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Low Mari

Low Mari is spoken by more than 500.000 people. The vast majority of the speakers live in the European part of the Russian Federation, more precisely in the following administrative units: in the Mari Autonomous Republic, the Bashkortostan Autonomous Republic, the Tatarstan Autonomous Republic, the Udmurt Autonomous Republic, in the Perm Oblast, the Sverov Oblast and the Kirov Oblast. There exists a sinificant minority of several thousand speakers in Kazakhstan.

Low Mari, together with the closely related High Mari, belongs to the Cheremisic subgroup of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family.

High Mari and Low Mari alongside with Russian are the official languages of the Mariy El Autonomous Republic in the Russian Federation.

Low Mari is a literary languages.

Low Mari has nineteen consonant phonemes.

Voiceless consonants tend to become voiced in voiced environments. Voiced consonants on the contrary become voiceless before voiceless consonants.

Low Mari has eight vowel phonemes.

Low Mari features vowel harmony, viz the first vowel of the word determines, whether the following vowels are back or front and rounded or unrounded, respectively.

The structure of the Low Mari morphological system is prevalently agglutinative.

The number of the cases of the Low Mari noun is a matter in dispute. Native grammarians list seven cases, other sources report up to ten cases. Core cases are: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, inessive, lative, illative, ablative. Marginal cases are modal, comitative and caritative. There exists also a possessive declension in Low Mari, which consists of the normal case suffixes in combination with suffixed possessive pronouns.

The adjective precedes the head noun and does not agree with it.

The verb has two conjugations: the -am conjugation and the -em conjugation. They are are labelled after their first singular indicative present endings. The Low Mari verb has three moods: indicative, desiderative and imperative. There are two past tenses: first a 'witnessed past' which indicates, that the speaker has personally witnessed the states and events he refers to, and secondly a 'non-witnessed past', which does imply any personal attitude of the speaker on the referred action.

There are various non-finite verb forms in Low Mari: two infinitives, four participles and four gerunds.

Coordination and subordination of finite clauses is relatively rare in Low Mari. Rather verbal nouns are used.

There are three historical layers in the basic word stock of Low Mari: the oldest layer consists of the genuine Uralic words, this is followed by a huge amount of Turkic loan words, the most recent layer comprises the loans from Russian.

Bernhard Scheucher

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