Khanty language

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ханты ясаң hantĭ jasaŋ
Native toRussia
Ethnicity30,900 Khanty people (2010 census)[1]
Native speakers
9,600 (2010 census)[1]
  • Northern
  • Southern
  • Surgut
  • Far Eastern
Language codes
ISO 639-3kca
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Khanty (also spelled Khanti or Hanti), previously known as Ostyak (/ˈɒstiæk/),[2] is a Uralic language spoken by the Khanty people, primarily in the Khanty–Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous okrugs and the Aleksandrovsky and Kargosoksky districts of Tomsk Oblast in Russia. The closest living relatives of Khanty are Hungarian and Mansi. According to the 2010 Russian census, there were around 9,600 Khanty-speaking people in Russia.[1] The Khanty people are rapidly experiencing a language shift to Russian.

The Khanty language has many dialects. The western group includes the Obdorian, Ob, and Irtysh dialects. The eastern group includes the Surgut and Vakh-Vasyugan dialects, which, in turn, are subdivided into thirteen other dialects. All these dialects differ significantly from each other by phonetic, morphological, and lexical features to the extent that the three main "dialects" (northern, southern and eastern) are mutually unintelligible.[3] Thus, based on their significant multifactorial differences, Eastern, Northern and Southern Khanty could be considered separate but closely related languages.


Cyrillic (version as of 2000)[citation needed]

А а Ӓ ӓ А̄ а̄ Б б В в Г г Д д Е е
Ё ё Е̄ е̄ Ё̄ ё̄ Ж ж З з И и Й й К к
Қ қ (Ӄ ӄ) Л л Ԯ ԯ (Ԓ ԓ) М м Н н Ң ң (Ӈ ӈ) Н’ н’ О о
О́ о́ Ө ө Ӫ ӫ П п Р р С с Т т У у
Ӱ ӱ Ў ў Ф ф Х х Ҳ ҳ (Ӽ ӽ) Ц ц Ч ч Ҷ ҷ
Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Э э Є̈ є̈
Ю ю Ю̆ ю̆ Я я Я̆ я̆

Literary language[edit]

The Khanty language is spoken primarily in the Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug in western Siberia

The Khanty written language was first created after the October Revolution on the basis of the Latin script in 1930 and then with the Cyrillic alphabet (with the additional letter ⟨ң⟩ for /ŋ/) from 1937.

Khanty literary works are usually written in three Northern dialects, Kazym, Shuryshkar, and Middle Ob. Newspaper reporting and broadcasting are usually done in the Kazymian dialect.


Dialects of Khanty (and Mansi):
  Obdorsk (Salekhard) dialect
  Ob dialects
  Southern (Irtysh) Khanty
  Surgut dialects
  Far Eastern (Vakh-Vasyugan) dialects

Khanty is divided in three main dialect groups, which are to a large degree mutually unintelligible, and therefore best considered three languages: Northern, Southern and Eastern. Individual dialects are named after the rivers they are or were spoken on. Southern Khanty is probably extinct by now.[4][5]

  • Eastern Khanty[6]
  • transitional: Salym
  • Western Khanty
    • Northern Khanty
    • Southern Khanty: Upper Demjanka, Lower Demjanka, Konda, Cingali, Krasnojarsk

The Salym dialect can be classified as transitional between Eastern and Southern (Honti:1998 suggests closer affinity with Eastern, Abondolo:1998 in the same work with Southern). The Atlym and Nizyam dialects also show some Southern features.

Southern and Northern Khanty share various innovations and can be grouped together as Western Khanty. These include loss of full front rounded vowels: *üü, *öö, *ɔ̈ɔ̈ > *ii, *ee, *ää (but *ɔ̈ɔ̈ > *oo adjacent to *k, *ŋ),[7] loss of vowel harmony, fricativization of *k to /x/ adjacent to back vowels,[4] and the loss of the *ɣ phoneme.[8]


A general feature of all Khanty varieties is that while long vowels are not distinguished, a contrast between plain vowels (e.g. /o/) vs. reduced or extra-short vowels (e.g. /ŏ/) is found. This corresponds to an actual length distinction in Khanty's close relative Mansi. According to scholars who posit a common Ob-Ugric ancestry for the two, this was also the original Proto-Ob-Ugric situation.

