Samoyedic Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
The Samoyedic languages form a branch of the Uralic language family, the other branch being the Finno-Ugric languages.
Perhaps this is why they have diverged so far from the Uralic peoples both physically and linguistically that until recently it was not shown that the isolated Yukaghir language is related to the Uralic family, and especially to the Samoyedic languages. It has even been suggested that the families that first settled America might have belonged to a further group that also split off, but even earlier, from the common stem of the Uralic languages.
in words keseru 'bitter', savanyu 'sour'), furthermore in Samoyedic languages (on the etymology of these suffixes, see: Lehtisalo 1936:82-110; A.
Among the two hundred languages, there are several of the Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic languages as well: Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Karelian (with dialects), Zyrian, Votyak, Cheremis, Vogul and Ostyak (with dialects), and Mordvin of course.
Stop gradation, historically conditioned by the presence or absence of a coda, appears to occur only in Uralic languages, being a characteristic feature of most Finnic and Saami languages, and a few Samoyedic languages. According to the view shared by most researchers, stop gradation developed independently in Finno-Saamic languages and in Samoyedic languages over three thousand years ago (Itkonen 1969; Laanest 1982; Gordon 1997 and others).
This is found in some of the Samoyedic languages examined and is clearly connected to the fact that these languages express polar interrogation in their verbal morphology (interrogative mood).
As far as Enets is concerned, Castren's grammar of Samoyedic languages (1854) has remained the most systematic source for the topic.
Samoyedic languages commonly use three cases for the direct object: *m-accusative, unmarked nominative and rarely *n-genitive.
In all Ugric and Samoyedic languages the definite conjugation does really exist (see also Kortvely 2005 : 32-36, 39-42).
By contrast, all Samoyedic languages clearly have a category of unmarked object next to an indicative finite verb, and in three of these: (Tundra) Nenets, (6) Enets and Selkup this form expresses the definiteness or the focus function of the object.
On the other, I have supposed that Samoyedic languages have strong traces about contacts with Finnic languages up to the transition of Samoyeds to the Finnic language form (see e.g.