Chukchi phonology

This article discusses the phonology of the Chukchi language. The Chukchi language, also known as Chukot or Luorawetlan,[1] is a language spoken by around 5 thousand people[2] in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The endonym of the Chukchi language is Ԓыгъоравэтԓьэн йиԓыйиԓ (Lyg'"orawetl'en Jilyjil),[3] pronounced as [ɬəɣˀorawetɬˀɛn jiɬəjiɬ]. Chukchi is in the Chukotko-Kamchatkan family, and thus is closely related to Koryak, Kerek, Alyutor, and more distantly related to Itelmen, Southern Kamchadal, and Eastern Kamchadal.


Generally, Chukchi is noted to have 5 or 6 distinct vowels, with /e1/ and /e2/ being identical in pronunciation but behaving differently in the language. A similar occurrence exists in Yup'ik Eskimo. Chukchi phonotactics are (C)V(C).

Vowel Phonemes
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e (ə) o
Open a

Phonetic notes:

  • [ə] is not phonemic and is used to break off illegal consonant clusters.
  • Word finally /e1/ and /a/ reduce to a schwa, while other vowels may get dropped.

Vowel HarmonyEdit

Chukchi is notable for its vowel harmony based on vowel height, with /i/, /u/, and /e1/ belonging to the recessive group and /e₂/, /o/, and /a/ belonging to the dominant group. The three-vowel pairs alternate with each other and cannot cooccur within a word.


Chukchi has 13 consonants. The language lacks voiced stops, which are only found in loanwords.

Chukchi consonant phonemes
Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p t t͡ʃ k q ʔ
Fricative β s ɣ
Lateral ɬ
Approximant ɻ j
  • [ɸ, x, ɻ̊, j̊] are heard as allophones of /β, ɣ, ɻ, j/ after voiceless stops.[5]
  • /ɻ/ is mostly heard as an alveolar trill [r], when in between vowels.[6]
  • /s/ is phonetically [s~t͡ʃ] in free variation and only occurs in the men's dialect.
  • /t͡ʃ/ becomes [s] before /q/ and only occurs in the women's dialect.
  • /s/, /t͡ʃ/ and /ɻ/ have different distributions between men's and women's dialects.[7]

There is also a supersegmental glottalisation realised as a glottal stop preceding a vowel. It is not treated as a consonant as a result of phonotactics and reduplication patterns.


  1. ^ "ckt | ISO 639-3". Retrieved 2021-11-09.
  2. ^ Archived 2021-08-30 at the Wayback Machine[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ Waldemar, Bogoras (1922). Chukchee: essay of a comparative study of Chukchee group of languages.
  4. ^ Dunn, Michael John (1999). "A grammar of Chukchi". doi:10.25911/5d77842288837. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "chapter2_9". 2013-10-30. Archived from the original on 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2022-10-21.
  6. ^ Skorik (1961)
  7. ^ Dunn (1999)