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Uralic is a large and diverse family of languages spoken in northern and eastern Europe and northwestern Siberia. Among the better-known Uralic languages are Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian.
Yukaghir is a small family of languages spoken in eastern Siberia. It formerly extended over a much wider area (Collinder 1965:30). It consists of two surviving languages, Tundra Yukaghir and Kolyma Yukaghir.
Similarities between Uralic and Yukaghir were first pointed out by Paasonen (1907) and Lewy (1928), although they did not consider these to be sufficient evidence for a genetic relationship between the two.Holger Pedersen (1931) included Uralic and Yukaghir in his proposed Nostratic language family, and also noted some similarities between them. A genetic relationship between Uralic and Yukaghir was first argued for in detail in 1940, independently by Karl Bouda and Björn Collinder. The hypothesis was further elaborated by Collinder in subsequent publications, and also by other scholars including Harms (1977), Nikolaeva (1988) and Piispanen (2013).
Collinder based his case for a genetic relationship between Uralic and Yukaghir on lexical and grammatical evidence; the latter included according to him similarities between pronouns, nominal case suffixes, and verb inflection.
The following list of lexical correspondences is taken from Nikolaeva (2006).
Proto-Uralic / Proto-Finno-Ugric
'sharp' / 'narrow, thin'
'young man' / 'man'
'mountain, rock' / 'stone'
The following list of lexical correspondences is taken from Aikio (2019).:52
*a?i 'mouth, opening'
*emä / *ämä
*?l- 'place under or below'
*kälä- 'wade / rise'
*käliw 'brother- or sister-in-law'
*kani- 'go away'
*koji 'male, man, husband'
*köj 'fellow, boy, young man'
*?im / *nim 'name'
*pidi- 'long / high'
*pu?e 'place on or above', *pu?e-nm?- 'tall, high'
*pö?- / *pe?- 'put; leave'
*a?- 'melt, thaw'
*wixi- 'take, transport'
*we?- 'lead, carry'
In Yukaghir numbers also share similarities such as Proto-Uralic "ükte/*ikte" and Yukaghir "irke" 'one' and Tunda Yukaghir kiti 'two' resembles Mansi kiti? 'two' and proto-Uralic *käktä 'two'.
Many other common words are similar in Yukaghir and Uralic, such as Proto-Yukaghir kin 'who' and Proto-Uralic ke/ki 'who'
The Uralic-Yukaghir hypothesis is rejected by many researchers as unsupported. While most agree that there is a core of common vocabulary that cannot be simply dismissed as chance resemblances, it has been argued that these are not the result of common inheritance, but rather due to contact between Yukaghir and Uralic speakers, which resulted in borrowing of vocabulary from Uralic languages (especially Samoyedic) into Yukaghir. Rédei (1999) assembled a large corpus of what he considered as loans from Uralic into Yukaghir. Häkkinen (2012) argues that the grammatical systems show too few convincing resemblances, especially the morphology, and proposes that putative Uralic-Yukaghir cognates are in fact borrowings from an early stage of Uralic (c. 3000 BC; he dates Proto-Uralic to c. 2000 BC) into an early stage of Yukaghir, while Uralic was (according to him) spoken near the Sayan region and Yukaghir near the Upper Lena River and near Lake Baikal. Aikio (2014) agrees with Rédei and Häkkinen that Uralic-Yukaghir is unsupported and implausible, and that common vocabulary shared by the two families is best explained as the result of borrowing from Uralic into Yukaghir, although he rejects many of their (especially Rédei's) examples as spurious or accidental resemblances and puts the date of borrowing much later, arguing that the loanwords he accepts as valid were borrowed from an early stage of Samoyedic (preceding Proto-Samoyedic; thus roughly in the 1st millennium BC) into Yukaghir, in the same general region between the Yenisei River and Lake Baikal.
