Even language

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эвэды торэн (evedy toren)
Native toRussia
RegionRussian Far East
Ethnicity21,800 Evens (2010 census)[1]
Native speakers
5,700 (2010 census)[1]
  • Northern
    • Even
Language codes
ISO 639-3eve

The Even language /əˈvɛn/, also known as Lamut, Ewen, Eben, Orich, Ilqan (Russian: Эве́нский язы́к, earlier also Ламутский язы́к), is a Tungusic language spoken by the Evens in Siberia. It is spoken by widely scattered communities of reindeer herders from Kamchatka and the Sea of Okhotsk in the east to the Lena river in the west and from the Arctic coast in the north to the Aldan river in the south. Even is an endangered language with only some 5,700 speakers (Russian census, 2010). These speakers are specifically from the Magadan region, the Chukot region and the Koryak region.[2] The dialects are Arman, Indigirka, Kamchatka, Kolyma-Omolon, Okhotsk, Ola, Tompon, Upper Kolyma, Sakkyryr and Lamunkhin.[3]

In the regions where the Evens primarily reside, the Even language is generally taught in pre-school and elementary school alongside the national language, Russian. Where Even functioned primarily as an oral language for communication between reindeer herding brigades, textbooks began circulating throughout these educational institutions from around 1925 to 1995.[4]

The syntax of the Even language follows the nominative case and subject-object-verb (SOV) word order, with the attribute preceding the dependent member.[4]

Language contact[edit]

In some remote Arctic villages, such as Russkoye Ustye, whose population descended from Russian-Even intermarriage, the language spoken into the 20th century was a dialect of Russian with a strong Even influence.[5]


Front Central Back
Close i iː
ɪ ɪː
u uː
ʊ ʊː
Mid e eː ə əː o oː
ɔ ɔː
Open a aː
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
voiceless p t t͡ʃ k ~ (q)
voiced b d d͡ʒ g ~ (ɣ)
Fricative s h
Rhotic r
Approximant ʋ ~ w l j

/ɣ, q/ are allophones of /ɡ, k/.[7]

Morphology and syntax[edit]

Even parts of speech include postpositions, conjunction, particles, and adverbs, as well as nouns and verbs; nouns in Even can function as adjectives and adverbs. Even features a nominative-accusative alignment with subject-object-verb word order. There exists an obligatory copula, but it can be omitted if a noun in the predicate is inflected for the third person.

Nouns in Even are marked for 13 cases, including the nominative, accusative, dative, lative, two forms of the locative, prolative, three forms of the ablative, instrumental, and comitative. They are also inflected for the singular or plural number and for possession, as well as for the subjective, which indicates that the subject noun has no object. Noun inflection is exclusively suffixing. Its pronouns are distinguished between personal, reflexive, and possessive forms, with a distinction between alienable and inalienable forms.

Verbs can be conjugated with prefixes for 15 aspects and feature 6 distinctions in voice, with specific negative and interrogative forms. There are 14 ways to form participles, 8 being transgressives.


Early alphabets[edit]

The first attempts at writings in the Even language were published by Nicolaas Witsen in 1692. In the 18th century, separate Even words were published by Jacob Johann Lindenau (ru), and also in the comparative dictionary P. S. Pallas (ru), published in 1787–1789.[8]

In the 1840s, on behalf of the Archbishop of Kamchatka and Aleutian Innokentiy (Veniaminov), church texts began to be translated into the Even language.[9] The work was led by Okhotsk archpriest Stefan Popov and the Stanitsky foreman Sheludyakov from the Tauisk (ru) second outpost, who was directly involved in the translation. This determined the choice of the dialect for translation: the Oleskii dialect. Translation work was carried out in the years 1851–1854.[10]

The translators' first publication was the 1858 Тунгусского букваря on the Church Slavonic chart. The alphabet of this primer included the following letters: А а, Б б, В в, Г̱ г̱, Ҥ̱ ҥ̱, Д д, Е е, И и, Ж ж, К к, Л л, М м, Н н, О о, П п, Р р, Т т, У у, Х х, Ч ч, Ш ш, С с, Ъ ъ, Ы ы, Ь ь, Ѣ ѣ, Э э, Ю ю, Ꙗ ѧ. Following this alphabet came a published dictionary (1859, reprinted in 1900) and the Gospel of Matthew (1880).[11]

In 1926, the Russian-Lamut and Russian-Koryak Dictionary was published in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky which used the Russian alphabet. The Russian alphabet was used as the basis for Even writing in a handwritten primer written in 1930 by teacher N. P. Tkachik at the Arkinskaya school.[12]


External image
image icon The first issue of the newspaper "Ajӡid orocәl" in the Even Latin script, 1931

In the 1920s, the Latinized writing process began in USSR. In April 1930, at the VII Plenum of the Committee of the North, it was decided to create alphabets for the peoples of the North. In May 1931 Narkompros of the RSFSR was approved "Unified Northern Alphabet", including its version for Even language.[12] The approved alphabet had the following form: A a, Ā ā, B в, Є є, D d, Ӡ ӡ, E e, Ә ә, Ә̄ ә̄, G g, H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, Ņ ņ, Ŋ ŋ, O o, ō, P p, R r, S s, T t, U u, W w .[13]

In 1932, the alphabet book Anŋamta torә̄n was published on this alphabet. Other educational, children's, as well as political literature and certain materials in newspapers began to appear.

