Urum language

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Pronunciation [uˈrum]
Native to Georgia, Ukraine
Ethnicity Urums (Turkic-speaking Greeks)
Native speakers
190,000 (2000)[1]
  • Tsalka
  • North Azovian
Cyrillic, Greek
Language codes
ISO 639-3 uum
Glottolog urum1249[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

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 amount 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]



Consonant phonemes
  Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p b t d c ɟ k ɡ    
Affricate         ts¹              
Fricative f v θ ð ² s z ʃ ʒ     x ɣ h  
Nasal m n             ŋ    
Flap/Tap     ɾ                    
Lateral     l                    
Approximant                 j        

(1) /ts/ is found only in loanwords.

(2) /θ/ and /ð/ are found only in loanwords from Greek.

Writing system[edit]

A few manuscripts are known to be written in Urum using Greek characters.[6] 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:[7]

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: [8]

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,[9] and a small description of the language.[10] For Caucasian Urum, there is a language documentation project that collected a dictionary,[11] a set of grammatically relevant clausal constructions,[12] and a text corpus.[13] The website of the project contains issues about language and history.[14]


  1. ^ Urum at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Urum". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: 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). 
  5. ^ Gordon, Raymond G. (ed.) (2005). "Ethnologue Report for Urum". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International. 
  6. ^ "Urum". Language Museum. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. 
  7. ^ Гаркавець, Олександр (2000). Урумський словник (pdf, html) (in Ukrainian and Urum). p. 632. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1985). A Tatar - English Glossary. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-00299-9. 
  10. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1986). "Notes on the Urum Language". Mediterranean Language Review. 2: 99–112. 
  11. ^ Skopeteas, Moisidi, Sella-Mazi, and Yordanoglu (2010). "Urum basic lexicon. Ms." (Pdf). University of Bielefeld. 
  12. ^ Verhoeven, Moisidi, and Yordanoglu (2010). "Urum basic grammatical structures. Ms." (PDF). University of Bremen. 
  13. ^ Skopeteas and Moisidi (2010). "Urum text collection. Ms." (PDF). University of Bielefeld. 
  14. ^ "Urum documentation project".