B.8 Contact phenomena in the grammar of Uralic languages

Wednesday, August 23, Department of Slavic Studies (Slawistik), room 6

Organizers: Alexey Kozlov, Ksenia Shagal

(Original symposium call)


Evgeniya Budennaya:

Pronominal reference in Ingrian Finnish: two possible contact-induced changes

This talk focuses on two referential phenomena in Ingrian Finnish, a group of Finnish dialects spoken to south-west of the Leningrad region. It will show in what ways contact-induced peculiarities of subject reference bring Ingrian Finnish close to typical SAE languages, and in what ways they still distinguish it from both core SAE and Uralic.

First, like most languages of the Circum-Baltic area, Ingrian Finnish employs both personal pronouns and verbal inflection for subject reference. It differs from both standard Finnish, where first- and second-person subject is usually expressed by inflection alone, and from other Uralic languages, where inflection alone is also dominant in the third person (Dryer 2013). Taking into account the typological rarity of the double-marking pattern (Siewierska 2004: 268), its genesis in Ingrian Finnish is of great interest. Internal scenarios dealing with the loss of agreement cannot be suggested since Ingrian Finnish has preserved non-syncretic verbal inflection. In this case long-lasting contacts with Russian, Votic or Ingrian (two minor neighboring Finnic languages), could be viewed as a possible external trigger. The new pronominal pattern could have been borrowed directly from Russian or via Votic where double-marking had already been established by the mid-20th century under the Russian influence (Budennaya 2019).

Second, Ingrian Finnish subordinate clauses allow indexical shift, a phenomenon whereby indexicals may be interpreted relative to the reported context, rather that to the current context of the utterance:

1. Mariai sano-i, jot miäi ole-n tohtori
Maria say-PST.3SG that 1SG be.PRS-1SG doctor
‘Maria said that I[=Maria] am a doctor’

The indexical shift was also detected in Uyghur (Shklovsky, Sudo 2014), geographically distant Hill Mari (Golosov, Studenikina 2018) and Votic (Markus, Rozhanskiy 2017: 622). In the case of Ingrian Finnish, only contacts with Votic can be suggested as a possible external influence, since standard Finnish, as well as most Uralic and IE languages, does not allow shifted indexicals.

Both pronoun rise and indexical shift can be treated as pattern borrowings. The talk shows their development in Ingrian Finnish in the diachronic perspective with special regard to two possible contact scenarios.


Budennaya E. (2019, in print), Subjektnaja referentsija v izhorskom i vodskom jazykah: iz istorii odnogo zaimstvovanija [Subject reference in Ingrian and Votic: from the history of one borrowing]. UAS 35 (4)

Dryer, M. (2013) Expression of pronominal subjects, WALS, Leipzig.

Golosov Th., Studenikina K. (2018) Indexical shift in Hill Mari. Ms.

Rozhanskiy, F., Markus E. (2017) Sovremennyj vodskij jazyk [The contemporary Votic language], Saint-Petersburg.

Shklovsky K., Sudo Y. (2014). The syntax of monsters. Linguistic Inquiry, 45(3), 381-402.

Siewierska A. (2004) Person. Cambridge.


Elena Markus & Fedor Rozhanskiy:

Non-standard models of contact-induced changes: the case of minor languages of Ingria 

During the last two decades, interest towards the language contacts and concomitant phenomena has significantly increased (Thomason 2001, Appel, Muysken 2005, Wohlgemuth 2009, etc.). The theoretical framework of this field is constantly developing. In our paper, we focus on one of the most basic and seemingly obvious notion – the borrowing. Our analysis is based on the material of minor Finnic languages, Votic and Ingrian that have a long history of mutual contact. They both contacted also with Russian that gradually became dominant in the area. All the data were collected during our fieldwork in 2001-2019.

A standard model of borrowing that covers most of the examples discussed in literature can be described as follows. Phenomenon X (a lexical item, a grammar construction, etc.) that was originally present in language A but not in language B was borrowed from A into B, so currently it exists in both languages.

In this paper we would like to discuss types of borrowings that involve some additional processes besides the one described in this model. We distinguish two groups of non-standard models: 1) those involving two languages, and 2) those involving three languages.

