The Language of Chulym Turks

General Information on the Language

Self-Ethnonym of the Ethnic Group

Bibliography on the language of Chulym Turks

Self-ethnonyms of Chulym Turks used in their native language included such wide-spread names as Tadarlar («тадарлар») (Tatars, Turkic peoples), Yus-Chony («йус-чоны») (named by Chulym River, “population of Chulym/Yus River”) and Pisting Kizhileri («пистиң кижилери») (“our people”). Other names included Khakas («хакасы») (according to the main record in the passports made in the Soviet period), Yasak payers («ясашные»), Karagas («карагасы») (used among descendants of Chulym population living in Ket Basin; the USSR population census of 1926 used this ethnonym to register Turkic population of the lower reaches of Chulym River).

Genetic Affiliation

An independent Turkic language of a mixed type, with dominating Uighur and Kypchak elements.

The Geographical Spread of the Language

The majority of contemporary Chulym Turkic population is concentrated in the middle reaches of Chulym, in Teguldetskiy district of Tomskaya Province.

The Language Contacts

Russian and Khakas languages.

Number of Native Speakers

According to Russian National Census of 2002 the total number Chulym Turks is 656. Among them 32 people called themselves Tomsk Karagas (томские карагасы), 2 - Chulym Tatars (чулымские татары), 7 - Chulym Turks (чулымские тюрки), and 615 were registered as Chulym people (чулымцы), which is present official ethnonym of this ethnic group ( Other 21 Karagas were included in the number of Tofa, obviously, on the basis of the place of their residence which is rather Irkutskaya Province, than Tomskaya Province. In 2002, according to the place of residence and gender, the population was distributed in the following way:

Urban and village population Urban population Village population
total men women total men women total men women
656 318 338 54 29 25 602 289 313

According to the USSR Census of 1979, 388 people (165 men and 119 women) had a command of Chulym Turkic as their native language, according to the Census of 2002 – 270 people.

Dialects and Subdialects

At present there are two dialects distinguished: lower Chulym and middle Chulym, with the differences between them well described and analyzed in the works of R.M. Biryukovich. So called “Küeric subdialect” (Russian: «кюэрикское наречие») described by V.V. Radlov in the mid-XIX century, does not exist any more. A significant percent of Turkic ethnic groups whose language could have been included in Chulym language as a dialect or a subdialect, namely, Yachin (ячинцы), Kumysh (кумыши), Shuy (шуйцы) and Kamlar (камлары) of former Kuznetsk district of Tomskaya Province, were, mostly, Russified already back in the XIX century: since the 1980s specialists have not conducted any linguistic research among the population speaking their native language.

Linguistic Characteristics of the Language

The vowel system is represented by eight short and seven (six – in middle Chulym) long vowel phonemes. Vowel harmony includes two types: palatal vocalic harmony and labial harmony. There are 14 consonant phonemes.

There are the following parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, numerals, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, postpositions, particles. The names lack the category of gender and class. The category of number is represented by the form with or without suffix –lar.

There are seven cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, dative directional, instrumental-comitative, original and locative. One of the dominants of the name is a category of possessiveness expressed by morphological, morpho-syntactic and syntactic means. Similarly to other Turkic languages, five voices are known: main, reciprocal collaborative, reflexive, passive and causative. Temporal indices are expressed in several forms of the present, the past and the future tense.

The language belongs to the nominative type of languages. In contrast to other Turkic languages, the lack of the fixed model of order of both secondary and primary members of the sentence is characteristic. The connection between the sentences (used for expression of both coordinative and subordinative syntactic relations) is absent, which is an evidence of the relic condition of the syntactic structure of the complex sentence preserved in Chulym Turkic language:

ма:мы:зы са:тысхан кыста:рынан äптä тäтä:зы тäрза жанда ескäн сатты:рын ол аннал таннанган нöнä олар сатыстыр
The mother talked to her daughters at home, (and) the father was listening beside the window (and) trying to understand what they were talking about.

Sociolinguistic Characteristics of the Language

Legal Status, Present Day Situation

In Russian Federation the language of Chulym Turks has the status of language of a numerically small people of the North.

