Enets language

Онэй база (Onei baza)[1]
Native toRussia
RegionKrasnoyarsk Krai, along the lower Yenisei River
Ethnicity260 Enets people (2010 census)
Native speakers
43 (2010 census)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
enf – Forest Enets
enh – Tundra Enets

Enets is a moribund Samoyedic language of Northern Siberia spoken on the Lower Yenisei within the boundaries of the Taimyr Municipality District, a subdivision of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia Federation. The language is moribund. Around 10 fluent speakers are left; the overall number of potential speakers is less than 40 individuals. All speakers are found in the generation of 50 years and older. Recent local statistics indicate that there are around 260 individuals of ethnic Enets origin. Enets belongs to the Northern branch of the Samoyedic languages, in turn a branch of the Uralic language family.[3]


There are two distinct dialects, Forest (Bai) Enets and Tundra (Madu or Somatu) Enets, which may be considered separate languages.

Forest Enets is the smaller of the two Enets dialects. In the winter of 2006/2007, approximately 35 people spoke it (6 in Dudinka, 20 in Potapova and 10 in Tukhard, the youngest of whom was born in 1962 and the oldest in 1945). Many of these speakers are trilingual, with competence in Forest Enets, Tundra Nenets and Russian, preferring to speak Tundra Nenets.

The two dialects differ both in phonology and in lexicon. Additional variation was found in early Enets records from the 17th to 19th centuries, though all these varieties can be assigned as either Tundra Enets or Forest Enets.[4]

Phonological differences:

  • In some words, Forest Enets /s/ corresponds to Tundra Enets /ɟ/ (from Proto-Samoyedic *ms, *ns, *rs and *rkʲ).
    • Forest mese — Tundra meɟe 'wind' (from *merse < *märkʲä);
    • Forest osa — Tundra uɟa 'meat' (from *ʊnsa < *əmså);
  • In some words, Forest Enets word-initial /na/ corresponds to Tundra Enets /e/ (from Proto-Samoyedic *a- > *ä-).
  • Certain vowel + glide sequences of Proto-Samoyedic have different reflexes in Forest Enets and Tundra Enets.
  • Forest Enets word-initial /ɟi/ corresponds to Tundra Enets /i/.

Lexical differences:

  • Forest eba — Tundra aburi 'head'
  • Forest baða — Tundra nau 'word'
  • Forest ʃaru — Tundra oma 'tobacco'


Enets is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, though it includes the letters ԑ, ӈ, and ҫ which are not used in the Russian alphabet.

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ԑ ԑ
Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н
Ӈ ӈ О о П п Р р С с Ҫ ҫ Т т У у
Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ ъ Ы ы
ь Э э Ю ю Я я

The written form of the Enets language was created during the 1980s and has been used to produce a number of books. During the 1990s there was an Enets newspaper, Советский Таймыр (Soviet Taimyr) published and brief Enets broadcasts on local radio, which shut down in 2003,[5] served as supplements for speakers.[6]


The syntax of Enets is typical for the family and the area. The Enets language follows Subject-object-verb, head marking in the noun phrase, both head and dependent marking within the clause, non-finite verbal forms used for clause combining.


Enets nouns vary for number, case, and person-number of the possessor. There is also an intriguing nominal case in which ‘destinativity’ determines the entity is destined for someone. Possessor markers are also used for discourse related purposes, where they are completely devoid of the literal possessive meaning. Enets postpositions are marked for person-number; many postpositions are formed from a small set of relational nouns and case morphology.[7]


Phoneme Inventory

The following phonemes are combined from all of the different dialects of the Enets languages; Enets (Künnap 1999),[8] Forest Enets (Siegl 2013),[9] Tundra Enets (Nikolaeva 2014).[10]


Front Central Back
High i ɨ u
Middle e, ɛ ə o
Low æ a ɑ, ɒ


bilabial dental palatal velar post-velar
stops p, b t, d pʲ, bʲ, tʲ, dʲ k, g q, ʔ
affricates t͡s, t͡ʃ t͡sʲ, t͡ʃʲ
fricatives s, ʃ, ð sʲ, ʃʲ x h
nasals m n mʲ, nʲ ŋ
laterals l
trills r
glides w j
  1. There is partial or complete vowel reduction in the middle and at the end of a word
  2. Consonants preceding i and e become palatalized[11]


