Tundra Nenets

by Tapani Salminen (Helsinki)

A slightly different version under the misleading title ‘Nenets’ has appeared printed in The Uralic languages, edited by Daniel Abondolo, London: Routledge, 1998. The printed version contains a number of errors and inconsistencies that were introduced after the author had approved the allegedly final version of the article. Substantial differences of this type are marked magenta below. Subsequent updates and additions to the original text are marked blue. Tables and Further reading sections appear as in the manuscript rather than as in the printed article.

© Tapani Salminen <tasalmin@cc.helsinki.fi> 1993–2012. All rights reserved. The article may be used for private study purposes, and for that use stored in electronic form. No part of the article may be printed, reproduced, or transmitted in any form without the prior consent of the author.

Last updated 1 March 2012

In the Orthography sections, some of the Cyrillic letters appear with combining diacritics (the macron ̄, the breve ̆, and the dot above ̇), which may, however, show after rather than on top of the letter. A more serious problem is that browsers and text editors tend to transform ‹й› (= ‹и› with breve) into ‘short i’ ‹й› and ‹ў› (= ‹у› with breve) into ‘short u’ ‹ў› despite the fact that they are different characters both graphically and functionally.
    Other special characters include arrows →, ↔, ⇒, and ↓, the empty sign ∅, and the single angle quotes ‹›.
    In the new version of the sketch, ø is replaced with ə, and it is referred to as the short vowel rather than the reduced vowel. Similarly, ng is replaced with ŋ. The characters ə and ŋ are recommended for quoting Tundra Nenets material in phonological transcription, but ø and ng may well be used whenever the special characters are not easily available.
    Another terminological change involves the alteration stems of verbs, referred to as the mixed stems in the former version. Conjugational groups are now called conjugational classes.
    In the text of the new version {curly brackets} refer to lexical stems and deep forms of suffixes which may include variables and triggers, while |vertical lines| mark underlying phonological sequences, for example, the imperfective participle suffix is given as {n~ta}, which yields the underlying variants |na| and |ta|, of which the latter surfaces as -da or -ta with phonological processes applied.


The traditional territory of the Tundra Nenets language extends along a vast tundra zone from the Kanin Peninsula in the west to the Yenisei River delta and the Yenisei Bay in the east. The northern boundary is formed by the Arctic Ocean, Tundra Nenets being also spoken on several of its islands. In the south, the language boundary extends just beyond the tree line. In terms of present administrative units of the Russian Federation, the area thus defined includes: (i) the whole Nenets District, including the Kolguev and Vaigach islands, and part of the Mezen’ County in the Arkhangel’sk Province; (ii) parts of the four northernmost counties in the Komi Republic; (iii) practically all of the Yamal, Nadym, and Taz counties, about half of the Ural County, and minor parts of the remaining three counties of the Yamal Nenets District in the Tyumen’ Province; (iv) most of the Ust’-Yeniseisk County of the Taimyr District in the Krasnoyarsk Region.
    The dialects of Tundra Nenets exhibit relatively little diversity. There are no grave obstacles to mutual comprehension despite the geographical distance. This must be due to both the relatively recent occupation of much of the present territory and the great mobility typical of the nomadic way of life. Nevertheless, several phonological and lexical, and a few morphological isoglosses cross the language area.
    Three dialect groups can be recognized, viz Western (to the west of the Pechora; with the subdivisions of Far Western on the Kanin Peninsula, and Mid Western in the Malaya Zemlya), Central (from the Pechora to the Ural, i.e. in the Bol’shaya Zemlya), and Eastern (on the Siberian side; with the subdivisions of Mid Eastern, including the Ob’ area and the Yamal Peninsula, and Far Eastern, to the east of the Ob’ Bay). Phonologically, the main bifurcation is between the Western dialect group, which exhibits several peculiar innovations, and the Central–Eastern cluster, which, though less innovative, possesses a couple of common sound changes. By contrast, the Urals tend to divide morphological and lexical variants, so that it is often justified to talk about specifically European vs. Siberian features of Tundra Nenets. The actual isoglosses, however, vary from one case to another. Unless stated otherwise, the material presented in this chapter is in accordance with the Central dialects.
    The languages that historically border, and partly mingle in the Tundra Nenets country are Russian in the far west, Komi on most of the European side, Northern Mansi to a limited extent in the Ural area, Northern Khanty in the Ob’ area,
Forest Nenets in the Nadym and the Pur areas, Northern Selkup along the Taz after the historically attested arrival of the Selkups there, and Forest Enets, Tundra Enets, Evenki, Ket, Yakut (Dolgans), and Nganasan each on their turn in the east since the gradual expansion of Tundra Nenets to the Yenisei area. Komi and Northern Khanty are the two languages that are known to have had the most extensive contacts with Tundra Nenets for a lengthy period, while the Russian influence has now by far surpassed their effects on Tundra Nenets.
    The number of Tundra Nenets speakers has been growing throughout the historical era. Since the Tundra Nenets area has been mostly expanding until recently, both the growth of the national population and the absorption of members of other nations have corroborated to the increase of the number of speakers. In recent decades, however, the number of speakers has remained fairly constant, because population growth is offset by linguistic assimilation. Currently, there are approx. 25,000 Tundra Nenets speakers. The official population figure for the Nenets people was 34,665 in the 1989 Soviet census, and the respective number of first language speakers among them was 26,730, i.e. 77 per cent, including approx. 2,000 resp. 1,500 Forest Nenets. The average percentage of native language proficiency tells little of the real situation, as it varies enormously from district to another.
    The above defined traditional Tundra Nenets territory comprises areas that are known to have been inhabited by other peoples in the beginning of the historical era. Firstly, the areas west of the Yenisei were formerly populated by speakers of Yurats. By now, the Yurats appear to have completely adopted the Tundra Nenets language and identity, and the recordings of their original vernacular are meagre. Secondly, 17th century explorers reported that other, linguistically unrelated people had been living side by side with the Nenets in the westernmost areas of Kanin and Kolguev. Presumably, an extensive part of the modern Nenets area was inhabited by a more aboriginal population in not too remote prehistorical times. There is a Tundra Nenets word syix°rtya referring to the aborigines, vividly described in the Nenets folklore, but there is no material of their language or languages.
    In more recent times, Tundra Nenets settlers have continued to expand by inhabiting further areas lying beyond the traditional territory as defined above. The islands of Novaya Zemlya in the Arkhangel’sk Province received their first inhabitants only in the 19th century, when the Russian government brought in Nenets families in order to strengthen its claim for sovereignity over the islands. Some Nenets also followed the Izhma Komi who emigrated to the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk Province, though it is not known to what extent Nenets rather than Komi was used by them. In the east, the Tundra Nenets speaking area now extends across the Bay of Yenisei to larger parts of the Taimyr District, where a process of Nenetsization, similar to the completed absorption of Yurats, is on its way among both groups of Enets.
    While continuosly expanding in the east, the Tundra Nenets area has lately been receding on the European side. Not only is the Russian presence most influential there, but a number of Izhma Komi have also immigrated to Nenets areas often taking a leading position in the economic life, which has led many communities to shift to the use of Komi. Because of nuclear experiments since the 1950s, the inhabitants of the Novaya Zemlya were resettled in urban settlements on the continent, which effectively led to the loss of native language command among the Nenets in question. The net result is that while some of the local dialects in the vicinity of Komi areas have already become extinct, many if not all forms of European Nenets must be regarded as moribund. In the 1989 census, there were only 2,875, or 45 per cent, first language speakers of the 6,423 ethnic Nenets in the Nenets District, a figure that cannot include very many adolescents, while 2,474 Nenets were listed as Russian speakers and 1,074 as speakers of another language, obviously Komi.
    The survival forecast on the Siberian side is expectedly much brighter. In the Ob’ area, the relative vigour of the aboriginal Tundra Nenets and Northern Khanty communities together with the diversity of Komi, Russian and Tatar immigrant groups have traditionally favoured wide-spread multilingualism rather than the domination of a single language. In the more eastern areas, it is Tundra Nenets that has functioned as a lingua franca, gradually replacing other vernaculars. During the Soviet era, however, the effective Russification policies and the massive influx of Russian-speaking colonizers almost eliminated both the multilingual tradition and the interethnic use of Tundra Nenets, leaving the home and the traditional economy based on nomadic reindeer breeding for the native language. The deliberate alienation of children from their native language and culture through the inhumane Soviet schooling system is, of course, felt deeply also among the Siberian Nenets, so that not even Nenets homes have avoided Russification. Nevertheless, the traditional Nenets way of life is still a competitive alternative to the adoption of Russian habits and, eventually, the Russian language, and many younger Nenets seem to be devoted to the maintenance of their national culture, and the Nenets language as its expression. According to the 1989 census, the native language retention was a remarkable 94 per cent (19,713 of 20,917; the figures include also Forest Nenets) in the Yamal Nenets District, and a fair 81 per cent (1,990 of 2,446) in the Taimyr District.
    Despite many positive indications, even the Siberian Tundra Nenets community is still very much threatened, and perhaps more so now that the heartlands of the Nenets country on the Yamal Peninsula are being attacked by unscrupulous oil and gas hunters. Because of the continuing Russian cultural oppression and economic exploitation, only a wide-scale national awakening, leading to a real ethnic autonomy with a strict control of the native territory, may secure the long-term existence of the Tundra Nenets people and their language.

Further reading
Major introductions and grammatical treatments appear in Castrén (1854 [2. 1966]), Tereshchenko (1947), Décsy (1966), and Hajdú (1968 [2. 1982]). Textbooks include Tereshchenko (1959), Almazova (1961), Barmich & Kupriyanova (1979), and Kupriyanova & Barmich & Khomich (1985). Tereshchenko (1956) and Hajdú (1975) present wide selections of articles on various topics. Among dictionaries, Castrén (1855) is the earliest, Lehtisalo (1956) extensive, phonetic and dialectological, and Tereshchenko (1965) large and standard. Pyrerka & Tereshchenko (1948) is the only larger dictionary from another language to Nenets. Text collections focusing on folklore include Castrén (1940), Castrén & Lehtisalo (1960), Lehtisalo (1947), Kupriyanova (1965), Tereshchenko (1990). A literary history in Nenets is Susoi (1990). Large bibliographies have been published by Hajdú (1968 [2. 1982], 1988).


