(in prerevolutionary literature, Giliak), a people living in the region of the lower Amur basin (Khabarovsk Krai, RSFSR) and on Sakhalin Island. Population, 4,400 (1970 census). They speak Nivkh.
The Nivkh are probably direct descendants of the earliest Neolithic population of the Amur basin and the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. Until the October Revolution of 1917, the economy of the Nivkh was based on fishing and seal hunting. The only domesticated animal was the dog. The Nivkh have retained a considerable number of vestiges of primitive clan and tribal relations. Most of the Nivkh were officially counted as Eastern Orthodox, but in fact ancient religious conceptions and shamanism predominated among them. In the Soviet era the Nivkh were brought together on collective farms, where new economic pursuits—agriculture and livestock raising—are developing alongside the traditional sectors. There is a national intelligentsia.
REFERENCESNarody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956. (Bibliography.)
Taksami, Ch. M. Vozrozhdenie nivkhskoi narodnosti. Iuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1959.
(Giliak), the language of the Nivkh people. Spoken in the region of the lower Amur River and on Sakhalin Island. The number of speakers is 4,000 (1970 census).
Nivkh is usually classified as a Paleosiberian language. Its genetic ties have not been conclusively established. There are two dialects, Sakhalin and Amur. Nivkh is an agglutinative language of the prefixal-suffixal type, with features of consonantal inflexion. It has a complex system of regular vowel alternations. Nouns and pronouns have eight cases. Words indicating the qualitative features of objects are part of the verb system. There are 30 categories of cardinal numbers. The verbs have categories of voice, mood, and modes of action. Transitive verbs with a pronomial object indicator incorporate the direct object. The language also has adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, words of spatial orientation, and metaphorical words.
REFERENCESKreinovich, E. A. Fonetika nivkhskogo (giliatskogo) iazyka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Panfilov, V. Z. Grammatika nivkhskogo iazyka, parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962–65.
E. A. KREINOVICH