Urum language

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Native toGeorgia, Ukraine
EthnicityUrums (Turkic-speaking Greeks)
Native speakers
190,000 (2000)[1]
  • Tsalka
  • North Azovian
Cyrillic, Greek
Language codes
ISO 639-3uum
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Urum is a Turkic language spoken by several thousand ethnic Greeks who inhabit a few villages in Georgia and Southeastern Ukraine. Over the past few generations, there has been a deviation from teaching children Urum to the more common languages of the region, leaving a fairly limited number of new speakers.[3] The Urum language is often considered a variant of Crimean Tatar.

The name Urum is derived from Rûm ("Rome"), the term for the Byzantine Empire in the Muslim world. The Ottoman Empire used it to describe non-Muslims within the empire. The initial vowel in Urum is prosthetic. Turkic languages originally did not have /ɾ/ in the word-initial position and so in borrowed words, it used to add a vowel before it. The common use of the term Urum appears to have led to some confusion, as most Turkish-speaking Greeks were called Urum. The Turkish-speaking population in Georgia is often confused with the distinct community in Ukraine.[4][5]



Front Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
Close i ü /y/ ı /ɯ/ u
Close-mid e o
Near-open ä /æ/ ö /œ/
Open a


  • šar - city[6]
  • äl - hand
  • göl - lake
  • yel - wind
  • yol - road
  • it - dog
  • üzüg - ring
  • ğız - girl
  • ğuš - bird


  Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k /c/ k  
voiced b d g /ɟ/ g
Affricate voiceless     (ts¹) č //    
voiced ǰ //
Fricative voiceless f (θ) s š /ʃ/ h /x/ h
voiced v (ð²) z ž /ʒ/ ğ /ɣ/
Nasal m n   ŋ
Approximant   l j  
Flap   ɾ  

/θ, ð/ appear solely in loanwords from Greek. /t͡s/ appears in loanwords.[6]

Writing system[edit]

A few manuscripts are known to be written in Urum using Greek characters.[7] During the period between 1927 and 1937, the Urum language was written in reformed Latin characters, the New Turkic Alphabet, and used in local schools; at least one primer is known to have been printed. In 1937 the use of written Urum stopped. Alexander Garkavets uses the following alphabet:[8]

А а Б б В в Г г Ғ ғ Д д (Δ δ) Д′ д′
(Ђ ђ) Е е Ж ж Җ җ З з И и Й й К к
Л л М м Н н Ң ң О о Ӧ ӧ П п Р р
С с Т т Т′ т′ (Ћ ћ) У у Ӱ ӱ Υ υ Ф ф
Х х Һ һ Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы
Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я Ѳ ѳ

In an Urum primer issued in Kiev in 2008 the following alphabet is suggested: [9]

А а Б б В в Г г Ґ ґ Д д Д' д' Дж дж
Е е З з И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н
О о Ӧ ӧ П п Р р С с Т т Т' т' У у
Ӱ ӱ Ф ф Х х Ч ч Ш ш Ы ы Э э


Very little has been published on the Urum language. There exists a very small lexicon,[10] and a small description of the language.[11] For Caucasian Urum, there is a language documentation project that collected a dictionary,[12] a set of grammatically relevant clausal constructions,[13] and a text corpus.[14] The website of the project contains issues about language and history.[15]


  1. ^ Urum at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Urum". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Did you know Urum is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  4. ^ Казаков, Алексей (December 2000). Понтийские греки (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2008-01-27.
  5. ^ Gordon, Raymond G. (ed.) (2005). "Ethnologue Report for Urum". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b Stavros, Skopeteas, (2016). "The Caucasian Urums and the Urum language/Kafkasya Urumları ve Urum Dili". Handbook of Endangered Turkic Languages.
  7. ^ "Urum". Language Museum. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015.
  8. ^ Гаркавець, Олександр (2000). Урумський словник (pdf, HTML) (in Ukrainian and Urum). p. 632.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  9. ^ Смолина, Мария (2008). Урумский язык. Урум дили (приазовский вариант). Учебное пособие для начинающих с аудиоприложением (in Russian and Urum). p. 168. ISBN 966-8535-15-4.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  10. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1985). A Tatar - English Glossary. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-00299-9.
  11. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1986). "Notes on the Urum Language". Mediterranean Language Review. 2: 99–112.
  12. ^ Skopeteas, Moisidi, Sella-Mazi, and Yordanoglu (2010). "Urum basic lexicon. Ms" (PDF). University of Bielefeld. Archived from the original (Pdf) on 2012-04-26.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Verhoeven, Moisidi, and Yordanoglu (2010). "Urum basic grammatical structures. Ms" (PDF). University of Bremen. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Skopeteas and Moisidi (2010). "Urum text collection. Ms" (PDF). University of Bielefeld. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26.
  15. ^ "Urum documentation project". Archived from the original on 2012-04-26.