Turkic Languages of Russia: Current Issues of Taxonomy and Vitality

Ekaterina Gruzdeva & Arzhaana Syuryun

Turkic Languages of Russia: Current Issues of Taxonomy and Vitality

(65th Meeting Astana, 2023)

The paper presents the results of several recent projects aimed at establishing the exact number and sociolinguistic status of the languages of Russia. The focus is on the living Turkic languages, whose number in Russia is currently estimated as 30, which represents approximately one fifth of the total number of living languages (155) of the country and makes them one of the biggest language families in the territory of Russia.

In the current version of the list, the Turkic languages are arranged into 7 groups, which include: Bulghar Turkic [«булгарские»] (Chuvash), Altai Turkic [«горно-алтайские»] (Kumandin, Tuba, Chelkan, Teleut, Altai Kizhi, Telengit), Kipchak Turkic [«кыпчакские»] (Tatar, Siberian Tatar, Crimean Tatar, Krymchak, Bashkir, Karaim, Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk, Kazakh, Nogai, Kirghiz, Uzbek), Yenisei Turkic [«кыргызские»] (Khakas, Chulym, Shor), Oghuz Turkic [«огузские»] (Azeri, Ahiska, Gagauz, Turkmen), Sayan Turkic [«саянские»] (Tyva, Tofa), and Lena Turkic [«якутские»] (Dolgan, Yakut/Sakha).

This list of languages was compiled according to geographical, demographic, ethnic, and linguistic criteria, as discussed in more detail in our paper. The work on the inventory of languages was accompanied by numerous debates in different circles, and the ultimate results were met with mixed reactions from some linguists and communities.

None of Turkic languages spoken in Russia is stable, but in general, comparing to other languages of Russia, their vitality is rather strong. 18 languages still retain intergenerational transmission over a large part of their geographical area; 5 languages preserve intergenerational transmission only in a limited part of their area; 4 languages are not transmitted to the younger generation but are still used in communication by a small number of speakers; and 3 languages may be classified as dormant with a handful of last speakers. The status of the various Turkic languages will be further analysed and exemplified in our paper.