Among the first group, we have observed:

Phenomenon X was borrowed from language A into B, but in B it spread further than in A. E.g., the Ingrian conditional markers starting from ja/jä appear only in a specific group of verbs. When borrowed into Votic, they spread to most paradigmatic types of verbs.

Soft borrowing
Phenomenon X that existed in A adopted its shape because of contacts with B. For instance, Votic words that lost the initial h (irvi ‘elk’) were recently replaced by Ingrian loanwords with h (hirvi ‘elk’).

X existed in A as a marginal phenomenon, but due to contacts with B it became widespread in A. Votic had palatalized consonants only in peripheral lexicon (onomatopoeia, tabooed words, etc.), but since contemporary Votic has many Russian borrowings, the palatalized consonants became very common.

The following tripartite contact models were observed:

MAT+PAT borrowing
A pattern borrowed into language A from B is applied to a matter borrowed from language C. For example, gemination as a process that derives morphological forms was borrowed from Ingrian into Votic and applied, among other, to the Russian loanwords with voiced plosives. As a result, Votic acquired voiced geminates that were not present in any of the three contacting languages originally, cf. Vot. gribba ‘mushroom.part’ from griba ‘mushroom’ < Rus. grib.

Double-layer borrowing
Languages A and B borrowed phenomenon X from C; later X changed its shape in B and the new X' was borrowed into A from B. For example, the Votic i̮ pronounced in Russian borrowings was later replaced by the i-like sound found in the same borrowings in Ingrian.


Appel R., Muysken P. 2005. Language Contact and Bilingualism. Amsterdam. Thomason S. G. 2001. Language Contact. Edinburgh.

Wohlgemuth J. 2009. Typology of Verbal Borrowings. Berlin- New York.


Maria Kok:

Comparative study on Finnic reflexive pro-material

Refleksive pro-material is used in clause internal anaphors where the subject and another argument of the sentence are co-referential (VISK § 1445, 1456). Clause internal anaphors include expressions such as reflexives (satutin itseni ‘I hurt myself’) and possessive reflexives (satutin pääni ‘I hurt my head’). Finnic reflexive pro-material consists of certain pronoun and adjective stems and pronoun based clitics:

  • The possessive suffixes are reduced personal pronouns that can be used to turn other nouns into reflexives. Possessive suffixes are still widely used in Finnish, Ingrian and Vienan Karelian. Their use is more restrictive in other Karelian varieties and Veps. In Southern Finnic (Estonian, Votic and Livonian), possessive suffixes are no longer used in a productive way.
  • The pronoun stem ITSE ‘self’ originates from a Finno-Ugric noun meaning ‘shadow’ or ‘soul’. It is the reflexive pronoun in Finnish, Karelian, Ingrian and Veps and it has likely been reflexified by possessive suffixes. In Veps, iče-stem with possessive suffixes is used to create possessive-reflexive markers. In all Finnic languages, non-inflecting ITSE is used as an adverb (‘by one-self’) or a focusing particle.
  • The pronoun stem EN(E) (< hän ‘(s)he’) is the reflexive marker in Southern Finnic languages (Estonian, Votic and Livonian). Just like ITSE-stem, EN(E) has likely been reflexivied by possessive suffixes that also have left residue onto certain inflections of this pronoun. In Livonian, a petrified genitive form entš is used as a possessive-reflexive marker.
  • The possessive stem OMA ‘own’ is used in all Finnic languages except in Veps and Livonian. In those varieties of Karelian where the use of possessive suffixes has decreased OMA appears more frequently. In Estonian, where possessive suffixes are no longer used, non-inflecting OMA is utilized as a possessive-reflexive marker while the inflecting variant of OMA is used as a possessive adjective.

Although the pro-material is basically the same, we can discern major differences between the Finnic languages concerning its distribution, historical development and the way in which this material is combined in grammatical constructions.