Palatalization of consonants is phonemic in Khanty, as in most other Uralic languages. Retroflex consonants are also found in most varieties of Khanty.

Khanty word stress is usually on the initial syllable.[9]


Bilabial Dental Palatal(ized) Retroflex Velar
Nasal *m


Stop *p
Fricative central *s

lateral *ᴧ
Lateral *l

Trill *r
Semivowel *w

19 consonants are reconstructed for Proto-Khanty, listed with the traditional UPA transcription shown above and an IPA transcription shown below.

A major consonant isogloss among the Khanty varieties is the reflexation of the lateral consonants, *ɬ (from Proto-Uralic *s and *š) and *l (from Proto-Uralic *l and *ð).[8] These generally merge, however with varying results: /l/ in the Obdorsk and Far Eastern dialects, /ɬ/ in the Kazym and Surgut dialects, and /t/ elsewhere. The Vasjugan dialect still retains the distinction word-initially, having instead shifted *ɬ > /j/ in this position. Similarly, the palatalized lateral *ľ developed to /lʲ/ in Far Eastern and Obdorsk, /ɬʲ/ in Kazym and Surgut, and /tʲ/ elsewhere. The retroflex lateral *ḷ remains in Far Eastern, but in /t/-dialects develops into a new plain /l/.

Other dialect isoglosses include the development of original *ć to a palatalized stop /tʲ/ in Eastern and Southern Khanty, but to a palatalized sibilant /sʲ ~ ɕ/ in Northern, and the development of original *č similarly to a sibilant /ʂ/ (= UPA: š) in Northern Khanty, partly also in Southern Khanty.

Eastern Khanty[edit]

Far Eastern[edit]

The Vakh dialect is divergent. It has rigid vowel harmony and a tripartite (ergative–accusative) case system: The subject of a transitive verb takes the instrumental case suffix -nə-, while the object takes the accusative case suffix. The subject of an intransitive verb, however, is not marked for case and might be said to be absolutive. The transitive verb agrees with the subject, as in nominative–accusative systems.

Vakh has the richest vowel inventory, with five reduced vowels /ĕ ø̆ ə̆ ɑ̆ ŏ/ and full /i y ɯ u e ø o æ ɑ/. Some researchers also report /œ ɔ/.[10][11]

Vakh Khanty consonants[8]
Bilabial Dental Palatal/ized Retroflex Velar
Nasals m n ɳ ŋ
Stops p t k
Fricatives s ɣ
Lateral approximants l ɭ
Trill r
Semivowels w j


Surgut Khanty consonants[12]
Bilabial Dental /
Palatal/ized Post-
Velar Uvular
Nasal m ŋ
Stop / Affricate p tʲ ~ tɕ 1 k 2 q 2
Fricative central s (ʃ) 3 ʁ
lateral ɬ 4 ɬʲ
Approximant central w j (ʁ̞ʷ) 5
lateral l
Trill r


  1. /tʲ/ can be realized as an affricate [tɕ] in the Tremjugan and Agan sub-dialects.
  2. The velar/uvular contrast is predictable in inherited vocabulary: [q] appears before back vowels, [k] before front and central vowels. However, in loanwords from Russian, [k] may also be found before back vowels.
  3. The phonemic status of [ʃ] is not clear. It occurs in some words in variation with [s], in others in variation with [tʃ].
  4. In the Pim sub-dialect, /ɬ/ has recently shifted to /t/, a change that has spread from Southern Khanty.
  5. The labialized postvelar approximant [ʁ̞ʷ] occurs in the Tremjugan sub-dialect as an allophone of /w/ between back vowels, for some speakers also word-initially before back vowels. Research from the early 20th century also reported two other labialized phonemes: /kʷ~qʷ/ and /ŋʷ/, but these are no longer distinguished.

