Meaning of URALIC LANGUAGES in English

family of more than 20 related languages, all descended from a Proto-Uralic language that existed 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. At its earliest stages, Uralic most probably included the ancestors of the Yukaghir language (q.v.). The Uralic languages are spread over a large area, from western Siberia in the east to Hungary and Finland in the west. They range from such well-established national languages as Hungarian and Finnish to tiny minority languages of Russia, representing only a few native speakers with little ethnic or political unity. Some of the smaller groups are dying out as linguistic entities, particularly several minority languages whose speakers are assimilated. The original homeland of the Uralic peoples is thought to have been in the vicinity of the central Ural Mountains. This assumption is based on extensive analysis of cognate words in Uralic languages for the names of flora and fauna, and of the geographic distribution of the present-day Uralic peoples. Because of their great geographic diversity, and consequently their lack of recent contact with each other, and because of the ancient breakup of Proto-Uralic, many of these languages are quite dissimilar. The Uralic languages can be divided into two primary groups, Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic. This division reflects the earliest dialectal split from Proto-Uralic, and accordingly the languages in these two groups share the fewest similar features. Finno-Ugric is further divided into Finnic and Ugric. The Ugric group consists of Hungarian and two Ob-Ugric languages of western Siberia, Khanty (Ostyak) and Mansi (Vogul). The Hungarian tribes arrived at their present location in the Carpathian Basin more than a thousand years ago. Hungarian has the most speakers of any Uralic language and has had a rich literary tradition for several hundred years. The approximately 20,000 Khanty and Mansi speakers are dispersed around the Ob River and its tributaries in west-central Russia. Both groups have little ethnic identity and a weak literary tradition, with great dialectal divergence. Within the Finnic group there are several subgroups. Of the Baltic-Finnic languages the most important is Finnish, spoken mostly in Finland. The Finnish tribes probably occupied their present location about 2,000 years ago. Estonian is very similar to Finnish. Most of its speakers live in Estonia. There are five minor Baltic-Finnic languages: Karelian, Veps, Ingrian, Votic, and Livonian. The first four of these are spoken in Russia, mainly near the Gulf of Finland, and none has a literary form. Karelian and Veps have many speakers, but the other three languages are rapidly dying out. Another Finnic subgroup consists of the Sami (Lapp) languages, which have about 30,000 speakers scattered from Sweden to Russia. They consist of several mutually unintelligible languages and dialects. Another branch of Finnic consists of three closely related Permic languages, Udmurt (Votyak), Komi (Zyryan), and Permyak. The Udmurt live mostly in the republic of Udmurtia in Russia and the Permyak within the Komi-Permyak autonomous okrug, but Komi speakers spread beyond the borders of the Komi republic. Two more separate Finnic languages are Mordvin and Mari (Cheremis). Fewer than half the Mordvin speakers are in Mordvinia in Russia. Mari speakers live mostly in the Mari El republic. Of the three North Samoyedic languages of northern Siberia, only Nenets (formerly Yurak Samoyed) has a literary tradition. Enets (formerly Yenisey Samoyed) has only a few hundred speakers, and Nganasan (formerly Tavgy Samoyed) has fewer than a thousand. Only one South Samoyed language, Selkup (formerly Ostyak Samoyed), still exists, with speakers in western Siberia; six other languages are now extinct. The Proto-Uralic language has been partially reconstructed by painstaking comparison of the modern Uralic languages. According to this analysis, it had a limited inventory of consonant sounds, and in particular there was no contrast between voiced and voiceless consonants ( i.e., the contrast that differentiates the English bit and pit). The vocalic system has not been reliably reconstructed, though it probably did contrast long and short vowels. Words were probably stressed on their first syllable, as in most modern Uralic languages. Both modern Uralic and Proto-Uralic languages were characterized by vowel harmony. The Uralic languages are basically agglutinative; i.e., stems and affixes (prefixes, suffixes, and endings) are combined unchanged, and each element expresses only one bit of meaning. Relations within a sentence are carried by suffixes and postpositions (equivalent to prepositions but following a noun instead of preceding it). Proto-Uralic probably had no marker to denote the plural of a noun, since today the forms for expressing the plural vary greatly from