Syllable structure

The basic syllable structure is CV(C), i.e. a syllable consists of an initial consonant, a medial vowel, and an optional final consonant, e.g. ya ‘earth’, myaq ‘tent’, wada ‘word’, ŋarka ‘big’, nyax°r ‘three’, xampol ‘litter’.
    There exist, however, vowel sequences, with the schwa ° or the short vowel ə as the latter segment. Such sequences are best divided into separate syllables, which yields an additional, non-initial syllable structure °/ə(C), e.g. xo°ba ‘cradle’, nya°ra ‘inner part of hide’, ŋəəbt°q ‘poison’, wíh ‘tundra’ : gen.sg wí°h, to- ‘to come’ : subj.1sg toəd°m : 2sg toən° : 3sg to°.
    The basic syllable structure implies that word-forms do not begin with a vowel. However, many dialects seem to contain a few words with an initial vowel, though usually very few of them. For instance, əmke ‘what’ is widely used instead of ŋəmke. By contrast, the Western dialects, because of the loss of initial *ŋ, possess a large number of initial vowels, and thus an initial syllable structure V(C), e.g. Western arka ‘big’ ~ Central–Eastern ŋarka.
    Monosyllabic word-forms cannot end with a short vowel, so there are no word-forms of the structure *Cə. In other respects, the basic syllable structure holds good for all dialects, i.e. there are no diphthongs or double vowels, no initial or final consonant clusters, and no medial consonant clusters with more than two consonants.

Stress pattern and vowel reduction

Stress is predictable from syllable and segmental structure. It falls on an initial syllable, syllables preceding a syllable with a schwa, and non-final syllables preceded by an unstressed syllable. Stress does not fall on a final syllable (with one particular exception discussed below), syllables with a schwa, and syllables following a stressed syllable unless they precede a syllable with a schwa. Most typically, the first syllable of each two-syllable string is stressed, or in other words, the stress falls on non-final odd syllables.
    However, the predictability of stress holds good only if the opposition of the short vowel and the schwa is respected, because the stress relations which govern the vowel reduction are partly lexical and morphological. Taking into account those complications, the vowel reduction is an automatic phonological process where |ə| → ° in unstressed positions. It yields alternations such as xər° ‘knife’ : poss. nom.sg2sg xərər° : 3sg xər°da, xarəd° ‘house’ : xar°dər° : xar°dəda.
    Under certain conditions, however, the unstressed schwa vowel appears in an odd syllable. Such cases include, in the first place, vowel sequences after a stressed syllable, unless they precede a syllable with a schwa, e.g. xada- ‘to kill’ : obj.sg3sg xada°da : obj.sg2sg with a clitic particle xada°rə-wa (instead of *xadaər°-wa; cf. xadaər° without a clitic particle).
    A number of sequences with a consonant, in most cases a suffix-initial glide, following a vowel, show a similar effect, e.g. xada- ‘to kill’ : obj.pl3sg xadey°da, tyenye- ‘to remember’ : partic.fut tyenyew°nta, səwa ‘good’ : pros.sg səwaw°na, yedey° ‘new’ : pros.sg yedey°wəna, ⇒ yedey°mta- ‘to renew’, tyorye- ‘to shout’ : subord.3sg tyoryeb°ta. In the last mentioned case, there is variation, and tyoryebəta is also attested. However, manifesting the morphological conditioning of the stress pattern, a similar sequence retains the short vowel in other morphological structures, e.g. nyadayə- ‘to smell of lichen’ : partic.imperf nyadayəda, tyenyewə- ‘to know’ : partic.imperf tyenyewəna.
    Further, secondary vowel stems formed from liquid stems have the added vowel unstressed whenever possible, often yielding a schwa in the third syllable, e.g. yayol- ‘to grow turbid’ ⇒ iter. yayol°ŋkə-, syibyel- ‘to turn pale and earthy’ ⇒ syibyel°ŋkə-, poyol- ‘to get mixed up’ ⇒ tr. poyol°ta- ‘to mix up’. Such cases contrast with primary vowel stems, e.g. wenolə- ‘to get frightened (an animal)’ ⇒ iter. wenoləŋkə-, pyidyelə- ‘to become pliable’ ⇒ pyidyeləŋkə-. In other instances, though, it is the final vowel of primary vowel stems or the vowel preceding the stem-final consonant that undergoes reduction, e.g. ləkadə- ‘to snap (fingers)’ ⇒ tr. ləkad°ta-, nyancyaləm- ‘to become dumb’ : 3sg nyancyal°ma, ⇒ frequ. nyancyal°wor- ‘to grow dumb’, ⇒ tr. nyancyal°mtye- ‘to make dumb’.
    A process of metathesis which creates final °xəC sequences, formerly regarded as phonetic and discussed in the context of vowel harmony, is now recognized as phonologically significant, e.g. xor° ‘oven’ : dat.pl xor°xəq rather than *xorəx°q, cf. dat.sg xorən°h; no neutralization with °xaC sequences takes place, so that xor°xəq is kept apart from xor°xaq ‘birch’ sim. nom.pl. The phonological nature of the process of metathesis is manifested by instances of morphological vowel reduction, e.g. yedey° ‘new’ : nom.du yedey°xəh vs. sarmyik° ‘animal, wolf’ : sarmyikəx°h.
    In a few loanwords, a schwa may also appear in an initial syllable, e.g. p°rasyin° ‘tarpaulin’, t°ronyi ‘peasant’s sledge (for carrying wood)’, x°ryís°tya ‘club (playing card)’. The primary stress is then on the next syllable.
    In compounds, each part has a separate stress pattern, e.g. nye-nya ‘sister’ : loc.sg nye-nyax°na (rather than *nyenyaxəna).


Table 1. Tundra Nenets vowel phonemes: the general system

schwa short plain stretched
i       u í       ú
e       o
° ə a æ

Distinct subsystems for plain and stretched vowels are justifiable mainly on historical grounds except that the stretched vowels are notably absent in non-initial syllables. Some of the Far Western dialects seem to lack *æ (> e) and there may exist varieties in which the high stretched vowels have merged with their plain counterparts.

    (i) Frontness/backness. All vowels except æ (*Cyæ not existing) have two basic allophones, a front one when preceded by a palatal consonant, and a back one when preceded by a non-palatal consonant. In other words, palatality is a property prevailing within the syllable as a whole.
    (ii) Quantity. The schwa is pronounced either as an over-short vowel or not at all; nevertheless, it is always reflected in the phonetic substance. The short vowel is generally a relatively low and short vowel. The high plain vowels vary from half-long to short. The mid plain and all stretched vowels are pronounced long or half-long. In stressed positions a is long but subject to reduction when unstressed. The vowel sequences are invariably over-long or long vowels, with the possibility of two syllable peaks in their pronunciation.
    (iii) Phonetic vowel reduction. When unstressed, a is pronounced short, or half-long at best, and more central, close to the quality but not the quantity of the mid vowels. (As a relic of the former view that the reduction of a should be regarded as phonemic, early publications by the author use the symbol â for the reduced a.)
    (iv) Phonetic schwa. In sequences of qC°, an over-short vowel is often pronounced between the glottal stop and the consonant.
    (v) Diphthongization. Most typically, and especially in the Eastern dialects, æ is pronounced as a slightly rising diphthong, while e and, after palatal consonants, a, can be slightly falling.
    (vi) Vowel harmony. After x and, in the few existing cases, q, the quality of the following °, ə and, occasionally, a matches that of the preceding vowel. The quantitative oppositions remain, so that the phonemic distinctions are preserved. Contrary to the former view of the author, there is a phonological process of metathesis which creates final °xəC sequences, e.g. xor° ‘oven’ : dat.pl xor°xəq rather than *xorəx°q, as discussed in the Stress pattern and vowel reduction section above.
    (viii) Especially in the Eastern dialects, unstressed e and o appear as relatively high vowels, quite close to the allophones of i and u. However, in most, if not all, dialects, the contrast is retained.

The basic standard orthography recognizes only five vowel units, with a double number of vowel signs for indicating the palatality of the preceding consonant, i.e. ə & a = ‹а/я›, e = ‹э/е› & æ = ‹э›, i & í = ‹ы/и›, o = ‹о/ё›, u & ú = ‹у/ю›. The schwa usually has no overt marking, except after x and q where it is written according to (phonetic) vowel harmony, and, inconsistently, in other positions, such as between consonant clusters where it is written like ə. In dictionaries, a refined version of standard orthography is used. It could in principle distinguish all vowel phonemes, but fails to do so in practice. Most consistently, (back) e and æ are differentiated by a dot on the former, i.e. e = ‹э̇›, æ = ‹э›. The high stretched vowels are, by contrast, only rarely written with a macron, i.e. í = ‹ы̄/ӣ›, ú = ‹ӯ/ю̄›. As a further complication, the macron is also used to indicate vowel sequences. The crucial distinction of ə vs. a is more often than not rendered with a breve over the short vowel, i.e. ə = ‹ӑ/я̆›, a = ‹а/я›. Vowel harmony is indicated, e.g. noxa ‘Arctic fox’ = ‹нохо›, nix° ‘power’ = ‹ныхы› (‹ныхы̆›), pyix°nya ‘night’ loc.sg = ‹пихиня› (‹пихйня›). The short vowel is written allophonically also before a pre-schwa labial glide, e.g. padəw° ‘bag’ poss. nom.sg1sg = ‹падув› (‹падўв›). The phonetic schwa between a glottal stop and a consonant preceding a schwa is reflected in the orthography, though inconsistently, e.g. waqw° ‘bed’ = ‹ва”ав› (‹ва”ӑв›), myaqm° ‘tent’ poss. nom.sg1sg = ‹мя”ам› (‹мя”ӑм›).

As explained in connection with the stress pattern, the schwa is practically absent in the first syllable, and there cannot be two schwa vowels in consecutive syllables. As the latter part of a vowel sequence, only the schwa or the short vowel, not mutually contrastive in that position, may appear. The stretched vowel æ does not appear after palatal consonants, and the short vowel ə not after labio-palatal consonants. It is now quite clear that stretched vowels do not occur in non-initial syllables: in the earlier description, non-initial æ was thought to be present in the essive suffix *-ŋæ but the correct phonemization of the suffix is -ŋe° instead, and it is not likely that high stretched vowels appear in non-initial syllables at all, not even in dialectal accusative plural forms as suggested before.


Table 2. Tundra Nenets consonant phonemes: the two main systems

a. Central–Eastern b. Western
nasals m my n ny ŋ m my n ny ŋ
stops strong p py t ty k q/h p py t ty k q/h
weak b by d dy b by d dy g
affricates strong c cy c cy
weak j jy
fricatives s sy x s sy x
semivowels w ÿ w wy đ ÿ
liquids lateral l ly l ly
vibrant r ry r ry

Palatal consonants are marked by Cy digraphs. Word-initially and postvocalically, where no confusion with palatality marker is possible, the palatal glide is written y instead of ÿ. In the morphology section below, suffix-initial y always indicates the palatalization of the preceding consonant. The dual marking of the glottal stop as either q or h is explained below.

Historically, the Central–Eastern system has changed from the proto-system only by *wy > by. By contrast, the Western system has not only retained wy, but has also acquired four secondary consonants through denasalization, i.e. *nt > d whereby *d > đ, *nc > j, *ncy > jy, and *ŋk > g; *mp, *mpy and *ndy have presumably merged with b, by, and dy, respectively. Two additional systems are also known to exist, viz a Far Eastern one where *c > s, *cy > ty, and a Western one with wy but without denasalization, thus lacking j, jy, g, and đ.

