Moksha language

Moksha language
Мокшень кяль / mokšenj kälj
Spoken in Russia and as a minority language also in Armenia, Australia and the United States
Region European Russia
Ethnicity Mokshas
Native speakers 614,000  (2002 census)
Language family
Official status
Official language in  Mordovia (Russia)
Regulated by Mordovian Research Institute of Language, Literature, History and Economics
Language codes
ISO 639-2 mdf
ISO 639-3 mdf

The Moksha language (Moksha: мокшень кяль) is a member of the Finno-Volgaic subdivision of the Uralic languages with about 500,000 native speakers. Moksha is the majority language in the western part of Mordovia.[1] Its closest relative is the Erzya language, with which it is not intelligible. Moksha is also considered to be closely related to the extinct Meshcherian and Muromian languages.[2] There are presently six dialects of Moksha: Central, Western (or Zubu dialect), South-Western, Northern, South-Eastern and Southern.


Official status

Moksha is one of the three official languages in Mordovia. The right to one's own language is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Mordovia Republic.[3] However, there is no special language law regulating the use of Moksha. Courts and other governmental agencies in Mordovia conduct their proceedings and issue official documents in Moksha, Erzya, and Russian.


Due to the extensive use of its agglutinative morphology, Moksha words can be quite long.

The main stress is always on the first syllable. Stress does not cause any measurable modifications in vowel quality. However, stress is not strong and words may appear evenly stressed.


There are eight vowels, whose lexical and grammatical role is highly important, and which are unusually strictly controlled, so that there is almost no allophony. These are always different phonemes in the initial syllable; for non-initial syllable, see morphophonology below. Moksha has lost its original system of vowel harmony.

Front Central Back
Close i (ɨ) u
Mid e ə o
Open æ a


There are 33 consonants in Moksha. Palatalization, characteristic of Uralic languages, is contrastive for alveolar consonants. There is also a palatalized postalveolar affricate, which lacks a corresponding non-palatalized affricate, but the postalveolar fricatives lack palatalized counterparts.

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar
plain pal.
Nasal /m/ /n/ /nʲ/
Plosive voiceless /p/ /t/ /tʲ/ /k/
voiced /b/ /d/ /dʲ/ /ɡ/
Affricate voiceless /t͡s/ /t͡sʲ/ /t͡ɕ/
Fricative voiceless /f/ /s/ /sʲ/ /ʃ/ /ç/ /x/
voiced /v/ /z/ /zʲ/ /ʒ/
Trill voiceless /r̥/ /rʲ̥/
voiced /r/ /rʲ/
Approximant voiceless /l̥/ /lʲ̥/ /ȷ̊/
voiced /l/ /lʲ/ /j/

Writing system

Moksha is written using the Cyrillic alphabet with spelling rules identical to those of Russian and as a consequence of that vowels e, ä, ə are not indicated in a consistent way.[4] The Moksha version of the Cyrillic alphabet has several extra letters, either digraphs or single letters with diacritics.[5] Although the use of the Latin alphabet for Moksha was officially approved by the CIK VCKNA (General Executive Committee of the All Union New Alphabet Central Committee) on June 25, 1932, it was never implemented.

Mokshan Latin alphabet 1930s
Mokshan Cyrillic alphabet 1924–1927
SIL code: MDF
ISO 639-2: mdf
  • Latin alphabet (1930s): A/a, B/в, C/c, Ç/ç, D/d, Ə/ә, E/e, F/f, G/g, Y/y, I/i, J/j, K/k, L/l, M/m, N/n, O/o, P/p, R/r, S/s, Ş/ş, T/t, U/u, V/v, X/x, Z/z, ƶ, ь, rx, lh
  • Cyrillic alphabet for Russian: А/а, Б/б, В/в, Г/г, Д/д, Е/е, Ё/ё, Ж/ж, З/з, И/и, Й/й, К/к, Л/л, М/м, Н/н, О/о, П/п, Р/р, С/с, Т/т, У/у, Ф/ф, Х/х, Ц/ц, Ч/ч, Ш/ш, Щ/щ, Ъ/ъ, Ы/ы, Ь/ь, Э/э, Ю/ю, Я/я
  • Alternative Latin alphabet: Aa, Ää, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Qq, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, Zz

