Samoyedic Languages

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Samoyedic Languages


a group of languages belonging to the Uralic language family. The Samoyedic languages include the Nenets, Enets, and Nganasan languages, which are spoken in the tundra zone of extreme northeastern Europe and northwestern Asia and which form the North Samoyedic subgroup; the Selkup language of Western Siberia; and the practically extinct Kamas, a dialect of which is known as Koibal and which is spoken in the Minusinsk Basin. Samoyedic dialects included Mator, Karagas, and Taigi; these closely related dialects were supplanted by Turkic languages and are known only from word lists of the 18th and early 19th centuries, when they were spoken in the Saian Upland region. Samoyedic languages are currently spoken by more than 34,000 persons (1970 census). The Saian Upland and the adjacent regions are assumed to be the homeland of the Proto-Samoyedic linguistic community, which dissolved early in the Common Era.

Most Samoyedic languages have a well-developed vowel system consisting of 15 to 25 phonemes. Consonant clusters almost never occur at the beginning of a word. Some dialects have preserved a mobile stress that serves to distinguish linguistic units. There are frequent morphophonemic changes in roots and affixes, especially nasal-obstruent alternations (n/t, n/?, and so forth), which date back to Proto-Samoyedic. Nouns have three numbers, from five to ten cases (and sometimes more), and possessive personal forms, as in the Nenets form ḿa?al (“your [singular] tent”). Some languages also have personal forms that indicate intent or destination, as in the Nenets form ḿatar (“a tent for you [singular]”); these forms may take predicative endings and are inflected for person and even tense. The verb has three types of conjugations in most Samoyedic languages: objective (transitive), subjective (intransitive), and reflexive. The verb produces a large number of nominal forms and has many moods and tenses. Word order is not very fixed, with subject-object-predicate and definer-defined models predominating. The vocabulary exhibits traces of contacts with Turkic, Mongol, Ob-Ugric, and Eniseian languages. From the 17th century to the present, Russian has been the primary source of borrowings.


Iazyki ipis’mennost’ narodov Sever a, part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Iazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 3. Moscow, 1966.
Tereshchenko, N. M. Sintaksis samodiiskikh iazykov. Leningrad, 1973.
Castrén, M. A. Grammatik der samojedischen Sprachen. St. Petersburg, 1854.
Castrén, M. A. Wörterverzeichnisse aus den samojedischen Sprachen. St. Petersburg, 1855.


References in periodicals archive ?
When approaching the Nganasan language from the perspective of the other Northern Samoyedic languages Tundra Nenets, Forest Nenets, Tundra Enets and Forest Enets, a number of Nganasan peculiarities are easily observable.
Given the fact that much of the historical syntax of Samoyedic is still unknown, Nganasan features that diverge from other Taimyrian Northern Samoyedic languages are not necessarily the outcome of language contacts, but may be instead language internal innovations.
Whereas all languages have dedicated lexemes expressing 'not know' and 'not be able', Nganasan differs from the other Northern Samoyedic languages as a further verb expressing 'not want' dundamtesa (Wagner-Nagy 2011 : 129ff) and dundam taled'a (Katzschmann 2008 : 473 footnote 416) is known.
Further, as shown above, the fact that Nganasan has a negative verb 'not want' which is absent from other Northern Samoyedic languages shows that Nganasan is much closer to Tungusic than its closest Samoyedic relatives.
In the aorist tense, Nganasan follows the other Northern Samoyedic languages, and verbal endings attach directly to nouns and adjectives:
In prior and contemporary research, the predicative conjugation in Nganasan has been classified as occupying an intermediate position between Selkup and the other Northern Samoyedic languages ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1973 : 161;Wagner-Nagy 2011 : chapter 8) and from a pan-Samoyedic position, this assumption is sound.
From a pan-Samoyedic perspective, the Nganasan allative case has parallels in other Northern Samoyedic languages where one finds an etymologically related free-standing postposition.
Still, the Nganansan allative case has a further function unparalleled in other Northern Samoyedic languages.
It is probably that once the absolute declension of all Northern Samoyedic languages included three grammatical cases with the following suffixes:
Katz, in Northern Samoyedic languages *j became a general suffix of plural accusative, in Selkup, on the contrary, it preserved the function of indicating the indefiniteness of the object.
Thus the most interesting fact here in the case of Selkup is that in absolute declension a rudimentarily preserved and common with Northern Samoyedic languages plural accusative suffix *-j does not coalesce with any regular case ending either in Selkup or Northern Samoyedic languages.
As far as Northern Samoyedic languages are concerned, according to Natal'ja Terescenko, in a number of cases the 2Px of the Tundra Nenets indicates definiteness instead of possessiveness.

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