Uralic–Yukaghir languages

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Scandinavia, Finland, Siberia, Eastern Europe
Linguistic classificationProposed language family
Uralic yukaghir.png
The Uralic and Yukaghir languages.

Uralic–Yukaghir, also known as Uralo-Yukaghir, is a proposed language family composed of Uralic and Yukaghir.

Uralic is a large and diverse family of languages spoken in northern and eastern Europe and northwestern Siberia. Among the better-known Uralic languages are Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian.

Yukaghir is a small family of languages spoken in eastern Siberia. It formerly extended over a much wider area (Collinder 1965:30). It consists of two languages, Tundra Yukaghir and Kolyma Yukaghir.


Similarities between Uralic and Yukaghir were first pointed out by Paasonen (1907) and Lewy (1928), although they did not consider these to be sufficient evidence for a genetic relationship between the two.[1][2] Holger Pedersen (1931) included Uralic and Yukaghir in his proposed Nostratic language family, and also noted some similarities between them.[3] A genetic relationship between Uralic and Yukaghir was first argued for in detail in 1940, independently by Karl Bouda and Björn Collinder.[4][5][6] The hypothesis was further elaborated by Collinder in subsequent publications,[7][8][9] and also by other scholars including Harms (1977), Nikolaeva (1988) and Piispanen (2013).[10][11][12]

Uralic–Yukaghir is listed as a language family in A Guide to the World's Languages by Merritt Ruhlen (1987), and is accepted as a unit in controversial long-range proposals such as "Eurasiatic" by Joseph Greenberg (2000, 2002) and "Nostratic" by Allan Bomhard (2008), both based on evidence collected by earlier scholars like Collinder.[13][14]

Proposed evidence[edit]

Collinder based his case for a genetic relationship between Uralic and Yukaghir on lexical and grammatical evidence; the latter included according to him similarities between pronouns, nominal case suffixes, and verb inflection.[15]

The following list of lexical correspondences is taken from Nikolaeva (2006).[16]

Proto-Yukaghir Proto-Uralic /
*čupo- *ćuppa 'sharp' / 'narrow, thin'
*eme *emä 'mother'
*iw- *ime- 'suck'
*köj *koje 'young man' / 'man'
*leɣ *sewe-/*seɣe- 'eat'
*mon- *monV- 'say'
*ńu: *nime 'name'
*olo- *sala- 'steal'
*ör- *or- 'shout'
*pe: *pije 'mountain, rock' / 'stone'
*pöɣ- *pukta- 'run, jump'
*qa:r/*qajr *kore/*ko:re 'skin'
*qol- *kule- 'hear'
*wonč- *wacV/*wančV 'root'

The following list of lexical correspondences is taken from Aikio (2019).[17]:52

Proto-Uralic Proto-Yukaghir
*aŋi ‘mouth, opening’ *aŋa ‘mouth’
*emä / *ämä *eme ‘mother’
*̮ila- *āl- ‘place under or below’
*kälä- ‘wade / rise’ *kile- ‘wade’
*käliw ‘brother- or sister-in-law’ *keľ- ‘brother-in-law’
*kani- ‘go away’ *qon- ‘go’
*koji ‘male, man, husband’ *köj ‘fellow, boy, young man’
*mälki *mel- ‘breast’
*nimi *ńim / *nim ‘name’
*ńali- *ńel- ‘lick’
*pidi- ‘long / high’ *puδe ‘place on or above’, *puδe-nmē- ‘tall, high’
*pi̮ni- ‘put’ *pöń- / *peń- ‘put; leave’
*sala- *olo- ‘steal’
*sula- *aľ- ‘melt, thaw’
*wanča(w) *wonč- ‘root’
*wixi- ‘take, transport’ *weɣ- ‘lead, carry’


The Uralic–Yukaghir hypothesis is rejected by many researchers as unsupported. While most agree that there is a core of common vocabulary that cannot be simply dismissed as chance resemblances, it has been argued that these are not the result of common inheritance, but rather due to contact between Yukaghir and Uralic speakers, which resulted in borrowing of vocabulary from Uralic languages (especially Samoyedic) into Yukaghir. Rédei (1999) assembled a large corpus of what he considered as loans from Uralic into Yukaghir.[18] Häkkinen (2012) argues that the grammatical systems show too few convincing resemblances, especially the morphology, and proposes that putative Uralic–Yukaghir cognates are in fact borrowings from an early stage of Uralic (c. 3000 BC; he dates Proto-Uralic to c. 2000 BC) into an early stage of Yukaghir, while Uralic was (according to him) spoken near the Sayan region and Yukaghir near the Upper Lena River and near Lake Baikal.[19] Aikio (2014) agrees with Rédei and Häkkinen that Uralic–Yukaghir is unsupported and implausible, and that common vocabulary shared by the two families is best explained as the result of borrowing from Uralic into Yukaghir, although he rejects many of their (especially Rédei's) examples as spurious or accidental resemblances and puts the date of borrowing much later, arguing that the loanwords he accepts as valid were borrowed from an early stage of Samoyedic (preceding Proto-Samoyedic; thus roughly in the 1st millennium BC) into Yukaghir, in the same general region between the Yenisei River and Lake Baikal.[20]