    (i) Palatalization/velarization. While the palatal counterparts of dental consonants are also phonetically palatal, the labio-palatal consonants are palatalized. On the other hand, the non-palatal counterparts of palatal consonants are frequently velarized. Cf. frontness/backness of vowels above.
    (ii) Postnasal obstruent weakening. Especially in the European dialects, obstruents are often voiced after a nasal. Furthermore, postnasal affricates may lose their closure, yielding phonetic voiced sibilants, which is also the usual pronunciation of the Western weak affricates j jy.
    (iii) Fricativization. The Central–Eastern weak obstruent d and the historically identical Western đ are typically pronounced as a fricative. Other weak obstruents are subject to slighter fricativization.
    (iv) Gemination. All consonants except the weak obstruents (including the Western đ) and x are half-long and often transcribed as short geminates in intervocalic positions; the same is true of obstruents when preceded by a liquid.
    (v) The added glottal stop. A glottal stop is pronounced after other consonants in final position, i.e. b l m r. The resulting phonetic sequences differ from sequences of a consonant followed by a schwa and a glottal stop, i.e. C°q (C°h), mainly by consonants being pronounced markedly longer in the latter case.
    (vi) Most typically in the Far Eastern dialects, palatal obstruents sy and ty (< *ty & *cy) are pronounced with a more hushing quality.

Spelling of consonants is for the most part phonemic, but in a few cases it is phonetic. Postnasal obstruent weakening is reflected in standard orthography with ‹мб›, ‹мд›, ‹мз›, ‹мг›, ‹нд›, ‹нз›, ‹ңг› for mp, mt, mc, mk, nt, nc, ŋk. In normative orthography, the glottal stop is written with separate letters for the sandhi variants, i.e. q = ‹”›, h = ‹’›, though many publications are content with a single letter. The added glottal stop is also written with the same letters, so that m is followed by ‹’›, e.g. num ‹нум’› ‘sky’, and b, l, and r are followed by ‹”›, e.g. ŋob ‹ңоб”› ‘one’, xampol ‹хамбол”› ‘litter’, yur ‹юр”› ‘hundred’. It is vital that the added glottal stop has an overt expression in the orthography, because from the phonemic point of view, it denotes the absence of the schwa in the final position.

Consonant sandhi is an automatic phonological process, valid irrespective of word boundaries. It includes the following interconnected subprocesses:
    (i) Postvocalic obstruent weakening: |p py t ty| → b by d dy / V _, e.g. ya ‘earth’ : poss. nom.sg3sg yada (cf. yam ‘sea’ : yamta, yar ‘side’ : yarta);
    (ii) Postconsonantal continuant strengthening: |s sy x| → c cy k / C _, e.g. yam ‘sea’ : loc.sg yamk°na, ⇒ com. yamcawey°; yar ‘side’ : loc.sg yark°na, ⇒ com. yarcawey°; see also (iii) (cf. ya ‘earth’ : yax°na, ⇒ yasawey°);
    (iii) Preobstruental loss of the non-nasalizable glottal stop: |q| → ∅ / _ C[obstruent], e.g. yaq ‘strand of hair’ : poss. nom.sg3sg yata : loc.sg yak°na, ⇒ com. yacawey°;
    (iv) Preobstruental nasalization of the nasalizable glottal stop: |h| → m n ŋ / _ C[obstruent], e.g. yah ‘soot’ : poss. nom.sg3sg yanta : loc.sg yaŋk°na;
    (v) Presonorantal loss of the nasalizable glottal stop: |h| → ∅ / _ C[sonorant], e.g. yah ‘soot’ : poss. nom.sg2sg yal° (cf. yaq ‘strand of hair’ : yaql°).

On the basis of consonant sandhi, consonants are divided into primary and secondary consonants. The secondary consonants, b by d dy c cy k and the Western j jy g đ, are in all instances derived from primary consonants, except the cases where b and by are due to the morphophonological palatalization of w.

Table 3. Phonotactic distribution of Central–Eastern Tundra Nenets consonants

#_V m my n ny ŋ p py t ty s sy x l ly w ÿ
C_V m my n ny ŋ p py b by t ty c cy k l ly w ÿ
V_V m my n ny ŋ p py b by t ty d dy c cy s sy k x q l ly r ry w ÿ
V_C m n ŋ b q l r
V_# m h b q l r

Restrictions of initial consonants are strictly observed in the present-day language, as seen in such Russian loanwords as Eur. paŋkor ~ Sib. pakor ‘gaff’ (< bagór), syas° ‘hour, watch’ (< čas), xos°ka ‘cat’ (< kóška). The initial vibrants r ry are nowadays allowed in the European but not in the Siberian dialects, e.g. Eur. ryes°ka ~ Sib. lyes°ka ‘unleavened flat cake, pie, (Sib. also) dough’. Initial secondary consonants may also appear in recent loanwords but only in restricted areas, viz b by d dy g in the Western dialects, and c cy k in the neighbourhood of Komi and Khanty dialects.
    Postconsonantal by appears only as a result of the morphophonological palatalization of w, as in myirw° ‘weapon’ : acc.pl myirbye, syíqw° ‘seven’ ⇒ ord. syíqbyimtyey° ‘seventh’, and postconsonantal b only as a result of further depalatalization before the short vowel ə in the word syurbə- ‘to run’ and its derivatives.
    Vowel sequences cannot precede x. This is reflected in verbal morphology in connection with x-initial suffixes.
    The intervocalic glottal stop is present only in a few cases, notably augmentative forms like pəncyeq° ‘louse’ and the (typically Eastern) adverbial stem tyuqə- ‘up’.
    Because of consonant sandhi, the glottal stop is excluded and the opposition of the non-labial nasals is neutralized before obstruents.
    There are three interpretations of the glottal stop sound in final position according to its behaviour, but only the nasalizable and the non-nasalizable are phonologically significant, the added glottal stop being an automatic concomitant of a prepausal consonant. The nasalizable and the non-nasalizable glottal stop, transcribed h vs. q, are to be understood as not phonemic but nonetheless phonological, their opposition being manifested by distinct sandhi patterns, e.g. nyeh xən° = nyeŋ_kən° ‘a woman’s sledge’ vs. nyeq xən° = nye_kən° ‘a women’s sledge’, toh war° = to_war° ‘a shore of a lake’ vs. toq war°q = toq_war°q ‘shores of lakes’. The nasalizable glottal stop is, consequently, present only prepausally. In all likelihood, its pronunciation coincides with that of the non-nasalizable glottal stop. A reservation may be in order here because speakers are clearly aware of the dual phonological nature of the glottal stop, a circumstance that may give rise to some difference, real or pretended, in the pronunciation. In any case, the description obviously benefits by having distinct symbols for the two phonological glottal stops.
    The number of consonant clusters is further restricted by morphophonological processes, as a residue of assimilative sound changes. In a few cases, there remains a possibility of analogical restorations, the extent of which varies from one dialect to another. The acceptable clusters include:
    (i) q + a sonorant. On the basis of Lehtisalo’s recordings, it is often assumed that the glottal stop has been lost preconsonantally in the Siberian dialects but this does not hold true for all if any of them.
    (ii) m, b, l, r + any consonant. Geminate type clusters, i.e. mm(y), bp(y), ll(y), rl(y), are, however, in principle excluded, though they may emerge analogically in some dialects. The clusters *mw, *mby, *bw, *bby are, by contrast, unattested, and probably unacceptable.
    (iii) n, ŋ + a homorganic obstruent.
    (iv) n + ÿ. This cluster appears to be of analogical origin. Dialectally, analogical nl(y) may also appear.
    Across word boundaries, geminate type clusters excluded above as well as m_w and b_w occur freely when the first word ends in m, b, l, or r. By contrast, *n_ÿ, *n_l, *n_ly are impossible. It is another issue whether the outcome of a nasalizable glottal stop plus an initial sonorant differs from a single consonant. While there may be some evidence that points to an affirmative answer, the question does not arise when words are spelled separately, the nasalizable glottal stop being consequently rendered with its own symbol, i.e. h.

Further reading
An early publication is Lehtisalo (1927). A major work in the spirit of generative phonology is Janhunen (1986), with an ample bibliography. Later articles include Helimski (1989), Janhunen (1993), Salminen (1990a, 1990b, 1993a, 1993b).


Within inflection, there is one word-form, the absolute nominative singular of nouns, where no morphological process is involved, so that the form is identical with the basic stem, disregarding morphophonological processes. For a few stem types, no morphological process takes place in the formation of the absolute accusative plural, either. In derivation, there are instances of noun–verb conversion. All other word-forms and derivatives exhibit morphological processes, i.e. suffixation, modification, or (partial) suppletion. Suffixation is the most frequent of them, though modification is by no means uncommon. Partial suppletion, by contrast, is rare and confined to a number of irregular verbal forms.

Morphological word classes

The two major word classes are verbs and nouns. Alongside the nouns, there are minor classes which exhibit some nominal categories. These include the personal pronouns and various groups of adverbs and postpositions. Adjectives do not form a word class distinct from nouns on the basis of their inflection, though they may have derivational peculiarities. The same applies to numerals, i.e. ŋob ‘one’, syidya ‘two’, nyax°r ‘three’, tyet° ‘four’, səmp°lyaŋk° (in European dialects səm°lyaŋk°) ‘five’, mət°q ‘six’, syíqw° ‘seven’, syid°ntyet° ‘eight’, xasu-yúq (Eastern xasawa-yúq) ‘nine’, yúq (Eastern also lúca-yúq) ‘ten’, yur ‘hundred’, yon°r ‘thousand’. Non-personal pronouns also conform to normal nominal inflection, e.g. demonstrative tyuku° ‘this’, taki° ‘that’, tyiki° ‘it’, tərcya ‘that kind’, or interrogative xíbya ‘who’, ŋəmke ‘what’, xurka ‘what kind’.
    The residual morphological class is the particles, i.e. non-inflected words. In syntactic classification, they would mostly be included among the adverbs, as there are no true conjunctions in the language. Some particles are synchronically unanalysable, e.g. təryem ‘thus, so’, ŋoq ~ ŋod°q ‘also’, but others have morphological structure, evident in derivation, e.g. tyedah ‘now’ ⇒ lim. tyedaryih ‘for a while’, xən-cyer°q ‘how’ ⇒ lim. xən-cyelyiq ‘anyhow’.

Stem types

The basic stem types are (i) vowel stems, (ii) glide stems, (iii) alteration stems, and (iv) consonant stems, the major division being between vowel and consonant stems. The number of glide stems is very small, and they differ from vowel stems only because of the appearance of a glide when a suffix with an initial vowel is attached. Alteration stems, including all polysyllabic o- and some ə-stems of verbs, show, besides specific peculiarities, a mixture of properties of vowel and consonant stems; the remaining ə-stems as well as all monosyllabic, a- and e-stems of verbs belong to vowel stems. Two verbs, xæ- ‘to depart’ and ŋæ- ‘to be’, may be characterized as irregular. The negative verb nyi- ‘not’ also exhibits idiosyncrasies.