Northern Khanty[edit]

The Kazym dialect distinguishes 18 consonants.

Kazym Khanty consonants[8]
Bilabial Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar
plain pal.
Nasal m n ɳ ŋ
Plosive p t k
Fricative central s ʂ x
lateral ɬ ɬʲ
Approximant central w j
lateral l
Trill r

The vowel inventory is much simplified. Eight vowels are distinguished in initial syllables: six full /i e a ɒ o u/ and four reduced /ĭ ă ŏ ŭ/. In unstressed syllables, four values are found: /ɑ ə ĕ ĭ/.[13][14]

A similarly simple vowel inventory is found in the Nizyam, Sherkal, and Berjozov dialects, which have full /e a ɒ u/ and reduced /ĭ ɑ̆ ŏ ŭ/. Aside from the full vs. reduced contrast rather than one of length, this is identical to that of the adjacent Sosva dialect of Mansi.[10]

The Obdorsk dialect has retained full close vowels and has a nine-vowel system: full vowels /i e æ ɑ o u/ and reduced vowels /æ̆ ɑ̆ ŏ/).[10] It however has a simpler consonant inventory, having the lateral approximants /l lʲ/ in place of the fricatives /ɬ ɬʲ/ and having fronted *ṇ to /s n/.


The noun[edit]

The nominal suffixes include dual -ŋən, plural -(ə)t, dative -a, locative/instrumental -nə.

For example:

xot "house" (cf. Finnish koti "home")
xotŋəna "to the two houses"
xotətnə "at the houses" (cf. Hungarian otthon, Finnish kotona "at home", an exceptional form using the old, locative meaning of the essive case ending -na).

Singular, dual, and plural possessive suffixes may be added to singular, dual, and plural nouns, in three persons, for 33 = 27 forms. A few, from məs "cow", are:

məsem "my cow"
məsemən "my 2 cows"
məsew "my cows"
məstatən "the 2 of our cows"
məsŋətuw "our 2 cows"


The personal pronouns are, in the nominative case:

1st person ma min muŋ
2nd person naŋ nən naŋ
3rd person tuw tən təw

The cases of ma are accusative manət and dative manəm.

The demonstrative pronouns and adjectives are:

tamə "this", tomə "that", sit "that yonder": tam xot "this house".

Basic interrogative pronouns are:

xoy "who?", muy "what?"


Khanty numerals, compared with Hungarian and Finnish, are:

Number Khanty Hungarian Finnish
1 yit, yiy egy yksi
2 katn, kat kettő, két kaksi
3 xutəm három kolme
4 nyatə négy neljä
5 wet öt viisi
6 xut hat kuusi
7 tapət hét seitsemän
8 nəvət nyolc kahdeksan
9 yaryaŋ [A] kilenc yhdeksän
10 yaŋ tíz kymmenen
20 xus húsz kaksikymmentä
30 xutəmyaŋ [B] harminc kolmekymmentä
40 nyatəyaŋ [C] negyven neljäkymmentä
100 sot száz sata
A Possibly 'short of ten'
B 'three tens'
C 'four tens'

The formation of multiples of ten shows Slavic influence in Khanty, whereas Hungarian uses the collective derivative suffix -van (-ven) closely related to the suffix of the adverbial participle which is -va (-ve) today but used to be -ván (-vén). Note also the regularity of [xot]-[haːz] "house" and [sot]-[saːz] "hundred".


Both Khanty and Mansi are basically nominative–accusative languages but have innovative morphological ergativity. In an ergative construction, the object is given the same case as the subject of an intransitive verb, and the locative is used for the agent of the transitive verb (as an instrumental) . This may be used with some specific verbs, for example "to give": the literal Anglicisation would be "by me (subject) a fish (object) gave to you (indirect object)" for the equivalent of the sentence "I gave you a fish". However, the ergative is only morphological (marked using a case) and not syntactic, so that, in addition, these may be passivized in a way resembling English. For example, in Mansi, "a dog (agent) bit you (object)" could be reformatted as "you (object) were bitten, by a dog (instrument)".

