In my study of Udmurt and Komi, I have produced an English translation of the chapter on Permian vowels from Raija Bartens’s Permiläisten kielten rakenne ja kehitys (The Structure and Development of the Permian Languages, Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian Society, 2001). While Bartens’s book no longer represents the state of the art in Uralic linguistics, and in the years since Sándor Csúcs has shaken the field up with such publications as Die Rekonstruktion der permischen Grundsprache (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2005), Permiläisten kielten rakenne ja kehitys does provide a helpful introduction to 20th-century work on Permian vocalism.
The literary standards of both Permian languages have the same inventory of seven vowels:
However, this does not mean that the Proto-Permian system was the same. Linguists studying the Permian languages have always been confounded by the large differences in vocalism in their common lexicon. Evidence from Udmurt and Komi dialects as well as the Old Komi writings show that the vowel system of Proto-Permian was larger.
The vowel inventory of the Permian languages has been the subject of many large investigations: Itkonen’s Permiläisen vokaali‑ ja painotusopin alalta (1951) and Zur Geschichte des Vokalismus der ersten Silbe im Tscheremissischen und in den permischen Sprachen (1953–54); Lytkin’s Istoričeskij vokalizm permskih jazykov (1964); Harms’ Split, Shift and Merger in the Permic Vowels (1967); Itkonen’s Spuren der Quantitätskorrelation der Vokale im Syrjänischen (1971); Janhunen’s Uralilaisen kantakielen sanatosta (1981); Rédei’s Geschichte der permischen Sprachen (1988); Sammallahti’s Historical Phonology of the Uralic Languages (1988). The following description represents essentially the work of Sammallahti.
Sammallahti assigns the following inventory of 8 vowels to Proto-Udmurt:
Sammallahti bases his reconstruction on the same Udmurt forms as Lytkin (1964: 231ff.). Besides the literary language and the dialects that it is derived from (= literary-language type) the Southwest and Besserman dialects also provide information. The vowel system of the Southwest dialects (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994; these are the Šošma as well as part of the Kukmorin and Bavlyn southern peripheral dialects) have 8 vowels. The number of vowels in the literary-language type is 7 and in the Besserman dialect 6. According to Kel’makov, in part of the southern peripheral dialects there is also a reduced vowel (part of the Kukmorin and Bavlyn dialects) or even two reduced vowels; they also have a vowel ä (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 40; ä is a late Tatar influence). Thus the vowel inventories of some southern peripheral dialects can contain from 9 to 11 vowels (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 40). On the other hand, a vowel inventory as small as the Besserman dialect, with 6 vowels, is found in one southern peripheral dialect, the Kanlyn dialect (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 39).
The Proto-Permian vowels according to Sammallahti’s reconstruction are reflected in the modern languages as the following:
|literary-language type||u||i̮||u||i||o||ȯ, e̮||e||a|
The literary-language type has therefore lost the high rounded front vowel *ü. It has fallen together with the high rounded back vowel u. In part of the literary-language type dialects, from the mid central unrounded vowel (e̮) has arisen the mid-central rounded vowel ȯ.
In the Besserman dialect the Proto-Udmurt high front rounded vowel (*ü) and the high central unrounded vowel (*i̮) have fallen together. Kel’makov views the resulting vowel as reduced (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 39). Lytkin (1964: 16, 187; 1961: 24ff.) defines this ɵ vowel as a mid and back vowel but closer to a central vowel than rounded u and o. In part of the Besserman dialects the mid central unrounded vowel *e̮ has merged with the corresponding front vowel e.
In the SW dialects the central unrounded vowels are rounded. Furthermore the high rounded front vowel *ü has moved back and become a central vowel (*i̮ > ɵ, *e̮ > ȯ, *ü > u̇).
Generally in these changes that came after the Proto-Udmurt period, a vowel has been rounded or it has moved back (the change *e̮ > e in the Besserman dialect is an exception). The Proto-Udmurt vowel inventory has been presented above in a table; it can be seen that the changes have impacted the vowels in the middle of the table. Thus the vowel *ü that Sammallahti reconstructs for Proto-Udmurt has not been preserved in any dialect. He does not reconstruct this vowel for Proto-Komi.
Sammallahti reconstructs an inventory of 10 vowels for Proto-Komi, of which 3 are reduced and 7 full vowels:
The essential data for the Proto-Komi vowel inventory is provided by the Old Komi writings as well as Komi-Yazva and the Upper-Sysola dialect which are of archaic character. Also, in part of the Upper-Vyčegda dialects, to the central unrounded vowels of other dialects (i̮, e̮) correspond the rounded mid vowels u̇ and ȯ, which Lytkin (1964: 187ff.) considered also an archaic feature. In the Komi literary language, which is based on the Mid-Vyčegda dialect, there is an inventory of 7 vowels, likewise in the Upper-Vyčegda dialect described by Sammallahti. In the Upper-Sysola dialect there are 8 vowels, in the Old Komi writings 9 vowels and in Komi-Yazva there is an inventory of 10 vowels. Sammallahti reconstructed 10 vowels also for Proto-Komi, of which 3 are reduced. The quite archaic-looking Komi-Yazva system is naturally explained by this hypothesis. Already in 1952, Lytkin ascribed a reduced vowel background to three unstressed vowels in Komi-Yazva (u, ɵ, i). However, by his 1964 history of the Permian vowel inventory he had changed his mind and did not reconstruct reduced vowels for either Proto-Komi or Proto-Permian. Instead, he hypothesized that vowel quantity continued into the Pre-Permian stage (Lytkin 1964: 17).