In order to obtain an overview on the use of reflexive pro-material and the grammatical constructions that are based on it, Finnic translations of the Gospel of St. Matthew have been compared. The research materials consist of translations in modern and old written Finnish, modern and old written Estonian, 19th century Tver Karelian, Modern Vienan and Olonets Karelian and Veps, and Livonian of 1940’s. Text samples from literature and language corpora are used as complementary material. The study is part of the project “Migration and Linguistic Diversification: Karelian in Tver and Finland (KATVE)”. References:

KATVE: www.uef.fi/en/web/katve

VISK = Iso suomen kielioppi. SKST 950. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. scripta.kotus.fi/visk/etusivu.php


Silja-Maija Spets:

Internal and contact-based factors in development of Mari 2nd simple past tense

The aim of this study is to present new remarks on the development of Mari 2nd simple past tense. As known, only one of the six Mari past tenses, namely the 1st simple past tense, is morphologically built on markers which had a finite function already in Proto-Uralic (Bereczki 2002: 88–90; Janhunen 1982: 36). The rest of the tenses, among them the aspectotemporally perfect and evidentially indirect 2nd simple past tense, are more recent combinations of different finite and non-finite elements, and their development path is in great part a copying process from the neighboring Turkic languages (Bereczki 2002: 90–98). A highly similar process occurred also in the Permic branch of the same contact area (Bartens 2000: 203, 213–214).

As in other languages of the region, also in Mari the perfect-indirective past tense originates from predicatively used past participle (Bereczki 2002: 134–135). However, two aspects differentiate Mari from the parallel Permic side. Firstly, morphologically Mari stands out from Permic as the material used for its finite form is not the successor of PU-origin past participle *-mV, but -n with more sporadic cognates elsewhere in Uralic (Bartens 1999: 154). Secondly, the Meadow Mari verb ulaš ‘to be’, has a formally and functionally irregular 2nd simple past form ulmaš with its peculiar suffix -maš and solely indirective meaning (Spets 2021).

My study seeks to specify, how the paradigm of Mari 2nd simple past tense reached its current state by answering the following questions: What kinds of functions did the Mari participles have at the time of tense reform and why was it indeed the participle on -n that became the one turning into finite form? Could the irregularity of past tense forms of Turkic verb ‘to be’ (Johanson 2000: 67–68) explain the irregularity of the Meadow Mari form ulmaš?


BARTENS, RAIJA 1999: Mordvalaiskielten rakenne ja kehitys. SUST 232. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, Helsinki.

–––––– 2000: Permiläisten kielten rakenne ja kehitys. SUST 238. Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, Helsinki.

BERECZKI, GÁBOR 2002: A cseremisz nyelv történeti alaktana. Studies in Linguistics of the Volga Region. University of Debrecen Supplementum I, Debrecen.

JANHUNEN, JUHA 1982: On the structure of Proto-Uralic. Finnisch-Ugrische Forschungen 44. S. 23–44. Helsinki.  

JOHANSON, LARS 2000:  Turkic indirectives. In: Evidentials. Turkic, Iranian and Neighbouring Languages. Edited by Johanson, Lars – Utas, Bo. Empirical Approaches in Language Typology 24. De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin, New York.  

SPETS, SILJA-MAIJA 2021: Marin ‘olla’-verbiparadigman menneen ajan ulmaš/ələn-muodon käytöstä ja kehityksestä. Presentation in Research Day of Utuling Doctoral Program on 2021 April 22nd. School of Languages and Translation Studies, University of Turku.

SUST = Suomalais-Ugrilaisen Seuran toimituksia





Olga Kazakevich & Yuri Koryakov:

Cartography of contact phenomena in Selkup

The Selkup language is now spoken by about six hundred residents of the West Siberian taiga area in the basins of the Middle Ob (Kargasok, Parabel’, Kolpaševo and Upper-Ket’ districts of the Tomsk region), the Middle and Upper Taz and the Middle Yenisei (Krasnoselkup and Pur districts of the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous area and Turukhansk district of the Krasnoyarsk territory).