Morphophonological processes include morphophonological assimilations, alternations and changes, vowel stem formation, truncation, and (de)palatalization. They differ from phonological processes, i.e. (primarily) consonant sandhi, in that they do not occur at word boundaries and that they are not valid stem-internally. Cf., for instance, ŋarka_mər°qa big town’, and nyema ‘sleep’ or xamada- ‘to understand’ despite a morphophonological process {m} → |w| intervocalically. Analogical exceptions are also possible in certain cases.

    (i) {r ry} |l ly| / C _, e.g. nyum ‘name’ : poss. nom.sg2sg nyuml°, syer ‘thing’ : syel° (cf. nya ‘friend’ : nyar°).
    (ii) {t s} |q| / _ C or #, e.g. myaq ‘tent’ : poss. nom.sg2sg myaql° : 3sg myata (cf. gen.sg myad°h, acc.pl myado), mən°q ‘lump’ : mənəql° : mən°ta (cf. mənəs°h, mən°so).
    (iii) {n ŋ} |h| / _ C, except ÿ (and, dialectally, liquids) in most cases, or #, e.g. peh- ‘to put’ : ger.mod pency° : subj.3sg peŋa (cf. obj.pl3sg penÿ°da), weh ‘dog’ : nom.du weŋk°h : poss. nom.sg2sg wel° (~ wenl°) : gen.sg1sg wen° (cf. gen.sg wen°h, acc.pl weno or odor. wenÿə-), wíh ‘tundra’ : dat.sg wínt°h : poss. nom.sg2sg wíl° : gen.sg1sg wín° (cf. acc.pl wíŋo), tideh ‘sembra pine’ ⇒ odor. tideyə- ‘to smell of sembra pine’.
    (iv) {ŋ} |n| / _ ÿ in certain cases, e.g. nyenecy°h ‘person, human being’ ⇒ pej. nyenecyənÿe ‘poor man’.
    (v) {ŋ} ∅ / _ ə (with vowel stem formation), e.g. wíh ‘tundra’ : gen.sg wí°h.
    (vi) {m} |w| / V _ V, e.g. ŋum ‘grass’ : nom.pl ŋuw°q : acc.pl ŋuwo, ŋəm- ‘to eat’ : conneg. ŋəw°q : inf.perf ŋəwoqma, xo- ‘to find’ : inf.imperf xowa (cf. xoq- ‘to fetch’ : xoqma).
    (vii) Degemination: {m} ∅ / _ m, e.g. nyum ‘name’ : poss. nom.sg1sg nyum°; {p} → ∅ / _ p, e.g. ŋob ‘one’ ⇒ mod. ŋopoy° ‘the one’; {l r} → ∅ / _ l or r, e.g. ser ‘salt’ : poss. nom.sg2sg sel°. Dialectally, degemination may be suppressed by analogy.
    (viii) {a} |e| / _ ÿə in non-initial syllables under certain conditions, e.g. xada- ‘to kill’ : obj.pl3sg xadey°da, ord. nyax°r ‘three’ ⇒ nyax°romtey° ‘third’ vs. nyabyi ‘other’ ⇒ nyabyimtyey° ‘second’.
    (ix) {ə} → |u| / _ w in prosecutive singular, e.g. xər° ‘knife’ : pros.sg xəruw°na.

    (i) n~ÿ-stems: |n| _ C, |ÿ| _ V, e.g. toh ‘blanket’ : nom.pl toy°q : dat.sg tont°h : loc.sg toŋk°na : acc.pl toyo, peh- ‘to put’ : partic.imperf penta : subj.3sg peŋa : obj.pl3sg penÿ°da : conneg. pey°q : inf.perf peyoqma.
    (ii) e~i-, e~iə-, o~uə-, ∅~ÿə-stems: the latter in final syllables and optionally preceding the preterite suffix, e.g. ti ‘reindeer’ : poss. nom.sg2sg ter° : predic. pret. 3sg tisy° (~ tesy°), me- ‘to be’ : conneg. miq; pəni° ‘dress’ : poss. nom.sg2sg pəner° : predic. pret. 3sg pəniəsy° (~ pənesy°); tyuku° ‘this’ : dat.sg tyukon°h; ŋopoy° ‘the one’ : poss. nom.sg2sg ŋopor°.
    (iii) Glide stems, with ∅ ~ |w| or |ÿ|: the glides appear before a vowel, e.g. xa ‘ear’ : acc.pl xawo, ‘wits’ : acc.pl yíbye, myí- ‘to prepare’ : inf.perf myíyeqma.
    (iv) Suffixes with initial |n| ~ |t|: the latter attached to consonant and alteration stems, e.g. lúca ‘Russian’ : predic. 2sg lúcan° : abs. dat.sg lúcan°h vs. nyenecy°h ‘person, human being’ : nyenecyənt° : nyenecyənt°h, nú- ‘to stand’ : partic.imperf núna vs. myih- ‘to go’ : myinta (~ myintya) vs. xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : xonyoda.

Suffix-initial change
In the formation of the general finite stem for m-stems, the ŋ of the suffix is lost: ŋəm- ‘to eat’ : subj.3sg ŋəma. It is not a question of a simple assimilation, as generally remains intact, e.g. ŋum ‘grass’ ⇒ ess. ŋumŋe°.

Internal changes
The few cases include the accusative plural stems of xasawa ‘man, male’ : acc.pl xasyew°, yəxa ‘river’ : yesyi, and the general finite stem and the connegative of the alteration stems yoxo- ‘to disappear’ : subj.3sg yuxu : conneg. yuxuq, toxo- ‘to learn’ : tuxu : tuxuq. As can be seen, internal vowel changes do not occur independently of a modification affecting the final vowel of the stem.

Vowel stem formation
Consonant stems have a secondary vowel stem used before certain suffixes, formed by adding |ə| to the final consonant. For ŋ-stems, removal of the final ŋ takes place simultaneously, which yields a vowel sequence. The suffixes in question include those consisting of a single consonant, viz acc.sg {m}, gen.sg {h}, and nom.pl {q}, e.g. myaq ‘tent’ : nom.pl myad°q, syúh ‘navel’ : syú°q, and conneg. = imp. subj.2sg {q}, e.g. myiq- ‘to give’ : myis°q. Other inflectional suffixes involved are the imp. obj.pl2sg {n} + {q}, e.g. ŋəm- ‘to eat’ : ŋəwən°q, and imp. refl.2sg {t} + {q}, e.g. səl- ‘to return’ : sələd°q. There are more cases within derivation, for instance the comparative {rxa}, e.g. səŋkowoq- ‘to be heavy’ ⇒ səŋkowos°rka- ‘to be heavier’.

Certain suffixes and suffix combinations with two initial consonants are subject to the process of truncation, whereby the first consonant is lost when attached to a stem with a final consonant. The cases include the second- and third-person accusative and genitive possessive suffix combinations, e.g. myaq ‘tent’ : poss. nom.sg3sg myata = acc.sg = gen.sg (contrast ya ‘earth’ : nom.sg yada : acc.sg yamta : gen.sg yanta), and the necessitative and durative suffixes, e.g. ŋəm- ‘to eat’ : nec. subj.3sg ŋəmcu (cf. pya- ‘to begin’ : pyabcu), myiq- ‘to give’ ⇒ dur. myipə- (cf. xo- ‘to find’ ⇒ xompə-).

Palatalization and depalatalization
There are two processes which affect the palatality of a consonant: (1) obligatory palatalization or depalatalization of a consonant occurs in connection with certain morphological processes; (2) optional palatalization concerns the initial consonants of certain suffixes. In both cases, the non-palatal vs. palatal pairs of consonants are mmy, nny, ŋÿ, ppy, tty, kcy, bby, ddy, ccy, ssy, xsy, wby, rry, lly; ↔ indicates both palatalization and depalatalization, → only palatalization. There is a tendency for palatality within the stem to favour palatalization, e.g. nyum ‘name’ : nyubye vs. ŋum ‘grass’ : ŋuwo, but there are countrerexamples such as syer ‘thing’ : syero or tər ‘body-hair’ : tərye. The two palatality processes do not necessarily conform, cf. syer : pros.sg syerm°nya.
    Obligatory palatalization and depalatalization are met with in four contexts:
    (i) accusative plural stem formation, e.g. ŋuda ‘hand’ : acc.pl ŋudyi, tyonya ‘fox’ : tyon°, myir ‘price’ : myirye, and a number of derivational operations, e.g. ŋədyim- ‘to appear’ ⇒ frequ. ŋədyibyer-;
    (ii) the general finite stem formation for m-stems, e.g. ŋədyim- ‘to appear’ : subj.3sg ŋədyimya;
    (iii) alteration stem inflexion, e.g. xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : subj.3sg xoni;
    (iv) the dual personal suffix, e.g. poss. nom.sg2du {r} + {yih} (cf. 2sg {r} + {ə} and 2pl {r} + {aq}).
    Optional palatalization yields suffixal variants with a palatal consonant. It occurs in conjunction with certain suffixes when attached to a number of stems, which require lexical marking. Examples of nominal forms include yiq ‘water’ : loc.sg yik°nya : pros.sg yiqm°nya : poss. nom.sg3sg yitya : 3pl yityoh, syí ‘hole’ : loc.sg syíx°nya : pros.sg syíw°nya; ord. nyabyimtyey° ‘second’ (cf. nyax°romtey° ‘third’). Examples of verbal forms involve mainly the imperfective participle, e.g. yilye- ‘to live’ : yilyenya, myih- ‘to go’ : myintya, pæər- ‘to do’ : pæ°rtya, pæwə- ‘to be dark’ : pæw°dya. A non-palatalized variant is always possible, though a few forms are lexicalized to an extent that such variants are rare, e.g. pəryidyenya ‘black’, yəŋk°nya ‘excessive (used for the second ten numerals)’, tyírtya ‘flying; (Eur.) bird’. At least the verb xæ- ‘to depart’ has forms like partic.fut xæw°ntya : inf.imperf xæbya : inf.perf xæqmya. In the case of the negative verb nyi- ‘not’ there appear forms like subord.3sg nyib°tya : ind. obj.sg3sg nyídya : int. subj.3sg nyisya : obl. subj.1sg nyibcyaked°m. Other verbs may occasionally have similar forms, e.g. pyisyəh- ‘to laugh’ : inf.imperf pyisy°mya. Certain postpositions invariantly have a palatal consonant in certain case suffixes, notably nyi- ‘on’ : loc. nyinya : pros. nyimnya, and myu- ‘in’ : loc. myunya : pros. myumnya.

Verbal inflection

The finite inflectional categories are mood, tense, conjugation (subjective, objective, and reflexive), number of object in the objective conjugation, person of subject, and number of subject. There are also several non-finite forms.