In Sammallahti’s reconstruction, the Proto-Komi vowels correspond to the vowel inventories of the Old Komi writings, the literary language and the dialects in the following way:
|Old Komi writings||u||i̮||i||o||e̮||e||å||e̮||ä||a|
(The table above was drawn from Sammallahti 1998: 533–534.)
Itkonen reconstructed an inventory of 11 vowels for Proto-Permian. The distinguishing feature of his reconstruction is an inventory classified according to four degrees of height. Besides high, mid and low vowels, between the high and mid vowels there is a series of tense mid vowels:
(According to Itkonen 1951: 449; 1953–54: 332. Later, in 1971: 25, Itkonen thought it possible that the earlier representative of i̮ had been a central rounded vowel ɯ.)
In his history of Permian vocalism, Lytkin (1964: 228ff.) reconstructed an inventory based on a similar system of four degrees of height. His reconstructed Permian vowel system is presented in the following chart:
Thus in Lytkin’s reconstruction there are 14 vowels and in Itkonen’s 11. Lytkin’s reconstruction furthermore has three front rounded vowels. Incidentally, it should be noted that Itkonen and Lytkin’s reconstructions of four degrees of height are along the same lines; both scholars were researching the same thing at the same time, but unaware of each other’s work.
A vowel system can have at most four degrees of height, though such systems are rare (Crothers 1978: 119). Harms (1967: 167), who appealed to earlier studies, believed this impossible:
In general, no language is known to possess four (or more) phonemic degrees of tongue height (i.e., any such phonetic difference is always better analyzed in terms of other features). According to Harms, there would be no grounds for the large number of rounded vowels that Lytkin reconstructs:
the universal constraints … rule out … more than two rounded vowels at any given tongue height (ibid.). Crothers does not propose this in his catalogue of universals. (According to the universals proposed by Crothers, the degrees of height in a vowel system are equal to or greater than the degrees of frontness, that is, there can be at most four degrees of frontness; in the greater part of the languages of the world, there can be at most three, however, and the same goes for degrees of height.
Harms believed that any vowel series with four degrees of height must be analyzed in a different way. The way that Harms chose is a lax/tense opposition (Harms 1967: 170). He defined tenseness as follows:
It is used here as a marker of quantity and stress attraction (ibid. 175) Thus all Proto-Permian vowels would have been full vowels; besides defining three series based on height, there would also be a series of long vowels that take the main stress.
Sammallahti went in a different direction. He does not reconstruct a quantitative opposition for Proto-Permian but an opposition between reduced vowels and full vowels. Sammallahti’s reconstruction for Proto-Permian is the following:
Among the high full vowels there are thus three round vowels in spite of Harms’s criteria. For the first three Pre-Permian stages, Sammallahti also reconstructs – like Lytkin – a mid front rounded vowel ö (Sammallahti 1988: 527).
From the Pre-Proto-Permian, or Finno-Permian, vowel system (Itkonen ibid. 332, Sammallahti ibid. 523, only Sammallahti reconstructs a mid central vowel)
the Proto-Permian vowel system differs, according to Itkonen’s as well as Lytkin and Sammallahti’s treatment, essentially in annulling the old Proto-Finno-Ugrian and Proto-Finno-Permian quantitative opposition that existed in the mid and high vowels. According to Sammallahti, the new opposition of full and reduced vowels that he reconstructs would have arisen already in the Pre-Proto-Permian stage, though only at the end of this period. (Sammallahti divides the development of vowels into four Pre-Proto-Permian stages and then a following Proto-Permian stage. It bears remembering that, assuming the commonly held chronology is correct, the “Proto-Permian” stage would have lasted over two thousand years, thus there is a reason to speak of different Pre-Proto-Permian eras and then a true Proto-Permian stage that followed them.) This Proto-Permian opposition would have survived in Proto-Komi, but Proto-Udmurt has lost it according to Sammallahti.
