Geography of Siberia: first aproximation

August 18, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Posted in Demographics, Maps, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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If you take a look at a map, you will see how a vast land Siberia is. Thousands of thousands of frozen kilometers that extend from the Urals in the border between Europe and Asia to almost Alaska. Breathtaking! As it is to find out which indigenous people live there, where and who they are. So I will start looking fot it. In the following months I will try to redraw my route map, to make it more concrete. First step, the Wikipedia, as usual:

Demographics of Siberia

Geographically, Siberia includes the Russian Urals, Siberian, and Far Eastern Federal Districts. The north-central parts of Kazakhstan are sometimes included in the region.

Siberia has population density of only three persons per square kilometer. The oblasts with the highest population densities are Chelyabinsk Oblast and Kemerovo Oblast, with 41 and 30 persons per square km, respectively. Koryak Okrug has population density of less than 0.1 per square kilometer.


Click here to see the complete list of districts and territories.

Excluding territories of north-central Kazakhstan, Siberia thus has a total population of ca. 38.7 million (2005). The North Kazakhstan oblast has another 1.1 million inhabitants (2002).

About 70% of Siberia’s people live in cities. Most city people are crowded into small apartments. Many people in rural areas live in simple, but more spacious, log houses. Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia, with a population of about 1.5 million, followed by Yekaterinburg (1.3 million, Urals), Omsk (1.1 million), Chelyabinsk (1.07 million, in the Urals), Krasnoyarsk (0.91 million), Barnaul (0.60 million), Irkutsk (0.59 million), Kemerovo (0.52 million), Tyumen (0.51 million), Tomsk (0.48 million), Nizhny Tagil (0.39 million, Urals), Kurgan (0.36 million), Ulan Ude (0.36 million), Chita (0.32 million).

The above count, however, by including the entire Urals Federal District, includes areas not usually considered part of Siberia, e.g. the cities Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk and Nizhny Tagil listed above.

Ethnicities and languages

Most Siberians (close to the average measured over all of Russia of 79%) are Russians and Russified Ukrainians, but in certain Oblasts (e.g. Tuva), Slavic population is as low as 20%.

Most non-Slavic groups are Turkic. Smaller linguistic groups are Mongols (ca. 600,000 speakers) Uralic (Samoyedic, Ugric, Yukaghir; roughly 100,000 speakers), Manchu-Tungus (ca. 40,000 speakers), Chukotko-Kamchatkan (ca. 25,000 speakers), Eskimo-Aleut (some 2,000 speakers), and languages isolates, Ket and Nivkh.

Mongolian, Turkic and Manchu-Tungus languages are sometimes taken together under the term Altaic. Uralic and Altaic form the Ural-Altaic group, and the Uralo-Siberian group combines the Ural-Altaic with the Chukotko-Kamchatkan group. These are more umbrella terms than accepted linguistic relationships.

This last part is the most interesting for me. There are also some interesting links at the bottom of the page, this will be tomorrow’s homework. I see that they do not include the territories that are next to the Bering Strait and Kamchatka. So separate searches for them too.

Fourth and last step: Russia and Japan

July 29, 2008 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Language, Maps | Leave a comment
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After some months, we finish this trip around the world with Ethnologue. We started in Alaska and Canada, passed by Greenland and Scandinavia, and now we finish in Russia and Japan. It has been a cool trip, right? Lets see what they have for Russia and Japan:

Russia (Asia) and Japan

Ainu: [ain] South Sakhalin Island and southern Kuril Islands. Dialects: Sakhalin (Saghilin), Taraika, Hokkaido (Ezo, Yezo), Kuril (Shikotan). Classification: Language Isolate Nearly extinct.

Aleut: [ale] 190 in Russia (2002 K. Matsumura). 5 on Bering Island Atkan (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 702 (1989 census). Nikolskoye settlement, Bering Island, Commander (Komandor) Islands. Alternate names: Unangany, Unangan, Unanghan. Dialects: Beringov (Bering, Atkan). Classification: Eskimo-Aleut, Aleut

Aleut, Mednyj
: [mud] 10 (1995 M. Krauss). Copper Island, Komandor Islands. Alternate names: Medny, Copper, Copper Island Aleut, Attuan, Copper Island Attuan, Creolized Attuan. Classification: Mixed Language, Russian-Aleut Nearly extinct.