Mood, tense, and conjugation

According to the present count, there are sixteen moods. The formation of the indicative, imperative proper, and optative is based on various morphological substems and distinct sets of personal suffixes. The other moods have characteristic substems with suffixal markers, and the same personal suffixes as in the indicative. The moods, exemplified, where possible, by the third person singular of the verb nú- ‘to stand’, are:

The mood system could of course be presented more hierarchically. Many moods have complex markers consisting of participial and derivational suffixes, and their morphophonological behaviour depends on the individual suffixes. For instance, the choice of the suffix-initial consonant in the imperfective probabilitative and approximative follows that in the imperfective participle. The superprobabilitative mood, in turn, consists of the dative of the imperfective infinitive and the noun xəbya ‘sign; sense’. However, as long as the formations in question are, on the one hand, conjugated in all conjugations, and do not, on the other hand, possess non-finite forms, their status as moods is not in question. The habitual, regarded as a derivative in this description, may dialectally behave like a mood. There is also a peculiar construction with a postverbal negative verb plus a clitic particle that could be regarded as a compound mood, e.g. ŋæq nyí-w°h ‘it certainly is’, maq nyí-w°h ‘(s)he certainly said’ (also notice the difference from the connegative forms ŋaq and man°q).

The inflectional category of tense comprises two tenses, the aorist and the preterite. While the aorist has no marking, the preterite is expressed by the suffixation of {syə} after the personal suffixes, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : aor. 1sg núəd°m : 2sg núən° : 3sg nú° ‘I : you : (s)he stand(s)’ : pret. 1sg nú°dəmcy° : 2sg nú°nəsy° : 3sg núəsy° ‘I : you : (s)he stood’. Despite the morphotactic peculiarity of preterite suffixation, there is no doubt about its true inflectional status. While the category of tense exists in conjunction with the indicative, conjunctive, and narrative, it does not appear in the imperative, interrogative, or necessitative, and is marginal in the other moods.
    All verbs are divided into two groups called aspectual classes with regard to their temporal relations. For momentaneous or perfective verbs, the indicative aorist expresses immediate past, and the indicative preterite expresses more remote past. For continuous or imperfective verbs, the indicative aorist expresses present, and the indicative preterite expresses simple past. In the conjunctive, the aorist expresses conditional future, and the preterite expresses conditional past. In the narrative, the opposition is basically perfect vs. pluperfect.
    The past expressed by the indicative preterite always refers to speaker’s personal experience of the action. For the expression of an action which was not observed but the results of which are still observable, the narrative mood is used.
    For the expression of non-conditional future, a particular derivative is used, as explained below.
    The future derivative co-occurs with inflectional tense, e.g. ladə- ‘to beat’ : fut. obj.sg1sg pret. lad°ŋkuwəsy° ‘I was going to beat him/her’.

Verbs belong to one of four conjugational classes:
    (i) Intransitive verbs have only the subjective conjugation.
    (ii) Transitive verbs have both the subjective and objective conjugation.
    (iii) Reflexive verbs have only the reflexive conjugation.
    (iv) Transitive-reflexive verbs have all three conjugations.
    The category of conjugation is connected with four sets of personal suffixes:
    (i) The first set is used in the subjective conjugation.
    (ii) The second set is used in the objective conjugation when the object is in the singular.
    (iii) The third set is used in the objective conjugation when the object is in the dual or plural.
    (iv) The fourth set is used in the reflexive conjugation.

Morphological substems

General finite stem
    (i) The vowel stems, and the alteration and irregular stems in the optative of the subjective conjugation, add {ə}, except before a suffix with an initial x, where {ŋa} is added, e.g. to- ‘to come’ : subj.3sg to° : 3du toŋax°h, yilye- ‘to live’ : yilye° : yilyeŋax°h.
    (ii) The alteration stems, except in the optative of the subjective conjugation, change their final vowel into i or u, occasionally accompanied by a change of palatality of the preceding consonant, e.g. nyenə- ‘to be angry’ : subj.3sg nyeni : 3du nyenix°h, pæwə- ‘to be dark’ : subj.3sg pæbyi, ŋədyə- ‘to be visible’ : ŋədyi, yakə- ‘to itch’ : yaku, ŋeso- ‘to camp’ : ŋesi, xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : xoni, ləbcyo- ‘to stick together’ : ləbcyi, yaŋko- ‘to lack’ : yaŋku, pyiryencyo- ‘to do cooking’ : pyiryencyu (notice toxo- ‘to learn’ : tuxu, yoxo- ‘to disappear’ : yuxu).
    (iii) The consonant stems add {ŋa}, e.g. pæər- ‘to do’ : obj.sg3sg pæ°rŋada. In m-stems, the ŋ of the suffix is lost, e.g. ŋəm- ‘to eat’ : ŋəmada. The verb mah- ‘to say’ exhibits an irregular vowel stem, viz subj.3sg ma, but 3du maŋax°h (~ max°h).
    (iv) The irregular stems, except in the optative, exhibit partial suppletion, viz xæ- ‘to depart’ : subj.3sg xəya : 3du xəyax°h, ŋæ- ‘to be’ : ŋa : ŋax°h. The negative verb is also exceptional, viz nyi- ‘not’ : nyí : nyíx°h.

Dual object substems
The dual object substems are formed by adding {xəÿu} to the basic stem in the imperative proper, the general finite stem in the indicative and optative, and the modal substems in other moods, e.g. xada- ‘to kill’ : imp. obj.du2sg xadaxəyun°q : ind. obj.du3sg xadaŋax°yuda : int. obj.du3sg xadasax°yuda, (an alteration stem) tampə- ‘to be giving’ : ind. obj.du3sg tampyixəyuda.

Special finite stem
    (i) The ə-stems change their final vowel into i and add {ə}, except before a suffix with an initial x (present, incidentally, only in the reflexive conjugation, so that this variant does not exist for transitive verbs), where {ÿə} is added, e.g. yurkə- ‘to stand up’ : refl.3sg yurki°q : 3du yurk°yəx°h.
    (ii) The other vowel and all consonant stems simply add {ÿə}, e.g. peda- ‘to be tired’ : refl.3sg pedey°q, səl- ‘to return’ : səlÿ°q.
    (iii) For the alteration stems, the general finite stem is used instead, e.g. tampə- ‘to be giving’ : obj.pl2sg tampyid° ‘you are giving them’ (cf. obj.sg tampyir°).

Special modal substems
The special modal substems correspond to the special finite stem of the indicative and optative. They are formed from modal substems mostly by a final vowel change, as exemplified by the obj.pl2sg forms of xada- ‘to kill’.
    (i) The interrogative: {a} → |ə| ~ |yə|, e.g. xadasəd° ~ xadasyəd° ‘did you kill them?’ (cf. obj.sg2sg xadasar°).
    (ii) In the objective conjugation, the probabilitatives, obligative, hyperprobabilitative, and narrative: {e~iə} → |iə|, e.g. narr. xadawiəd° ‘you have killed them’ (cf. xadawer°).
    (iii) The approximatives, superprobabilitative, reputative, and desiderative: {a} → |i|, e.g. appr.imperf xadanar°xid° ‘you appear to kill them’ (cf. xadanar°xar°) : sup. xadawan°ŋkəbyid° ‘you probably kill them’ (cf. xadawan°ŋkəbyar°).
    (iv) The hortative, conjunctive, and necessitative, and in the reflexive conjugation, the moods listed in (ii): no change from the modal substem, e.g. conj. obj.pl2sg xadayid° ‘you will kill them’ (cf. obj.sg2sg xadayir°), səna- ‘to jump’ : narr. refl.2sg sənawen° : 3sg sənawi°q.

Person and number

In the subjective conjugation, the first set of personal suffixes is attached to the general finite stem, e.g. (a transitive-reflexive verb) yempəq- ‘to dress’ : subj.1sg (xíbyaxəwam) yemp°qŋad°m ‘I dressed (somebody)’ : 2sg yemp°qŋan° : 3sg yemp°qŋa : 1du yemp°qŋanyih : 2du yemp°qŋadyih : 3du yemp°qŋax°h : 1pl yemp°qŋawaq : 2pl yemp°qŋadaq : 3pl yemp°qŋaq.
    In the objective conjugation with a singular object, the second set of personal suffixes is attached to the general finite stem, e.g. obj.sg1sg yemp°qŋaw° ‘I dressed him/her’ : 2sg yemp°qŋar° : 3sg yemp°qŋada : 1du yemp°qŋamyih : 2du yemp°qŋaryih : 3du yemp°qŋadyih : 1pl yemp°qŋawaq : 2pl yemp°qŋaraq : 3pl yemp°qŋadoh.
    In the objective conjugation with a dual object, the third set of personal suffixes is attached to the dual object substem, e.g. obj.du1sg yemp°qŋax°yun° ‘I dressed them (two)’ : 2sg yemp°qŋax°yud° : 3sg yemp°qŋax°yuda : 1du yemp°qŋax°yunyih : 2du yemp°qŋax°yudyih : 3du yemp°qŋax°yudyih : 1pl yemp°qŋax°yunaq : 2pl yemp°qŋax°yudaq : 3pl yemp°qŋax°yudoh.
    In the objective conjugation with a plural object, the third set of personal suffixes is attached to the special finite stem of vowel and consonant stems, e.g. obj.pl1sg yemp°qÿən° ‘I dressed them (many)’ : 2sg yemp°qÿəd° : 3sg yemp°qÿəda : 1du yemp°qÿənyih : 2du yemp°qÿədyih : 3du yemp°qÿədyih : 1pl yemp°qÿənaq : 2pl yemp°qÿədaq : 3pl yemp°qÿədoh, and to the general finite stem of alteration stems, for which no special finite stem exists.
    In the reflexive conjugation, the fourth set of personal suffixes is attached to the special finite stem, e.g. refl.1sg yemp°qÿəw°q ‘I got dressed’ : 2sg yemp°qÿən° : 3sg yempəqÿ°q : 1du yemp°qÿənyih : 2du yemp°qÿədyih : 3du yemp°qÿəx°h : 1pl yemp°qÿənaq : 2pl yemp°qÿədaq : 3pl yemp°qÿəd°q.

Table 4. Sets of personal suffixes in the indicative and most other moods; (morpho)phonological processes not executed

subj. obj.sg obj.du–pl refl.
1sg -t-əm -m-ə -n-ə -m-əq
2sg -n~tə -r-ə -t-ə -n~tə
3sg -t-a -t-a -q
1du -n-yih -m-yih -n-yih -n-yih
2du -t-yih -r-yih -t-yih -t-yih
3du -xəh -t-yih -t-yih -xəh
1pl -m-aq -m-aq -n-aq -n-aq
2pl -t-aq -r-aq -t-aq -t-aq
3pl -q -t-oh -t-oh -t-əq

The subj.1sg suffix is -m-məh rather than -t-əm in the European dialects.