Sammallahti thus reconstructs an opposition between reduced and full vowels impacting high vowels in Proto-Permian and later Proto-Komi. A similar opposition in the same portion of the vowel system is found in a language that has had a significant influence on Proto-Permian: Volga Bulgarian, or Old Chuvash (Itkonen 1970: 272; Rédei & Róna-Tas 1972: 272). Words were borrowed from this language into Proto-Permian; a discussion of its influence on Permian syntax as early as the Proto-Permian era will come later in this book. Another Finno-Ugrian language which Old Chuvash (and eventually Modern Chuvash) has greatly influenced has also developed an opposition between reduced vowels and full vowels in precisely the high portion of the vowel inventory. It is tempting to assume that this opposition was brought into Proto-Permian and later Proto-Mari due to the higher prestige of the Old Chuvash speakers. Contradicting this assumption, however, is the fact that according to Sammallahti, the Permian languages formed this opposition already in the Pre-Permian era, but the Volga Bulgarian impact on Proto-Permian began only around the time of its dissolution. And it would be difficult to explain on this basis of this assumption, why the reconstructed Proto-Komi system is closer to the reconstructed Proto-Permian vowel system with its opposition of full and reduced vowels than the Proto-Udmurt system; it was after all Proto-Udmurt which remained under Volga Bulgarian influence while Proto-Komi moved away from it.
The following examples drawn from Sammallahti (1988: 530–531), which illustrate his reconstruction from Proto-Finno-Permian into first Proto-Permian and then Proto-Komi and Proto-Udmurt, show the phonological development of the lexicon:
Finno-Permian *ńini ‘bast’ > Proto-Permian *ńĭn > Proto-Komi *ńĭn (> Komi ńin, Komi-Yazva ńin), Proto-Udmurt *ńin (> Udmurt ńin) (= Finnish niini)
Finno-Permian *nimi ‘name’ > Proto-Permian *ńĭm > Proto-Komi *ńĭm (> Komi ńim, Komi-Yazva ńim), Proto-Udmurt *ńim (> Udmurt ńim) (= Finnish nimi)
Finno-Permian *küsä ‘thick, fat’ > Proto-Permian *kĭ̮z > Proto-Komi *kĭ̮z (> Komi ki̮z, Komi-Yazva kɵz), Proto-Udmurt *ki̮z (> Udmurt ki̮z) (= Saami gâssâ)
Finno-Permian *kūśi ‘20’ > Proto-Permian *kĭ̮ź > Proto-Komi *kĭ̮ź (> Komi ki̮ź), Proto-Udmurt *ki̮ź (> Udmurt ki̮ź, SW dialectal ku̇ź) (cognates in the Ugric languages)
Finno-Permian *tuli ‘fire’ > Proto-Permian *tĭ̮l > Proto-Komi *tĭ̮l (> Komi ti̮l), Proto-Udmurt *ti̮l (> Udmurt ti̮l) (= Finnish tuli)
Finno-Permian *mēli ‘mind’ > Proto-Permian *mĭ̮l > Proto-Komi *mĭ̮l (> Komi mi̮l, Komi-Yazva mɵl), Proto-Udmurt *mi̮l (> Udmurt mi̮l) (= Finnish mieli)
Finno-Permian *pesä ‘nest’ > Proto-Permian *poz > Proto-Komi *poz (> Komi poz, Komi-Yazva poz), Proto-Udmurt *puz (> Udmurt puz ‘egg’) (= Finnish pesä); Finno-Permian *keski ‘nest’ > Proto-Permian *küsk > Proto-Komi *kusk (> Komi kos(k‑), Komi-Yazva kusk), Proto-Udmurt *küs (> Udmurt kus(k‑), SW dialectal ku̇s(k‑)) (= Finnish keski)
Finno-Permian *kōsi ‘spruce, fir’ > Proto-Permian *ki̮z > Proto-Komi *ki̮z (> Komi koz, Komi-Permyak ke̮z), Proto-Udmurt *ki̮z (> Udmurt ki̮z, SW dialectal ku̇z) (= Finnish kuusi)
Finno-Permian *okse‑ (Sammallahti *oksi‑) ‘vomit’ > Proto-Permian *u̇sk‑ > Proto-Komi *i̮s‑ (> Komi vos‑, Udora ve̮s‑), Proto-Udmurt *e̮sk‑ (>Udmurt e̮ski̮‑, SW dialectal ösi̮‑) (= Finnish okse‑nta‑)
Finno-Permian *äjä [?] ‘old man’ > Proto-Permian *aji̮ > Proto-Komi *aj (> Komi aj, Komi-Yazva aj), Proto-Udmurt *aji̮ (> Udmurt aj(i̮)) (= Finnish äijä, Saami agˈgja) (Sammllahti does not propose this etymology); Finno-Permian *tälvä ‘winter’ > Proto-Permian *tȯl > Proto-Komi *te̮l (> Komi te̮l), Proto-Udmurt *tol (> Udmurt tol) (= Finnish tälvi, Saami dalˈve)
Finno-Permian *kaẟ́a‑ ‘remain’ > Proto-Permian *kuĺi̮‑ > Proto-Komi *kuĺ‑ (> Komi koĺ‑, Komi-Yazva kuĺ‑), Proto-Udmurt *kuĺi̮‑ (>Udmurt ki̮ĺi̮‑, kiĺi̮‑) (= Finnish kad‑ota ‘disappear’, Saami guođˈđe‑)
Sammllahti also presents examples of how Finno-Permian mid vowels could become raised in Proto-Permian and then reduced:
Finno-Permian *śola ‘salt’ > Proto-Permian *śŭl > Proto-Komi *śŭl (> Komi śŭl), Proto-Udmurt *śul (>Udmurt śul) (= Finnish suoli)
Finno-Permian *me̮ksa ‘liver’ > Proto-Permian *mŭsk > Proto-Komi *mŭsk (> Komi mŭs(k‑), Komi-Permyak mŭs‑), Proto-Udmurt *mus (> Udmurt mus) (= Finnish maksa)
The same applies even to long mid vowels, as illustrated by an example given above: Finno-Permian *mēli ‘mind’ > Proto-Permian *mĭ̮l > Proto-Komi *mĭ̮l, Proto-Udmurt *mi̮l.
