Altay language

Altay language
Алтай тили Altay tili
Spoken in Russia, Mongolia, China
Region Altai Republic (Southern Altay), Altai Krai (Northern Altay)
Ethnicity Altay, Tubalar, etc.
Native speakers 20,000  (1993)[1]
70,000 with 'knowledge' of Altay (2002 census)[2][3]
Language family
  • Siberian Turkic
    • Altay
Official status
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-3 either:
atv – Northern Altai
alt – Southern Altai

Altay (also Altai) is a language of the Turkic group of languages. It is an official language of Altai Republic, Russia. The language was called Oyrot prior to 1948. There were ca. 67,900 people speaking this language in 2002.



Due to its isolated position in the Altay Mountains and contact with surrounding languages, the classification of Altay within the Turkic languages has often been disputed. Because of its geographic proximity to the Shor and Khakas languages, some classifications place it in a Northern Turkic sub-group.[4] Due to certain similarities with Kyrgyz, it has been grouped with the Kypchak languages. A more recent classification by Talat Tekin places Southern Altay in its own sub-group within Turkic and groups the Northern Altay dialects with Lower Chulym and the Kondoma dialect of Shor.[5]

Geographical distribution

Altay is spoken primarily in the Altai Republic (Southern Altay) and Altai Krai (Northern Altay).

Official status

Along with Russian, Altay is an official language of the Altai Republic. The official language is based on the Southern dialect spoken by the group called the Altay-kiži, however in the few years it has also spread to the Northern Altai Republic.


Altay is usually divided into Northern and Southern dialects, which are then further broken down into a number of sub-dialects. The breakdown of these dialects is as follows[6]:

  • Southern Altay
    • Altay proper
      • Mayma
    • Telengit
      • Tölös
      • Chuy
    • Teleut
  • Northern Altay
    • Tuba
    • Kumandy
      • Turachak
      • Solton
      • Starobardinian
    • Chalkan (also called Kuu, Lebedin)


The sounds of the Altay language vary from dialect to dialect.


Consonant phonemes of Altay
Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Plosives p b t d c ɟ k ɡ
Nasals m n ŋ
Fricatives s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ
Tap ɾ
Approximant j

The voiced palatal plosive /ɟ/ varies greatly from dialect to dialect, especially in initial position. Form of the word јок "no" include [coq] (Kuu dialect) and [joq] (Kumandy). Even within dialects this phoneme varies greatly.[7][8]


There are eight vowels in Altay. These vowels may be long or short.

Vowel phonemes of Altay
Short Long
Close Open Close Open
Front Unrounded i e
Rounded y ø øː
Back Unrounded ɯ a ɯː
Rounded u o

Writing system

The language was written with the Latin alphabet from 1928–1938, but has used the Cyrillic alphabet (with the addition of 4 extra letters: Јј, Ҥҥ, Ӧӧ, Ӱӱ) since 1938.

Morphology and syntax


Altay has six personal pronouns:

Personal pronouns in Standard/Southern dialect
Singular Plural
Altay (transliteration) English Altay (transliteration) English
мен (men) I бис (bis) we
сен (sen) you (singular) слер (sler) you (plural, formal)
ол (ol) he/she/it олор (olor) they

Pronouns in the various dialects vary considerably. For example, the pronouns in the Qumandin dialect follow.[9]

Personal pronouns in Qumandin
Singular Plural
Altay (transliteration) English Altay (transliteration) English
мен (men) I пис (pis) we
сен (sen) you (singular) снер (sner) you (plural, formal)
ол (ol) he/she/it анар (anar) they


  1. ^ Altay language at Ethnologue
  2. ^ Распространенность владения языками (кроме русского) Knowledge of languages other than Russian(Russian)
  3. ^ Includes speakers who identify as Altay and Teleut (67,900), plus Tubalar (1,600).
  4. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr., ed (2005). "Ethnologue report for Northern Turkic". SIL International. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  5. ^ Tekin, Tâlat (January 1989). "A New Classification of the Chuvash-Turkic Languages". Erdem 5 (13): 129–139. ISSN 1010-867X. 
  6. ^ Baskakov, N. A. (1958). "La Classification des Dialectes de la Langue Turque d'Altaï" (in French). Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 8: 9–15. ISSN 0001-6446. 
  7. ^ Baskakov, N.A. (1985) (in Russian). Диалект Лебединских Татар-Чалканцев (Куу-Кижи). Северные Диалекты Алтайского (Ойротского) Языка. Moscow: Издательство «Наука». ISBN 0828533938. OCLC 21048607. 
  8. ^ Baskakov, N.A. (1972) (in Russian). Диалект Кумандынцев (Куманды-Кижи). Северные Диалекты Алтайского (Ойротского) Языка. Moscow: Издательство «Наука». ISBN 0828533938. OCLC 38772803. 
  9. ^ Сатлаев, Ф.А. (?) (in Russian). Учитесь говорить по-кумандински, русско-кумандинский разговорник. ?: Горно-Алтайская типография. 

See also

External links

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