Pronunciation of the Cyrillic alphabet

Letter Sound
А а [a], [ə]
Б б [b]
В в [v]
Г г [g]
Д д [d]
Е е [je]
Ё ё [jo]
Ж ж [ʒ]
З з [z]
И и [i]
Й й [j]
К к [k]
Л л [l]
М м [m]
Н н [n]
О о [o], [ə]
П п [p]
Р р [r]
С с [s]
Т т [t]
У у [u]
Ф ф [f]
Х х [h]
Ц ц [ts]
Ч ч [t͡ʃ]
Ш ш [ʃ]
Щ щ [ʃt͡ʃ]
Ъ ъ hard sign, [ə]
Ы ы [ɨ]
Ь ь soft sign, [i]
Э э [e]
Ю ю [ju]
Я я [ja]


Before 1917 about 100 books and pamphlets mostly of religious character were published. More than 200 manuscripts including at least 50 wordlists were not printed. In 19th century the Russian Orthodox Missionary Society in Kazan published Moksha primers and elementary textbooks of the Russian language for the Mokshas. Among them were two fascicles with samples of Moksha folk poetry. The great native scholar Makar Evsevyev collected Moksha folk songs published in one volume in 1897. Early in the Soviet period, social and political literature predominated among published works. Printing of Moksha language books was all done in Moscow until the establishment of the Mordvinian national district in 1928. Official conferences in 1928 and 1935 decreed the northwest dialect to be the basis for the literary language.

Common expressions (Moksha-Russian-English)

