Yukaghir languages

The Yukaghir languages (/ˈjkəɡɪər, jkəˈɡɪər/; also Yukagir, Jukagir) are a small family of two closely related languages—Tundra and Kolyma Yukaghir—spoken by the Yukaghir in the Russian Far East living in the basin of the Kolyma River. At the 2002 Russian census, both Yukaghir languages taken together had 604 speakers.[2] Recent reports from the field reveal that this number is far too high: Southern Yukaghir had maximum 5 fluent speakers in 2009, while the Tundra Yukaghir language had around 60-70. The entire family is thus to be regarded as moribund.[3]

EthnicityYukaghirs, Chuvans, Anauls
Russian Far East
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Yukaghir map XVII-XX.png
Extent of Yukaghir languages in the 17th (hatched) and 20th (solid) centuries

Classification and grammatical featuresEdit

The relationship of the Yukaghir languages with other language families is uncertain, though it has been suggested that they are distantly related to the Uralic languages, thus forming the putative Uralic–Yukaghir language family.[4]

Tundra and Kolyma Yukaghir are the only two remnants of what used to be one of the dominant languages/language families of northeastern Siberia, spreading from the River Anadyr in the east to the River Lena in the west.[5] On the basis of the evidence of early sources, it can be assumed that there existed a Yukaghir dialect continuum, with what is today Tundra Yukaghir and Kolyma Yukaghir at the extremes.[6]

These two languages share only a relatively small part of the vocabulary and are not mutually intelligible. The basic grammatical structures, however, are very similar. Both languages have residual vowel harmony and a complex phonotactics of consonants. Both have rich agglutinative morphology and are strictly head-final. There is practically no finite subordination and very few coordinate structures. The most spectacular feature of TY and KY grammar is the split intransitive alignment system based on discourse-pragmatic features. In absence of narrow focus, the system is organised on the nominative–accusative basis; when focused, direct objects and subjects of intransitive verbs are co-aligned (special focus case, special focus agreement).


The two extant varieties of Yukaghir are:

Extinct varieties include Omok and Chuvan, which survived until perhaps the 18th century.

Sample (Northern Yukaghir)Edit

Cyrillic: Көдэҥ тэн - ньидитэ бандьэ параwааньэрэҥ тудэ чуҥдэн ньилдьилэк эннулҥинь-мэдьуолнуни. Көдэҥ энмун чундэ мэ льэй, таатльэр лукундьии ньинэмдьийилпэ дитэ эннуйуол-мораwньэҥи.

Latin: Ködeng ten - n'idite band'e parawaan'ereng tude chungden n'ild'ilek ennulngin'- med'uolnuni. Ködeng enmun chunde me l'ey, taatl'er lukund'ii n'inemd'iyilpe dite ennuyuol-morawn'engi.

Translation: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yukaghir". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ "Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года". www.perepis2002.ru. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  3. ^ "Endangered languages in Northeast Asia: report". www.helsinki.fi. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  4. ^ Collinder, Björn (1940) Jukagirisch und Uralisch. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.
  5. ^ Dolgikh, Boris O. (1960) Rodovoj i plemennoj sostav narodov Sibiri v XVII v. Moskva: Izdatel'stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR
  6. ^ Nikoleava, Irina (2008) Chuvan and Omok languages? In: A. Lubotsky et al. (Eds.) Evidence and Counter-Evidence. Festschrift Frederik Kortland. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 313-336.

Further readingEdit

  • Luobbal Sámmol Sámmol Ánte (Ante Aikio): The Uralic-Yukaghir lexical correspondences: genetic inheritance, language contact or chance resemblance? – Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen 62, pp. 7–76. Online article
  • Häkkinen, Jaakko: Early contacts between Uralic and Yukaghir. Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia − Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 264, pp. 91–101. Helsinki: Suomalais-ugrilainen seura, 2012. Online article (pdf)
  • Jochel'son Vladimir I. 1900. Materialy po izucheniju jukagirskogo jazyka i fol’klora. ('Materials for the Study of Yukaghir Language and Folklore'). Sankt-Peterburg: Akademija nauk.
  • Jochelson, Waldemar. 1926. The Yukaghir and the Yukaghirized Tungus. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, 9, 13. Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition. Leiden: Brill.
  • Krejnovich, Erukhim A. 1958. Jukagirskij jazyk. ('The Yukaghir Language') Moscow and Leningrad: Nauka.
  • Krejnovich, Erukhim A. 1982. Issledovanija i materialy po jukagirskomu jazyku. ('Investigations and Materials on the Yukaghir Language') Leningrad: Nauka.
  • Kurilov, Gavril N. 2001. Jukagirsko-russkij slovar'. ('Yukaghir-Russian Dictionary') Novosibirsk: Nauka.
  • Maslova, Elena. 2001. Yukaghir Texts. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Maslova, Elena. 2003. A Grammar of Kolyma Yukaghir. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Maslova, Elena. 2003. Tundra Yukaghir. LINCOM Europa. Languages of the World/Materials 372.
  • Nikolaeva, Irina. 2006. A Historical Dictionary of Yukaghir. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Vakhtin, Nikolaj B. 1991. The Yukagir language in sociolinguistic perspective. Steszew, Poland: International Institute of Ethnolinguistic and Oriental Studies.
  • Willerslev, Rane 2007. Soul Hunters: Hunting, Animism, and Personhood among the Siberian Yukaghirs. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Willerslev, Rane 2012. On the Run in Siberia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

External linksEdit