Crimean Tatar language

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Not to be confused with Tatar language.
Crimean Tatar
Qırımtatarca, Qırımtatar tili
Къырымтатарджа, Къырымтатар тили
Pronunciation [qɯrɯmtɑtɑrˈd͡ʒɑ]
Native to Ukraine, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Romania, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria
Region Black Sea
Ethnicity Crimean Tatars
Native speakers
480,000  (2006–2011)[1]
Cyrillic and Latin; previously Arabic (Crimean Tatar alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
 Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine) (de jure)
 Sevastopol (Russia)
 Republic of Crimea (Russia)
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2 crh
ISO 639-3 crh
Glottolog crim1257[3]
Linguasphere part of 44-AAB-a
Crimean Tatar-speaking world
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"Welcome to Crimea" (Qırımğa hoş keldiñiz!) written in Crimean Tatar Cyrillic, airport bus, Simferopol International Airport
Crimean Tatar Latin script on the table in Bakhchisaray.
An example of Crimean Tatar Arabic script.

Crimean Tatar (Qırımtatarca, Qırımtatar tili, Къырымтатарджа, Къырымтатар тили), also called Crimean Turkish or simply Crimean, is the indigenous language of the Crimean Tatars. It is a Turkic language spoken in Crimea and the Crimean Tatar diasporas of Uzbekistan, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as small communities in the United States and Canada. It should not be confused with Tatar proper, spoken in Russia, to which it is related, but with which it is not mutually intelligible. It is more similar to and somewhat mutually intelligible with Turkish.

Number of speakers[edit]

Today, more than 260,000 Crimean Tatars live in Crimea, and approximately 150,000 are still in exile in Central Asia (mainly in Uzbekistan).[4] An estimated 5 million people of Crimean origin live in Turkey, descendants of those who emigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries.[citation needed] Of these an estimated 2,000 still speak the language.[4] Smaller Crimean Tatar communities are also found in Romania (22,000), Bulgaria (6,000), and the United States.[4] It is one of the seriously endangered languages in Europe.[5]

Almost all Crimean Tatars are bilingual or multilingual with the dominant languages of their respective home countries such as Ukrainian, Turkish, Uzbek, Russian, etc.


Each of the three subethnic groups of the Crimean Tatars has its own dialect. The dialect of the Nogays—the former inhabitants of the Crimean steppe (should not be confused with Nogai people)—is of Kypchak–Nogay origin, Yalıboylus, who lived on the southern coast of Crimea before 1944, speak an Oghuz dialect and the middle dialect of the Tat Tatars from the Crimean Mountains (should not be confused with Tat people) is of Kypchak–Cuman origin. This dialect is a direct descendant of the Cuman language, but it has been strongly influenced by the Oghuz.[citation needed] The modern Crimean Tatar written language is based on this middle dialect because the Tats comprise about 55% of the total Crimean Tatar population.


The forming of the Crimean Tatar spoken dialects began with the first Turkic invasions to Crimea and ended during the period of the Crimean Khanate. However, the official written languages of the Crimean Khanate were Chagatai and Ottoman Turkish. After the Islamization, Crimean Tatars wrote with an Arabic script.

In 1876, the different Turkic Crimean dialects were made into a uniform written language by Ismail Gasprinski. A preference was given to the Oghuz dialect of the Yalıboylus, in order to not break the link between the Crimeans and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. In 1928, it was reoriented to the middle dialect.

In 1928, the alphabet was replaced with the Uniform Turkic Alphabet based on the Latin script. The Uniform Turkic Alphabet was itself replaced in 1938 by a Cyrillic alphabet. Since the 1990s, the script is in the process of being replaced with a Latin version again, but the Cyrillic is still widely used (mainly in published literature and newspapers). The current Latin-based Crimean Tatar alphabet is the same as the Turkish alphabet with two additional characters: Ñ ñ and Q q.

Crimean Tatar was the native language of the poet Bekir Çoban-zade.



Front Back
+high i y ɯ u
-high e ø ɑ o

The vowel system of Crimean Tatar is similar to some other Turkic languages.[6] Because high vowels in Crimean Tatar are short and reduced, /i/ and /ɯ/ are realized close to [ɪ], even though they are phonologically distinct.[7]


Labial Dental/alveolar Post-
Velar Uvular
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p b t d t͡ʃ d͡ʒ k ɡ q
Fricative f v s z ʃ x ɣ
Trill r
Approximants l j

In additional to these phonemes, Crimean also displays marginal phonemes that occur in borrowed words, especially palatalized consonants.[8]

Current situation[edit]

According to the constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as published in Russian by its Verkhovna Rada,[9] Russian and Crimean Tatar languages enjoy a "protected" (Russian: обеспечивается ... защита) status; every citizen is entitled, at his request (ходатайство), to receive government documents, such as "Passport, Birth certificate and others" in Crimean Tatar. According to the constitution of Ukraine, however, Ukrainian is the only official language in all of Ukraine, so the recognition of those languages is a matter of political and legal debate.

