Chukchi language
The Chukchi language is a Palaeosiberian language spoken by Chukchi people
Chukchi people
The Chukchi, or Chukchee , ) are an indigenous people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean within the Russian Federation. They speak the Chukchi language...

 in the easternmost extremity of Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, mainly in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug , or Chukotka , is a federal subject of Russia located in the Russian Far East.Chukotka has a population of 53,824 according to the 2002 Census, and a surface area of . The principal town and the administrative center is Anadyr...

. According to the Russian Census of 2002
Russian Census (2002)
Russian Census of 2002 was the first census of the Russian Federation carried out on October 9 through October 16, 2002. It was carried out by the Russian Federal Service of State Statistics .-Resident population:...

, about 7,700 of the 15,700 Chukchi people speak Chukchi; knowledge of the Chukchi language is decreasing, and most Chukchis now speak the Russian language
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 (fewer than 500 report not speaking Russian at all). Chukchi is closely related to Koryak
Koryak language
Koryak is a Chukotko-Kamchatkan language spoken by circa 3,000 people in the easternmost extremity of Siberia, mainly in Koryak Okrug. It is mostly a language spoken by Koryaks. Its close relative, the Chukchi language, is spoken by about twice that number. The language together with Chukchi,...

, which is spoken by about half that number. The language together with Koryak, Kerek
Kerek language
Kerek was a language of Russia that belongs to the northern branch of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages. On historical linguistic grounds it is most closely related to Koryak...

, Alutor
Alutor language
Alyutor or Alutor is a language of Russia that belongs to the Chukotkan branch of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages.-Sociolinguistic situation :...

 and Itelmen
Itelmen language
Itelmen, also known as Western Itelmen and formerly known as Kamchadal, is a language belonging to the Chukotko-Kamchatkan family traditionally spoken in the Kamchatka Peninsula. Fewer than a hundred native speakers, mostly elderly, in a few settlements in the southwest of Koryak Autonomous Okrug,...

 forms the Chukotko-Kamchatkan
Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages
The Chukotko-Kamchatkan or Chukchi–Kamchatkan languages are a language family of extreme northeastern Siberia. Its speakers are indigenous hunter-gatherers and reindeer-herders....

 language family.

The Chukchi and Koryaks
Koryaks are an indigenous people of Kamchatka Krai in the Russian Far East, who inhabit the coastlands of the Bering Sea to the south of the Anadyr basin and the country to the immediate north of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the southernmost limit of their range being Tigilsk. They are akin to the...

 form a cultural unit with an economy based on reindeer herding and both have autonomy within the Russian Federation.

The ethnonym Chukchi or Chukchee is an anglicized form of the Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 ethnonym (singular Chukcha, plural Chukchi). This came into Russian from Čävča, the term used by the Chukchis' Tungusic
Tungusic languages
The Tungusic languages form a language family spoken in Eastern Siberia and Manchuria by Tungusic peoples. Many Tungusic languages are endangered, and the long-term future of the family is uncertain...

-speaking neighbors, itself a rendering of the Chukchi word tʃawtʃəw, which in Chukchi means "a man who is rich in reindeer". The Chukchis' term for themselves is [ɬəɣʔorawetɬʔat] (singular [ɬəɣʔorawetɬʔan]), "the real people".

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 Red Book
Red Book of Endangered Languages
The Red Book of Endangered Languages was published by UNESCO and collected a comprehensive list of the world's languages currently facing extinction...

 the language is on the list of endangered language
Endangered language
An endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use. If it loses all its native speakers, it becomes a dead language. If eventually no one speaks the language at all it becomes an "extinct language"....



Many Chukchis use the language as their primary means of communication, both within the family and while engaged in their traditional pastoral economic activity (reindeer herding).
The language is also used in media (including radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 and TV translations), and some business
A business is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit...

 activities. However, Russian language is increasingly used as the primary means of business and administrative communication, in addition to having a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 status on neighborhood territories inhabited by non-Chukchis Russian citizens, such as Koryaks and Yakuts. Almost all Chukchis speak Russian, although some have a lesser command than others. Chukchi language is used as a primary language of instruction in elementary school
Elementary school
An elementary school or primary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America, where the terms grade school and grammar...

