Grammar and structure of the Yakut language (cаха тыла)
Learn the language of Yakutia in Eastern Siberia
Note: this information pack on the Yakut language has referenced the work of Émilie Maj and Marine Leberre-Semenov in the book “Parlons Sakha” written by Harmattan editions. It is an important resource for this Siberian language.
The Yakut language (also written Yakut), also known as Sakha, is spoken by 450,000 people living mainly in the Russian Republic of Sakha by the Yakutsk people. Yakut has certain peculiarities when compared to other languages of the Turkish family.
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The language of the Yakuts is part of the Altaic group just like the Mongolian languages such as Khalkh and Buryat. It also has structures similar to ancient Turkic languages such as Chuvach (Tchouvatche). It should also be noted the long interaction with the Evenke and Mongolian languages, thus creating changes on the phonetic, lexical and grammatical level.
The first (phonetic) text written in the Yakut language was written in 1705. On the other hand, it was in 1851 that the first Yakut language grammar was written by Eduard Pekarskij (1858-1934). An alphabet was introduced in 1919 and more formally established in 1922. The alphabet used at that time was the Novgorodov system before returning to the Latin alphabet in the 1930s. In 1939-1943, the Cyrillic alphabet was reintroduced for writing the Yakut language. The Yakut Cyrillic alphabet uses 40 letters. It consists of the typical Cyrillic alphabet with 7 additional letters (or arrangement of letters) (Ҕ, Дь, Ҥ, Нь, Ө, Һ, Ү). The letters е, ё, ю я are not typical of Yakut phonetics. They always come from words borrowed from foreign languages (mainly Russian)
Like Mongolian and Turkish languages, Yakut uses the principle of vowel harmony. The language has long (doubled) and short vowels. Diphthongs are very present (two pronounced followed vowels - ыa, yo, иэ, үө)
Vocalic harmony in Turkish languages
Yakut is an agglutinating language. This means that we append to a basic radical, suffixes which determine the number, the gender, the case, the person and the time. This agglutination is done in connection with the principle of vocalic harmony. The latter dictates that the vowel found in the base stem determines the vowels of the suffixes affixed to the latter. In other words, the vowels will be of the same class (closed vowels - ы, и, у, ү, open vowels - э, а, о, и) as that in the base stem.
Each suffix can therefore have 4 variants depending on the radical to which it is affixed. If we take the suffix determining the plural, we can find it in one or the other of these forms –лар, -лэр, -лор, -лөр
Consonant assimilation of the Yakut language
This principle states that some consonant changes when we append a suffix to a base stem. Thus the Yakut word омук (in Latin: omouk - people) becomes омуга (in Latin: omouga - his people). In the previous example, the K becomes G.
In the Yakut language, we now know that the language is said to be agglutinating in the sense that suffixes will be affixed to a base radical. This apposition of two morphemes with distinct consonants will often create a doubling of consonants.
Here are some rules of these doublings in Yakut
т + л = тт ат + лар аттар (horses)
н + л = нн дьон + лор дьоннор (people)
ҥ + ҕ = ҥҥ хатыҥ + ҕа хатыҥҥа (on the birch)
х + ҕ = хх харах + ҕа харахха (in the eye)
In some cases, we will speak of transformation of the two consonants (final consonant in the base radical and initial consonant of the suffix)
т + б ˃ пп
н + б ˃ мм
н + ҕ ˃ ҥҥ
To summarize the principle of consonantal assimilation in Yakut, it should be understood that the initial consonant of the suffix changes according to the final consonant of the base of the radical to which it agglutinates.
Possession in Yakut
In the Yakut language, it is imperative to add a membership suffix in addition to a possessive pronoun. The suffix changes depending on the person (1st, 2nd or 3rd) and the number (singular or plural). Here are the suffixes to add at the end of the word to mark possession
1st person - м -бит
2nd people - ҥ -ҕыт
3rd person - а -лар
Possessive pronouns in Yakut
Мин (my), Эн (tone), Кини (sound), БиҺиги (our), ЭҺиги (your), Кинилэр (their)
Examples of prossession in Yakut with the word аҕа (father)
Мин аҕам (my father)
Эн аҕаҥ (your father)
Кини аҕата (her father)
БиҺиги аҕабыт (our father)
ЭҺиги аҕаҕыт (your father)
Кинилэр аҕалара (their father)
Adjectives in Yakut
The Yakut adjectives are always invariable. It therefore never changes in relation to name, gender, number or case. Thus the word улахан meaning “great-es” can be appended to the word “дьиэ” meaning “house”.
улахан дьиэ (a big house), улахан дьиэлэр (big houses), улахан дьиэҕэ (in a big house)
Possessive adjectives in Yakut
The personal pronouns used to indicate "I, you, he, we, you, they" are the same as for the possessive adjectives "my, your, his, his, our, your, their", Мин (my), Эн ( tone), Кини (sound), БиҺиги (our), ЭҺиги (your), Кинилэр (their). Here is the list:
Мин (I), Эн (you), Кини (he, she), БиҺиги (we), ЭҺиги (you), Кинилэр (they, they).
Yakut verbs and conjugation
The Yakut verbs have two patterns depending on whether they end with a consonant "гын (to do)" or with a vowel "сатаа (to know how)". The Yakut conjugation includes 4 tenses: present, recent past, distant past and future. As with all aspects of the Yakut language, it is the addition of a suffix (changing over time) that creates the negation.
The declension of the Yakut language
The Yakut language includes an 8-case declension:
Nominative : subject case
Partitive : complement of the name. It corresponds to the French “de” as in the expression “the friend of my father.
Dative : indirect object complement. Answers the question "to what?" Whose? "
Accusative : direct object complement. Answers the question "What?" Who? "
Ablative : Indicates the origin. He answers the questions "From whom?" From who? About what? From where?
Instrumental : indicates the way and answers the question "by whom, not what?" With what?
Support : indicates what accompanies the action
Comparative : this case marks the superiority and answers the question "more than who?" "Or" more than what? "
In the Yakut language, the types of declensions are numerous. There is a particular declension for simple nouns, for nouns with a membership suffix, and a final one for personal pronouns.