Samoyedic languages

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Northern Eurasia
Linguistic classificationUralic
  • Samoyedic
ISO 639-5syd
Samoyedic map.svg
Current geographic distribution of Samoyedic languages in central Russia.

The Samoyedic (/ˌsæməˈjɛdɪk, -mɔɪ-/[1]) or Samoyed languages (/ˈsæməˌjɛd, -mɔɪ-/[2][3]) are spoken on both sides of the Ural Mountains, in northernmost Eurasia, by approximately 25,000 people altogether. They derive from a common ancestral language called Proto-Samoyedic, and form a branch of the Uralic languages. Having separated perhaps in the last centuries BC,[4] they are not a diverse group of languages, and are traditionally considered to be an outgroup, branching off first from the other Uralic languages.


The term Samoyedic is derived from the Russian term samoyed (Russian: самоед) for some indigenous peoples of Siberia. The term has come to be considered derogatory because it has been interpreted by some ethnologists as originating from Russian samo-yed meaning 'self-eater', i.e. 'cannibal'.[5] Some Samoyedic etymologists, however, reject this etymology and instead trace the term's origin to the expression saam-edne, meaning the Land of the Sami peoples.[6] The word Samodeic[7] has been proposed as an alternative by some ethnologists.[5]


The language and respective ethnic groups are traditionally divided into Northern (Tundra) and Southern groups, and the latter further into Taiga and Mountain groups; these are geographic rather than genealogical groupings.

Northern / Tundra Samoyed (areal)
Southern Samoyed (areal)
  • Selkup / Taiga (Ostyak-Samoyed), divided in divergent dialects:
    • Taz Selkup
    • Tym Selkup
    • Ket Selkup
  • Sayan / Mountain Samoyed

Linguistic genealogical classifications point to an early divergence of Nganasan and (perhaps to a lesser degree) Mator, with Enets–Nenets–Yurats and Kamas–Selkup forming internal branches.[4]

Core Samoyedic

Geographical distribution[edit]

At present, Samoyed territory extends from the White Sea to the Laptev Sea, along the Arctic shores of European Russia, including southern Novaya Zemlya, the Yamal Peninsula, the mouths of the Ob and the Yenisei, and into the Taimyr peninsula in northernmost Siberia. Their economy is based on reindeer herding. They are contiguous with the trans-Ural Ugric speakers and the cis-Ural Komi to the south, but they are cut off from the Baltic Finns by the Russians in the west. To the east traditionally dwell the northern Turkic Sakha. A substantial Samoyed city grew up at Mangazeya in the 16th century as a trade city, but was destroyed at the beginning of the 17th century.

The Southern Samoyedic languages, of which only the Selkup language has survived to the present day, historically ranged across a wide territory in central Siberia, extending from the basin of the Ob River in the west to the Sayan-Baikal uplands in the east. Records up to the 18th century sporadically report several further entities such as "Abakan", "Kagmasin", "Soyot", though there is no clear evidence for any of these constituting separate languages, and all available data appears to be explainable as these having been simply early forms of Kamassian or Mator.[8]


  1. ^ "Samoyedic". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  2. ^ "Samoyed". Oxford Dictionaries UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  3. ^ "Samoyed". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  4. ^ a b Janhunen, Juha (1998). "Samoyedic". In Daniel Abondolo (ed.). The Uralic Languages. London / New York: Routledge. pp. 457–479.
  5. ^ a b The Tenacity of Ethnicity by Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer ISBN 978-0-691-00673-4
  6. ^ Anthropology of the North By Arctic Institute of North America, Translations from Russian Sources
  7. ^ Samodeic @ google books
  8. ^ Janhunen, Juha (1977). Samojedischer Wortschatz. Castreanumin toimitteita. 17. Helsinki. p. 8. ISBN 951-45-1161-1. ISSN 0355-0141. |

External links[edit]