Loaning theory[edit]

Usually when words are borrowed, the amount of nouns borrowed is much higher than the amount of verbs, while Yukaghir-Uralic correspondences words can be found in large numbers in all word classes. Most Uralic-Yukaghir correspondences are also found in the core vocabulary and do not appear to clearly constitute a particular cultural subgroup of borrowed vocabulary of any given chronological perioid or culture. But Uralic correspondences are found very extensively in function words and the most used vocabulary which, as it's well-known, is very rarely borrowed. In particular, demonstrative pronouns, personal pronouns, numbers, kinship terms and many verbs - these kinds of words are very rarely borrowed from other languages and are very resistant to loaning, thus giving some evidence for a direct relationship instead of a sprachbund.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paasonen (1907), pp. 19.
  2. ^ Lewy (1928), pp. 287: "Das Jukagirische zeigt zahlreiche Anklänge an das Finnougrische [...] Beweisen tut das zunächst gar nichts, aber es kann veranlassen, weiter zu prüfen." ('Yukaghir shows numerous points of resemblance to Finno-Ugric [...] For the moment, this does not prove anything, but it can motivate further research.')
  3. ^ Pedersen (1931), p. 338.
  4. ^ Bouda (1940).
  5. ^ Collinder (1940).
  6. ^ Piispanen (2013), p. 167.
  7. ^ Collinder (1957).
  8. ^ Collinder (1965a).
  9. ^ Collinder (1965b).
  10. ^ Harms (1977).
  11. ^ Nikolaeva (1988).
  12. ^ Piispanen (2013).
  13. ^ Greenberg (2000), pp. 279-81.
  14. ^ Bomhard (2008), p. 176.
  15. ^ Collinder (1965b), p. 30: "The features common to Yukagir and Uralic are so numerous and so characteristic that they must be remainders of a primordial unity. The case system of Yukagir is almost identical with that of Northern Samoyed. The imperative of the verbs is formed with the same suffixes as in Southern Samoyed and the most conservative of the Fenno-Ugric languages. The two negative auxiliary verbs of the Uralic languages are also found in Yukagir. There are striking common traits in verb derivation. Most of the pronominal stems are more or less identical. Yukagir has half a hundred words in common with Uralic, in addition to those that may fairly be suspected of being loanwords. This number is not lower than should be expected on the assumption that Yukagir is akin to Uralic. In Yukagir texts one may find sentences of up to a dozen words that consist exclusively or almost exclusively of words that also occur in Uralic. Nothing in the phonologic or morphologic structure of Yukagir contradicts the hypothesis of affinity, and Yukagir agrees well with Uralic as far as the syntax is concerned."
  16. ^ Nikolaeva (2006), pp. 146, 158, 178, 215, 238, 274, 300, 325, 336, 344, 354, 379, 384, 458.
  17. ^ Aikio, Ante (2019). "Proto-Uralic". In Bakró-Nagy, Marianne; Laakso, Johanna; Skribnik, Elena (eds.). Oxford Guide to the Uralic Languages. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  18. ^ Rédei (1999).
  19. ^ Häkkinen (2012).
  20. ^ Aikio (2014).
  21. ^ Peter S. Piispanen (Stockholm). The Uralic-Yukaghiric connection revisited: Sound Correspondences of Geminate Clusters. SUSA/JSFOu 94, 2013


Works cited[edit]

