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Description

Samoyedic

The Samoyedic languages are spoken by less than 30.000 speakers at the eastern periphery of the Uralic language family. The speakers live in Siberia and the Arctic regions of the Russian Federation.

Samoyedic forms a top level constituent of the Uralic language family. It is subdivided into two branches: 1) Northern Samoyedic with Nenets, Enets and Nganasan; 2) Selkup and the extinct languages Kamas and Mator. Nenets with about 25.000 speakers is by far the most populous Samoyedic language. In contrast to the other top level constituent of the Uralic language family, Finno-Ugric, there is only little linguistic diversity in Samoyedic.

Vowel harmony is only attested in Nganasan. However, Nenets and Enets exhibit non-productive residual forms of vowel harmony. Vowel harmony is a set of regressive assimilation rules that affect only vowels. In Proto-Samoyedic stem vowels were not affected by vowel harmony. Suffixal harmony was conditioned by the quality of the first vowel of the stem morpheme.

In Samoyedic languages the liquid /r/ is excluded from word-initial position. This restriction can be traced back to Proto-Uralic.

Samoyedic languages are agglutinative languages, i.e. they use grammatical affixes, which do not merge with each other or with the stem and which mostly bear only one grammatical meaning.

Samoyedic morphology is prevalently suffixing.

Only two numerals in Samoyedic are genetically related to Finno-Ugric numerals: The item for '2' occurs in the identical function both in Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic, while the Finno-Ugric word for '5' appears with the meaning '10' in Samoyedic.

Samoyedic nouns and verbs are inflected in three numbers: singular, dual and plural.

Proto-Samoyedic presumably had seven morphological cases: an unmarked nominative, the core cases accusative, genitive and dative, the locative cases locative, ablative and prosecutive. Of the present-day Samoyedic languages Nenets has seven cases, Nganasan has eight cases and Selkup has 13 cases.

The verb has three kinds of conjugation: the subjective, the objective and the reflexive conjugation. Intransitive verbs only have the subjective conjunction, transitive verbs can be inflected by the subjective and the objective conjuction, reflexive verbs take the reflexive conjuction and transitive reflexive verbs can have all three conjugations.

All Samoyedic languages have at least two sets of personal endings: predicative and possessvie endings. The predicative endings are used to indicate the subject of a verb in the subjective conjugation or the subject of a noun in predicate function. The possessive endings act as pronominal possessor of a noun or express the agent of a transitive verb in the objective conjugation.

Finite verbs in Samoyedic languages do not occur without stem-formation suffixes.

Negation in Samoyedic is expressed by a negative verb. Only Selkup is an exception to this pattern.

The lexicon of the Samoyedic languages bears testimony to linguistic and cultural contacts with numerous peoples throughout their history. The earliest layers of lexical loans consist of Ugric, Iranian and Proto-Bolgar words. Later loans are of Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus, Yeniseic and Finno-Ugric origin. The most recent layer consists of Russian Loanwords.


Bernhard Scheucher

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