Khanty is an agglutinative language and employs an SOV order.[15]


The lexicon of the Khanty varieties is documented relatively well. The most extensive early source is Toivonen (1948), based on field records by K. F. Karjalainen from 1898 to 1901. An etymological interdialectal dictionary, covering all known material from pre-1940 sources, is Steinitz et al. (1966–1993).

Schiefer (1972)[16] summarizes the etymological sources of Khanty vocabulary, as per Steinitz et al., as follows:

Inherited 30% Uralic 5%
Finno-Ugric 9%
Ugric 3%
Ob-Ugric 13%
Borrowed 28% Komi 7%
(Selkup and Nenets)
Tatar 10%
Russian 8%
unknown 40%

Futaky (1975)[17] additionally proposes a number of loanwords from the Tungusic languages, mainly Evenki.


  1. ^ a b c Khanty at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. ^ Gulya 1966, pp. 5–6.
  4. ^ a b Abondolo 1998, pp. 358–359.
  5. ^ Honti 1998, pp. 328–329.
  6. ^ Honti, László (1981), "Ostjakin kielen itämurteiden luokittelu", Congressus Quintus Internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum, Turku 20.-27. VIII. 1980, Turku: Suomen kielen seura, pp. 95–100
  7. ^ Honti 1998, p. 336.
  8. ^ a b c d Honti 1998, p. 338.
  9. ^ Estill, Dennis (2004). Diachronic change in Erzya word stress. Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian Society. p. 179. ISBN 952-5150-80-1.
  10. ^ a b c Abondolo 1998, p. 360.
  11. ^ Filchenko 2007.
  12. ^ Csepregi 2011, pp. 12–13.
  13. ^ Honti 1998, p. 337.
  14. ^ Kaksin 2007.
  15. ^ Grenoble, Lenore A (2003). Language Policy in the Soviet Union. Springer. p. 14. ISBN 9781402012983.
  16. ^ Schiefer, Erhard (1972). "Wolfgang Steinitz. Dialektologisches und etymologisches Wörterbuch der ostjakischen Sprache. Lieferung 1 – 5, Berlin 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972". Études Finno-Ougriennes. 9: 161–171.
  17. ^ Futaky, István (1975). Tungusische Lehnwörter des Ostjakischen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.


  • Abondolo, Daniel (1998). "Khanty". In Abondolo, Daniel (ed.). The Uralic Languages.
  • Csepregi, Márta (1998). Szurguti osztják chrestomathia (PDF). Studia Uralo-Altaica Supplementum. Vol. 6. Szeged. Retrieved 2014-10-11.
  • Filchenko, Andrey Yury (2007). A grammar of Eastern Khanty (Doctor of Philosophy thesis). Rice University. hdl:1911/20605.
  • Gulya, János (1966). Eastern Ostyak chrestomathy. Indiana University Publications, Uralic and Altaic series. Vol. 51.
  • Honti, László (1988). "Die Ob-Ugrischen Sprachen". In Sinor, Denis (ed.). The Uralic Languages.
  • Honti, László (1998). "ObUgrian". In Abondolo, Daniel (ed.). The Uralic Languages.
  • Kaksin, Andrej D. (2007). Казымский диалект хантыйского языка (in Russian). Khanty-Mansijsk: Obsko-Ugorskij Institut Prikladnykh Issledovanij i Razrabotok.
  • Steinitz, Wolfgang, ed. (1966–1993). Dialektologisches und etymologisches Wörterbuch der ostjakischen Sprache. Berlin. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Toivonen, Y. H., ed. (1948). K. F. Karjalainen's Ostjakisches Wörterbuch. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]