Nenets-Nganasan comparison

In a Nenets course this fall, I’ve used a lot the Comparative Nenets-Nganasan Multimedia Dictionary compiled by St. Petersburg scholars Marina Lublinskaya and Tatiana Sherstinova, with headwords in those two languages and in Russian and English. The Introduction presents the two languages and their history in a fashion accessible to readers who don’t necessary have any prior experience with the Uralic languages.

But the most appealing part of the dictionary is that each listing has audio. The Nenets or Nganasan word is read aloud by a native speaker. See for instance the entry for ‘bear’, Nenets варк and Nganasan ңарка. These languages sound quite odd and exotic compared to most of the other Finno-Ugrian languages. Things get even more out there with words like ‘water’, which in Nenets и”(д) and Nganasan быˀ has a phonemic glottal stop.

Unpleasant herding tasks

I’m not really sure what to make of this passage in András Róna-Tas’ paper ‘Turkic influence on the Uralic languages’, found in The Uralic Languages ed. Denis Sinor (Amsterdam: Brill, 1988). Róna-Tás is describing borrowings between Ancient Turkic and Proto-Samoyed:

PS kåptə̂- ‘to castrate’, kåptə̂ ‘a castrated reindeer ox’ (Ne, Ng, En, Sk: JJ 60) ← AT qaptï (cf. OT qap- ‘to grasp with teeth or hands’, Clauson 580). The oldest and most extended way of castration is done by teeth (cf. Lehtisalo 1932, 114).

I will certainly be seeking out the Lehtisalo reference, the monograph Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Renntierzucht bei den Juraksamojeden published in Oslo in 1932.

Festschrift for Sammallahti now available on the web

The Sami-titled Festschrift for Pekka Sammallahti Sámit, sánit, sátnehámit. Riepmočála Pekka Sammallahtii miessemánu 21. beaivve 2007, published last spring as Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 253, is now available online. There are a number of interesting papers here, published in Sami, German, Finnish or English. One of them in particular, Juha Janhunen’s ‘The primary laryngeal in Uralic and beyond’ is especially striking for its application of contemporary phonetic and phonological theory (and an updating of FU transcription) to a well-known Proto-Uralic mystery.

Comparative Nenets-Nganasan Multimedia Dictionary

This is a really cool resource of the kind I wish I saw more of: the St. Petersburg Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences offers a Comparative Nenets-Nganasan Multimedia Dictionary which has Russian and English headwords as well. Just reading the introduction is worthwhile, as one can immediately see how the two languages differ, with, for example, initial /d/ being lost in Nenets and retained in Nganasan, and Nenets /w/ corresponding to Nganasan /m/.

In Helsinki

I arrived in Finland on Saturday and this morning came to Helsinki where I will be for one week. With daylight being too limited for much sightseeing and my linguistic curiosity insatiable, I probably will spend most of this time in the library. Today’s tour of the university’s Department of Finno-Ugrian linguistics was exciting. I had lunch with faculty members Tapani Salminen and Riho Grünthal (at the extreme left and right respectively of the photograph), and a graduate student whose name I sadly don’t remember. From left to right: Tapani Salminen, Christopher Culver, unknown graduate student, Prof Riho Grünthal.

Later I attended a session of Prof Salminen’s course on Enets. His lecture used an Enets translation of fragments of Luke’s gospel to elucidate the similarities of the poorly-understood Forest Enets language to his own concentration, Tundra Nenets, and their mutual descent from Proto-Samoyedic. (Incidentally, this Enets Biblical translation is published by in Stockholm by the Institute for Biblical Translation, ISBN 91-88394-99-9.)

I have picked up three Mari-related books. One, Poro Keče, is the most lightweight of recent Mari textbooks. The other two items are readers published by Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura (the Finno-Ugrian Society) in Helsinki, Yrjö Wichmann’s Tscheremissiche Texte (from 1953) and Alho Alhoniemi’s Marin kielen lukemisto (1986).

The department was all the more welcoming because Mari is the theme of its display board.
A Mari-themed bulletin board in the Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies at the University of Helsinki

Nenets resources

Tapani Salminen at the University of Helsinki maintains a very useful Tundra Nenets homepage. It contains a copy of the chapter he provided to Routledge’s The Uralic Languages, the UNESCO Red Book report, and many interesting links. One Ferenc Válóczy provides a Forest Nenets to English glossary (hosted at Geocities, make of it what you will). Readers of Hungarian may enjoy this presentation of Nenets literature.

In general Uralic news, although it isn’t ready yet, one site worth keeping bookmarked and checking from time to time is the Database of Uralic Typology.