language to language. Possession is expressed by a suffix either on the possessor or on the item possessed. A widespread characteristic of the modern Uralic verb is the distinction between subjective and objective conjugations. This distinction reflects an early Uralic system for singling out the subject or the object for emphasis (focus). family of more than 20 related languages, all descended from a Proto-Uralic language that existed 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. At its earliest stages, Uralic most probably included the ancestors of the Yukaghir language. The Uralic languages are spoken by more than 21,000,000 people scattered throughout northeastern Europe, northern Asia, and (through immigration) North America. The most demographically important Uralic language is Hungarian, the official language of Hungary. Attempts to trace the genealogy of the Uralic languages to periods earlier than Proto-Uralic have been hampered by the great changes in the attested languages, which preserve relatively few features and therefore provide little evidence upon which scholars may base meaningful claims for a more distant relationship. Most commonly mentioned in this respect is a putative connection with the Altaic language family (including Turkic and Mongolian). This hypothetical language group, called Ural-Altaic, is not considered by most scholars to be soundly based. Although the Uralic and Indo-European languages are not generally thought to be related, more speculative studies have suggested a connection between them. Relationship with the Eskimo languages, Dravidian (e.g., Telugu), Japanese, Korean, and various American Indian groups has also been proposed. The most radical of these claims is the massive Den-Finnish grouping of Morris Swadesh, which encompasses, among others, Sino-Tibetan (e.g., Chinese) and Athabaskan (e.g., Navajo). The Uralic language family in its current status consists of two related groups of languages, the Finno-Ugric and the Samoyedic, both of which developed from a common ancestor, called Proto-Uralic, that was spoken 7,000 to 10,000 years ago in the general area of the north-central Ural Mountains. At its very earliest stages Uralic most probably included the ancestors of the Yukaghir languages (formerly listed as a Paleo-Siberian stock with no known relatives). Over the millennia, both Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic branches of Uralic have given rise to more or less divergent subgroups of languages, which nonetheless have retained certain traits from their common source. For example, the degree of similarity between two of the least closely related members of the Finno-Ugric group, Hungarian and Finnish, is comparable to that between English and Russian (which belong to the Indo-European family of languages). The difference between any Finno-Ugric language and any Samoyedic tongue would be even greater. On the other hand, more closely related members of Finno-Ugric, such as Finnish and Estonian, differ in much the same manner as greatly diverse dialects of the same language. Additional reading The following manuals provide a sound basis for further study (especially in the numerous grammars of Uralic languages and articles on problems of Uralic linguisticsfew of which are available in English): Bjrn Collinder, Fenno-Ugric Vocabulary: An Etymological Dictionary of the Uralic Languages, 2nd, rev. ed. (1977), presenting comparative Uralic word lists; Bjrn Collinder et al. (compilers), Survey of the Uralic Languages, 2nd, rev. ed. (1969), which gives short sketches of all but a few of the Uralic languages, with the lesser languages receiving only superficial treatment; Denis Sinor (ed.), The Uralic Languages: Description, History, and Foreign Influences (1988), a collection of articles (many in English) on Uralic topics; Toivo Vuorela, The Finno-Ugric Peoples, trans. from Finnish (1964), an anthropological survey; Peter Hajdu, Finno-Ugrian Languages and Peoples (1975; originally published in Hungarian, 1962); and Morris Swadesh, Linguistic Overview, in Jesse D. Jennings and Edward Norbeck (eds.), Prehistoric Man in the New World (1964, reissued 1974), pp. 527556, which posits UralicAmerican Indian relationships.Works dealing with specific languages include Peter Hajdu, The Samoyed Peoples and Languages, trans. from Hungarian, 2nd rev. ed. (1968); Robert T. Harms, Estonian Grammar (1962), with an appendix that surveys numerous approaches to the problem of quantity in Estonian; Thomas A. Sebeok and Frances J. Ingemann, An Eastern Cheremis Manual: Phonology, Grammar, Texts, and Glossary (1961), a clear, concise description of one of the lesser languages; Fred Karlsson, Finnish Grammar, 2nd ed. (1987; originally published in Swedish, 1978); and Zoltn Bnhidi, Zoltn Jkay, and Dnes Szab, Learn Hungarian, 6th ed. (1988). Robert Thomas Harms

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