The Permian languages have lost endings, but opinions differ on whether Proto-Permian had already lost the second syllable of roots. In Udmurt there is an archaic layer of the lexicon where nominal roots consist of two syllables and are vowel-final, but in Komi the same word is consonant-final. (Verb roots show a corresponding tendency: in Udmurt verbs are generally vowel stems, while Komi verbs have both vowel and consonant stems, see pp. 180–181.) If in Udmurt a vowel in a noun stem cannot be explained as a derivational element, i.e. the root is truly vowel-final, the vowel is always a high vowel. In Komi there is a word interpreted in the same way. According to Rédei, śoŕńí ‘speech’ may have preserved the original second-syllable vowel but raised it. The antiquity of the second-syllable vowel in Udmurt is attested by the fact that no reason can be found for why e.g. li̮mi̮ ‘snow’ is in all the dialects in Wichmann’s materials vowel-final. There is no phonotactic reason for the late appearance of this vowel, for word-final ‑m is completely possible, cf. kam ‘river, stream, the Kama River’. On the other hand, it is not easy to understand the preservation of the second-syllable vowel in li̮mi̮. It was originally, in Proto-Uralic and Proto-Finno-Ugrian, a high vowel (PFU *lumi < PU *lomi). Itkonen, in connection with other matters (e.g. Mari and Morvin), claimed that second-syllable originally high vowels (or mid vowels according to Itkonen’s theory) had generally been reduced and lost before the low vowels. He believed that Udmurt nominative forms ending in a second-syllable vowel are secondary; the linking vowel in all of the oblique forms was added to the nominative. Kel’makov (1990: 113–116) noted that there are quite a lot of near-homonyms which can be distinguished only because one word is consonant-final and the other has a second-syllable vowel. Thus the final vowel helps to avoid homonymy. He gives 29 such word pairs. According to Molnár (1974: 61ff.), in these cases Udmurt has retained the second-syllable vowel and always raised it to a high vowel (Rédei 1968a: 41ff. had come to the same conclusion). The second-syllable vowel would have thus lost its distinguishing feature of height (low/high) and this would hardly have any relevance (there are no word pairs of the type *kerä/*keri). The leveling of stem vowels would have even been motivated in Proto-Permian. In some cases the second-syllable vowel took on a morphological role, the function of a vocalic suffix (cf. in the declension of Proto-Permian personal pronouns 1 sg. gen. *mVnam ‘of me’ versus 1 sg. dat. *mVnim ‘to me’).
Not all cases of second-syllable non-high vowels can be explained as vowel suffixes. Loanwords can show such vowels in roots, e.g. Udmurt kuĺto, Komi koĺta ‘sheaf’ < Chuvash, Komi paĺto ‘overcoat’.
The main tendency of Proto-Permian second-syllable vowels, however, is that final vowels are lost from bisyllabic word forms. If modern Permian languages have bisyllabic vowel-final forms, a historical linguist’s first question would be, what consonant has been lost from the end of this form? The loss of the vowel has also affected the boundary between the first and second syllable; phonotactically final consonant clusters were under pressure to be simplified. This has given rise to some allomorphic variations (which will be treated later under morphology).
If there was an opposition between full and reduced vowels in first syllables in Sammallahti’s reconstruction, it is natural to assume that the weakening and loss of second-syllable vowels happened along the lines of the reduced vowels. The opinion of the Hungarian scholars has also been shown: the weakening of second syllables would have started with the raising of second-syllable vowels. The weakening would have continued with the reduction of high vowels and finally their loss. Supporters of Sammallahti’s theory of a full/reduced opposition can note that the area in which first-syllable reduced vowels existed was in Proto-Permian precisely the high vowels.
The vowel paradigm of suffixes is more restricted than initial syllables. In Udmurt suffixes mostly contain the central vowel i̮ or the front vowel e. (In the Southern dialects of Udmurt, instead of a high central vowel i̮ one finds the high front vowel i.) Suffixes can also have the rounded vowel o, in some suffixes the low vowel a is possible and in a few suffixes across the entire Udmurt territory one finds the high front vowel i (e.g. the prolative case ending ‑ti). In Komi the vowels that make up suffixes are particularly the central vowels i̮ and e̮ – some of the dialects use instead front i and e – but also a is common and i is possible in suffixes.