; the rest of secondary education is done in Russian, with Chukchi taught as a subject.

A Chukchi writer, Yuri Rytkheu
Yuri Rytkheu
Yuri Sergeyevich Rytkheu was a Chukchi writer, who wrote in both his native Chukchi and in Russian. He is considered to be the father of Chukchi literature.- Biography :Yuri Rytkheu was born March 8, 1930 to a family of trappers and hunters...

 (1930–2008) has earned a measure of renown in both Russia and Western Europe, although much of his published work was written in Russian, rather than Chukchi.


Until 1931, the Chukchi language had no official orthography, in spite of attempts in the 19th century to write religious texts in it.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Vladimir Bogoraz
Vladimir Bogoraz
Vladimir Germanovich Bogoraz , best known under literary pseudonym N.A. Tan was a Russian revolutionary, writer and anthropologist, especially known for his studies of the Chukchi people in Siberia....

 discovered specimens of pictographic writing by the Chukchi herdsman Tenevil
Tenevil was a Chukchi reindeer herder, living in the tundra near the settlement of Ust-Belaya in Russian province of Chukotka. Around 1927 or 1928 he independently invented a writing system for the Chukchi language. It has never been established with certainty whether the symbols in this writing...

. Tenevil's writing system was his own invention, and was never used beyond his immediate family. The first official Chukchi alphabet was devised by Vladimir Bogoraz
Vladimir Bogoraz
Vladimir Germanovich Bogoraz , best known under literary pseudonym N.A. Tan was a Russian revolutionary, writer and anthropologist, especially known for his studies of the Chukchi people in Siberia....

 in 1931, and was based on the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

А а Ā ā B b C c D d Е е Ē ē Ә ә
Ӛ ӛ F f G g H h I i Ī ī J j K k
L l M m N n Ŋ ŋ O o Ō ō P p Q q
R r S s T t U u Ū ū V v W w Z z
Ь ь

In 1937, this alphabet, along with all of the other alphabets of the peoples of the USSR, started to be written in Cyrillic. At first, it was the same as the Russian alphabet
Russian alphabet
The Russian alphabet is a form of the Cyrillic script, developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

, with the addition of the relic letters К’ к’ and Н’ н’. In the 1950s, however, they were replaced by the letters and . These newer letters were mainly used in educational texts while the press continued to use the older versions. At the end of the 1980s, the letter was introduced as a replacement for Л л. This was intended to reduce confusion with the pronunciation of the Russian letter of the same form. The Chukchi alphabet now stands as follows:
А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж
З з И и Й й К к (Л л) М м Н н
О о П п Р р С с Т т У у Ф ф
Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь
Э э Ю ю Я я '


Some letters with readings that may be confusing for beginners
Latin Cyrillic Unicode IPA Scientific name
G g Г г ɣ Voiced velar fricative
Voiced velar fricative
The voiced velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in various spoken languages. It is not found in English today, but did exist in Old English...

L l Ԓ ԓ El with hook
El with Hook
El with hook is a letter of the Cyrillic alphabet. Its form is derived from the Cyrillic letter El by adding a hook to the bottom of the right leg....

ɬ Voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
Voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents voiceless dental, alveolar, and postalveolar fricatives is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is K...

R r Р р ɹ Alveolar approximant
W w (V v) В в β Voiced bilabial fricative
Voiced bilabial fricative
-See also:* List of phonetics topics...

C c Ч ч ç Voiceless palatal fricative
Voiceless palatal fricative
The voiceless palatal fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is . The symbol ç is the letter c with a cedilla, as used to spell French words such as façade...

The remaining consonants are /p/, /t/, /k/, /q/, /ʔ/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, and /j/. There are no voiced obstruent
An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow, causing increased air pressure in the vocal tract, such as [k], [d͡ʒ] and [f]. In phonetics, articulation may be divided into two large classes: obstruents and sonorants....

Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

s in the language. The vowels are /i/, /u/, /e1/, /e2/, /o/, /a/, and /ə/. /e1/ and /e2/ are pronounced identically, but behave differently in the phonology.

A notable feature of Chukchi is its vowel harmony
Vowel harmony
Vowel harmony is a type of long-distance assimilatory phonological process involving vowels that occurs in some languages. In languages with vowel harmony, there are constraints on which vowels may be found near each other....

 system largely based on vowel height. /i, u, e1/ alternate with /e2, o, a/, respectively. The second group is known as "dominant vowels" and the first group as "recessive vowels"; that is because whenever a "dominant" vowel is present anywhere in a word, all "recessive" vowels in the word change into their "dominant" counterpart. The schwa
In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

 vowel /ə/ does not alternate but may trigger harmony as if it belonged to the dominant group.

Initial and final consonant clusters are not tolerated, and schwa epenthesis is pervasive.

Stress tends to: 1. be penultimate; 2. stay within the stem; 3. avoid schwa
In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...



Chukchi is largely agglutinative and has ergative–absolutive alignment. It also has very pervasive incorporation
Incorporation (linguistics)
Incorporation is a phenomenon by which a word, usually a verb, forms a kind of compound with, for instance, its direct object or adverbial modifier, while retaining its original syntactic function....


In the nominals, there are two numbers and about nine grammatical cases (absolutive, ergative, instrumental, locative, ablative, allative, orientative, two comitatives and a designative). Nouns are split into three declensions influenced by animacy
Animacy is a grammatical and/or semantic category of nouns based on how sentient or alive the referent of the noun in a given taxonomic scheme is...

: the first declension, which contains non-humans, has plural marking only in the absolutive case; the second one, which contains personal names and certain words for mainly older relatives, has obligatory plural marking in all forms; the third one, which contains other humans than those in the second declension, has optional plural marking.

Verbs distinguish three persons, two numbers, three moods (declarative, imperative and conditional), two voices (active and antipassive) and six tenses: present I (progressive), present II (stative), past I (aorist
Aorist is a philological term originally from Indo-European studies, referring to verb forms of various languages that are not necessarily related or similar in meaning...

), past II (perfect), future I (perfective future), future II (imperfective future). It is interesting that past II is formed with a construction meaning possession (literally "to be with"), similarly to the use of "have" in the perfect in English and other Western European languages. Both subject and direct object are cross-referenced in the verbal chain, and person agreement is very different in intransitive and transitive verbs. Person agreement is expressed with a complex system involving both prefixes and suffixes; despite the agglutinative nature of the language, each individual combination of person, number, tense etc. is expressed in a way that is far from always straightforward. Besides the finite forms
Finite verb
A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand on their own as complete sentences....

, there are also an infinitive, a supine
In grammar a supine is a form of verbal noun used in some languages.-In Latin:In Latin there are two supines, I and II . They are originally the accusative and dative or ablative forms of a verbal noun in the fourth declension, respectively. The first supine ends in -um. It has two uses. The first...

 (purposive), numerous gerund
In linguistics* As applied to English, it refers to the usage of a verb as a noun ....

 forms, a present and past participle, and these are used with auxiliary verbs to produce further analytic constructions.

The numeral system was originally purely vigesimal
The vigesimal or base 20 numeral system is based on twenty .- Places :...

 and went up to 400, but a decimal system has been introduced for numerals above 100 due to Russian influence. Many of the names of the basic numbers can be traced etymologically to words referring to the human body ("finger", "hand" etc.) or to arithmetic operations (6 = "1 + 5" etc.).

The word order is rather free, though SOV is reported to be basic. The possessor normally precedes the possessed, and postpositions rather than prepositions are used.

External influence

The external influences relating to Chukchi language have not been well-studied. The particular question of the degree of contacts between Chukchi and Eskimo languages remains open. Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 is problematic in part because of the lack of written evidence. Contact influence of Russian, which will be increasing, consists of word borrowing and pressuring on surface syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

; the latter is primarily seen in written communication (translated texts), and is not apparent in day-to-day speech.

External links

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