The results of the archaeological excavations compared with the results of the ethnographic studies of the Selkup traditional culture allow to state that the Selkups have been occupying the Southern part of their present day territory (the North of the Tomsk region) for at least two thousand years. From there they gradually expanded to the North and Northwest whereby dialectal divisions evolved. The ancestors of the Northern Selkups moved to the Taz basin in the second part of the 17th century, after the Russians had come to Western Siberia. According to the classification of Eugeny Helimski (1985), the multiple dialects of Selkup are divided into four main groups: Northern, Central, Southern, and Ket’. The Selkups had and mainly still have contacts with the Forest Enets, Kets, Evenkis, Khantys, Tundra and Forest Nenets, Chulyms, Barabin and other Siberian Tatars. And since the 17th century the Selkups have been more and more contacting with the Russians. Practically all these contacts are reflected in the Selkup language, primarily as lexical loanwords (maps with borrowings into the Northern Selkup dialects are presented in (Koshkareva et al 2017)), but also as structural borrowings and as restructuring of some grammatical categories.

Though the earliest linguistic records from the early 18th century prove that all the main distinctive traits of all Selkup dialect groups were already present at that time (see Helimski 1985), still some changes in grammar structure of dialect groups and of local dialects inside these groups took place since then, and they can be attributed to linguistic contacts: the loss of the dual, the restructuring of the conjugation type category and of the case system in some local dialects, the replacement of the proto-Uralic plural marker with a new one in some dialect groups.

Some borrowings in the Northern local dialects from contacting languages have been shown in (Koshkareva et al 2017) The objective of the paper is to present some changes in grammar structure of different Selkup dialects (primarily of the Northern dialect group) induced (or probably partly induced) by language contacts and to show their development on the linguistic maps.


Helimski E.A. K istoricheskoi dialektologii sel’kupskogo yazyka // Leksika I grammatika yazykov Sibiri/ - Barnaul, 1985. P. 42-58.

Koshkareva N.B., Kashkin E.V., Koryakov Yu.B., Kazakevich O.A., Burkova S.I., Muravyov N.A., Budianskaya E.M. Dialektologicheskiy atlas ural’skikh yazykov Yamalo-Nenetskogo avtonomnogo okruga / Ed.by Koshkareva N.B. – Kaliningrad: Izdatel’skiy Dom “ROST-DOAFK”, 2017. – 260 p.


Gerson Klumpp:

Heritage Kamas

The last Kamas speaker qualifies as a heritage language speaker: a simultaneous bilingual whose weaker language (Kamas) corresponded to the minority language of her society and her stronger language (Russian) to the dominant language (Polinsky 2018: 9). The actual amount of Kamas input and intake during her childhood language acquisition is disputable. Later the Kamas community died off, and for 25 years she did not use Kamas at all. When discovered in 1963, her Kamas – whatever it had been earlier –, showed attrition. Künnap, who initiated reactivation and text production (the 10.5 hours of recordings in the INEL Kamas Corpus; Gusev and Klooster 2018), called it a “potential language” (Künnap 1965: 52). This implies that at the time of text production, in which code-switching beyond the word level was banned, a gap-filling process was going on. Gap filling material is replicated matter and pattern from Russian, including content words, functional words and whole constructions; e.g. in (1) Ru. plot ‘raft’ instead of genuine so, and the Ru. modal xotet’ ‘want’ replacing a genuine construction (Klumpp 2002). In addition, Russian influence shows also in domains which cannot be considered gaps, e.g. encoding of a translative noun with instrumental case instead of nominative as in (2), or the variation of encoding of material in (3).

(1) plot-tu xoťili dĭ-m sar-zittǝ
raft(Ru.)-LAT want.PST.3PL(Ru.) DEM-ACC tie-INF
‘they wanted to tie him onto a raft’

(2) aba-t mo-lām-bi urgāba-ziʔ
father-3SG become-RESULT-PST bear-INS
‘her father became a bear’

(3) kudaj-dә a-bi-iʔ pa-ziʔ, dĭgәttә pi-gәʔ
god-3SG make-PST-3PL wood-INS then stone-ABL
‘They made idols from wood, then they made [them] from stone’

The goal of the present talk is to detect the layers of Russian influence in this late Kamas variety which differs strongly from the baseline Kamas as it was documented earlier (Joki 1944). Changes with no Russian model as e.g. pronominal stem extension in dĭ-n-ziʔ 3SG-GEN-INS ‘with him/her’ in analogy to 1st and 2nd sing. măn-ziʔ ‘with me’, tăn-ziʔ ‘with you’ (Kloster 2015: 51) strongly suggest that other forces must be considered too when defining the Russian influence in the creation of the heritage code of the last Kamas speaker.