Alutor: [alr] 100 to 200 (2000 A. E. Kibrik). Ethnic population: 2,000 (1997 M. Krauss). Koryak National District, northeast Kamchatka Peninsula, many in Vyvenka village, 2 families in Rekinniki, and individual families in Tilichiki and Tymlyt. Some speakers are separated at considerable distances and without regular contact. Alternate names: Alyutor, Aliutor, Olyutor. Dialects: Alutorskij (Alutor Proper), Karaginskij (Karaga), Palanskij (Palana). Considered a dialect of Koryak until recently. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Koryak-Alyutor

Chukot: [ckt] 10,000 (1997 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 15,000. Chukchi Peninsula, Chukot and Koryak National Okrug, northeastern Siberia. Alternate names: Chukcha, Chuchee, Chukchee, Luoravetlan, Chukchi. Dialects: Uellanskij, Pevekskij, Enmylinskij, Nunligranskij, Xatyrskij, Chaun, Enurmin, Yanrakinot. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Chukot

Enets, Forest: [enf] 40 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 209 with Tundra Enets (1989 census). Taimyr National Okrug. Along the Yenisei River’s lower course, upstream from Dudinka. The Forest variety is in the Potapovo settlement of the Dudinka Region. Alternate names: Yenisei Samoyedic, Bay Enets, Pe-Bae. Dialects: Forest and Tundra Enets are barely intelligible to each other’s speakers. It is transitional between Yura and Nganasan. For a time it was officially considered part of Nenets. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed Nearly extinct.

Enets, Tundra: [enh] 30 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 209 together with Forest Enets (1990 census). Taimyr National Okrug. Along the Yenisei River’s lower course, upstream from Dudinka. ‘Tundra’ in the Vorontzovo settlement of the Ust-Yenisei Region. Alternate names: Yenisei Samoyedic, Madu, Somatu. Dialects: Tundra and Forest Enets barely intelligible to each other’s speakers. It is transitional between Yura and Nganasan. For a time it was officially considered part of Nenets. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed Nearly extinct.

Even: [eve] 7,543 (1989 census). Ethnic population: 17,199 (1989 census). Yakutia and the Kamchatka Peninsula, widely scattered over the entire Okhotsk Arctic coast. Alternate names: Lamut, Ewen, Eben, Orich, Ilqan. Dialects: Arman, Indigirka, Kamchatka, Kolyma-Omolon, Okhotsk, Ola, Tompon, Upper Kolyma, Sakkyryr, Lamunkhin. Ola dialect is not accepted by speakers of other dialects. A dialect cluster. It was incorrectly reported to be a Yukaghir dialect. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Northern, Even

Evenki: [evn] 9,000 in Russia (1997 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 30,000 in Russia (1997 M. Krauss). Evenki National Okrug, Sakhalin Island. Capital is Ture. Alternate names: Ewenki, Tungus, Chapogir, Avanki, Avankil, Solon, Khamnigan. Dialects: Manegir, Yerbogocen, Nakanna, Ilimpeya, Tutoncana, Podkamennaya Tunguska, Cemdalsk, Vanavara, Baykit, Poligus, Uchama, Cis-Baikalia, Sym, Tokmo-Upper Lena, Nepa, Lower Nepa Tungir, Kalar, Tokko, Aldan Timpton, Tommot, Jeltulak, Uchur, Ayan-Maya, Kur-Urmi, Tuguro-Chumikan, Sakhalin, Zeya-Bureya. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Northern, Evenki

Gilyak: [niv] 1,089 (1989 census). Population includes 100 Amur, 300 Sakhalin (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 4,673 (1989 census), including 2,000 Amur, 2,700 Sakhalin (1995 M. Krauss). Sakhalin Island, many in Nekrasovka and Nogliki villages, small numbers in Rybnoe, Moskalvo, Chir-Unvd, Viakhtu, and other villages, and along the Amur River in Aleevka village. Alternate names: Nivkh, Nivkhi. Dialects: Amur, East Sakhalin Gilyak, North Sakhalin Gilyak. The Amur and East Sakhalin dialects have difficult inherent intelligibility of each other. North Sakhalin is between them linguistically. Classification: Language Isolate

