Khakas (Khakas: Хакас тілі Khakas tîlî) is a Turkic language spoken by the Khakas people, who mainly live in the southern Siberian Khakas Republic, or Khakassia, in Russia. The Khakas number 75,000, of whom 20,000 speak the Khakas language, most of whom are bilingual in Russian.
Traditionally, the Khakas language is divided into several closely related dialects, which take their names from the different tribes: Sagay, Kacha, Koybal, Beltir, and Kyzyl. In fact, these names represent former administrative units rather than tribal or linguistic groups. The people speaking all these dialects simply referred to themselves as Tadar (i.e. Tatar). Shor, which was later on recognised as a Khakas dialect, is spoken by people who originally came from Shoria, currently the Kemerovo region.
History and documentation
The first major recordings of the Khakas language originate from the middle of the 19th century. The Finnish linguist Matthias Castrén, who travelled through northern and Central Asia between 1845–1849, wrote a treatise on the Koybal dialect, and recorded an epic. Wilhelm Radloff traveled the southern Siberian region extensively between 1859 and 1870. The result of his research was, among others, published in his four-volume dictionary, and in his ten volume series of Turkic texts. The second volume contains his Khakas materials, which were provided with a German translation. The ninth volume, provided with a Russian translation, was prepared by Radloff's student Katanov, who was a Sagay himself, and contains further Khakas materials.
The Khakas literary language, which was developed only after the Russian Revolution of 1917, is based on the central dialects Sagay and Kacha; the Beltir dialect has largely been assimilated by Sagay, and the Koybal dialect by Kacha.
In 1924, a Cyrillic alphabet was devised, which was replaced by a Latin alphabet in 1929, and by a new Cyrillic alphabet in 1939.
In 2012, an Enduring Voices expedition documented the "Xyzyl (pronounced hizzle) language from the Republic of Khakassia. Officially considered a dialect of Khakas, its speakers regard Xyzyl as a separate language of its own.
The Khakas language is part of the northeastern conglomerate of Turkic languages, which includes Shor, Chulym, Tuva, Tofa, Sakha (Yakut), and Dolgan.
- Castrén, M. A. (1857). Versuch einer koibalischen und karagassischen Sprachlehre nebst Wörterverzeichnissen aus den tatarischen mundarten des minussinschen Kreises. St. Petersburg.
- Radloff, W. (1893-1911). Versuch eines Wörterbuches der Türk-Dialecte I-IV. St. Petersburg.
- Radloff, W. (1867). Proben der Volkslitteratur der türkischen Stämme Süd-Sibiriens. II. Theil: die Abakan-Dialecte (der Sagaische, Koibalische, Katschinzische), der Kysyl-Dialect und der Tscholym-Dialect (Küerik). St. Petersburg.
- Katanov, N. F. (1907). Proben der Volkslitteratur der türkischen Stämme. IX. Theil: Mundarten der Urianchaier (Sojonen), Abakan-Tataren und Karagassen. St. Petersburg.
- Anderson, G. D. (1998). Xakas. Languages of the world: Materials: 251. München.