Tatar language

Tatar language

nativename=татарча / Tatarça / تاتارچا
states=Russia, other former Soviet Union
speakers= 8 million
fam1=Altaic [" [] Ethnologue"] (controversial)

The Tatar language ("Tatar tele", "Tatarça", "Татар теле", "Татарча") is a Turkic language spoken by the Tatars.


Tatar is a Turkic language, which is considered part of the disputed Altaic language family.

Geographic distribution

Tatar is spoken in Russia, Central Asia, Ukraine, Poland, China, Finland and Turkey.

Tatar is also native for 400,000 Bashkirs, especially those living in Ufa, and some thousands of Maris. Mordva's Qaratay group also speak Tatar. 94% of ethnic Tatar and 7% of the people of other ethnicities living in Tatarstan claimed knowledge of Tatar language during the 2002 census. [Russian Census 2002. [ 6. Владение языками (кроме русского) населением отдельных национальностей по республикам, автономной области и автономным округам Российской Федерации] ("Knowledge of languages other than Russian by the population of republics, autonomous oblast and autonomous districts")ru icon]

Official status

Tatar is the official language of the Republic of Tatarstan. The official script of Tatar language is based on the Cyrillic alphabet with some additional letters not used in Slavic languages. Sometimes other scripts are used, mostly Latin and Arabic. All official sources in Tatarstan use Cyrillic at their web-sites and publishing. In other cases, where Tatar has no official status, the use of a specific alphabet depends on the preference of the author. Guides in Tatarstan are published in two alphabets.

The Tatar language was made a "de facto" official language in Russia in 1917 (for the first time since 1552, when the Kazan Khanate was annexed by Russia), but only in the Tatar–Bashkir Soviet Socialist Republic. Tatar is also considered the official language in Idel-Ural State.

One should note, however, that Bolshevist Russia did not recognize "official languages" as such; however, there were a number of languages that could be used in trial in some republics. In the Soviet epoch, Tatar was such a language in Bashkortostan, Mari El and other regions of the Russian SFSR (the Soviet Republic comprised of the area of modern-day Russia).

The usage of Tatar declined from the 1930s onwards. In the 1980s it was not studied in city schools, not even by Tatar pupils. Although the language was used in rural schools, Tatar-speaking pupils had little chance to enter university, because all higher education was in Russian.

According to some, Tatar is no longer an endangered language, although it is still a low prestige language. Higher education in Tatar can only be found in Tatarstan, and is restricted to the humanities. In other regions Tatar is primarily a spoken language and the number of speakers as well as their proficiency tends to decrease. Tatar is popular as a written language only in Tatar-speaking areas where schools with Tatar language lessons are situated. On the other hand, Tatar is the only language in use in rural districts of Tatarstan.

Dialects of Tatar

There are 3 main dialects of Tatar: Western (Mişär or Mishar), Middle (Tatarstan's most popular language), and Eastern (Siberian). All of these dialects also have subdivisions.


In the Western (Mişär) dialect Ç is pronounced as IPA| [ʧ] (southern or lambir mishars) and as IPA| [ʦ] (northern mishars or nizhgars). C is pronounced as IPA| [ʤ] . There are no differences between "v" and "w", "q" and "k", "g" and "ğ" in Mişär dialect. So, modern Tatar Cyrillic alphabet represent Mishar pronunciation WYSIWYS, but for the main speakers of the language Cyrillic has difficult rules to pronounce right. (Cyrillic Tatar doesn't have special letters for "q", "ğ" and "w")

This is the dialect spoken by the Tatar minority of Finland.



In the Minzälä subdialect of the Middle Dialect "z" is pronounced as IPA| [ð] , as opposed to other dialects where it is silent.


In bilingual city people often pronounce "x" instead of "h", "k" instead of "q", "g" instead of "ğ" , "v" instead of "w" - or making the distinction is less common than it used to be. This could be viewed as an influence of the Russian language. Another theory is that these cities were places where both the Western and Middle dialects were used.

The influence of Russian language is significant. Russian words and phrases are used with Tatar grammar or Russian grammar in Tatar texts. Some Russian verbs are taken entirely, un-nativized, and followed with "itärgä". Some English words and phrases are also used.