Imperative proper
The imp. subj.2sg is identical with the connegative, e.g. yempəq- ‘to dress’ : (xíbyaxəwa) yempəs°q ‘dress (somebody)’. The other 2sg forms exhibit peculiar suffixes, attached to the basic stem, viz obj.sg {tə}, obj.du–pl {n} + {q}, and refl. {t} + {q} (the latter two requiring vowel stem formation twice), e.g. obj.sg yempət° ‘dress him/her’ : obj.du yemp°kəyun°q ‘dress them (two)’ : obj.pl yemp°sən°q ‘dress them (many)’ : refl. yemp°səd°q ‘get dressed’. The 2du and 2pl forms are replaced by the respective indicative forms. The indicative forms of the stem nyo- fill in the imperative function of nyi- ‘not’, e.g. nyon° túq ‘do not come’, nyor° xadaq ‘do not kill it’.

There are peculiar optative sets of personal suffixes distinct from those used in the other moods. The first and second sets are usually attached to the general finite stem, e.g. yilye- ‘to live’ : subj.3sg yilye°ya, pæər- ‘to do’ : obj.sg3sg pæ°rŋamta; notice mah- ‘to say’ : subj.3sg maŋaya (cf. the irregular ind. ma). The exception are the alteration and irregular stems when the first set is attached: they appear as vowel stems presenting a similar variant of the general finite stem, e.g. syur°mpə- ‘to run’ : subj.3sg syur°mpə°ya (cf. ind. syur°mpyi), xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : subj.3sg xonyo°ya (cf. ind. xoni), xæ- ‘to depart’ : xæ°ya (cf. xəya), ŋæ- ‘to be’ : ŋæ°ya (cf. ŋa). The stem nyo- is used also in the negative optative, e.g. nyo°ya túq ‘let him/her not come’. The third and the fourth sets are attached as in the indicative.

Table 5. Sets of personal suffixes in the optative; (morpho)phonological processes not executed

subj. obj.sg obj.du–pl refl.
3sg -ÿa -m-t-a -tə-m-t-a -m-t-əq
3du -ÿa-xəh -m-t-yih -tə-m-t-yih -xə-m-t-əq
3pl -ÿa-q -m-t-oh -tə-m-t-oh -tə-m-t-əq

The obj.du–pl forms are not used in the Siberian dialects, the respective indicative forms being used instead.

Other moods
The same sets of personal suffixes as in the indicative are attached to modal substems, exemplified in the list of moods.

Non-finite forms

There are two infinitives (imperfective and perfective), four participles (imperfective, perfective, negative, futuritive), two gerunds (modal and final), three subordinates (the subordinative, the auditive, and the evasive), and a connegative. There are no verbal nouns of the actio or actor type, but the infinitives and participles fulfil their function as well. The infinitives and participles are, nevertheless, verbal inflectional forms rather than deverbal nominal derivatives, since they take normal verbal qualifiers such as accusative object. The infinitives and participles are inflected like nouns; contrary to the former view of the author, predicative forms of infinitives and participles are also used in syntactically marked contexts. The gerunds are not further declinable. The subordinates have an absolute form and possessive forms with the oblique singular co-affix {n}; it seems that the auditive may be further inflected in tense.

The imperfective infinitive has the suffix {ma}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núwa.
    The perfective infinitive has the suffix {qma}, which for the vowel and alteration stems is simply added to the stem, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núqma. For the consonant stems {o} is added first, e.g. pæər- ‘to do’ : pæ°roqma. The unique glide stem myí- ‘to prepare’ shows the suffix variant {ye} before {qma}, viz myíyeqma.

The imperfective participle has the variable suffix {n~ta}. The vowel stems use |na|, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núna, except to- ‘to come’ : toda (also tona). Both the consonant and the alteration stems have |ta|, e.g. pæər- ‘to do’ : pæ°rtya, xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : xonyoda. Of the irregular stems, xæ- ‘to depart’ prefers xæna, while ŋæ- ‘to be’ shows ŋæda. The negative verb nyi- ‘not’ always has nyinya.
    The perfective participle has the suffix {me~iə}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núwi°.
    The negative participle has the suffix {mətawa(ÿə)}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núw°dawey°.
    The futuritive participle has the suffix {mənta}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núw°nta.

The modal gerund has the suffix {syə} for the consonant stems and monosyllabic vowel stems, e.g. pæər- ‘to do’ : pæərcy°, nú- ‘to stand’ : núsy°, and the suffix {ə} for the polysyllabic vowel stems, including the alteration stems, e.g. yilye- ‘to live’ : yilye°, xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : xonyo°. In the Western dialects, however, the suffix {syə} is invariably used.
    The final gerund has the suffix {mənsyə}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : núwəncy° ‘in order to stand’.

The subordinative has either the suffix {pəq} or the suffix combination {pəq} + {na}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : 3sg núb°ta or núb°qnanta ‘if/when (s)he stands’.
    The auditive has the suffix variants {manoh} and {moh}, e.g. ye- ‘to ache’ : 3sg yewanonta ~ yewonta ‘it feels like it aches’.
    The evasive has the suffix {moh} followed by the ablative {xə} + {tə}, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ : 3sg núwoŋkəd°nta ‘lest (s)he stands’.

The connegative, used with the negative verbs, notably nyi- ‘not’, has the suffix {q}. The subj.2sg imperative is formally identical.
    (i) Vowel stems generally do not require anything else, e.g. yilye- ‘to live’ : yilyeq, but notice the e~i-stem me- ‘to be’ : miq, and the irregular to- ‘to come’ : túq.
    (ii) Alteration stems have their final vowel changed into u, the preceding consonant being palatal if either or both of the basic stem and the general finite stem have a palatal consonant before the final vowel, e.g. nyenə- ‘to be angry’ : subj.3sg nyeni : conneg. nyenuq, pæwə- ‘to be dark’ : pæbyi : pæbyuq, ŋeso- ‘to camp’ : ŋesi : ŋesuq, xonyo- ‘to sleep’ : xoni : xonyuq (notice also toxo- ‘to learn’ : tuxuq, yoxo- ‘to disappear’ : yuxuq).
    (iii) The irregular stems exhibit decided irregularities, viz xæ- ‘to depart’ : xany°q, ŋæ- ‘to be’ : ŋaq.
    (iv) Consonant stems have the regular vowel stem formation, dictated by the shape of the suffix, as the only complication, e.g. ŋəm- ‘to eat’ : ŋəw°q.

Nominal inflection

The nominal inflectional categories are number, case, declension (absolute, possessive, and predestinative), and, in the non-absolute declensions, person and number of possessor or predestinator. Besides nominal declension, there are also predicative forms of nouns, or the nominal conjugation.

Number and case
There are three numbers, singular, dual, and plural. Of the seven cases, the grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, and genitive) combine with all three numbers, while the local cases (dative, locative, ablative, and prosecutive) appear only in singular and plural, the missing local dual forms being replaced by expressions with the corresponding case forms of the postposition nya- ‘at’. No morphological process takes place in the nominative singular, e.g. myaq ‘tent’. Some forms have simple suffixes, e.g. acc.sg myad°m : gen.sg myad°h : pros.sg myaqm°na : nom.du myak°h = acc.du = gen.du : nom.pl myad°q. Most local forms exhibit a system of multiple suffixation, e.g. dat.sg myat°h : loc.sg myak°na : abl.sg myakəd° : dat.pl myak°q : loc.pl myak°qna : abl.pl myakət°. The accusative plural stem is used for the rest, e.g. acc.pl myado : gen.pl myadoq : pros.pl myadoqməna. However, the prosecutive plural of the monosyllabic vowel stems is based either invariably on the basic stem, e.g. pya ‘tree’ : pyaqm°na (not *pyíqm°na), li ‘bone’ : leqm°na (not *líqm°na), or variably on both stems, e.g. ya ‘earth’ : yaqm°na ~ yoqm°na.

Accusative plural stem
Vowel stems either require no morphological process or have their final vowel changed. Consonant and glide stems attach a vowel to the final consonant or glide.
    Vowel stems requiring no change in the form of the accusative plural include
    (i) most monosyllabic stems, e.g. to ‘lake’ : to, nyú ‘child’ : nyú;
    (ii) some ə-stems, e.g. sæw° ‘eye’ : sæw°;
    (iii) i- and u-stems, e.g. ŋesi ‘camp’ : ŋesi, súyu ‘calf’ : súyu.
    Other vowel stems show various vowel changes:
    (i) monosyllabic a- and e~i-stems: {a} → |o|, {ya} → |yí|, {e~i} → |í|, e.g. ya ‘earth’ : yo, nya ‘friend’ : nyí, ti ‘reindeer’ : (: poss. nom.sg3sg teda : nom.pl tída);
    (ii) some ə-stems: {ə} → |o|, {yə} → |yo|, {ə} → |ye|, e.g. xər° ‘knife’ : xəro, nyany° ‘bread’ : nyanyo, syun° ‘steam’ : syunye;
    (iii) some a-stems: {a} → |ə|, {ya} → |ə|, {ya} → |yə|, e.g. xoba ‘fur’ : xob° (notice xasawa ‘man, male’ : xasyew°), tyonya ‘fox’ : tyon°, yesya ‘iron, money’ : yesy°;
    (iv) other a-stems: {a} → |i|, {a} → |yi|, {ya} → |yi|, (two words only) {ya} → |e|, e.g. ŋaw°ka ‘pet reindeer’ : ŋaw°ki, ŋuda ‘hand’ : ŋudyi (notice yəxa ‘river’ : yesyi), ŋodya ‘berry’ : ŋodyi, xalya ‘fish’ : xale (and yalya ‘day’ : yale);
    (v) e- and o-stems: {e} → |i|, {o} → |u|, e.g. yake ‘smoke’ : yaki, ŋəno ‘boat’ : ŋənu;
    (vi) alternating stems: {e~iə} → |iə|, {o~uə} → |uə|, {∅~ÿə} → |ÿə|, e.g. pəni° ‘dress’ : pəni° (: poss. nom.sg3sg pəneda : nom.pl3sg pəni°da), tyuku° ‘this’ : tyuku° (: tyukoda : tyuku°da), ŋopoy° ‘the one’ : ŋopoy° (: ŋopoda : ŋopoy°da).
    It was thought before that i- and u-stems might dialectally also exhibit vowel change, yielding acc.pl *ŋesí, *súyú, but it now seems clear that the high stretched vowels do not appear in non-initial syllables at all.
    Consonant stems add {o} or {ye}, e.g. myaq ‘tent’ : myado, nyum ‘name’ : nyubye. Glide stems follow the consonant stems, viz xa ‘ear’ : xawo, ‘wit’ : yíbye, syo ‘throat’ : syoyo, xəbyi ‘Khanty; servant’ : xəbyiye. Notice that the base used for ŋəmke ‘what’ is in this case ŋəm-, yielding acc.pl ŋəwo.

