Uralic Languages

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Uralic Languages


a group of related languages spoken by the Finno-Ugric and Samoyed peoples. The Uralic languages are distributed over an area stretching from the Taimyr Peninsula and the northern part of Norway in the north to the middle course of the Ob’ River and the northern part of Yugoslavia in the south. Toponymic data attest to a formerly more extensive distribution of some Finno-Ugric and Samoyed peoples, such as the Karelians, Lapps, Komi, Veps, Mari, Mordovians, and Mansi (Voguls). Some Uralic languages (Merja, Murom, and Meshcher) and the languages of some small Samoyed tribes of the Saian Highland (the Mator, Karagas [Tofalar], Koibal, and Kotovtsy) no longer exist. The Kamas language is nearly extinct.

The Uralic languages are divided into two major branches: Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic. The Finno-Ugric languages are divided into five groups: (1) Balto-Finnic (Finnish, Ingrian, Karelian, Votic, Estonian, and Livonian), (2) Volga (Erzia Mordovian, Moksha Mordovian, Eastern and Meadow Mari, and Mountain Mari), (3) Permian (Komi-Zyrian, Komi-Permiak, and Udmurt), (4) Ugric (Khanty, Vogul, and Hungarian), and (5) Lapp. The Samoyed branch includes the Nenets, Enets, Nganasani and Selkup languages. Some groups are divided into subgroups; for example, the Khanty and Vogul languages are classified within the Ob-Ugric subgroup. The Samoyed languages are divided into the North subgroup (Nenets, Enets, and Nganasani) and the South subgroup, represented by Selkup. The degree of closeness between languages within a group is not uniform; for example, Lapp gravitates toward Balto-Finnic, although it is not included within this group. The differences between the languages of the Volga group are quite marked. Some dialects of Khanty might be classified more accurately as related languages rather than as dialects.

Deviations from the preceding classifications are found in the words of foreign Finno-Ugric scholars, who classify Komi-Permiak, Eastern and Meadow Mari, Mountain Mari, Erzia Mordovian, Moksha Mordovian, Karelian, and Ingrian as dialects rather than independent languages.

The Uralic languages exhibit features attesting to their common origin: common lexical strata, a fundamental relationship among formatives used for inflection and word formation, the presence of possessive suffixes, and the large number of suffixes expressing repeated or instantaneous action. At the same time, some modern Uralic languages are highly distinctive. Extremely agglutinative languages (Permian, Mari) coexist with languages having well-developed inflectional elements (Lapp and Balto-Finnic). Word stress may be free (movable) or fixed on the first, last, or penultimate syllable. Some languages exhibit an abundance of vowels and diphthongs (Finnish); others have many different types of consonants and few diphthongs (the Permian languages).

The total number of cases ranges from three (Khanty) to 23 (Hungarian). Past tense systems are typologically distinctive. The system of past tenses in Finnish and Estonian is of the same type as that of Latvian; in Mari and the Permian languages it resembles the Tatar and Chuvash type. A well-developed system of moods exists in the Nenets and Mordovian languages; the other languages generally possess a conditional mood. Verb negation is expressed by special negative verb forms in several Uralic languages; negative particles are used in others (Mordovian, the Ob-Ugric languages, Hungarian, and Estonian).

There are significant differences in syntax. The Balto-Finnic languages, Lapp, Hungarian, Mordovian, and Komi-Zyrian have been strongly influenced by the Indo-European languages of Swedish, German, and Russian, especially in the methods of forming subordinate compound sentences. The Samoyed, the Ob-Ugric and, in part, the Udmurt and Mari languages preserve certain archaic features that typologically relate the syntax of these languages to that of the Turkic languages. The vocabularies of certain Uralic languages also preserve traces of various foreign influences.

The Uralic languages, particularly the Finno-Ugric languages, have long been the subject of linguistic research. Major centers for such study are located in Hungary, Finland, the USSR, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the USA, Sweden, Norway, France, and Japan.


Iazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 3: Finno-ugorskie i samodiiskie iazyki. Moscow, 1966.
Osnovy finno-ugorskogo iazykoznaniia. Moscow, 1974.
Collinder, B. Survey of the Uralic Languages, 2nd ed. Stockholm, 1969.
Collinder, B. Comparative Grammar of the Uralic Languages. Stockholm, 1960.
Décsy, G. Einführung in die finnisch-ugrische Sprachwissenschaft. Wiesbaden, 1965.
Hajdú, P. Finnugor népek és nyelvek. Budapest, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Hungarian language belongs to the Uralic language family and is related to Finnish.
Drawing from the Nganasan Spoken Language Corpus, Wagner-Nagy presents a grammar of Nganasan, an endangered Samoyedic language that belongs to the Uralic language family. Most of the examples are from that corpus, and are passages from spontaneously produced texts, she says, but other examples are elicited materials produced either spontaneously or in response to questions.
The chapter is followed by an appendix, which contains a typological essive questionnaire for future research, targeting at languages outside the Uralic language family. Any reader interested in the results of the book may well start with the last chapter and read the first chapter later.
The Samoyedic languages form a branch of the Uralic language family, the other branch being the Finno-Ugric languages.
During the Soviet era, she explains, Russian migrants remained almost completely monolingual, but since 1991 they have become more aware of and knowledgeable about the native Estonian, which not only is not Slavic, as is Russian, but in not even Indo-European, belonging instead to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. She finds borrowing of overt Estonian lexical material, of course, but of more interest is when Estonian morphosyntactic patterns are used without even a single Estonian word or other lexical element.
Angela Marcantonio: The Uralic Language Family: Facts, Myths and Statistics.
Mansi and Khanty together build the Ob-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family. According to the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger by Unesco, Mansi is a critically endangered language: only 24% of the 11,400 Mansi speak Mansi nowadays.
2002, The Uralic Language Family. Facts, Myths and Statistics, Oxford--Boston (Publications of the Philological Society 35).
2002, The Uralic Language Family. Facts, Myths and Statistics, Oxford-Boston (Publications of the Philological Society 35).
2002, The Uralic Language Family: Facts, Myths and Statistics, Oxford--Boston (Publications of the Philological Society 35).
He says it is valid to consider the approaches of the so-called "revisionists" and "revolutionaries", although in his personal view "there is nothing basically wrong with the conventional paradigm of Uralic comparative studies." In addition to recommending how the debate should be conducted, the paper defends the conventional paradigm by focusing on the early works that established the Uralic language family, including H.
19-54), suffers from a lack of distinction between the historical foundations of the position of Hungarian w i t h i n the Uralic language family itself, and the relationship of Hungarian t o Uralic.