Criticism of the Loaning theory
Usually when words are borrowed, the amount of nouns borrowed is much higher than the amount of verbs, while Yukaghir-Uralic correspondences words can be found in large numbers in all word classes. Most Uralic-Yukaghir correspondences are also found in the core vocabulary and do not appear to clearly constitute a particular cultural subgroup of borrowed vocabulary of any given chronological perioid or culture. But Uralic correspondences are found very extensively in function words and the most used vocabulary which, as it's well-known, is very rarely borrowed. In particular, demonstrative pronouns, personal pronouns, numbers, kinship terms and many verbs - these kinds of words are very rarely borrowed from other languages and are very resistant to loaning. Also everyday prestige words are very rarely loaned, as an example Yukaghir first and second person singular pronouns: m?t 'I' and t?t 'you' seem to be related to the Proto-Uralic words: *mE/*mon 'I' and *tE/*ton 'you,'. Also the Uralic -i- infix may also be found in Yukaghir: 1st person. pl. mit 'we' and 2nd person. pl. tit 'you'. Thus giving evidence for a direct relationship instead of a sprachbund.
According to Vladimir Napolskikh, the split between Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic branches might have occurred somewhere in the area between the Ob River and the Irtysh River, following an earlier split between Proto-Uralic and Proto-Yukaghir somewhere in Eastern Siberia.
^Lewy (1928), pp. 287: "Das Jukagirische zeigt zahlreiche Anklänge an das Finnougrische [...] Beweisen tut das zunächst gar nichts, aber es kann veranlassen, weiter zu prüfen." ('Yukaghir shows numerous points of resemblance to Finno-Ugric [...] For the moment, this does not prove anything, but it can motivate further research.')
^Bouda (1940), p. 92: "Wir haben gesehen, daß das Jukagirische eine so starke uralische Schicht besitzt, daß man es als diesem Sprachgebiet zugehörig ansehen kann." ('We have seen that Yukhagir has such a strong Uralic stratum, that we can consider it to belong the latter's speech area.')
^Collinder (1965b), p. 30: "The features common to Yukagir and Uralic are so numerous and so characteristic that they must be remainders of a primordial unity. The case system of Yukagir is almost identical with that of Northern Samoyed. The imperative of the verbs is formed with the same suffixes as in Southern Samoyed and the most conservative of the Fenno-Ugric languages. The two negative auxiliary verbs of the Uralic languages are also found in Yukagir. There are striking common traits in verb derivation. Most of the pronominal stems are more or less identical. Yukagir has half a hundred words in common with Uralic, in addition to those that may fairly be suspected of being loanwords. This number is not lower than should be expected on the assumption that Yukagir is akin to Uralic. In Yukagir texts one may find sentences of up to a dozen words that consist exclusively or almost exclusively of words that also occur in Uralic. Nothing in the phonologic or morphologic structure of Yukagir contradicts the hypothesis of affinity, and Yukagir agrees well with Uralic as far as the syntax is concerned."
Harms, Robert (1977). "The Uralo-Yukaghir focus system and problem in remote genetic relationship". In Hopper, Paul J. (ed.). Studies in descriptive and historical linguistics. Festschrift for Winfred P. Lehmann. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 301-316.
Ruhlen, Merritt. 1987. A Guide to the World's Languages, Volume 1: Classification (only volume to appear to date). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Angere, J. 1956. Die uralo-jukagirische Frage. Ein Beitrag zum Problem der sprachlichen Urverwandschaft. Stockholm: Almqvist & Viksell.
Bouda, Karl. 1940. "Die finnisch-ugrisch-samojedische Schicht des Jukagirischen." Ungarische Jahrbücher 20, 80-101.
Fortescue, Michael. 1998. Language Relations Across Bering Strait: Reappraising the Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence. London and New York: Cassell.
Hyllested, Adam. 2010. "Internal Reconstruction vs. External Comparison: The Case of the Indo-Uralic Laryngeals." Internal Reconstruction in Indo-European, eds. J.E. Rasmussen & T. Olander, 111-136. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.