Table 6. Case, number and possessive suffixes; (morpho)phonological processes not executed; presonsonantal {h} represents an archiphoneme for n and ŋ, i.e. {h} + {t} → nt; on the basis of the consonant sandhi {q} + {t} → t and postvocalic {t} → d; the formation of the accusative plural stem symbolized by ¥

declension person of possessor
absolute possessive 1 2 3
sg nom. ∅- -m- -r- -t-
acc. -m ∅- -m- -m-t- -m-t-
gen. -h ∅- -n- -h-t- -h-t-
dat. -n~tə-h -xə- -n- -h-t- -h-t-
loc. -xə-na -xə-na- -n- -h-t- -h-t-
abl. -xə-tə -xə-tə- -n- -h-t- -h-t-
pros. -məna -məna- -n- -h-t- -h-t-
du nom. -xəh -xəyu- -n- -t- -t-
acc. -xəh -xəyu- -n- -t- -t-
gen. -xəh -xəyu- -n- -q-t- -q-t-
pl nom. -q ¥- -n- -t- -t-
acc. ¥ ¥- -n- -t- -t-
gen. ¥-q ¥-q- -n- -q-t- -q-t-
dat. -xə-q -xə-q- -n- -q-t- -q-t-
loc. -xə-q-na -xə-q-na- -n- -q-t- -q-t-
abl. -xə-q-tə -xə-q-tə- -n- -q-t- -q-t-
pros. (¥)-q-məna (¥)-q-məna- -n- -q-t- -q-t-
 ↓  ↓  ↓
number of possessor   sg -a
du -yih -yih -yih
pl -aq -aq -oh

At least for most functions, the 1du possessive forms take over the 1sg forms in the Siberian dialects.

Possessive declension
There are forms for three persons and three numbers of the possessor for each absolute form. They are formed through complex suffixation, with number and case suffixes partly different from the absolute ones. The accusative plural stem is used in nominative plural, too. For example: ya ‘earth’ : nom.sg1sg yaw° : 2sg yar° : 3sg yada : 1du yamyih : 2du yaryih : 3du yadyih : 1pl yawaq : 2pl yaraq : 3pl yadoh; acc.sg3sg yamta : gen.sg yanta : dat.sg yax°nta : loc.sg yax°nanta : abl.sg yax°dənta : pros.sg yaw°nanta : nom.du yax°yuda = acc.du : gen.du yax°yuta : nom.pl yoda = acc.pl : gen.pl yota : dat.pl yax°ta : loc.pl yax°qnata : abl.pl yax°təta : pros.pl yaqm°nata ~ yoqm°nata.

Predestinative declension
There are forms for three persons and three numbers of the predestinator for each singular grammatical case form of the absolute declension. They are formed by suffixing {tə}, followed by the respective possessive suffixes. For example: xər° ‘knife’ : nom.3sg xər°dəda : acc. xər°dəmta : gen. xər°dənta ‘a knife for him/her’.

Nominal conjugation
When predicates, absolute forms are conjugated for person, and both absolute and possessive forms are conjugated for tense. In the aorist, the third-person forms of these predicative forms of nouns coincide with the corresponding nominative forms of declension. For example: nye ‘woman’ : predic. aor. 1sg nyed°m : 2sg nyen° : 3sg nye ‘I am : you are : she is a woman’ : pret. 1sg nyedəmcy° : 2sg nyenəsy° : 3sg nyesy° ‘I was : you were : she was a woman’, nya ‘friend’ : poss. sg1sg aor. nyaw° : pret. nyawəsy°(s)he is : was my friend’ : pl1sg aor. nyín° : pret. nyínəsy° ‘they are : were my friends’.

Personal pronouns

Table 7. The inflection of the personal pronouns

nom. 1sg məny° 2sg pidər° 3sg pida
1du mənyih 2du pid°ryih 3du pidyih
1pl mənyaq 2pl pid°raq 3pl pidoh
acc. 1sg syiqm° 2sg syit° 3sg syita ~ syitya
1du syid°nyih 2du syid°dyih 3du syid°dyih
1pl syid°naq 2pl syid°daq 3pl syid°doh
gen. 1sg syiqn° 2sg syit° 3sg syita ~ syitya
1du syid°qnyih 2du syid°tyih 3du syid°tyih
1pl syid°qnaq 2pl syid°taq 3pl syid°toh

The 1sg variants acc. syiqmyih : gen. syiqnyih are common especially in the Eastern dialects. The nom.2–3 stem has an Eastern variant with pə- and a further Far Eastern variant with pu- instead of pi-. That the forms have inner morphological structure is seen in derivation, e.g. məny°ryinaq ‘only we’, pid°ryidoh ‘only they’. The local case forms are taken over by the possessive forms of the postposition nya- ‘at’. The nominative forms are used only for emphasis, and can in that role occur also before the accusative and genitive forms as well as the postpositional forms.

Adverbs and postpositions with partial declension

There are several groups of adverbial stems, each with particular categories of nominal declension. For those with a local function, a special set of local case suffixes exists, viz dat. {h}, loc. {na}, abl. {tə}, and pros. {mna}, e.g. nyah ‘to’ : nyana ‘at’ : nyad° ‘from’ : nyamna ‘along, about’, nyih ‘onto’ : nyinya ‘on’ : nyid° ‘off’ : nyimnya ‘over’.
    Local postpositions like nya- ‘at’, nyi- ‘on’, myu- ‘in’, ŋilə- ‘under’, tyaxə- ‘behind’, pú- ‘after’, yeq- ‘towards’, xi- ‘near’, yer- ‘in the middle of’, nyerə- ‘before’ have both absolute case forms and a full possessive declension, formed with the same co-affix as the nominal singular local case forms, e.g. nyamnanta ‘about it’, nyinyantoh ‘on them’.
    A number of nominal stems occur in conjunction with nya-, e.g. xæw°-nya- ‘beside’. Postpositional stems often have compound forms with nya-, e.g. myu-nya- ‘inside’. There are also derived stems like nyayuə- and nyaku- from nya- ‘at’.
    Local adverbs have only absolute case forms, e.g. tyuqə- ‘up’ : tyuq°h : tyuq°na : tyuqəd° : tyuq°mna, təsyi- ‘down’ : təsyih : təsyina : təsyid° : təsyimna. This group includes several compound forms with nya-, e.g. tə-nya- ‘there’, xə-nya- ‘where’, syata-nya- ‘left’, məxa-nya- ‘right’.
    Pronominal stems in their local case forms also render an adverbial meaning, e.g. tyuku° ‘this’ : tyukoxəna ‘here’. Some nominal stems are lexicalized in their adverbial function, but they still exhibit normal nominal case inflection, occasionally even in the plural, e.g. ŋa- ‘far’ : ŋax°q : ŋax°qna : ŋaxət° : ŋaqm°na.
    Non-local postpositions have absolute and possessive forms but no case inflection, e.g. xaw°na ‘except’ : xaw°nanta ‘except him/her’ (a petrified nominal prosecutive).
    There are also adverbs with only possessive forms, often fulfilling the function of conjunctions of other languages, e.g. ŋədy°bya- ‘because’ : ŋədy°byanta ‘because of that’. From the morphological point of view, the reflexive pronoun xər- (formerly phonemized as *xərəq- which may still be valid in some dialects) belongs here, e.g. xərta (rather than *xər°ta)(s)he himself/herself’.


Deverbal nouns
    (i) Local nouns, e.g. xanye- ‘to hunt’ ⇒ xanyeləwa ‘hunting ground’, yoər- ‘to fish’ ⇒ yo°ləwa ‘fishing hamlet’.
    (ii) Instrumental nouns, e.g. ŋædalyo- ‘to travel’ ⇒ ŋædalyosy°h ‘travelling sledge’, pad°nə- ‘to be writing’ ⇒ pad°nəbcy°h ‘pen’, yenyer- ‘to shoot’ ⇒ yenyercy°h ‘gun’.
    (iii) Potential nouns, usually in possessive forms, e.g. xetə- ‘to tell’ ⇒ xet°yiq ‘possibility to tell’, yoq- ‘to lose’ yoqÿiq : poss.sg3sg yoqÿita ‘the possibility of losing it’.
    (iv) Potential adjectives, e.g. tæwə- ‘to reach’ : tæw°nana ‘within reach’.
    (v) Inclinative adjectives, e.g. pyínə- ‘to be afraid’ ⇒ pyín°xad° ‘coward’.
    (vi) Other deverbal nouns, e.g. pyirye- ‘to boil’ ⇒ pyiryebco ‘something boiled’ ⇒ pyiryebcod° ‘something to be boiled’; yilye- ‘to live’ ⇒ yilyebc° ‘subsistence’; xanye- ‘to hunt’ ⇒ xanyeya ‘hunting occupation’, yoər- ‘to fish’ ⇒ yo°rÿa ‘fishing occupation’.

Denominal verbs
    (i) Possessive verbs, e.g. səwa ‘cap’ ⇒ səbyiq- ‘to have a cap, to use as a cap’.
    (ii) Translative verbs, e.g. ŋar° ‘largeness’ ⇒ ŋarəm- ‘to become larger’.
    (iii) Captative verbs, e.g. noxa ‘Arctic fox’ ⇒ nosyih- : conneg. nosyiy°q ‘to hunt Arctic foxes’.
    (iv) Caritive verbs, e.g. myaq ‘tent’ ⇒ myacyə- : 3sg myacyi ‘to be tentless’.
    (v) Odorative verbs, e.g. xalya ‘fish’ ⇒ xalyayə- : 3sg xalyayi ‘to smell of fish’.

Denominal adverbs
    (i) Caritives, e.g. myaq ‘tent’ ⇒ myacyiq ‘without a tent’.
    (ii) Predestinatives, e.g. ŋəno ‘boat’ ⇒ ŋənod° ‘a boat for someone’.
    (iii) Essives, e.g. li ‘bone’ ⇒ leŋe° ‘as a bone, for a bone’, syidya ‘two’ ⇒ syidyaŋe° ‘both together’.
    (iv) Other denominal adverbs, e.g. sarmyik° ‘animal, wolf’ ⇒ sarmyikəd°ryem ~ sarmyikəd°ryew°h ‘like a wolf’; tyet° ‘four’ ⇒ tyet°ləd°h ‘four at a time’.

Denominal nouns
    (i) Comitative nouns, e.g. nye ‘woman’ ⇒ nyesawey° ‘married (man)’.
    (ii) Various adjectives, e.g. war° ‘edge, shore’ ⇒ war°xi° ‘(what is) on the shore’; war°wari° ‘outermost’; limpəd° ‘swamp’ ⇒ limp°dəlyaŋk° ‘paludified’.
    (iii) Ordinal numerals, e.g. nyax°r ‘three’ ⇒ nyax°romtey° ‘third’, tyet° ‘four’ ⇒ tyetyimtyey° ‘fourth’.
    (iv) Relational nouns, for semantic reasons not used in the singular, e.g. nya ‘friend’ ⇒ du nyas°xəh : pl nyas°q ‘friends (to each other)’; nyísya ‘father’ ⇒ poss.pl3pl nyísyanədoh ‘their (respective) fathers’.