Itelmen: [itl] 60 (2000). Ethnic population: 2,481 (1989 census). Southern Kamchatka Peninsula, Koryak Autonomous District, Tigil Region, primarily in Kovran and Upper Khairiuzovo villages, west coast of the Kamchatka River. Alternate names: Itelymem, Western Itelmen, Kamchadal, Kamchatka. Dialects: Sedanka, Kharyuz, Itelmen, Xajrjuzovskij, Napanskij, Sopocnovskij. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Southern

Karagas: [kim] 25 to 30 (2001). Ethnic population: 730 (1989 census). Siberia, Irkutsk Region. Alternate names: Tofa, Tofalar, Sayan Samoyed, Kamas, Karagass. Classification: Altaic, Turkic, Northern Nearly extinct.

Kerek: [krk] 2 (1997 M. Krauss). There were 200 to 400 speakers in 1900. Ethnic population: 400. Cape Navarin, in Chukot villages. Dialects: Mainypilgino (Majna-Pil’ginskij), Khatyrka (Xatyrskij). Previously considered a dialect of Chukot. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Koryak-Alyutor Nearly extinct.

Ket: [ket] 550 to 990 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 1,222 (2000). Upper Yenisei Valley, Krasnoyarski krai, Turukhansk, and Baikitsk regions, Sulomai, Bakhta, Verkhneimbatsk, Kellog, Kangatovo, Surgutikha, Vereshchagino, Baklanikha, Farkovo, Goroshikha, and Maiduka villages. East of the Khanti and Mansi, eastern Siberia. Alternate names: Yenisei Ostyak, Yenisey Ostiak, Imbatski-Ket. Classification: Yeniseian

Koryak: [kpy] 3,500 (1997 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 7,000. Koryak National Okrug, south of the Chukot; northern half of Kamchatka Peninsula and adjacent continent. Alternate names: Nymylan. Dialects: Cavcuvenskij (Chavchuven), Apokinskij (Apukin), Kamenskij (Kamen), Xatyrskij, Paren, Itkan, Palan, Gin. Chavchuven, Palan, and Kamen are apparently not inherently intelligible. Classification: Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Northern, Koryak-Alyutor

Nenets: [yrk] 26,730 (1989 census). Population includes 1,300 Forest Nenets, 25,000 Tundra Nenets. Ethnic population: 34,665 (1989 census) including 2,000 Forest Enets. Northwest Siberia, tundra area from the mouth of the northern Dvina River in northeastern Europe to the delta of the Yenisei in Asia, and a scattering on the Kola Peninsula; Nenets, Yamalo-Nenets, and Taimyr national okrugs. Alternate names: Nenec, Nentse, Nenetsy, Yurak, Yurak Samoyed. Dialects: Forest Yurak, Tundra Yurak. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed

Nganasan: [nio] 500 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 1,300. Taimyr National Okrug, Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia, Ust-Avam village in the Dudinka Region; Volochanka and Novaya villages in the Khatang Region. They are the northernmost people in Russia, near the Yakut, Dolgan, and Evenki peoples. Alternate names: Tavgi Samoyed. Dialects: Avam, Khatang. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed

Oroch: [oac] 100 to 150 (1995 M. Krauss). Ethnic population: 900 (1990 census). Eastern Siberia in the Khabarovsk Krai along the rivers that empty into the Tatar Channel, on Amur River not far from the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure. Many live in the Vanino Region in Datta and Uska-Orochskaya settlements. Some live among the Nanai. Alternate names: Orochi. Dialects: Kjakela (Kjakar, Kekar), Namunka, Orichen, Tez. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Southern, Southeast, Udihe

Orok: [oaa] 30 to 82 in Russia (1995 M. Krauss). Population total all countries: 33 to 85. Ethnic population: 250 to 300 (1995 M. Krauss). Sakhalin Island, Poronajsk District, Poronajsk town, Gastello and Vakhrushev settlements; Nogliki District, Val village, Nogliki settlement. Also spoken in Japan. Alternate names: Oroc, Ulta, Ujlta, Uilta. Dialects: Poronaisk (Southern Orok), Val-Nogliki (Nogliki-Val, Northern Orok). Significant differences between dialects. For a while Orok was officially considered part of Nanai. Classification: Altaic, Tungus, Southern, Southeast, Nanaj Nearly extinct.