  • Aikio, Ante (2014). "The Uralic–Yukaghir lexical correspondences: genetic inheritance, language contact or chance resemblance?". Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen. 2014 (62): 7–76. doi:10.33339/fuf.86078.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bomhard, Allan R. 2008. Reconstructing Proto-Nostratic: Comparative Phonology, Morphology, and Vocabulary, 2 volumes. Leiden: Brill.
  • Bouda, Karl (1940). "Die finnisch-ugrisch-samojedische Schicht des Jukagirischen". Ungarische Jahrbücher. 20: 80–101.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Collinder, Björn (1940). Jukagirisch und Uralisch. Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift 8. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Collinder, Björn (1957). "Uralo-jukagirische Nachlese". Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift. 12: 105–130.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Collinder, Björn (1965a). "Hat das Uralische Verwandte? Eine sprachvergleichende Untersuchung". Acta Societatis Linguisticae Upsaliensis. 1: 109–180.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Collinder, Björn (1965b). "An Introduction to the Uralic Languages". Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 2000. Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Volume 1: Grammar. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 2002. Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, Volume 2: Lexicon. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 2005. Genetic Linguistics: Essays on Theory and Method, edited by William Croft. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Häkkinen, Jaakko (2012). "Early contacts between Uralic and Yukaghir". Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia − Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne. 264: 91–101.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Harms, Robert (1977). "The Uralo-Yukaghir focus system and problem in remote genetic relationship". In Hopper, Paul J. (ed.). Studies in descriptive and historical linguistics. Festschrift for Winfred P. Lehmann. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 301–316.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Lewy, Ernst (1928). "Possessivisch und Passivisch. Bemerkungen zum Verbalausdruck in der sprachlichen Typenlehre". Ungarische Jahrbücher. 8: 274–289.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Nikolaeva, Irina (1988). Проблема урало-юкагирских генетических связей ('The Problem of Uralo-Yukaghir Genetic Relationship') (PhD dissertation) (in Russian). Moscow: Institute of Linguistics.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Nikolaeva, Irina (2006). A Historical Dictionary of Yukaghir. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Paasonen, Heikki (1907). "Zur Frage von der Urverwandschaft der finnisch-ugrischen und indoeuropäischen Sprachen ('On the question of the original relationship of the Finnish-Ugric and Indo-European languages')". Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen. 7: 13–31.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Pedersen, Holger (1931). Linguistic Science in the Nineteenth Century: Methods and Results. Translated by John Webster Spargo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Pedersen, Holger. 1933. "Zur Frage nach der Urverwandtschaft des Indoeuropäischen mit dem Ugrofinnischen." Mémoires de la Société finno-ougrienne 67:308–325.
  • Piispanen, Peter (2013). "The Uralic-Yukaghiric Connection Revisited: Sound Correspondences of Geminate Clusters". Journal de la Société Finno-Ougrienne. 2013 (94): 165–197. doi:10.33340/susa.82515.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Rédei, Károly (1999). "Zu den uralisch-jukagirischen Sprachkontakten". Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen. 55: 1–58.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Ruhlen, Merritt. 1987. A Guide to the World's Languages, Volume 1: Classification (only volume to appear to date). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Angere, J. 1956. Die uralo-jukagirische Frage. Ein Beitrag zum Problem der sprachlichen Urverwandschaft. Stockholm: Almqvist & Viksell.
  • Bouda, Karl. 1940. "Die finnisch-ugrisch-samojedische Schicht des Jukagirischen." Ungarische Jahrbücher 20, 80–101.
  • Fortescue, Michael. 1998. Language Relations Across Bering Strait: Reappraising the Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence. London and New York: Cassell.
  • Hyllested, Adam. 2010. "Internal Reconstruction vs. External Comparison: The Case of the Indo-Uralic Laryngeals." Internal Reconstruction in Indo-European, eds. J.E. Rasmussen & T. Olander, 111–136. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
  • Janhunen, Juha. 2009. "Proto-Uralic—what, where, and when?" Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran Toimituksia 258. pp. 57–78. Online article.
  • Mithen, Steven. 2003. After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000 – 5000 BC. Orion Publishing Co.
  • Nikolaeva, Irina. 1986. "Yukaghir-Altaic parallels" (in Russian). Istoriko-kul'turnye kontakty narodov altajskoj jazykovoj obshchnosti: Tezisy dolkadov XXIX sessii Postojannoj Mezhdunarodnoj Altaisticheskoj Konferencii PIAC, Vol. 2: Lingvistika, pp. 84–86. Tashkent: Akademija Nauk.
  • Nikolaeva, Irina. 1987. "On the reconstruction of Proto-Yukaghir: Inlaut consonantism" (in Russian). Jazyk-mif-kul'tura narodov Sibir, 43–48. Jakutsk: JaGU.
  • Nikolaeva, Irina. 1988. "On the correspondence of Uralic sibilants and affricates in Yukaghir" (in Russian). Sovetskoe Finnougrovedenie 2, 81–89.
  • Rédei, K. 1990. "Zu den uralisch-jukagirischen Sprachkontakten." Congressus septimus internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum. Pars 1 A. Sessiones plenares, 27–36. Debrecen.
  • Sauvegeot, Au. 1963. "L'appartenance du youkaguir." Ural-altaische Jahrbücher 35, 109–117.
  • Sauvegeot, Au. 1969. "La position du youkaguir." Ural-altaische Jahrbücher 41, 344–359.
  • Swadesh, Morris. 1962. "Linguistic relations across the Bering Strait." American Anthropologist 64, 1262–1291.
  • Tailleur, O.G. 1959. "Plaidoyer pour le youkaghir, branche orientale de la famille ouralienne." Lingua 6, 403–423.

External links[edit]