Gusev, V. & Klooster, T. 2018. “INEL Kamas Corpus.” Version 0.1. Publication date 2018-12-31. hdl.handle.net/11022/0000-0007-CAE6-2. Archived in Hamburger Zentrum für Sprachkorpora. In: Wagner-Nagy, B. & Arkhipov, A. & Ferger, A. & Jettka, D. & Lehmberg, T. (eds.), The INEL corpora of indigenous Northern Eurasian languages.

Joki, A. J. 1944. Kai Donners Kamassisches Wörterbuch nebst Sprachproben und Hauptzügen der Grammatik. Lexica Societatis Fenno-Ugricae VIII. Helsinki.

Klooster, T. 2015. Individual language change: a case study of Klavdiya Plotnikova’s Kamas. MA thesis. University of Tartu.

Klumpp, G. 2002. Die Entwicklung des Gebrauchs von Infinitiv und Konverben im Kamassischen unter russischem Einfluß. In: R. Blokland & C. Hasselblatt (eds.). Finno-Ugrians and Indo-Europeans: Linguistic and Literary Contacts. Studia Fenno-Ugrica Groningana 2. Maastricht, 197–208.

Künnap, Ago 1965. O neposledovatel’nostyakh v proiznoshenii sovremennogo kamasinskogo yazyka. SFU 1, 47–52. Polinsky, Maria 2018. Heritage Languages and their Speakers. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 159. Cambridge: CUP.


Olesya Khanina & Valentin Gusev:

Enets: between Nenets and Nganasan 

This paper contributes to a discussion of language contact phenomenon in case of closely related languages. The split of Northern Samoyedic into separate languages is well known to have been gradual (Helimski 1996/2000), and represent a case of a dialect continuum, where slow changes in sociolinguistic factors led to isolation of languages. At the same time, there is also historic evidence of contacts between speakers of already individual Northern Samoyedic languages, see (Khanina & Koryakov 2018) for an overview. Thus, both traces of divergence and secondary convergence, i.e. contact, can be found in the structures of Northern Samoyedic languages.

Enets is widely recognized to ‘take an intermediate position’ between Nenets, in particular Tundra Nenets, and Nganasan (e.g. Helimski 1996/2000, Prokof’ev 1937, Tereščenko 1966). However, to the best of our knowledge, common features that Enets actually shares with Tundra Nenets, on the one hand, and Nganasan, on the other hand, have never been listed. Besides, Enets itself has two variants, Forest Enets and Tundra Enets. Material culture of the Forest Enets is almost fully identical to that of the Tundra Nenets, while material culture of the Tundra Enets is fully identical to that of the Nganasans. Given these cultural affinities, one would expect that also linguistically Forest Enets has more in common with Tundra Nenets, while Tundra Enets has more in common with Nganasan. Or are there features of either Nenets or Nganasan that can be found in both Enets variants? What exactly is meant by the ‘intermediateness’ of Enets?

(Khanina et al. 2018a) attempted to provide an exhaustive list of all features differentiating Forest and Tundra Enets, and there were surprisingly few of them, so the two Enets dialects/languages have been demonstrated to be actually much more similar than expected. Given the available historic data on migrations of the Enets groups (Khanina et al. 2018b), it was hypothesized that known differences between Forest and Tundra Enets correspond to an initial divergence mirrored in phonology and lexicon, followed by a recent convergence reflected in almost identical morphosyntax.

Based on this previous study, we can now check whether features shared by Tundra Enets and Nganasan, but unattested in Tundra Nenets, are present in Forest Enets, and vice versa whether features shared by Forest Enets and Tundra Nenets, but unattested in Nganasan, are present in Tundra Enets. As a result, our paper, first, elucidates the ‘intermediate’ status of the Enets mentioned above, and second, discovers evidence for secondary convergence between the Northern Samoyedic languages. We provide linguistic isoglosses – from phonology, grammar, lexicon, and discourse structure – for the four Northern Samoyedic lects: Tundra Nenets, Forest Enets, Tundra Enets, and Nganasan, estimating thus the role of language contact in the history of this subgroup of Uralic.