Deverbal verbs
    (i) Future verbs, with an incomplete paradigm, e.g. (vowel stems and alteration ə-stems) me- ‘to be’ ⇒ meŋko- : subj.3sg meŋku ‘is going to be’, nyenə- ‘to be angry’ ⇒ nyen°ŋku-; (alteration o-stems and consonant stems) xonyo- ‘to sleep’ ⇒ xonyodə-, mah- ‘to say’ ⇒ mantə-; notice xæ- ‘to depart’ ⇒ xan°tə- (but ŋæ- ‘to be’ ⇒ ŋæŋko-), to- ‘to come’ ⇒ tutə-, ta- ‘to bring’ ⇒ tətə-.
    (ii) Habitual verbs, also with an incomplete paradigm, e.g. túr- ‘to come’ frequ. ⇒ túrcy°tə- : subj.3sg túrcy°ti ‘is used to come’ : conneg. túrcy°tuq.
    (iii) Precative verbs, with a fragmentary paradigm, mainly used in the imperative, e.g. to- ‘to come’ ⇒ toxər- : imp. 2sg toxər°q ‘please come’.
    (iv) Intensive verbs, e.g. tənya- ‘to exist’ ⇒ tənyaxəya- ‘to really exist’.
    (v) Intransitive verbs, e.g. tola- ‘to read’ ⇒ tolaŋko- ‘to do reading’, pyirye- ‘to cook’ ⇒ pyiryencyo- ~ pyiryeŋko- ‘to do cooking’, peh- ‘to put’ ⇒ pentə- ‘to do loading’.
    (vi) Transitive verbs, e.g. nyeseyəm- ‘to change’ ⇒ nyesey°mta- ‘to change (tr.)’, ŋədyim- ‘to appear’ ⇒ ŋədyimtye- ‘to bring forth’, tərpə- ‘to exit’ ⇒ tərp°ra- ‘to take out’, yəŋkəm- ‘to separate’ ⇒ yəŋk°mla- ‘to separate (tr.)’, tira- ‘to dry’ ⇒ tirabta- ‘to dry (tr.)’.
    (vii) Imperfective verbs, e.g. pyi- ‘to boil’ ⇒ pyinə- ‘to be boiling’, wadyo- ‘to grow’ ⇒ (Western–Central) wadyodənə-, (Eastern) wadyodə- ‘to be growing’.
    (viii) Durative verbs, e.g. myiq- ‘to give’ ⇒ myipə- ‘to keep giving’ : subj.3sg myipyi : conneg. myipyuq, xada- ‘to kill’ ⇒ xadabə- ‘to keep killing’.
    (ix) Frequentative verbs, e.g. ŋəm- ‘to eat’ ⇒ ŋəwor- ‘to have a meal’, xayo- ‘to stay’ ⇒ xayur- ‘to remain’.
    (x) Iterative verbs, e.g. tyú- ‘to enter’ ⇒ tyúŋkə- ‘to take an entrance’, ŋamtə- ‘to sit down’ ⇒ ŋamt°ŋkə- ‘to take a seat’.
    (xi) Inchoative verbs, e.g. (vowel stems) yilye- ‘to live’ ⇒ yilyel- ‘to start living’; (consonant and alteration stems) pyisyəh- ‘to laugh’ ⇒ pyisy°lə- ‘to start laughing’.
    (xii) Incompletive verbs, e.g. nú- ‘to stand’ ⇒ núy°btye- ‘to stand for a while’, ŋəwor- ‘to have a meal’ ⇒ ŋəworÿəbtye- ‘to have a snack’.
    (xiii) Momentative verbs, e.g. tesə- ‘to drip’ ⇒ tes°xəl- ‘to drop’.
    (xiv) Passive verbs, e.g. xada- ‘to kill’ ⇒ xadara- refl. ‘to get killed’.

Omnibased derivatives
    (i) Comparatives, e.g. səwa ‘good’ ⇒ səwarka ‘better’, səŋkowoq- ‘to be heavy’ ⇒ səŋkowos°rka- ‘to be heavier’.
    (ii) Moderatives, e.g. ŋarka ‘big’ ⇒ ŋarkampoy° ‘rather big’.
    (iii) Augmentatives, e.g. ŋarka ‘big’ ⇒ ŋarkaqÿa ~ ŋarkaqÿa° ‘very big’.
    (iv) Diminutives, e.g. səqla ‘moron’ ⇒ səqlako ‘fool’, tuq ‘animal fat’ ⇒ tudako ‘mushroom’, wada ‘word’ ⇒ wadako ‘tale’.
    (v) Pejoratives, e.g. ti ‘reindeer’ ⇒ tekocya ‘poor little reindeer’; nyenecy°h ‘person, human being’ ⇒ nyenecyənÿe ‘poor man’.
    (vi) Limitatives (‘only’), e.g. ŋəmkeryi ‘whatever; thing’.
    (vii) Simulatives (‘as if’), e.g. syun°rəxa ‘steam-like; blue’.
    (viii) Concessives (‘even’), e.g. xíbyaxərt° ‘anybody’.
    (ix) Affirmatives (‘indeed’), e.g. xíbyaxəwa ‘somebody’, xadaxəwa° ‘to kill indeed’ ger.mod.

Further reading
All grammars and textbooks focus on morphology. Honti & Zaicz (1970) is a reverse listing of suffixes and suffix combinations compiled on the basis of Hajdú (1968 [2. 1982]). Mikola (1975) is a thorough survey of the postposition system. Hajdú, Labádi, Labanauskas, Perfil’eva, Sebestyén, and Shcherbakova, among others, have been active in publishing articles, as seen in the the bibliography by Hajdú (1988). Salminen (1998) is a reverse dictionary with a key to inflectional paradigms, and Salminen (1997) a monograph on inflection.


Word order
The word order is predicate-final. A regular transitive sentence appears as (Time adverbial –) Subject noun phrase – (Place adverbial –) Object noun phrase – (Manner adverbial –) Predicate verb. Any focused constituent may be placed in preverbal position, but otherwise the order is quite rigid; only heavy emphasis may result in a postverbal constituent. Notably, question words do not cause changes in the word order. In negative sentences, the two final word-forms are, in this order, the negative auxiliary verb and the main verb in the connegative. Within noun phrases, the attribute always precedes its head.

Constituent structure and agreement
The head of a subject noun phrase is in the nominative. Subject personal pronouns are used only for emphasis, while the person is expressed by conjugation. Subjectless constructions include sentences with the second person imperative and impersonal sentences with the verbs tara- and siər- in the sense ‘must’.
    The subject of an embedded clause, the possessor attribute, and the head of a postposition are in the genitive. Personal pronouns in these functions are, however, in the nominative, and used only for emphasis, while person is expressed by possessive declension. The genitive of personal pronouns is used only in those rare instances which do not allow possessive declension of the main word.
    The head of an object noun phrase is in the accusative, except if the verb is in the second person imperative, when the object is in the nominative. Personal pronouns are, however, invariably in the accusative.
    Within a noun phrase, an attribute does not usually agree with its head in case, but agreement in number is possible, the choice depending on the particular focus relations. In a special form of agreement, an attribute may duplicate the possessive suffix of its head (which occasionally leads to agreement in case as well).
    A predicate verb or noun agrees in person and number with the subject. A predicate verb also agrees in number with the object if it is in the objective conjugation. The choise of conjugation depends on the focus of the object. When introduced as new information, the object usually stands immediately before the verb, which is then in the subjective conjugation. When non-focused, the object may appear apart from the verb or be completely omitted, the verb being obligatorily in the objective conjugation.
    A predicate noun is followed by a form of the copula ŋæ- ‘to be’ if and only if the sentence is negative, non-indicative, future or habitual.
    There are no conjunctions, but subordination is expressed by subordinate non-finite forms or infinitives and participles in local case forms and postpositional phrases. Simple parataxis often serves for co-ordination, but various connective adverbs are also available. Yes–no questions are expressed (i) by the interrogative mood, when referring to past time, or (ii) by a special intonation, when referring to the present or future time. A few clitic particles are also used for special emphasis.

Further reading
The only major publication on syntax is Tereshchenko (1973).


abl. ablative (case) intr. intransitive (conjugational class or derivative)
abs. absolute (declension) iter. iterative (derivative)
acc. accusative (case) lim. limitative (derivative)
aff. affirmative (derivative) loc. locative (case)
aor. aorist (tense) mod. moderative (derivative)
appr.fut futuritive approximative (mood) mom. momentative (derivative)
appr.imperf imperfective approximative (mood) narr. narrative (mood)
appr.perf perfective approximative (mood) nec. necessitative (mood)
aud. auditive (non-finite form) nom. nominative (case)
augm. augmentative (derivative) obj. objective (conjugation)
capt. captative (derivative) obl. obligative (mood)
car. caritive (derivative) odor. odorative (derivative)
com. comitative (derivative) opt. optative (mood)
comp. comparative (derivative) ord. ordinal (derivative)
conc. concessive (derivative) partic.fut futuritive participle (non-finite form)
conj. conjunctive (mood) partic.imperf imperfective participle (non-finite form)
conneg. connegative (non-finite form) partic.neg negative participle (non-finite form)
dat. dative (case) partic.perf perfective participle (non-finite form)
des. desiderative (mood) pass. passive (derivative)
dim. diminutive (derivative) pej. pejorative (derivative)
du dual (number) perf. perfective (aspectual class)
dur. durative (derivative) pl plural (number)
ess. essive (derivative) poss. possessive (declension or derivative)
Eur. European (dialects) prec. precative (derivative)
evas. evasive (non-finite form) predest. predestinative (declension or derivative)
frequ. frequentative (derivative) predic. predicative forms of nouns (= the nominal conjugation)
fut. future (derivative) pret. preterite (tense)
gen. genitive (case) prob.imperf imperfective probabilitative (mood)
ger.fin final gerund (non-finite form) prob.perf perfective probabilitative (mood)
ger.mod modal gerund (non-finite form) pros. prosecutive (case)
hab. habitual (derivative) refl. reflexive (conjugation or conjugational class)
hort. hortative (mood) rep. reputative (mood)
hyp. hyperprobabilitative (mood) sg singular (number)
imp. imperative (mood) Sib. Siberian (dialects)
imperf. imperfective (aspectual class or derivative) sim. simulative (derivative)
inchoat. inchoative (derivative) subj. subjective (conjugation)
incompl. incompletive (derivative) subord. subordinative (non-finite form)
ind. indicative (mood) sup. superprobabilitative (mood)
inf.imperf imperfective infinitive (non-finite form) tr. transitive (conjugational class or derivative)
inf.perf perfective infinitive (non-finite form) tr.-refl. transitive-reflexive (conjugational class)
int. interrogative (mood) transl. translative (derivative)
intens. intensive (derivative)