Writing and Orthography

There is no normative writing or orthography.

Social Functions of the Language

The sphere of use is limited to every day life communication.

The History of Study of the Language

The main contribution to the studies of the language of Chulym Turkic peoples was made by A.P. Dulzon, who introduced to science the first systematic description of the main features of the vocabulary, phonetics and morphology of the language of Chulym Turkic peoples. Research activities of A.P. Dulzon in Chulym River basin were organized in the form of long-term expeditions, in which not only linguistic materials were gathered but also archeological sites of Turkic population of Chulym of the XVI-XVII centuries were excavated. The works conducted in the end of the 1940s – in the beginning of the 1950s yielded in a monographic description of Chulym Turkic language, in which its dialects and subdialects were singled out and localized and complicated language substrata of Ket and Samoyedic origin, found in Chulym Turkic language, were characterized (Дульзон, 1952; 1966). Special work was devoted to the studies of traditional calendar of Chulym (Дульзон, 1950) and analysis of kinship networks of Chulym Turks (Дульзон, 1954). Linguistic studies of Chulym Turks were carried on by A.P. Dulzon’s followers. One of subdialects of Chulym Turkic language was examined in the article by R.A. Uraev (Ураев Р.А., 1955), comparative data on this language were used by linguist M.A. Abdrakhmanov (Абдрахманов М.А., 1959), since the end of the 1960s the studies of the phonological structure, vocabulary and morphology of Chulym Turkic language have been conducted by R.M. Biryukovich, who published a number of monographs including detailed description of grammar. In the aspect of area studies Chulym Turkic language has been drawing attention of well-known specialists in Turkic studies (Гаджиева Н.3., Бирюкович Р.М., 1983; Серебренников Б.А., Бирюкович Р. М., 1984).

In the end of the 1970s there existed 9 volumes of manuscripts of Chulym Turkic materials. Presently the archive of manuscript field materials of 1945-59 и 1970-78 includes 4 volumes, each of 700-1000 pages, stored in the Laboratory of the languages of peoples of Siberia of Tomsk State Pedagogical University.

In recent 20-25 years no research aimed at Chulym Turkic language has been conducted, which, obviously, is an evidence of the fact expressed in the following phrases in the Internet “No one of researchers has visited them in (recent) 30 years, and no one recorded a single word of their language” (see “Swarthmore College Linguist Finds Unrecorded Language in Siberia on the Brink of Extinction”, 2004 at Swarthmore College website).

Discussions of the degree of “understudiedness” of the language of Chulym Turkic peoples are available on read-only websites, namely, on LanguageHat in the information from February, 3 2004.


Photo © N.A. Tomilov

N.I. Baidashev, Teguldet village, Tomskaya Province. Photo © N.A. Tomilov

Specialists and Academic Centers Conducting Studies of the Language

According to the information provided in socio-linguistic encyclopedia «Письменные языки мира: Языки Российской Федерации» Кн.2. М. 203. С.627 (“Written Languages of the World: Languages of Russian Federation”), studies of the language of Chulym Turkic peoples are conducted in Saratov State University (SSU) named after N.G. Chernyshevskiy, which is obviously, outdated information. As far as SSU website informs, “R.M. Biryukovich, Doctor in philology, Germanist and Turkologist has chaired the department [of foreign languages] for 15 years, and her works have been laid in the foundation of many directions of work of the department”. According to the communication of E.L. Lvova, a specialist in ethnography of Turkic languages, R.M. Biryukovich now lives in the USA.

Projects of Studies of the Language

In 2003 American linguists sponsored by Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project organized a short-term expedition to Tomsk Province, to the compact communities of Chulym Turkic peoples. In 2005 project (Documentation of Ös: A Turkic Language of Siberia) was supported to be implemented in 2005-2008. Funds provided by The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project equaled to £65572. The project is directed by Prof. Gregory Andersen and Prof. David Harrison (both from Swarthmore College, USA). The project should yield in a reading book for children, grammar of Öс language and an electronic archive of annotated digital video records. [details]

Translated into English by O.A. Povoroznyuk

© IEA RAS, 2005
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