Altai language

Not to be confused with Altaic languages.
Алтай тили
Altay tili
Native to Russia
Region Altai Republic (Southern Altai), Altai Krai (Northern Altai)
Ethnicity Altai, Tubalar, etc.
Native speakers
57,000 (2010 census)[1]
(may not all be fluent)
Official status
Official language in
Altai Republic (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 alt
ISO 639-3 Either:
atv  Northern Altai
alt  Southern Altai
Glottolog alta1276[2]

Gorno-Altai (also Gorno-Altay) is a Turkic language, spoken officially in the Altai Republic, Russia. The language was called Oyrot prior to 1948.


Due to its isolated position in the Altai Mountains and contact with surrounding languages, the classification of Altai 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 subgroup.[3] Due to certain similarities with Kyrgyz, it has been grouped with the Kypchak languages. A more recent classification by Talat Tekin places Southern Altai in its own subgroup within Turkic and groups the Northern Altai dialects with Lower Chulym and the Kondoma dialect of Shor.[4]

Geographical distribution

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

Official status

Alongside Russian, Altai 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.


Though traditionally considered one language, Southern Altai is not fully mutually intelligible with the Northern varieties. Written Altai is based on Southern Altai, and according to Ethnologue is rejected by Northern Altai children.[5] In 2006, a Cyrillic alphabet was created for the Kumandy variety of Northern Altai for use in Altai Krai.[6]

Dialects are as follows:[7]

Closely related to the northern varieties are Kondom Shor and Lower Chulym, which have -j- for proto-Turkic inter-vocalic *d, unlike Mras Shor and Middle Chulym, which have -z- and are closer to Khakas.

Linguistic features

The following features refer to the outcome of commonly used Turkic isoglosses in Northern Altai.[8][9][10]


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


Consonant phonemes of Altai
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive pb td cɟ kɡ
Fricative sz ʃʒ xc
Approximant l j
Tap ɾ

The voiced palatal plosive /ɟ/ varies greatly from dialect to dialect, especially in the initial position. Forms of the word јок "no" include [coq] (Kuu dialect) and [joq] (Kumandy). Even within dialects, this phoneme varies greatly.[11][12]


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

Vowel phonemes of Altai
Close Open
shortlong shortlong
Front unrounded i e
rounded y øøː
Back unrounded ɯɯː ɡ
rounded u ɯɯː

Writing system

The language was written with the Latin script from 1928–1938, but has used Cyrillic (with the addition of 9 extra letters: Јј(/ɟ/ or /dz/), Ҥҥ(/ŋ/), Ӧӧ(/œ/), Ӱӱ(/y/), Ғғ(/ʁ/), Ққ(/q/), Һһ(/h/), Ҹҹ(/d͡ʑ/), Ii(/ɨ̹/)) since 1938.

The letter Ÿ is sometimes used instead of Ӱ.

Morphology and Syntax


Altai has six personal pronouns:

Personal pronouns in Standard/Southern dialect
Singular Plural
Altai (transliteration)EnglishAltai (transliteration)English
мен (men)Iбис (bis)we
сен (sen)you (singular)слер (sler)you (plural, formal)
ол (ol)he/she/itолор (olor)they

The declension of the pronouns is outlined in the following chart.

Declension of pronouns in Standard/Southern dialect
Nom мен сен ол бис слер олор
Acc мени сени оны бисти слерди олорды
Gen мениҥ сениҥ оныҥ бистиҥ слердиҥ олордыҥ
Dat меге сеге ого биске слерге олорго
Loc менде сенде анда бисте слерде олордо
Abl менеҥ сенеҥ оноҥ бистеҥ слердеҥ олордоҥ
Inst мениле сениле оныла бисле слерле олорло

Pronouns in the various dialects vary considerably. For example, the pronouns in the Qumandin dialect follow.[13]

Personal pronouns in Qumandin
Singular Plural
Altai (transliteration)EnglishAltai (transliteration)English
мен (men)Iпис (pis)we
сен (sen)you (singular)снер (sner)you (plural, formal)
ол (ol)he/she/itанар (anar)they

See also


  1. Northern Altai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Southern Altai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Altay Turkic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Gordon, Raymond G. Jr., ed. (2005). "Ethnologue report for Northern Turkic". SIL International. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  4. Tekin, Tâlat (January 1989). "A New Classification of the Chuvash-Turkic Languages". Erdem. 5 (13): 129–139. ISSN 1010-867X.
  5. Raymond G. Gordon, Jr, ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  6. В Алтайском крае издана азбука кумандинского языка. 2006
  7. Baskakov, N. A. (1958). "La Classification des Dialectes de la Langue Turque d'Altaï". Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae (in French). 8: 9–15. ISSN 0001-6446.
  8. Баскаков, Николай Александрович (1966). Диалект Черневых Татар (Туба-Кижи): грамматический очерк и словарь. Москва: Наука.
  9. Баскаков, Николай Александрович (1972). Диалект Кумандинцев (Куманды-Кижи): грамматический очерк, тексты, переводы и словарь. Москва: Наука.
  10. Баскаков, Николай Александрович (1985). Диалект Лебединских Татар-Чалканцев (Куу-Кижи). Москва: Наука.
  11. Baskakov, N.A. (1985). Диалект Лебединских Татар-Чалканцев (Куу-Кижи). Северные Диалекты Алтайского (Ойротского) Языка (in Russian). Moscow: Издательство «Наука». ISBN 0-8285-3393-8. OCLC 21048607.
  12. Baskakov, N.A. (1972). Диалект Кумандынцев (Куманды-Кижи). Северные Диалекты Алтайского (Ойротского) Языка (in Russian). Moscow: Издательство «Наука». ISBN 0-8285-3393-8. OCLC 38772803.
  13. Сатлаев, Ф.А. (n.d.). Учитесь говорить по-кумандински, русско-кумандинский разговорник (in Russian). ?: Горно-Алтайская типография.

External links

South Altai language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
North Altai language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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