Estonian is closely related to Finnish and belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. Alongside Finnish, Hungarian and Maltese, Estonian is one of the four official languages of European Union that is not of an Indo-European origin. Despite some overlaps in the vocabulary due to borrowings, in terms of its origin, Estonian and Finnish are not related to their nearest geographical neighbours, Swedish, Latvian, and Russian, which are all Indo-European languages.
Although the Estonian and Germanic languages are of very different origins, one can identify many similar words in Estonian and German, for example. This is primarily because the Estonian language has borrowed nearly one third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from Low Saxon (Middle Low German) during the period of German rule, and High German (including Standard German). The percentage of Low Saxon and High German loanwords can be estimated at 22–25 percent, with Low Saxon making up about 15 percent. Swedish and Russian are the other two important sources of borrowings.
Estonian is a predominantly agglutinative language, but unlike Finnish, it has lost vowel harmony, the front vowels occurring exclusively on the first or stressed syllable, although in older texts the vowel harmony can still be recognized. Furthermore, the loss of word-final sounds is extensive, and this has made its inflectional morphology markedly more fusional, especially with respect to noun and adjective inflection. Word order is considerably more flexible than English, but the basic order is subject–verb–object.