North Saami is the variety with the most speakers and therefore also the most vital among the Saami languages. North Saami has around 20,000 speakers and is divided into three main dialect groups: Torne Saami, Finnmark Saami and Sea Saami. North Saami is spoken in Norway, Sweden and Finland.
The development of the literary language of North Saami has involved a variety of phases. In the 1700s, a seminary educating missionaries for Saami areas was established in Trondheim, Norway. The head of the seminary, Knud Leem, started the formation of the North Saami literary language based on Finnmark Saami.
In the 1800s, the work on the literary language was continued by Norwegian cleric Nils Vibe Stockfleth, Danish linguist and philologist Rasmus Rask and Norwegian philologist, lexicologist and author Jens Andreas Friis. The orthography (writing system) developed by Friis was in use for a long time. In 1895, the complete Bible was published in the literary language formed by Friis. In the early 1900s, the first works of fiction were also published in North Saami, but the proper rise of North Saami literature was not seen until the 1960s.
For a long time, North Saami was written in different ways in the different countries in which it was spoken. It was not until 1978 that the current standard orthography was officially implemented for North Saami, and mixed use of the different orthographies was still seen in the 1980s.
The status of North Saami is relatively good, particularly in Finland and Norway, where North Saami can be studied in school as a mother tongue and the studies can be continued all the way to university.