|Number of Languages:||25|
|Number of Genetic Units:||6|
|Genetic Index:||.24 (high)|
|Endangerment Index:||1.52 (high)|
|Research Index:||2.0 (low)|
The Central Siberia hotspot contains few languages compared to other hotspots. However, it holds six genetic units, four of which have only one living language. It is notable, therefore, for its genetic diversity, and for its extreme endangerment. Many Siberian languages have been lost in the last few generations due to Russian-only government policies, and many living languages in the area have only a few elderly speakers.
One moribund language of the area is Tofa, which is now spoken by fewer than 30 people, all of them elderly. The Tofa people were traditionally reindeer herders and hunter-gatherers. Their language includes a complex classification system for reindeer, which allowed reindeer herders to provide a large amount of detail in just one word. For example, the word döngür means 'male domesticated reindeer in its third year and first mating season, but not ready for mating.' Now most Tofa people speak Russian, which has no equivalents for words like döngür.
Languages and genetic units in this hotspot:
Click here to show/hide list of genetic units (6)
Click here to show/hide list of languages (25)
- Arin [extinct]
- Assan [extinct]
- Eastern Khanty
- Kamas [extinct]
- Kott [extinct]
- Lower Chulym [extinct]
- Mator [extinct]
- North Altai
- Pumpokol [extinct]
- South Altai
- Soyot [extinct]
- Yugh [extinct]
Endangered languages include:
- Central Siberian Khanty (< 50 speakers, Ob-Ugric [Uralic])
- Enets (< 50 speakers (both mutually unintelligible varieties), Northern Samoyedic [Uralic])
- Ket (< 150 speakers, Yeniseic)
- Ös (< 15 speakers, Turkic)
- Southern Sel'kup (< 20 speakers, Southern Samoyedic [Uralic])
Some features of languages include:
Artyshtaar means 'to burn juniper as incense for religious (animistic) purposes' in Tuvan (200,000 speakers)
Chary means 'a five-year-old, castrated, domesticated reindeer that can be ridden' in Tofa (35 speakers)
Tuvan (200,000 speakers) has a word that means 'the two wives of my two brothers.' If you had three brothers, or one of your two brothers was unmarried, you would never use this word.
Anderson, Gregory D. and K. David Harrison. 2004. Shaman and Bear: Siberian Prehistory in Two Middle Chulym Texts. In Vajda, Edward J. (ed.) Languages and Prehistory of Central Siberia, pp. 179-198. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Levin, Theodore. 2006. Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond. With Valentina Süzükei. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.