Lytkin (1964: 239) reconstructed only three vowels for Proto-Permian non-initial syllables: *i, *a and *ɛ.
The Диалектологический атлас удмуртского языка edited by R. I. Nasibullin et al. (Iževsk: R&C Dynamics, 2009) has a series of maps showing the distributions of the Udmurt names for various things across the area where the language is spoken. For the most items, there are only a few variants, and in the case of borrowing, Russian loans are prevalent in the north of the Udmurt Republic while Tatar loans are prevalent in the south.
The word for ‘ladybug’ (Russian божья коровка) is a different story. The atlas lists 124 variants.
Some of these are very colourful: ӵужанай ‘maternal grandmother’, вӧйын нянь сиись ‘bread-and-butter eater’. A large number are formed with зор ‘rain’ (< Volga Bulgarian, cf. Chuvash ҫур ‘snow’). Nasibullin examines these names more closely in his article ‘“Божья коровка” в удмуртских говорах’ in the journal Иднакар (issue 2007-2).
Amusingly, after the myriad names for ‘ladybug’, the atlas documents only one name (with varying vocalism) for that most common pest on Earth, the cockroach: торокан/ таракан/тӓрӓкӓн (cf. Russian таракан).
(If this kind of variation fascinates you, in North America, the various names for the family Armadillidiidae, which I grew up calling a roly poly, have also been mapped.)
Textbooks of Finno-Ugrian languages written for foreign learners really like to give children’s poetry as translation exercises. Thus Марийский язык для всех presents the following from one Pet Pershut:
Тыгыде кутко —
Йошкар кутко —
Сар кутко —
Кеҥеж кечын сад мучко
Каеныт корно мучко,
Пурак веле тӱргалтын,
Изи йыҥгыр мӱгыралтын.
Орава да тарантас ден,
Шым гитар ден,
Шым шӱвыр ден,
Вич тӱмыр ден,
Рӱж миеныт йыраҥыш.
The ant wedding
They made their way
though the garden on a summer day,
carrying only crumbs,
singing a little song.
With carts and wagons,
with seven guitars,
with seven bagpipes,
with five drums,
they sang and danced,
and made merry,
They went on, they went up,
They bent down grain stalks,
They went to the wedding,
with a buzz they headed into the flower-bed.
The third chapter of the Udmurt textbook Марым, леся… gives a series of several poems by Alla Kuznetsova exemplifying the numerals just introduced. Here’s the one for ‘7’:
Сизьым туж тодмо мыным,
Сизьым нунал арняын:
Вордӥськон бере пуксён,
The seven days of the week:
Monday then Tuesday,
I don’t much care for this. Adult learners should not be treated like children. Sure, it may be a few chapters before a student is ready for it, but it would be more dignified to bring in selections from folk songs or simple selections from novels.
The Mari news site MariUver has reposted an interesting article originally published at PolitRUS about a recent political conference in Russia, which I’ve translated from Russian below. There’s an element of conspiracy ravings here; the “expert in Islamic studies” Suleymanov has drawn criticism for his claims of Tatar extremism. The last paragraph reveals something of opinions held within Russia on the Mari, Mordvin and Udmurt emigrants who have been of such help to Finno-Ugrists at European universities.
The West is Evaluating the Possibility of Supporting Islamic Separatists in the Volga Region
The issue of drawing NATO countries’ attention to outbreaks of national separatism and Islamic terrorism in the Volga Region was one of the main themes of the Sixth All-Russian Conference of Applied Studies “Наука молодых” (Study of Youth) which was held on December 18 in Arzamas (Nizhny Novgorod oblast). The conference was organized by the A. P. Gajdar Arzamas State Pedagogical Institute and drew participation from scholars and experts from neighbouring oblasts and republics. Attendees were especially interested in talks by researchers from Tatarstan, where over the last year the situation of religious extremism and national separatism has been sharpened.
As Rais Suleymanov, the director of the Volga Centre for Regional and Ethnoreligious Research РИСИ explained, starting with the “Nurlat episode” (a special forces operation to liquidate a group of armed militants in the Nurlat region of Tatarstan on November 25, 2010), as of December 2012 Tatarstan has been visited by journalists and political analysts from France, the United States, Great Britain, Holland, Poland and other countries. There have even been visitors from Australia and Brazil.
In the opinion of Suleymanov, such visits are not coincidental:
Arriving under the pretext of being reporters, scholars and analysts, our Western guests often come not because of an interest in journalism or research, but in order to gather information about how serious the problem of the Volga Region becoming a hotspot is.
At the same time, in the words of this specialist in Islamic studies, the Western experts that he has met with personally use a special “methodology of communication”.
Besides, the very existence of greater interest in this subject and the overwhelming desire to meet with separatists and fundamentalists speaks to the fact that the West is evaluating the possibility of financing and providing informational support to the Islamist underground and nationalists in Tatarstan, Suleymanov stated. He added that in this context one should look to the activities of journalists from the Qatar television network Al Jazeera, which has a branch in Kazan.