  • A. Künnap: Enets. Lincom Europa, München 1999.
  • A rare type of benefactive construction: Evidence from Enets. (2014). Linguistics, 52(6), 1391-1431. doi:10.1515/ling-2014-0025
  • Haig, G. L., Nau, N., Schnell, S., & Wegener, C. (2011). Achievements and Perspectives. Documenting Endangered Languages, 119-150. doi:10.1515/9783110260021.vii
  • Khanina, O., & Shluinsky, A. (2008). Finites structures in Forest Enets subordination: A case study of language change under strong Russian influence. Subordination and Coordination Strategies in North Asian Languages Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 63-75. doi:10.1075/cilt.300.07kha
  • Khanina, O., & Shluinsky, A. (2013). Choice of case in cross-reference markers: Forest Enets non-finite forms. Finnisch-Ugrische Mitteilungen Band, 37, 32-44. Retrieved from http://iling-ran.ru/Shluinsky/ashl/ChoiceOfCase_2013.pdf
  • Mikola T.: Morphologisches Wörterbuch des Enzischen. Szeged, 1995 (= Studia Uralo-Altaica 36)
  • Nikolaeva, Irina (2014). A grammar of Tundra Nenets.
  • Siegl, F. (2012). More on Possible Forest Enets – Ket Contacts. Eesti ja soome-ugri keeleteaduse ajakiri. Journal of Estonian and Finno-Ugric Linguistics, 3(1), 327-341. doi:10.12697/jeful.2015.6.3.00
  • Siegl, F. (2012). Yes/no questions and the interrogative mood in Forest Enets . Per Urales ad Orientem. Iter polyphonicum multilingue, 399-408. Retrieved from http://www.sgr.fi/sust/sust264/sust264_siegl.pdf
  • Siegl, Florian (2013). Materials on Forest Enets, an Indigenous Language of Northern Siberia.
  • Siegl, F. (2015). Negation in Forest Enets. Negation in Uralic Languages Typological Studies in Language, 43-74. doi:10.1075/tsl.108.02sie
  • Vajda, E. J. (2008). Subordination and Coordination Strategies in North Asian Languages. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 63-73. doi:10.1075/cilt.300
  • Болина, Д. С.: Русско-энецкий разговорник. Санкт-Петербург: Просвещение, 2003, 111p. ISBN 5-09-005269-7
  • Сорокина, И. П.; Болина, Д .С.: Энецкий-русско и русско-энецкий словарь. Санкт-Петербург: Просвещение, 2001, 311p. ISBN 5-09-002526-6
  • Сорокина, И. П.; Болина, Д .С.: Энецкие тексты. Санкт-Петербург: Наука, 2005, 350 p.. ISBN 5-02-026381-8. Online version.
  • Сорокина, И. П.; Болина, Д. С.: Энецкий словарь с кратким грамматическим очерком: около 8.000 слов. Санкт-Петербург: Наука 2009, 488p. ISBN 978-5-98187-304-1
  • Сорокина, И. П.: Энецкий язык. Санкт-Петербург: Наука 2010, 411p. ISBN 978-5-02-025581-4


  1. ^ Сорокина, И. П.; Болина, Д. С. (2001). Словарь энецко-русский и русско-энецкий [Enets-Russian and Russian-Enets dictionary]. Санкт-Петербург: Филиал издательства «Просвещение». p. 310. ISBN 5-09-002526-6.
  2. ^ "Population of the Russian Federation by Languages (in Russian)" (PDF). gks.ru. Russian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  3. ^ Siegl, F. (2013). Materials on Forest Enets, an indigenous language of Northern Siberia. Tartu. doi:978-9949-19-673-9, http://dspace.ut.ee/handle/10062/17439?locale-attribute=en
  4. ^ Helimskij, Eugen (1985). "Die Feststellung der dialektalen Zugehörigkeit der encischen Materialen". Dialectologia Uralica: Materialien des ersten Internationalen Symposions zur Dialektologie der uralischen Sprachen 4.-7. September 1984 in Hamburg. Veröffentlichungen der Societas Uralo-Altaica. ISBN 3-447-02535-2.
  5. ^ Siegl, Florian (2017-04-24). "The fate of Forest Enets – a short comm ent".
  6. ^ "Enets language, alphabet and pronunciation". www.omniglot.com.
  7. ^ Leipzig, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "Former Dept. of Linguistics | Documentation of Enets". www.eva.mpg.de.
  8. ^ Künnap, Ago (1999). Enets.
  9. ^ Siegl, Florian (2013). Materials on Forest Enets, an Indigenous Language of Northern Siberia.
  10. ^ Nikolaeva, Irina (2014). A grammar of Tundra Nenets.
  11. ^ "Enf/Phonology - ProAlKi". proalki.uni-leipzig.de.

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