In 1933–1934, the alphabet was somewhat modified and eventually began to look like this:[14]

A a B в C c D d Ӡ ӡ E e Ә ә Ә̄ ә̄ F f
G g H h I i J j K k L l M m N n Ņ ņ
Ŋ ŋ O o P p R r S s T t U u W w Z z

This alphabet was officially abolished at the end of 1936 but continued to be used in print until 1939.[9]


In 1936–1937, the Even Latin alphabet, like other alphabets of the peoples of the USSR, was replaced by a Cyrillic alphabet that contained all Russian letters and the digraph Нг нг.[15] However, the Even-language newspaper “Оротта правда”, published in the late 1930s in Magadan, used the additional letter ә . In the official version of the Even script in 1947, the digraph нг was officially canceled, but in 1954 it was restored again.[16]

In 1953 the digraph Нг нг was replaced by the letter Ӈ ӈ, besides the letters Ө ө and Ӫ ӫ were added.[17] However, in educational literature (which was published mainly in Leningrad) these letters began to be used only from the beginning of the 1960s, and for a long time they did not find use in literature published in the Even settlement areas.

The vast territory of Even settlement, the differences in dialects, the presence of various letters in typographic fonts caused the fact that different versions of Even script began to spontaneously arise in different regions. Only educational literature for elementary schools, published in Leningrad or Moscow,[8] remained unified.

Thus, in Yakut ASSR since the beginning of the 1960s, a local form of recording the Even language has been developed, graphically approximated to Yakut Script. In 1982, this form was legalized by the decision of local authorities, but already canceled in 1987, while continuing to be used unofficially for example, in the newspaper Ilken (sah). The difference between this form was the use of the sign Ҥ ҥ instead of the standard Ӈ ӈ , use of additional characters Ҕ ҕ, Һ һ, Ү ү, Ө ө, Дь дь, Нь нь (Ү ү was not officially entered into the alphabet, but was used in practice), and also the display long vowels by doubling them.[18]

In Magadan Oblast and in Chukotka, the main difference between the local version of the Even script and the standard version was the use of the sign Н’ н’ instead of Ӈ ӈ , as well as О о, У у instead of Ө ө and Ё ё instead of Ӫ ӫ. Since 1983, the Magadan Region, and since 1993, Chukotka switched to the official alphabet. At the same time, in Chukotka, in the local press, specific signs of the Even written language were not introduced at the same time — first, the Ӈ ӈ , then Ө ө , and finally ӫ. In a number of Chukchi Even editions the use of the Ӄ ӄ [19] sign is noted.

In Kamchatka Oblast, Even language has been used in the local press since the late 1980s. In the local version of the Even alphabet, the alphabet adopted in the 1940s was used. At the beginning of the XXI century, the Even media of Kamchatka (the newspaper “Аборигены Камчатки”) switched to the official version of the Even alphabet.[19]

Thus, outside of school education, which was always and everywhere conducted in the literary Even language, there were 4 regional variants of Even writing and spelling:

  1. Literary language based on Eastern dialect (Magadan region, Chukotka)
  2. Kamchatka writing form
  3. Indigirskaya written form (Yakutia)
  4. Sakkyryr written form (Yakutia)

The last two forms have no differences in the alphabet, but differ in terms of spelling.[8]

Modern Even alphabet

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з
И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н Ӈ ӈ О о Ө ө
Ӫ ӫ П п Р р С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц
Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я


  1. ^ a b Even at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Even (Lamut) language and alphabet". www.omniglot.com. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
  3. ^ Raymond G. Gordon Jr., ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  4. ^ a b "Endangered Languages of Siberia - The Even Language". lingsib.iea.ras.ru. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  5. ^ Russian dialects in East Siberia and Kamchatka. Reviews such publications as: A. Krasovitsky and Ch. Sappok. "The Isolated Russian Dialectal System in Contact with Tungus Languages in Siberia and Far East"; A.Krasovitsky. "Prosody of Statements in the Speech of Old Settlers in the Polar Region".
  6. ^ Kim, Juwon. 2011.
  7. ^ Aralova, Natalia (2015). Vowel harmony in two Even dialects: Production and perception.
  8. ^ a b c Письменные языки мира: Языки Российской Федерации. Vol. 2 (1000 экз ed.). М.: Academia. 2003. pp. 667–697. ISBN 5-87444-191-3.
  9. ^ a b А. А. Бурыкин (2000). "Изучение фонетики языков малочисленных народов Севера России и проблемы развития их письменности (обзор)" (PDF). 3 (1) (Язык и речевая деятельность ed.). СПб: 150–180. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Бурыкин 2001, p. 234-235.
  11. ^ А. А. Бурыкин (2000). "Изучение фонетики языков малочисленных народов Севера России и проблемы развития их письменности (обзор)" (PDF). 3 (1) (Язык и речевая деятельность ed.). СПб: 150–180. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ a b Книжная культура эвенов (PDF). Якутск: Офсет. Л. Н. Потапова. 2008. pp. 4–26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-24. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  13. ^ Материалы 1-й всероссийской конференции по развитию языков и письменностей народов Севера. М.-Л. 1932.
  14. ^ В. И. Левин (1936). Краткий эвенско-русский словарь. М.-Л. p. 105.
  15. ^ Бурыкин 2001, p. 240.
  16. ^ Бурыкин 2001, p. 241.
  17. ^ К. А. Новикова (1958). Основные правила произношения и правописания эвенского языка. Л.: Учпедгиз.
  18. ^ Бурыкин 2001, p. 247-249.
  19. ^ a b Бурыкин 2001, p. 252-254.

External links[edit]