There was a distinct cryptolect the Gäp, spoken predominantly in Kazan, but now it is extinct or near the extinction.

iberian Tatar

Siberian Tatars pronounce [ts] instead of ç, [j] instead of c and sometimes [p] and [t] instead of "b" and "d". There are also grammatical differences within the dialect, scattered across Western Siberia.

Tatar in Russia

There are some 5,300,000 Tatar speakers in Russia . Other speakers are Bashkirs (400,000), Russians (130,000), Chuvashs (70,000), Maris (42,000), Udmurts and Mordvins. There are local Tatar language speakers in Tatarstan, this number includes Azeri, Armenian, and Jewish communities.



Tatar has 16 vowel symbols representing a variable number of sounds. As a Turkic language, Tatar exhibits vowel harmony, with some of the vowels considered front and others back.

Front vowels: ä IPA| [æ~ə] , â IPA| [æ] , e IPA| [e] , é IPA| [ɛ] , i IPA| [i] , ó IPA| [ø] , ö IPA| [œ] , ü IPA| [y]

Back vowels: IPA|a [ɑ~ʌ] , á IPA| [ɑ] , í IPA| [ɯɪ] , ı IPA| [ɯ~ɨ:] , o IPA| [o~o:] , u–ú IPA| [u]

The usage of "í, â, á, ó, ú, é" is not universal, and sometimes "ıy", "a", "ya", "yo", "yu" and "e" are used instead.

Some of them are found only in Slavic loanwords, such as é, ó, long o, long ı. Acute in "á, ó, ú" denotes palatalisation, but sometimes a palatalisated consonant is marked by following "y" before the vowel. This is only a problem for Russian loanwords.

The commonly pronounced 10 vowels are native Tatar vowels: a–ä, u–ü, í–i, o–ö, ı–e. The last two pairs are considered to be short vowels. They also could mean a long vowels, but only in loanwords. IPA| [ə] and IPA| [ʌ] are not considered to be independent vowels. Loaned vowels are considered to be back vowels.


Most of these phonemes are common to or have equivalents in all Turkic languages.

The phonemes IPA|/f/, IPA|/x/ and IPA|/ʒ/ were borrowed from Arabic and European languages in the Middle Ages, while /v/ was borrowed in the beginning of 20th century. Differentiation between /h/ and /x/ appeared in the 10th century with the appearance of the word "Allah" and the strongest influence of Arabic and Persian languages. During the atheistic Soviet period, the occurrence of IPA|/h/ greatly reduced.

Pronunciation of loanwords

While the consonants IPA| [ʒ] , IPA| [f] and IPA| [v] are not native to Tatar, they are well established. However, Tatars usually substitute fricatives for affricates, for example IPA| [ʃʲ] for IPA| [ʧ] , IPA| [ʒ] or IPA| [ʒʲ] for IPA| [ʤ] and IPA| [s] for IPA| [ʦ] . Nevertheless, literary traditions recommend pronunciation of affricates in loanwords.

IPA| [ʔ] (hamza) is a sound found in Arabic loanwords and Islamic prayers. It is usually pronounced as IPA| [e] in loanwords.


Palatalisation is not common in the Tatar language. As a result, Tatar speakers have no problem using the Arabic and Jaŋalif scripts, neither of which has an accepted method for indicating palatisation.

In general, Russian words with palatalisation have entered into the speech of bilingual Tatars since the 1930s. When writing in the Cyrillic alphabet Russian words were spelled as they were in the Russian language. In today's Latin orthography, palatalisation is sometimes represented by an acute diacritic under the vowel.

Some Tatars speak Russian without palatalisation, which is known as a "Tatar accent".

yllable types

* V (ı-lıs, u-ra, ö-rä)
* VC (at-law, el-geç, ir-kä)
* CV (qa-la, ki-ä, su-la)
* CVC (bar-sa, sız-law, köç-le, qoş-çıq)
* VCC (ant-lar, äyt-te, ilt-kän)
* CVCC (tört-te, qart-lar, 'qayt-qan)

Phonetic replacement

Tatar phonotactics dictate many pronunciation changes.