In addition to Suleymanov’s talk, his colleague Vasily Ivanov noted that the international terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood through its agents in Russia has also shown an interest in Finno-Ugrian nationalist movements.
Ivanov gave his own talk titled “Finno-Ugrian separatism in the Volga Region: its ideology, the extent of its spread and foreign influences”. Analysing outbreaks of Finno-Ugrian separatism in Russia at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the researcher pointed to the support that Mari, Mordvin and Udmurt nationalists receive today from Finland, Hungary and Estonia.
The situation is becoming more serious because anti-Russian propaganda is published on the internet by people studying in institutes of higher education in those countries — undergraduates, graduate students and PhD candidates from the Volga republics at universities in the European Union, Ivanov underlined.
In the library of the University of Helsinki I have found two different translations of the New Testament into Udmurt.
The first translation is limited to the four Gospels, and dates from 1912. The title page bears the text Господа нашего Ісуса Христа Сватое Евангеліе отъ Матѳея, Марка, Луки и Іоанна на удмуртском языке. On the following page is written
Отъ Перевоческой Коммиссіи Православнаго Миссіонерскаго Общества печатать пазрѣшается. Казань, 7 сентября 1911 года. Предсѣдатель Переводческой Коммиссій Православнаго Миссіонерскаго Общества, Профессоръ Казанской Академіи, М. Машановъ. Though the translation was first published in 1912, this is a reprinting apparently from 1973, to judge from the sole line added to the facsimile:
E.B.I.1973.10000. I assume this is one of the contraband Bibles that were smuggled into Russia from Finland during the Communist era.
This translation is interesting in that it documents a transitional stage in Udmurt orthography. Although for the most part it already resembles the 1920s-era modified Cyrillic alphabet still in use today, there is one major difference that is found in words beginning with /j/. Instead of the Russian letters ю, я for /ju/ and /ja/ etc., we instead find something much like ‹ју› ‹ја›. However, unlike the usual representation of Unicode U+0458 cyrillic small letter je, this now antiquated letter is not dotted and sits entirely above the line.
The other translation is of the whole New Testament, under the title Выль Сӥзён (Stockholm/Helsinki: Institute for Bible Translation, 1997) ISBN 9188974822. The Institute for Bible Translation has translated the Bible as well as e.g. retellings for children into many languages of the former Soviet Union (I’ve previously blogged about their series). According to the copyright page, this translation was undertaken by Mikhail Atamanov, a deacon with a doctorate in philology.
Since for several minority languages of Russia there exists both a translation from the late Tsarist era and a recent IBT translation, comparing the two might illustrate the evolution of the standard language. Here is John 1:1–14 in the two translations:
1912: Іоаннъ гоштэм Евангеліе
Вальлянӥсенӥк Кыл вылэм, Кыл Инмарын вылэм. Со Кыл Инмар вылэм.
Со вальлянӥсенӥк Инмарын луэм.
Коть ма но Со вамен луэм, ма гынэ луиз-ке но, Со сяна номре но кылдымтэ.
Со бордын улэп-улон вылэм, со улэп-улон адяміослы люгыт луэм.
Люгыт пеймытын люгдыса улэ, пеймыт сое шобыртыса уг бытты.
Инмарлэн лэзем одӥг муртыз вылэм, солэн нимыз Іоаннъ.
Со дышетыны лыктэм; со вамен ваньзы но мед оскозы шуса, со Люгытэз тодытыны лыктэм.
Со ачыз люгыт луымтэ, только Люгытэз тодытыны лэзьыскькемын вылэм.
Дуньнее лыктысь коть-кыӵе адяміез люгдытысь зэм Люгыт луэм.
Со дуньнейын вылэм, дуньне Со вамен кылдыськем, только дуньне Сое тодмамтэ.
Аслазъёсыз доре лыктэм, Аслазъёсыз но Сое кабыл басьтымтэзы.
Ассэ кабыл басьтысьёслы, Солэн нимызлы оскысьёслы, Инмар піос луыны кужым сётэм.
Соёс вирлэсь ӧвӧл, мугорлэсь но ӧвӧл, піосмуртлэсь но ӧвӧл, Инмарлэсь вордыськыльям.
Кыл мугоро луиз; дӧулетлы, землы тыр луыса, милемын валче улӥз: ми Солэсь быдзым вылэмзэ адӟимы, Атайлэсь огназ Вордыськемлэн быдзымез кадик быдзымзэ (адӟим).
1997: Иоаннлэсь ӟеч ивор
Кустконаз ик Кыл вылэм. Кыл Инмар дорын вылэм. Кыл Инмар вылэм.
Со кутсконаз ик Инмар дорын вылэм.
Мар кылдыны кутскем, ваньмыз Со пыр кылдыны кутскем, Сотэк номыр но кылдыны кутскымтэ.
Со бордын улон, улон адямиослэн югытсы луэ.
Югыт пеймытын пиштыса улэ, пеймыт сое ӝокатыны уг быгаты.
