Names for the months in Northern Mansi

I’ve always found native names for the months of the year interesting, and in the past I’ve presented here the Udmurt system, and the Mari system is also fun. Here are the names from a Northern Mansi dialect that József Erdődi collected in December 1970. He published this in 1974 in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’s Acta Linguistica Vol. 24 (1–4), pp. 125–135.

Month Northern Mansi name
Around March māńpoĺ ‘smaller frost’
April jani̮ɣpoĺ ‘greater frost’
May jāŋnatn ētpos ‘flowing ice month’
June lūpta-ētpos ‘leaf month’
July ojttur-ētpos ‘lower shore month’
August wōrtur-ētpos ‘forest and lake month’
September sūkr-ētpossūkr-fish month’
October jāŋkpoĺn ētpos ‘freezing month’
November mań-təŋ-ētpos ‘small spade month’
December wat́i-xōtl-ētpos ‘short day month’
January rētəŋ jūswoj ‘lazy eagle’
February wāt́l sāraɣpnal ‘shorter axe handle’
Last month of lunar year xosa sāraɣpnal ‘longer axe handle’

Erdődi offers a commentary on these names. The word ojt in the fifth month denotes a low lakeshore that is waterlogged in the beginning of the year, and where fish can easily be caught. The ninth month refers to hunters’ use of a tall spade to shovel away snow and then help to support their tent. Erdődi has no idea, however, what the reference to an axe handler for two months of the year means. Referring to another Mansi dialect, he suggests the ‘eagle’ in the eleventh month is a metaphor for the sun. Other months refer to hunting possibilities.

Curiously crackpot conference contribution

Conference proceedings are often interesting in that their lighter editorial control allows some odd ideas in. When I encountered this paper in the fourth volume of the papers from the Congressus Quintus Internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum held in Turku in 1980, I wondered if the poor fellow presenting it was laughed out of the room.

Otto J. Sadovsky
Fullerton/Los Angeles
Ob-Ugrian Elements in the Adverbs, Verbal Prefixes and Postpositions of California Wintuan

The dual function of this paper is to demonstrate the close genetic relationship between Ob-Ugrian and Wintuan by presenting selected examples of grammatical elements and by illustrating the cultural implications of this proposed relationship.

There then follows a long list of ostensibly cognate lexical items whose similarities are so obviously coincidental, and then a conclusion where the author claims they are obviously related. It’s not at all like the intriguing discovery that some Yenisei and North America languages may be related, for that was comparing the reconstructed proto-languages of each family at a reasonable, i.e. distant time depth. Sadovsky concludes that Wintu is a recent Vogul dialect.

Hungarian and Mansi connections

In the Introduction to the Study of the Finno-Ugrian Languages course that I’m sitting in on again this year, the lecturer handed out a nice concise listing of similarities between Hungarian and Mansi—and differences between these two and Finnish—that show why traditionally Hungarian is grouped closely with the Ob-Ugrian languages.

Hungarian Mansi Finnish
hal xuul kala ‘fish’ *k before a back vowel
kéz kit käsi ‘hand’ *k before a front vowel
egér tänkør hiiri ‘mouse’ intervocalic *-ŋ-
harom xuurøm kolme ‘three’ *-rm- in this word.
kétkettő kitkitøg kaksi ‘two’ 2 variants
alól joløl alta ‘below’ ablative ending
ház-am-ban kol-øm-t talo-ssa-ni house-1sg-inessive possessive suffix before case suffix
magyar mansyi endonyms
nyolc nyollow kahdeksan ‘eight’ same root and construction
luw hevonen ‘horse’ common vocabulary (around 150 total items)
nyereg nagør satula ‘saddle’
ostor osytør piiska ‘whip’

One of my favourite Uralic etyma is here: *šiŋere/*šiŋiri ‘mouse’. Here one can see the vastly different paths the word has taken in the various Uralic languages. In Finnish, initial *š- becomes /h/ and intervocalic *-ŋ- is lost. In Mansi, initial *š- merges with *s- and becomes first *θ- and ultimately /t-/, while intervocalic *-ŋ- becomes the cluster /-nk-/. Finally, in Hungarian initial *θ- (< *š-) is lost, and intervocalic *-ŋ- becomes first *-ng- and then is denazalized to intervocalic /-g-/. Cognates in other Uralic languages can be seen at a Uralic database entry.

Ob-Ugrian cases

Continuing the dubious practise of using my notes as blog material, I figure that since I spent so much time translating the following handout by Prof Ulla-Maija Kulonen, I might as well make it available for others.

One of the areas where Khanty and Mansi have grown apart is in nominal declension. Note the different case systems of each, represented in their southern varities. First southern Khanty:

Nom. xoot ‘house’
Lat. -a xoota
Loc. -nø xootnø
Abl -ewø xootewø
Instr. -at xootat
Trans. -a (identical with Lat.)
Car. -ta xootta

And then southern Mansi:

Nom. koäl ‘house’
Acc. -mø koälmø
Lat. -nø koälø
Loc. -t koält
Abl -nøl koälnøl
Instr. -øl koääløl
Trans. -äg, -ii koääläg
Car. -töäl koäältöäl

Diachronically interesting differences involve the following cases:

  • The Accusative, which was marked with the old ending *-mø in Proto-Uralic. This is found only in Mansi and has disappeared completely in Khanty and Hungarian, the latter of which shows a new accusative -t.
  • The Lative, of which the endings *-k and *-nøk are reconstructed for Proto-Ugrian. The Khanti lative in -a corresponds etymologically to the Mansi translative (the Khanty lative fulfills both functions), which are both from the first Proto-Ugrian lative. The Mansi lative -nø is from the Proto-Ugrian secondary lative.
  • The Locative, in Proto-Ugric -*na, *-ttV, and *-nøttV. Mansi -t, from the second Proto-Ugric locative form listed above, is a Proto-Ugrian innovation (a transformation of the old ablative) attested in Hungarian as well, e.g. itt ‘here’, Pécsett ‘in Pécs’. Khanty -nø is from the oldest Proto-Uralic and Proto-Ugrian locative, the first listed above.
  • The Ablative, in Proto-Ugric *-l and *-nøl. Mansi -l continues the first Proto-Ugric ablative. Khanty has a secondary ending which developed early with the loss of a postposition.
  • The Instrumental, ?*-l or, more probably various local cases. Mansi -l continues either a Proto-Ugric instrumental or the first ablative (found also in Hungarian). Khanty -at is from the second locative.
  • The Abessive, in Proto-Ugric *-tVl. This has survived equally in Mansi (-töäl) and Khanty (-ta).