Selkup: [sel] 1,570 (1994 Salminen, 1994 Janhunen). Northern Sel’kup has 1,400 speakers out of 1,700, Central Sel’kup has 150 speakers out of 1,700, Southern Sel’kup has 20 speakers out of 200. Ethnic population: 3,600. Tom Oblast, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, Krasnoyarski Krai and Tomskaya Oblast. The northern dialect is spoken in Krasnoselkup Region, Krasnoselkup, Sidorovsk, Tolka, Ratta, and Kikiyakki villages; part of the Purovsk Region, Tolka Purovskaya village; adjacent regions of the Krasnoyarski Krai; Kureika village, Kellog, and Turukhan River basin and Baikha. The southern dialect (Tym) is spoken in a range of villages in the northern part of the Tomskaya Oblast. Alternate names: Ostyak Samoyed. Dialects: Taz (Northern Sel’kup, Tazov-Baishyan), Tym (Central Selk’up, Kety), Narym (Central Sel’kup), Srednyaya Ob-Ket (Southern Sel’kup). A dialect continuum with difficult or impossible intelligibility between the extremes. Speakers in the south are separated from others. Classification: Uralic, Samoyed

Yugh: [yuu] 2 or 3 (1991 G. K. Verner in Kibrik). Nonfluent speakers. Ethnic population: 10 to 15 (1991 G. K. Verner in Kibrik). Turukhan Region of the Krasnoyarsk Krai at the Vorogovo settlement. Previously they lived along the Yenisei River from Yeniseisk to the mouth of the Dupches. Alternate names: Yug. Classification: Yeniseian Nearly extinct.

Yukaghir, Northern: [ykg] 30 to 150 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Ethnic population: 230 to 1,100 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Yakutia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Alternate names: Yukagir, Jukagir, Odul, Tundra, Tundre, Northern Yukagir. Dialects: Distinct from Southern Yukaghir (Kolyma). It may be distantly related to Altaic or Uralic. Classification: Yukaghir Nearly extinct.

Yukaghir, Southern
: [yux] 10 to 50 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Ethnic population: 130 (1995 M. Krauss, 1989 census). Yakutia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Alternate names: Yukagir, Jukagir, Odul, Kolyma, Kolym, Southern Yukagir. Dialects: Not inherently intelligible with Northern Yukaghir. Classification: Yukaghir Nearly extinct.

Yupik, Central Siberian: [ess] 300 in Russia (1991 Kibrik). Ethnic population: 1,200 to 1,500 in Russia (1991 Kibrik). Chukchi National Okrug, coast of the Bering Sea, Wrangel Island. The Chaplino live in Providenie Region in Novo-Chaplino and Providenie villages. Alternate names: Yoit, Yuk, Yuit, Siberian Yupik, “Eskimo”, Bering Strait Yupik, Asiatic Yupik. Dialects: Aiwanat, Noohalit (Peekit), Wooteelit, Chaplino. Classification: Eskimo-Aleut, Eskimo, Yupik, Siberian

Yupik, Naukan: [ynk] 75 (1990 L.D. Kaplan). Ethnic population: 350. Chukota Region, Laurence, Lorino, and Whalen villages, scattered. Formerly spoken in Naukan village and the region surrounding East Cape, Chukot Peninsula, but they have been relocated. Alternate names: Naukan, Naukanski. Dialects: 60% to 70% intelligibility of Chaplino. Classification: Eskimo-Aleut, Eskimo, Yupik, Siberian.

