Paleosiberian languages

Paleosiberian languages

Infobox Language family
region=Siberia, Russian Far East
child3= Nivkh

Paleosiberian (Palaeosiberian, Paleo-Siberian) languages or Paleoasian languages (Palaeo-Asiatic) (from Greek "palaios", "ancient")is a term of convenience used in linguistics to classify a disparate group of languages spoken in remote regions of Siberia. Their only common provenance is that they are held to have antedated the more dominant languages, particularly Tungusic and latterly Turkic languages, that have largely displaced them. Even more recently, Turkic (at least in Siberia) and especially Tungusic, have been displaced in their turn by Russian. It is possible that the Merkits spoke a Paleosiberian language.

Three small language families and isolates, not known to have any linguistic relationship to each other, comprise the Paleo-Siberian languages:

:1. The Chukotko-Kamchatkan family, sometimes known as Luoravetlan, includes Chukchi and its close relatives, Koryak, Alutor and Kerek. Itelmen, also known as Kamchadal, is also distantly related. Chukchi, Koryak and Alutor are spoken in easternmost Siberia by communities numbering in the thousands. Kerek is extinct, and Itelmen is now spoken by fewer than 100 people, mostly elderly, on the west coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

:2. Yukaghir is spoken in two mutually unintelligible varieties in the lower Kolyma and Indigirka valleys. Other languages, including Chuvantsy, spoken further inland and further east, are now extinct. Yukaghir is held by some to be related to the Uralic languages.

:3. Nivkh is spoken in the lower Amur basin and on the northern half of Sakhalin island. It has a recent modern literature and the Nivkhs have experienced a turbulent history in the last century.

Ainu is sometimes added to this group though it is not, strictly speaking, a language of Siberia. It barely survives in southern Sakhalin where it was the main native language. It was also spoken in the Kuril Islands and on Hokkaidō, where a strong interest in its revival is taking place. Attempts have been made to relate it to many other language families, including Altaic, Austro-Asiatic, Austronesian, Nihali, and the putative Indo-Pacific stockFact|date=July 2008.

Together with Japanese and Korean which are major modern languages, these 'poor relations' resist any easy or obvious linguistic classification, either with other groups or with each other. The Palaeo-Siberian language group is thought by some to be related to the Na-Dené and Eskimo-Aleut families, which survive in slightly larger numbers in Alaska and northern Canada. This backs several theories that some of North America's aboriginal peoples migrated from present-day Siberia and other regions of Asia when the two continents were joined during the last ice age.

Ket, until recently included in this group, has been convincingly demonstrated [ [ Dene-Yeniseic Symposium] , An international workshop dedicated to exploring the evidence for linguistic, archaeological, and genetic connections between the Na-Dene languages of North America and the Yeniseic languages of Siberia. February 26, 27 and 29, 2008, Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska. Retrieved 16th April 2008.] to be related to the Na-Dene languages of North America. It is the last survivor of a small language family on the middle Yenisei and its tributaries. It In the past, attempts have been made to relate it to Sino-Tibetan, North Caucasian, and Burushaski.


Further reading

*cite book | first=Bernard | last=Comrie | authorlink=Bernard Comrie| year=1981 | title=The Languages of the Soviet Union | publisher=Cambridge University Press | location=Cambridge | id=ISBN 0-521-29877-6

See also

*Uralic-Yukaghir languages
*Uralo-Siberian languages
*Eurasiatic languages

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