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Ter Sami is the easternmost of the Sami languages. It was traditionally spoken in the northeastern part of the Kola Peninsula, but now it is a moribund language; in 2004, only ten speakers were left. By 2010, the number of speakers had decreased to two.[1]

Ter Sami
Native to Russia
Native speakers
2 (2010)[1]
Latin script (historical), Cyrillic script (current) [2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sjt
Glottolog ters1235[3]
Sami languages large.png
Ter Sami is number 9 on the map.
Sami dialects and settlements in Russia:



Zoya Gerasimova (left), one of the last speakers of Ter Sami.
Photo taken in 2006.

In the end of the 19th century, there were six Ter Sami villages in the eastern part of the Kola Peninsula, with a total population of approximately 450. In 2004, there were approximately 100 ethnic Ter Sami of whom two elderly persons speak the language; the rest have shifted their language to Russian.[4]

The rapid decline in the number of speakers was caused by Soviet collectivisation, during which its use was prohibited in schools and homes[citation needed] in the 1930s, and the largest Ter Sami village, Yokanga, was declared "perspectiveless" and its inhabitants were forced to move to the Gremikha military base.[4]


There are no educational materials or facilities in Ter Sami, and the language has no standardized orthography. The language is incompletely studied and documented; text specimens, audio recordings as well as dictionaries for linguistic purposes exist,[5][6] but no grammatical description is available.

The earliest known documentation of Sami languages is a short Ter Sami vocabulary collected by the British explorer Stephen Burrough in 1557; the vocabulary was published by Richard Hakluyt.[7]

Writing SystemEdit

A spelling system for Ter Sámi using the Latin alphabet and based on Skolt Sámi was developed in the 1930s. After the Second World War this was replaced by a system using the Cyrillic alphabet and based on Kildin Sámi.[8]


  1. ^ a b Sami Languages Disappearing Barents Observer
  2. ^ "Ter Sami alphabet, pronunciation and language". Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ter Sami". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ a b Tiuraniemi Olli: "Anatoli Zaharov on maapallon ainoa turjansaamea puhuva mies", Kide 6 / 2004.
  5. ^ Itkonen T. I.: "Koltan- ja kuolanlapin sanakirja", Helsinki: Société Finno-Ougrienne, 1958.
  6. ^ Itkonen T. I.: "Koltan- ja kuolanlappalaisia satuja", 1931.Memoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 60
  7. ^ Aikio Samuli: "Olbmot ovdal min - Sámiid historjá 1700-logu rádjái". Girjegiisá: Kárášjohka, 1992.
  8. ^ "Ter Sami alphabet, pronunciation and language". Retrieved 16 February 2017.