The situation is quite depressing, with a lot of languages that are tagged as “nearly extinct”… Here you have, as usually, the map for the zone. As Russia is a huge country, Ethnologue has one general index map, which I am showing here, and then some more detailed maps, that you can find clicking here:

Connection between Siberian and Alaskan languages: new research

March 30, 2008 at 1:28 am | Posted in Alaska, Language | Leave a comment
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I am so happy, take a look at what I have just found! I was reading, and they had an article about the Siberan and native Alaskan languages from National Geographic. Check it out here, or read it below:

Siberian, Native American Languages Linked. A First.

John Roach
for National Geographic News
March 26, 2008

A fast-dying language in remote central Siberia shares a mother tongue with dozens of Native American languages spoken thousands of miles away, new research confirms. The finding may allow linguists to weigh in on how the Americas were first settled, according to Edward Vajda, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Since at least 1923 researchers have suggested a connection exists between Asian and North American languages—but this is the first time a link has been demonstrated with established standards, said Vajda, who has studied the relationship for more than 15 years. Previous researchers had provided lists of similar-sounding and look-alike words, but their methods were unscientific. Such similarities, Vajda noted, are likely to be dismissed as coincidence even if they represent genuine evidence. So Vajda developed another method. “I’m providing a whole system of [similar] vocabulary and also of grammatical parallels—the way that verb prefixes are structured,” he said.

Dying Tongue

His research links the Old World language family of Yeniseic in central Siberia with the Na-Dene family of languages in North America. The Yeniseic family includes the extinct languages Yugh, Kott, Assan, Arin, and Pumpokol. Ket is the only Yeniseic language spoken today. Less than 200 speakers remain and most are over 50, according to Vajda. “Within a couple of generations, Ket will probably become extinct,” he said. (Related news: “Languages Racing to Extinction in 5 Global ‘Hotspots’” [September 18, 2007].) The Na-Dene family includes languages spoken by the broad group of Athabaskan tribes in the U.S. and Canada as well as the Tlingit and Eyak people. The last Eyak speaker died in January.

Vajda presented the findings in February at a meeting of linguists at the Alaska Native Language Center in Fairbanks.

Making the Connection

Vajda established the Yeniseic-Na-Dene link by looking for languages with a verb-prefix system similar to those in Yeniseic languages. Such prefixes are unlike any other language in North Asia. Only Na-Dene languages have a system of verb prefixes that very closely resemble the Yeniseic,” he said. From there, Vajda found several dozen cognates—or words in different languages that sound alike and have the same meaning. The results dovetail with earlier work by Merritt Ruhlen, an anthropologist at Stanford University in California who Vajda said discovered the first genuine Na-Dene-Yeniseic cognates. Vajda also showed how these cognates have sound correspondences. “I systematically connect these structures in Yeniseic with the structures in modern Na-Dene,” Vajda said. “My comparisons aren’t just lists of some look-alike words … I show there is a system behind it.”

Johanna Nichols is a linguist at the University of California in Berkeley who attended the Alaska meeting where Vajda presented his research. With the exception of the Eskimo-Aleut family that straddles the Bering Strait and Aleutian Islands, this is “the first successful demonstration of any connection between a New World language and an Old World language,” Nichols said.

Mother Tongue

Vajda said his research puts linguistics on the same stage as archaeology, anthropology, and genetics when it comes to studying the history of humans in North Asia and North America. However, the research has not revealed which language came first. Neither modern Ket nor Na-Dene languages in North America represent the mother tongue. For example, some words in the Na-Dene family likely represent sounds of the mother tongue more closely than their Yeniseic cognates. Other words in Yeniseic, however, are probably more archaic.

Based on archaeological evidence of human migrations across the Bering land bridge, the language link may extend back at least 10,000 years. If true, according to Vajda, this would be the oldest known demonstrated language link. But more research is needed to determine when the languages originated and how they became a part of various cultures before such a claim will be accepted, according to UC Berkeley linguist Nichols. “I don’t think there is any reason to assume the connection is [10,000 years] old … this must surely be one late episode in a much longer and more complicated history of settlement,” she said.

Being a linguist myself, I am thrilled with that discover. This is very good news, congratulations for the researchers! Let’s see if this helps conserving and increasing the use of all those forgotten languages.

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