The Teleut Language

General Information on the Language

Bibliography on the Teleut Language

Self-ethnonyms of the ethnic group: Telenget (тэлэңэт), Telengut (тэлэңут).

Names and self-names of the language: name of the language – Teleut; it has been considered one of the dialects of Altai language until recently.

Photo © L.A. Moskalenko, 1991, Bekovo settlement

Genetic affiliation

The Teleut Language belongs Altai subgroup of Kirgiz-Kypchak group of eastern branch of Turkic language family.

Geographical Spread Of The Language

Shebalinskiy District of Altai Republic, Chumyshskiy District of Altaiskiy Region, downstream Sem River, as well as Novosibirskaya Province and the south of Kemerovskaya Province (Gornaya Shoriya), downstream Bolshoy Bachat and Malyy Bachat Rivers (Bachat Teleut).

Language Contacts

In prehistoric period the Teleut language had contacts with Ket and Ob Ugric languages; in early ancient Turkic period, contacts with Iranian languages, later - with Mongolian, at present – with Russian and Turkic languages of Gorniy Altai and Khakassiya; among the latter the influence of Altai literary language is quite strong.

Number Of Native Speakers

Total number of native speakers approximates 2500 Teleut (census of 1989), however, only small part of them are fluent in the language.

Linguistic Characteristic of the Language

Phonological data

Vocalism: 8 brief and 8 long phonemes (а, о, ы, у, е, ц, и, я). Long vowels are used as a result of omission of a number of intervocalic consonants. Labial consonant harmony is broken within multisyllabic root and affixal word-form. Consonantism is characterized by full of partial regressive assimilation, presence of unvoiced consonants in intervocalic position.


Postaffixal agglutination with elements of analytism, fusion processes at the juncture of morphemes. Nouns are characterized by morphological categories of the number, case, possessiveness, predication; verbs – by categories of mood, tense, person/number, modality, aspect, actionsart, voice, negation. There is a well developed network of infinitive forms of the verb: participles as polyfunctional forms, combining finite function with various infinite ones, adverbial participle and infinitive.

The structure of nominal and verbal wordforms can be described in terms of the grammar of order: a maximal nominal wordform consists of a lexical morpheme (left), an affix of plural number, an affix of possessiveness, an affix of the case (right); a maximal verbal wordform consists of a lexical morpheme (root or a derivative, probably, with actionsart indices) (left), an affix of negation, mood/tense, person/number (right).

Semantic and grammatical data

Noun: a well-developed network of spatial cases.

Verb: Verb: the expression of actionsart, modal and aspect/tense meanings, primarily, in the frameworks of analytical verbal constructions with postverbs.

Syntactic data

The language has a nominative structure, unmarked word order in the sentence: “subject-object-predicate”, with subordinate syntactic members (predicative and non-predicative) preceding their “master” and syntactic relations between situations are expressed, mostly, in the frameworks of a monofit complex sentence with an infinite form of the verb in a subordinate clause.

Socio-Linguistic Description of the Language

  • Legal status, the present day situation of the language: a language of a numerically small indigenous people of the North;
  • Writing and orthography: created by Altai missionaries in the XIX century; the language was used by them as the basic language of Altai for publication of religious literature, for instruction in missionary schools; in the years of cultural revolution Altai Kizhi dialect was chosen as a basic dialect of literary Altai language, while Teleut became nonliterate;
  • Social functions of the language: family communication, the language of communication in monoethnic production teams, in traditional economic spheres; Teleut is taught as a subject in the school of Bekovo village;
  • History of studies of the language: substantial materials on Teleut folklore (for instance, the archive of N.P. Dyrenkova) were collected, Altai missionaries described Teleut grammar of the XIX century, they also collected and published substantial lexical material; in the present day period, all systems of the language have been understudied or have not been studied at all (with exception of the work by G. Fisakova), there is no either contemporary academic grammar, nor two-language academic dictionary.

Sound Sample of the Language

Feeding of somdor (ritual birch trees)
Ulus settlement, Kemerovskaya Province
Photo © D.A. Funk, 1982

The beginning of Myrat-Piy’s song

Recorded by D.A. Funk on 30 August, 1992 in Shanda village from A.K. Alagyzova [mp3 (33 s / 256 Kb) listen]

Mother’s Words:

Кöбöк, Кöбöк, кöл кечет,
Köbök, Köbök, is crossing the lake,

Кöмÿр аласы суу кечет.
Is crossing a charcoal(?) river.

Кöбöктең артык эр туулса,
If a man better than Köbök is born,

Теңис кечире мост салсын.
He will build a bridge across the ocean.

Myrat’s Reply:

Эки ташты колтыктанып,
Holding two stones in my armpit,

Теңисти кечкен, Мырат мен!
I crossed the ocean, Myrat is my name!

Йаңыс ташты колтыктанып,
Holding one stone in my armpit,

Йайыкты кечкен, Мырат мен!
Crossed the Ural (River), Myrat is my name!


Photo © D.A. Funk, 1999, Chelukhoevo village

Photo © E.P. Batianova, 2002, Shanda village

Specialists and Academic Centers Conducting Studies of the Language

  • Institute of Philology, Siberian Branch, RAS
© IEA RAS, 2005
This website was created with support from UNESCO Moscow Office