Kalmyk language

Kalmyk language

nativename=Хальмг келн "Halʹmg keln"
states=Russia, People's Republic of China, Mongolia
fam1=Altaic [The existence of the Altaic family is controversial. See Altaic languages.]
script= Cyrillic, Latin, Clear Script

Kalmyk (also known as Kalmuck, Calmouk, Qalmaq, Kalmytskii Jazyk, Khal:mag, Volga Oirat, Weilate, Western Mongol) is the language of the Kalmyks and Oirats, spoken in Kalmykia (Russian Federation), Western China and Western Mongolia. There are about 160,000 Kalmyk speakers in each country.

Kalmyk belongs to the Oirat subgroup of the Mongolic language family. It also has some elements in common with the Uralic and Uyghur languages, which reflects its origin from the common language of the Oirats, a union of four Oirat tribes that absorbed some Ugric and Turkic tribes during their expansion westward.

The literary tradition of Kalmyk reaches back to 11th century when the Uyghur script was used. The official Kalmyk alphabet named Todo Bichig ("Clear Script") was created in the 17th century by a Kalmyk Buddhist monk called Zaya Pandit. In 1924 this script was replaced by a Cyrillic script, which was abandoned in 1930 in favor of a Latin script. The Latin script was in turn replaced by another Cyrillic script in 1938. These script reforms effectively disrupted the Kalmyk literary tradition.

The Kalmyks suffered greatly during the Soviet period. Half of all Kalmyk speakers died during the Russian Civil War. Stalin's ethnic cleansings also significantly reduced the population of the Kalmyk people. Until recently, the Kalmyk population in Russia was at lower levels than it had been in 1913. Russian was made the primary official language of Kalmykia, and in 1963 the last Kalmyk language classes were closed and Russian became the language of education for Kalmyk children.

As a result of these policies, many Kalmyks do not speak their ethnic language. Kalmyk linguists, in collaboration with the Kalmyk government, are working to improve this situation. Beginning in 1993, school education in the Kalmyk language was restored.

The modified Cyrillic alphabet used for the Kalmyk language is as follows:


ee also

*Languages of the Caucasus

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=xal Ethnologue entry for Kalymk-Oirat]
* [http://www6.gencat.net/llengcat/noves/hm01hivern-primavera/internacional/kornou1_9.htm Article on language policy and history in Kalmykia]

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