Moksha Transliteration Russian English
И́на Ina Да Yes
Э́ле Elä Да Yes
Пара Para Ладно Good
Аф Af Не Not
Аш Ash Нет No
Шумбра́т! Shumbrat! Здравствуй! Hello! (addressing one person)
Шумбра́тада! Shumbratada! Здравствуйте! Hello! (addressing more than one person)
Сюк(пря)! Sjuk(prä)! Привет! ("поклон"), Добро пожаловать! Hi! (Welcome!)
Ульхть шумбра́! Ulxtj shumbra! Будь здоров! Take care!
У́леда шумбра́т! Uläda shumbrat! Будьте здоровы! Take care (to many)!
Ко́да те́фне? Koda tefnä? Как дела? How are your things getting on/How are you?
Ко́да э́рят? Koda erjat? Как поживаешь? How do you do?
Лац! Це́бярьста! Lats! Tsebärjsta! Неплохо! Замечательно! Fine! Very good!
Ня́емозонк! Näemazonk! До свидания! Good bye!
Ва́ндыс! Vandis! До завтра! See you tomorrow!
Шумбра́ста па́чкодемс! Shumbrasta pachkadäms! Счастливого пути! Have a good trip/flight!
Па́ра а́зан
- ле́здоманкса!
- се́мбонкса!
Para azan
- lezdamanksa!
- sembänksa!
- за помощь!
- за всё!
Thank you
- for help/assistance!
- for everything!
Аш ме́зенкса! Ash mezänksa! Не за что! Not at all!
Прости́ндамак! Prostindamak! Извини! I'm sorry!
Прости́ндамасть! Prostindamastj! Извините! I'm sorry (to many)!
Тят кя́жиякшне! Tät käzhijakshnä! Не сердись! I didn't mean to hurt you!
Ужя́ль! Uzhälj! Жаль! It's a pity!
Ко́да тонь ле́мце? Koda tonj lemtsä? Как тебя зовут? What is your name?
Монь ле́мозе ... Monj lemazä ... Меня зовут ... My name is ...
Мъзя́ра тейть ки́зода? Mezjara tejtj kizada? Сколько тебе лет? How old are you?
Мъзя́ра тейнза ки́зода? Mezjara tejnza kizada? Сколько ему (ей) лет? How old is he (she)?
Те́йне ... ки́зот. Tejnä ... kizat. Мне ... лет. I'm ... years old.
Те́йнза ... ки́зот. Tejnza ... kizat. Ему (ей) ... лет. He (she) is ... years old.
Мярьк сува́мс? Märjk suvams? Разреши войти? May I come in?
Мярьк о́замс? Märjk ozams? Разреши сесть? May I have a seat?
О́зак. Ozak. Присаживайся. Take a seat.
О́зада. Ozada. Присаживайтесь. Take a seat (to more than one person).
Учт аф ла́мос. Ucht af lamas. Подожди немного. Please wait a little.
Мярьк та́ргамс? Märjk targams? Разреши закурить? May I have a smoke?
Та́ргак. Targak. Кури(те). You may smoke.
Та́ргада. Targada. Курите. You may smoke (to more than one person).
Аф, э́няльдян, тят та́рга. Af, enäljdän, tät targa. Нет, пожалуйста, не кури. Please, don't smoke.
Ко́рхтак аф ламода сяда кайгиста (сяда валомне). Korxtak af lamada säda kajgista (säda valomnä). Говори немного погромче (тише). Please speak a bit louder (lower).
Аст ни́нге весть. Ast ningä vestj. Повтори ещё раз. Repeat one more time.
Га́йфтек те́йне. Gajftäk tejnä. Позвони мне. Call me.
Га́йфтеда те́йне. Gajftäda tejnä. Позвоните мне. Call me (to more than one person).
Га́йфтек те́йне сяда ме́ле. Gajftäk tejnä säda melä. Перезвоните мне позже. Call me later.
Сува́к. Suvak. Войди. Come in.
Сува́да. Suvada. Войдите. Come in (to many).
Ётак. Jotak. Проходи. Enter.
Ётада. Jotada. Проходите. Enter (to many).
Ша́чема ши́цень ма́рхта! Shachäma shitsänj marxta! С днём рождения! Happy Birthday!
А́рьсян тейть па́ваз! Arjsän tejtj pavaz! Желаю тебе счастья! I wish you happiness!
А́рьсян тейть о́цю сатфкст! Arjsän tejtj otsu satvkst! Желаю тебе больших успехов! I wish you great success!
Тонь шумбраши́цень и́нкса! Tonj shumbrashitsänj inksa! За твое здоровье! Your health!
Од Ки́за ма́рхта! Od Kiza marxta! С Новым годом! Happy New Year!
Ро́штува ма́рхта! Roshtuva marxta! С Рождеством! Happy Christmas!
То́ньге ста́не! Tonjgä stanä! Тебя также! Same to you!

See also

  • Mokshan numeric system


  1. ^ [1] Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. ^ Janse, Mark; Sijmen Tol, Vincent Hendriks (2000). Language Death and Language Maintenance. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. A108. ISBN 9789027247520. 
  3. ^ Constitution of the Mordovia Republic
  4. ^ Denis Sinor, The Uralic Languages: Description, History and Foreign Influences. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-07741-3
  5. ^ page on the Moksha language


  • Черапкин И.Г. Мокша-мордовско – русский словарь. Саранск, 1933
  • Juhász Jenő. Moksa-Mordvin szójegyzék. Budapest, 1961
  • Paasonen H. Mordwinisches worterbuch, Helsinki SU Seura, 1990–1998
  • Ермушкин Г.И. Ареальные исследования по восточным финно-угорским языкам (Areal research in East Fenno-Ugric languages). Москва, 1984
  • Аитов Г. 'Новый алфавит – великая революция на Востоке. К межрайонным и краевой конференции по вопросам нового алфавита. Саратов, Нижневолжское краевое издательство, 1932. 73 с.
  • Denis Sinor, The Uralic Languages: Description, History and Foreign Influences

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