Helimski 1996/2000 Очерк истории самодийских народов. In Е. А. Хелимский. Компаративистика. Уралистика: Лекции и статьи. Moscow: 26-40.

Khanina, Olesya, Andrey Shluinsky & Yuri Koryakov. 2018a. Forest Enets and Tundra Enets: how similar/different are they and why? Paper presented at The 7th international conference on Samoyedic studies (Tartu, Estonia).

Khanina, Olesya, Yuri Koryakov & Andrey Shluinsky. 2018b. Enets in space and time: a case study in linguistic geography. Finnisch-Ugrische Mitteilungen 42. 2018, 109-135

Prokof’ev, Georgij N. 1937. “Èneckij (enisejsko-samojedskij dialekt) [Enets (Yenisei-Samoyedic dialect)]”, In Jazyki i pis’mennost’ narodov Severa [Languages and writing systems of the peoples of the North]. ed. by Georgij N. Prokofjev, 75-90. Moscow & Leningrad: Uchpedgiz.

Tereščenko, Natal’ja M. 1966. Eneckij jazyk [Enets]. In E. Lytkin & Klara E. Majtinskaja (eds.), Jazyki narodov SSSR: Finno-ugorskie i samodijskie yazyki [Languages of the USSR: Fenno-Ugric and Samoyedic languages], 438–457. Moscow: Nauka.


Maria Cheremisinova:

Comparative-Attenuative Polysemy in Volga-Kama area and beyond 

The topic of this paper is Comparative markers in several languages of Volga-Kama area (specifically, Chuvash, Mishar Tatar, Hill Mari, Beserman Udmurt) and a number of languages, in which Comparative markers exhibit similar properties (Komi-Zyrian, Kazym Khanty, Tundra Nenets)[1].

In Mishar Tatar [Bylinina 2017: 448] and Chuvash [Levitskaya 1976: 147], both Turkic languages in Volga-Kama area, Comparative markers have a range of unusual properties: they are optional in comparative constructions (1) and they can have attenuative meaning when attached to adjectives (2).


(1) bu malaj kɤz-dan ɤzɤn(-rak)
this boy girl-ABL tall(-COMP)
‘This boy is taller than the girl.’ [Bylinina 2017: 448]

(2) dɤmlɤ ‘wet’ – dɤmlɤ-rak ‘slightly wet’ [same]

Hill Mari (Finno-Ugric) Comparative marker is not only optional and has the same polysemy as Mishar Tatar and Chuvash markers, but it can also mark finite verbs (3) and verbs under negation (4) in its attenuative use.


(3) tӛdӛ eče amal-al-žӛ =rak vara kӛn’ӛlt-e-nä
he still sleep-ATT-IMP.3SG=COMP then wake-NPST-1PL
‘Let him sleep a little bit longer, then we’ll wake him up.’

(4) lem eče a-k šol=rak
soup still NEG.NPST-3 boil[SG]=COMP
‘The soup is not boiling yet.’ (Comm.: ‘But it will soon.’)

In Beserman Udmurt, another Finno-Ugric language in Volga-Kama area, Comparative marker =ges/kes has similar properties to Hill Mari =rak. Moreover, =ges can also mark finite predicates in its comparative use.


(5) mon lәkt-әl-išʼko=ges tatčʼe ton šʼarәšʼ
1SG.NOM come-ITER-PRS(1SG)=COMP here 2SG.NOM about
‘I come here more often than you do.’

The same polysemy can also be found outside of Volga-Kama area in Khanty and Komi [Todesk 2015], also Finno-Ugric languages. Another typological parallel is Nenets (Uralic) -rka [Burkova 2010: 261, 302], [Nikolaeva 2014: 134, 174].

In this talk I will describe semantics and unusual properties of Comparative markers in languages of the Volga-Kama Sprachbund and several other Uralic languages. Therefore, the preliminary typology of comparative-attenuative markers will be presented.


Burkova 2010 – S. I. Burkova. Kratkij ocherk grammatiki tundrovogo dialekta neneckogo yazyka. [Concise sketch of Tundra Nenets Grammar]. // Dialectological dictionary of Tundra Nenets. Eds. N. B. Koshkareva. Ekaterinburg, 2010.