Unrounded vowels may be pronounced as rounded after o or ö:

qorı /qoro/
borın /boron/
közge /közgö/
sorı /soro/)

Nasals are assimilated to following stops:

unber /umber/
mengeç /meñgeç/

Voicing may also undergo assimilation:

küzsez /küssez/

Unstressed vowels may be syncopated or reduced:

urını /urnı/
kilene /kilne/
bezne /bĕzne/
kerdem /kĕrdem/
qırğıç /qĭrğıç/ Vowels may also be elided:

qara urman /qar'urman/
kilä ide /kilä'yde/
turı uram /tur'uram/
bula almím /bul'almím/

In consonant clusters longer than two phones, ı or e (whichever is dictated by vowel harmony) is inserted into speech as an epenthetic vowel.

tekst → /tekest/
bank → /banık/ (not /bañk/)

Final devoicing is also frequent:

tabíb (doctor) → [tabíp]


Like other Turkic languages, Tatar is an agglutinative language.


* After vowels, consonants, hard: -lar (bala-lar, abí-lar, kitap-lar, qaz-lar, malay-lar, qar-lar, ağaç-lar)
* After vowels, consonants, soft: -lär (äni-lär, sölge-lär, däftär-lär, kibet-lär, süz-lär, bäbkä-lär, mäktäp-lär, xäref-lär)
* After nasals, hard: -nar (uram-nar, urman-nar, tolım-nar, moñ-nar, tañ-nar, şalqan-nar)
* After nasals, soft: -när (ülän-när, keläm-när, çräm-när, iñ-när, ciñ-när, isem-när)

Writing system

Tatar has been written in a number of different alphabets.

Writing was adopted from the Bolgar language, which used the Orkhon script, before the 920s. Later, the Arabic alphabet was also used, as well as the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.


Before 1928 Tatar was written with a variant of the Arabic alphabet (Iske imla ...- 1920; Yanga imla 1920-1928).


In the Soviet Union Tatar was written with a Latin orthography called Jaŋalif.


In Tatarstan (a republic of Russia where Tatar is most commonly used) and all other parts of Russia a Cyrillic alphabet is used to write Tatar; also in Kazakhstan.

Modern Latin

A Latin alphabet-based system has been used mostly in Tatarstan since 2000 and generally on the Internet, although this has been less common more recently due to the Russian law that all languages of Russia must be written in Cyrillic. [ [ BBC NEWS | Europe | Russia reconsiders Cyrillic law ] ]


Tatar's ancestors are the extinct Bolgar and Kipchak languages. Crimean Tatar is not closely related.

The literary Tatar language is based on Kazan Tatar's Middle (Tatarstan) dialect and the Old Tatar language (İske Tatar Tele). Both are members of the Kypchak (or Northwestern) group of Turkic languages, although they are also partly derived from the ancient Volga Bolgar language.

The Tatar language strongly influenced most of the Caucasian, Slavic and Finno-Ugric languages in the Volga River area.


*äye – yes
*yuq – no
*isänme(sez)/sawmı(sız) – hello
*sälâm – hi
*saw bul(ığız)/xuş(ığız) – bye bye
*zínhar öçen – please
*min – I
*sin – you
*ul – he / she / it
*bez – we
*sez – you
*alar – they
*millät – nation
*İngliz(çä) – English

Further reading

*Bukharaev, R., & Matthews, D. J. (2000). "Historical anthology of Kazan Tatar verse: voices of eternity". Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. ISBN 0700710779
*PEN (Organization). (1998). "Tatar literature today". Kazan: Magarif Publishers.
*Poppe, N. N. (1963). "Tatar manual: descriptive grammar and texts with a Tatar-English glossary". Bloomington: Indiana University.

ee also

*Tatar alphabet


External links

* [ Tatar language on Ethnologue]
* en icon
* tt icon
* en icon
* tt icon
* [ Tatar.Net]
* [ website of the National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan]

Language studies

* [ Information about Tatar writing]
* []
* [ Tatar tele turında säxifä (Tatar dili hakkinda sahife)]
* [ Tatar language course] ru icon


* [ Tatar mailing list] en icon
* [ Tatar forum] tt icon
* IRC channel [irc:// #tatar] on the freenode network

History and literature

* [ Tatar poetry] tt icon
* [ Tatar myths] , including the story of Şüräle ru icon
* [ Tatar library]
* [ Tatar Electronic Library] ru icon tt icon
* [ Links to other Tatar language resources]
* [ Tatars' history in the Turkic world perspective] (Volga Bulgars links are under the "History" and "Genetics" tabs)


* [ Tatar-Russian-English dictionary]

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