Kildin Sami orthography

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Over the last century, the alphabet used to write Kildin Sami has changed three times: from Cyrillic to Latin and back again to Cyrillic before the current extended Cyrillic alphabet was introduced.

The first Cyrillic period[edit]

A couple of religious pamphlets were published in Kildin Sami in Russia and using Cyrillic letters while the czars were in power. In addition, the Gospel of Matthew (Kildin Sami: ‌Махьтвеест Пась-Евангели') was translated (partly into Kildin, partly into Akkala Sami) by the Finnish linguist Arvid Genetz and published by the Finnish Literature Society in 1878 using the Cyrillic letters of the pre-Soviet Russian alphabet plus additionally the Greek letter Theta.

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

The Latin period[edit]

The first version of the Kildin Sami alphabet printed in Chernjakov's primer from 1933

After the Russian Revolution, the Soviet language policy stated, as a part of the so-called Korenizatsiya policy, that all minority languages in the Soviet Union should have their own written languages, that the minorities should be taught to read and write them, and that they should receive education in their own tongue.

In 1932, a group from the Institute of the Peoples of the North travelled to Notozero to study the dialect of Sami spoken there. Their studies resulted in a primer based on Kildin Sami being published by Zachary Chernjakov in 1933, although part of it was taken from the Sami spoken in Notozero. Chernjakov and Aleksandr Endjukovski played a central role in this research. According to Endjukovski, the reason why the Kildin dialect was chosen was that it was both geographically the most central of the dialects and that it had more speakers than the other dialects did. With the exception of the dialect spoken in Notozero, which is actually a dialect of Skolt Sami, the differences between the various Kildin Sami dialects is more of a lexical difference than a grammatical difference. For this reason, Endjukovski decided that a literary language for Kildin Sami could be created. Endjukovski, Chernjakov and co-workers also used the research done during 1932–1933 to publish textbooks for arithmetic and reading, outlines of the grammar of Kildin Sami, a couple of children's book and political pamphlets.

The following chart presents the full letter inventory of the alphabet used in Endjukovski's grammar from 1937. Beside Latin letters with and without diacritics it uses the Cyrillic letters (capital and small) Soft sign, (capital and small) Ze and (small) Ve.

A a Å å B в ʙ̦ C c Ꞓ̦ ꞓ̦ D d
Ʒ ʒ Ʒ̦ ʒ̒ З з E e Ə ə F f G g
Ģ ģ H h I i Ь ь J j K k Ķ ķ L l
Ļ ļ M m N n Ņ ņ Ŋ ŋ Ŋ̒ ŋ̒ O o P p
R r Ŗ ŗ S s Ș ș T t Ț ț U u
V v X x Z z Z̦ z̦ Ƶ ƶ Ƶ̦ ƶ̦

The second Cyrillic period[edit]

In 1937, the Cyrillic alphabet was restored to replace the Latin alphabet. The same year, Endjukovskij published two more textbooks — a primer and a reader — this time using the new alphabet. The Russian linguist G.M. Kert writes that teaching in Sami stopped already in 1937, without any explanation.[1] Kildin Sami shares the fate of the other Finno-Ugric minorities that surround Finland, such as Karelian and Vepsian, in that they lost their language rights after World War II. One possible explanation for this is that the Soviet Union quite strongly pushed Russification in these border areas for security reasons.

The third and present-day Cyrillic alphabet[edit]

The second new Cyrillic orthography for Kildin Saami was developed in the late 1970s and 1980s, containing 51 letters. In 1976, the Russian educationalist and linguist Rimma Kuruch from Murmansk invited the Sami teachers Aleksandra Antonova and Boris Gluchow to work in a newly founding working group together with her on the creation of a new alphabet and teaching materials. Kuruch wanted to reinstate instruction in the native language as it has become apparent that Sami children make a lot of errors in their Russian due to interference. Since their mother tongue was not Russian, Kildin Sami needed to be taught in school.[2]

Instruction in contemporary Kildin Sami was first incorporated into the curriculum at the end of the 1970s in the village of Lovozero. In 1982, the first modern primer for preparatory classes in Sami entitled Saamski bukvar (Russian: Саамский букварь), written by Aleksandra Antonova, was published. The Kildin Sami alphabet used in this book is based on the alphabet for Russian, extended with different diacritic characters on vowel letters marking quantity and palatalization as well as several modified consonant letters representing sounds not found in Russian.

Upon collaboration with linguists from the Soviet Academy of Sciences and together with several more Sami collaborators, Kuruch's working group in Murmansk has later published a bunch of dictionaries, textbooks for elementary schools, didactic guidelines as well as literary texts for children. At the same time, the orthography underwent several revisions, including the introduction of two additional letters in the alphabet. As a result, there exist different orthographic variants which have since been printed and are most recently also used in the internet.

The following chart lists the complete letter inventory, including two variants (in parentheses) which were meant to replace the original letters but are not used any longer.

А а А̄ а̄ Ӓ ӓ Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Е̄ е̄
Ё ё Ё̄ ё̄ Ж ж З з Һ һ (ʼ) И и Ӣ ӣ Й й Ј ј (Ҋ ҋ)
К к Л л Ӆ ӆ М м Ӎ ӎ Н н Ӊ ӊ Ӈ ӈ О о
О̄ о̄ П п Р р Ҏ ҏ С с Т т У у Ӯ ӯ Ф ф
Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Ҍ ҍ Э э
Э̄ э̄ Ӭ ӭ Ю ю Ю̄ ю̄ Я я Я̄ я̄

See also[edit]


  1. ^ p. 210 in Kert, Georgi Martinovich (Russian: Керт, Георгий Мартынович). Saamskij jazyk. Osnovy finno-ugorskogo jazykoznanija. Pribaltijsko-finskie, saamskij i mordovskie jazyki. pp. 203–247. Moskva, 1975
  2. ^ *Rimma Kuruch. 1977 "Saamen kieli Neuvostoliitossa" In: Lapin Kansa 28-08-1977 (in Finnish)