Инмарлэн лэзем адямиез вылэм: солэн нимыз Иоанн.
Со пыр ваньмыз мед оскозы шуыса, со шара ивортыны лыктэм, Югыт сярысь ивортыны.
Со таиз югыт вылымтэ, но ыстэмын вылэм Югыт сярысь шара ивортыны.
Вылэм зэмос Югыт, Кудӥз дуннее лыктэ но котькудзэ адямиез югдытэ.
Дуннеын вылэм, дунне Со пыр кылдыны кутскем, дунне Сое тодмамтэ.
Аслазъёс доры лыктэм, но аслазъёсыз Сое кулэ кариллямтэ.
Нош ваньмыз, кинъёс Сое кабыл басьтӥллям, Солэн нимызлы оскисьёслы, Инмар нылпиос луыны кужым сётэм.
Соос вирлэсь ӧвӧл, мугорлэн кулэ каремезлэсь ӧвӧл, пиосмуртлэн кулэ каремезлэсь ӧвӧл, – соос Инмарлэсь вордӥськиллям.
Кыл мугоро луэм, дэлетэн но зэмлыкен тыр луыса, милемын валче улӥз. Ми Солэсь пиштӥсь данлыксэ адӟимы, Атайлэсь огназ вордӥськем Пиезлэсь пиштӥсь данлыксэ.
I may have come across such etymologies before, but as far as I remember, this is the first proposal I’ve seen of a Uralic loanword in Proto-Indo-European. In Ananta Śāstram: Indological and Linguistic Studies in Honour of Bertil Tikkanen ed. Klaus Karttunen (Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society, 2010), Asko Parpola has this to say on the etymology of Finnish kaivaa ‘dig’:
The Finnish words kaiva-a ‘to dig’ and kaivo ‘digging, well, pit’ have cognates in Finnic languages, in Saami and the Volgaic and Permic languages. Ante Aikio has shown that Proto-Finno-Ugric *kajwa- can be regularly connected with Proto-Samoyedic käjwa ‘spade’, asthe change *a > *ä took place in Samoyedic before a tautosyllabic palatal consonant, thereby settling an old problem, the history and material of which is fully discussed by Aikio. Hence the etymon is an archaic Uralic nomen verbum.
What I offer here is not a new etymology, but simply a reference to an old etymology proposed as early as 1920 that was not included in the indexes of etymologically treated Finnish words by Donner and Erämetsä, and so has escaped notice in SKES and SSA. K. F. Johansson had reconstructed an archaic Proto-Indo-European heteroclitic noun *kaiw-r̥-t (nom.) ~ *kaiwn̥n-eś (gen.) on the basis of Greek and Old Indo-Aryan. Hesychius records καίατα in the sense of ‘pits, excavations, trenches, ditches’ (ὀρύγματα) or ‘landslide chasms caused by earthquake’ (ἢ τὰ ὑπὸ σεισμῶν καταρραγέντα χωρία) The plural καίατα is supposed to stand for καίϝατα, from the singular καίϝαρ. Old Indo-Aryan kevaṭa- ‘pit’ is attested in a single occurence in the oldest text, Rigveda, 6,45,7; Old Indo-Aryan e goes back to Proto-Aryan *ai and *rt has often become retroflex *ṭ. Pokorny accepts the comparison and reconstructs for Proto-Indo-European *kaiwr̥t *kaiwn̥-t. Thomas Burrow and Manfred Mayrhofer have considered the scanty evidence in both Old Indo-Aryan and Greek as too uncertain for the assumption of a PIE hetercliton. Still, Mayrhofer thinks it is possible that the words are related. Herbert Petersson also emphasizes that no trace of this etymon is found in other Indo-European languages — and Frisk points out that no corresponding PIE verbal root can be traced — while the root structure too, with a diphthong following by -w-, also looks peculiar for PIE. Petersson therefore takes this to be one of the rare cases where Proto-Indo-European is likely to have borrowed from Proto-Finno-Ugric. Mayrhofer refers to Petersson’s suggestion as noteworthy but unconfirmed. However, the confirmed Uralic origin of kajwa- and the archaic appearance of the word on both sides gives new significane to Petersson’s hypothesis.
(The title of Parpola’s contribution to this volume is ‘New Etymologies for Some Finnish Words’, pp. 305–318. In quoting it here, I have slightly abridged the text and left out the parenthetical citations for the sake of readabiity.)
The major Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat recently featured an article on the state of the Finnic languages in Russia, and the English-language web edition offers a translation:
A battle. That is the word that Zinaida Dubinina is using.
Dubinina is fighting a battle in the bedroom of her home in the village of Kotkatjärvi in Russian Karelia.
At her desk she has committed her most important acts in order to save her native language: translated the entire Kalevala, the national epic of Finland, as well as parts of the Bible into Karelian.
Dubinina’s choice of words is dramatic, but her struggle is a real one. A defeat in the battle would mean a death-blow to the Karelian language and culture.
I do not honestly know what will happen to the Karelian language, she quitely contemplates.
