Language of the week: Nenets

After a Nhaŋu-induced hiatus of a few weeks, language of the week is back where we left off. We were last in Mongolia. This week let’s cross Russia to the Kola peninsula and environs, passing by the fusion throat singing which happens to be on the radio as I’m writing this, which is too bizarre to turn off. I’ve never listened to throat-sung country music and since I’m sure I never will again, got to make the most of it.

Nenets is a Samoyedic language. There are two varieties – Tundra Nenets and Forest Nenets (I use “variety” to avoid the question of whether they are separate languages or not, since it doesn’t seem clear). About 95% of speakers speak Tundra Nenets.

There’s an online dictionary of Tundra Nenets here, although the server was down when I checked. There’s a fantastic audio phrasebook here, with recordings from three speakers and useful phrases like “I’m good at volleyball”.

Here‘s a Forest Nenets wordlist, on the slim side but you gotta love the word for water (wit).

Furthermore, there’s a comparative Nganasan-Tundra multimedia online dictionary here. It was developed by Marina Lublinskaya (Russian Academy of Sciences) and Tatiana Sherstinova (St Petersburg State University). It’s an interesting idea and works quite well, I think (although clicking on the audio loads the sound in the main frame so I have to keep going back the previous page.

A fairly detailed bibliographical guide is here, for both Tundra and Forest Nenets, and last (but most definitely not least), Tapani Salminen from the University of Helsinki has a sketch grammar online.


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