Before the Sürgün, the deportation of Crimean Tatars to the Uzbek SSR (18 May 1944), it had an official language status in the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Writing systems[edit]

Crimean Tatar can be written in either the Cyrillic or Latin alphabets, both modified to the specific needs of Crimean Tatar, and either used respective to where the language is used. Under Ukrainian rule, the Latin alphabet was preferred, but upon Russia's annexation of Crimea, Cyrillic became the sole official script.[citation needed]

Latin alphabet[edit]

 â symbol is not considered to be a separate letter.

a b c ç d e f g ğ h ı i j k l m n ñ o ö p q r s ş t u ü v y z
[a] [b] [dʒ] [tʃ] [d] [e] [f] [ɡ] [ɣ] [x] [ɯ] [i], [ɪ] [ʒ] [k] [l] [m] [n] [ŋ] [o] [ø] [p] [q] [r] [s] [ʃ] [t] [u] [y] [v], [w] [j] [z]

Cyrillic alphabet[edit]

а б в г гъ д е ё ж з и й к къ л м н нъ o п p c т у ф x ц ч дж ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я
[a] [b] [v],[w] [ɡ] [ɣ] [d] [ɛ],[jɛ] [ø],[jø],[jo],[ʲo] [ʒ] [z] [i],[ɪ] [j] [k] [q] [l],[ɫ] [m] [n] [ŋ] [o],[ø] [p] [r] [s] [t] [u],[y] [f] [x] [ts] [tʃ] [dʒ] [ʃ] [ʃtʃ] [(.j)] [ɨ] [ʲ] [ɛ] [y],[jy],[ju],[ʲu] [ʲa],

гъ, къ, нъ and дж are separate letters (digraphs).

Comparison with other languages[edit]

Turkish and Azerbaijani[edit]

The following newspaper report compares Crimean Tatar with Turkish and Azerbaijani:[citation needed]

Crimean Tatar Turkish Azerbaijani English
Meclis Haberleri 10.09.2003// Qırımtatar Milliy Meclisiniñ 120-cı toplaşuvı olıp keçti

2003 senesi sentâbr 7 künü Aqmescitteki İslâm Merkeziniñ binasında Qırımtatar Milliy Meclisiniñ 120-cı toplaşuvı olıp keçti.

Meclis Haberleri 10.09.2003// Kırım Tatar Millî Meclisi'nin 120. toplantısı gerçekleşti

7 Eylül 2003 günü Akmescit'teki İslam Merkezi'nin binasında Kırım Tatar Millî Meclisi'nin 120. toplantısı gerçekleşti.

Məclis Xəbərləri 10.09.2003// Qırım Tatar Milli Məclisinin 120-ci toplantısı keçirildi

2003-cü il sentyabrın 7-si günü Ağməsciddəki İslam Mərkəzinin binasında Qırım Tatar Milli Məclisinin 120-ci toplantısı keçirildi.

Assembly News 10.09.2003// 120th meeting of Crimean Tatar National Assembly was held

On 7 September 2003, 120th meeting of Crimean Tatar National Assembly was held at the Islamic Centre building in Simferopol.

Tatar proper[edit]

Because of its common name, Crimean Tatar is sometimes mistaken to be a dialect of Tatar proper. Although these languages are related (because both are Turkic), the Kypchak languages closest to Crimean Tatar are, as mentioned above, Kumyk, Karachay-Balkar and Nogay, not Tatar.



  1. ^ Crimean Tatar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "To which languages does the Charter apply?". European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Council of Europe. p. 2. 
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Crimean Tatar". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ a b c Crimean Tatar language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  5. ^ Tapani Salminen, UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages: Europe, September 1999
  6. ^ Kavitskaya 2010, p. 6
  7. ^ Kavitskaya 2010, p. 8
  8. ^ Kavitskaya 2010, p. 10
  9. ^ Конституция Автономной Республики Крым


  • Berta, Árpád (1998). "West Kipchak Languages". In Johanson, Lars; Csató, Éva Ágnes. The Turkic Languages. Routledge. pp. 301–317. ISBN 978-0-415-08200-6. 
  • Kavitskaya, Darya (2010). Crimean Tatar. Munich: Lincom Europa. 

External links[edit]