It is not a very in-depth article and says little that many linguaphiles don’t already know, but it’s always good to have more coverage of these peoples in the mainstream press.
In a post over at the blog Memiyawanzi, the proprietor alerts us to the latest entry in the red-cover Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics series, Linguistic Fieldwork: A Student Guide by Jeanette Sakel and Daniel Everett (yes, that Daniel Everett). He offers us a short review, and as with all new introductions to fieldwork I was quick to scan for coverage of the downsides and unpleasantries of fieldwork, as some of the earlier publications I used to get acquainted with practices failed to mentioned such.
Reading about this new fieldwork textbook, I’m reminded that I never posted about my last fieldwork endeavour, namely my trip to Mari El in September of last year. At the time I was too upset to document what happened, but a few people have been asking me why I now insist on focusing on research perspectives that don’t obligate fieldwork, so I might as well talk about that fateful week in the Morko region of the Republic, supposedly the Mari heartland and the place where the language is still vibrant. Here’s a list of what awaited me:
- I’m used to dealing with alcoholism in Russian villages, but for the first time I witnessed heroin addiction and its attendent ills – demographic suicide part 1.
- I’m tired of being asked by schoolteachers or university lecturers to address classes, where I speak in Mari and the pupils or students either stare blankly at me, or venture the rare question in Russian – demographic suicide part 2.
- Half of the people I met on the last trip to the area are now living in Moscow or abroad – demographic suicide part 3.
- I feel like I’ve wasted my time in traveling such a distance to this part of the world when most people I talk to refuse to serve as consultants, even when I am offering to pay them a truly generous wage for their assistance
- The Mari generally show a lack of political engagement, or even political consciousness, that might solve some of the problems they face. Of course, research ethics (as well as the obligations of my visa) forbid me from pushing the natives into any political direction, but I’m nonetheless permitted to note this failure and think it unfortunate.
Many linguists work with minority languages because they either idealistically believe that they can aid its revitalization, or they at least want to witness a revitalization driven by the speakers themselves. I could brush off non-linguistic hassles like corrupt officials, poverty, and the Republic’s awful weather if the speakers of the language were motivated and energetic, but my observations suggest that Mari is already moribund. Further fieldwork would therefore only make me miserable. If I’m in need of information from a living native speaker of Mari, I can depend on the assistance of Mari people resident in Finland, Estonia or Hungary.
Anyway, right now I’m trying to finish my translation of Chavain’s novel Elnet. I’m also interested in phonological changes that have taken place over a broad swath from the Volga-Kama area down to Tajikistan. These changes are documented to have occurred centuries ago, so I’m safe from the need to do fieldwork – unless someone invents a time machine, in which case I’m screwed.
There’s an article at Souciant, an online magazine of politics and culture, discussing the state of Russia’s minority languages. Most attention is given to the Volga region. I must credit the authors for addressing something I’ve often felt, namely that active speakers of these languages are often unwilling to admit that prospects for the future are utterly dire:
Some, however, are dismissive of such concern. Leysan Khasanova, owner of a Tatar music shop in Tatarstan’s capital of Kazan, is confident thatTatar will always be spoken on the streets of Kazan,before pointing out that many young Tatars prefer to speak in Russian amongst each other, and that her own children are not proficient in the language.
I could have done without the pointlesss exoticizing, however (
Kabardian – a language that is truly a testament to the dynamism of the human oesophagus). Also, the author makes the dubious claim:
The Komi Permian language, for example, has some eighteen noun cases – a kind of grammatical suicide given that no amount of emotional feeling for the language as that of one’s ancestors can provide the linguistic aptitude necessary to learn such a language without any prior knowledge. Since some of these cases are marginal, and people growing up with Russian are already accustomed to noun inflection, I do not believe that Komi’s declension would present that much of an obstacle.
Adding to my recent post about the lack of an epic tradition among the Chuvash, I should mention that Víkar & Bereczki claim on the basis of their fieldwork that epics are missing in Mari as well. In Cheremis Folksongs (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1971), they write:
The genre of lyrical songs is the only genre in Cheremis folk song. No trace whatever of heroic epic, or of epic fragments, has been discovered. Nor have we been successful in finding historical songs, such as are abundant in Russian and Mordvin folklore. (p. 65)
(They also mention a complete absence of ballads, lullabies and children’s songs. As much as I love the language, doesn’t Mari El sometimes seem the dullest part of Eurasia?)
It is strange, then, that the authors conjecture that it was there once upon a day:
As regards ancient Finno-Ugrian music, we are mainly dependent on hypotheses. From the data available, it may be inferred that this was characterized by monophony, narrow compass, syllabic, and line-repetitive features, and also by unimotival character. The song-texts were ot lyrics but long, epic poems. (p. 21)
Either the authors are thinking of some evidence from other Finno-Ugrian peoples, which they don’t present to us, or this seems an assumption that an ancient preliterate culture, before being overwhelmed by dominant neighbours, simply must have had an epic tradition.