Bylinina 2017 – J. G. Bylinina. Sravnitelnye konstrukcii. [Comparative constructions]. // Elements of Tatar language in typological perspective. Mishar dialect. / S. G. Tatevosov, E. A. Lyutikova, А. А. Bonch-Osmolovskaya at al. — Moscow, 2017, 448-466.

Levitskaya 1976 – L. S. Levitskaya. Istoricheskaya morfologiya chuvashskogo yazyka. [Historical morphology of Chuvash language]. Moscow, 1976.

Nikolaeva 2014 – I. Nikolaeva. A Grammar of Tundra Nenets. 2014.

Todesk 2015 – T. Todesk. The verbal augmentative and the inherent properties of verbs in Komi. 2015.

[1] The data on Hill Mari, Beserman Udmurt and Kazym Khanty comes from the author’s own fieldwork


Aigul Zakirova & Alexey Kozlov:

The emphatic identity particle =OK in the Volga-Kama Sprachbund

The topic of this talk is the focus particle =OK, which is attested in all of the core members of the Volga-Kama Sprachbund: cf. the Chuvash =aχ/ =eχ, Tatar and Bashkir =uk/ =ük, Meadow Mari =ak, Hill Mari =ok and Udmurt =ik. =OK is originally a Turkic particle, common also in some of the Turkic languages outside the Volga-Kama region, e.g. Kazakh, Kumyk and Kyrghyz. It is attested in the Old Turkic manuscripts of the 7–13th centuries AD (Erdal 2004: 342):

(1) Old Turkic:

maytri bodisavt ol ok oron-ta olor-up
Maitreya bodhisattva that emph place-loc sit-pst
‘The bodhisattva Maitreya sat down in that very place’. (Erdal 2004)

The core function of =OK, common to all Volga-Kama languages, is emphatic identity marking (König 2002), e.g. =OK is used when an argument of a proposition is identical to an argument of a different proposition – as in (1).

Although at first glance all Volga-Kama languages look similar in that they employ the same particle to express similar meanings, a finer description shows us that the distribution of =OK, including its morphological restrictions and its linear position, varies from language to language.

=OK can modify an adverbial expression in all Volga-Kama languages. Noun phrases show more variation: when =OK modifies an NP with a determiner, it is attached to the whole NP (2) in all languages except Tatar, where =OK follows the determiner and is lexicalized (3).

(2) Udmurt

a. so nunal-e=ik so ši̮r kut-iz
that day-ill=emph that mouse hold-pst.3sg

b. *so=ik nunal-e so ši̮r kut-iz
that day-ill=emph that mouse hold-pst.3sg

{I took a cat from the street.} ‘The same day it caught a mouse’.

(3) Tatar

a. hättä kibet-tä=dä šul=uk satučɤ kal-gan
even shop-loc=add this=emph shop_assistant stay-pfct

b. *hättä kibet-tä=dä šul satučɤ=uk kal-gan
even shop-loc=add this shop_assistant=emph stay-pfct

{Nothing had changed since a year ago.} ‘There even remained the same shop assistant’.

As for NPs without determiners, =OK follows them freely in all languages – again except Tatar:

(4) Meadow Mari:

pačka-šte maša paša-m әšt-a ikševe dene maša-k šinč-a
garden-in Mary work-acc do-npst.3sg child with Mary-emph sit-npst.3sg
'Mary works in the garden and she also babysits'

A closer scrutiny of Old Turkic and later Chaghatay and Old Tatar texts demonstrates that originally =OK was possible on NPs without demonstratives and it was Tatar that later lost this usage.

Besides functions common for all Volga-Kama languages, there are more restricted paths of development of =OK in specific contexts: in Hill Mari universal quantifyers bear =OK, in Tatar =OK has a scalar reading with numeral phrases (30 roubles=uk = ‘30 roubles, and it's a lot’).

In our talk we will present more cases of differences in the use of the particle =OK in the languages of the Volga-Kama Sprachbund and try to account for them with the help of Old Turkic material and the knowledge gained from the literature on contacts in the Volga-Kama area.


1. Erdal M. A grammar of Old Turkic. – Brill, 2004. – Т. 3.

2. König E. The meaning of focus particles: A comparative perspective. – Routledge, 2002.