You are here: Home » Altaic » Tatar
  • Follow Us!

Tatar 

Tatar

Introduction

Isänme, isänmesez – Hello

Tatar (Tatar tele, Tatarça, Татар теле, Татарча) belongs to the Western Turkic branch of the Altaic language family. There are nearly 7 million Kazan (Volga) Tatars, most of whom live in Russia and in the former Soviet republics. Majority of the Tatar-speaking population is concentrated in the Republic of Tatarstan, a member of the Russian Federation, in the central Volga region. Estimates of the number of speakers world-wide vary widely from 1.6 million (Ethnologue) to 8 million (Wikipedia). Tatar is the largest minority language of the Russian Federation.Tatar’s closest relative is Bashkir (Bashkort) and Chulym.

There are two main theories concerning the origins of Kazan Tatars of Tatarstan which continue to be a topic of scholarly debate. The Kypchak theory argues that the Kazan Tatars are direct descendants of the Tatars of the Golden Horde. The Bulgar theory holds that the ancestors of the Kazan Tatars were Bulgars, a Turkic people who were displaced from the Azov steppes by Arab raiders and who settled in the Middle Volga region in the 8th century and converted to Islam in 922. After the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1241, Volga Bulgars were absorbed into the Golden Horde. The Kazan Khanate which succeeded the Golden Horde was annexed by Russia in 1552.

Status
In 1917 Tatar was made a de facto official language of the Tatar–Bashkir Soviet Socialist Republic (the USSR did not recognize official languages other than Russian). However, as a result of the intense russification campaign of the Stalin era, the use of Tatar experienced a decline. The language was taught only in rural schools and all higher education was in Russian. Today, Tatar is the official language of the Republic of Tatarstan, along with Russian. Although it is not an endangered language today, it enjoys lower prestige than Russian. Higher education in Tatar is offered in Tatarstan universities only in the humanities. Most Tatars are bilingual in Russian and Tatar. Outside of Tatarstan, they tend to speak Russian as their first language. This is particularly true of Tatars who reside in large cities. On the other hand, Tatar is the only language in use in rural districts of Tatarstan. Overall, Tatar is primarily a spoken language, and there is evidence that the number of first-language speakers as well as their proficiency in the language continues to decline as more and more young people switch to Russian.

Dialects

Tatar is characterized by a richness of dialects, due to the complex history associated with the Tatar diaspora. There are three main dialects of Tatar (Ethnologue). They can be further subdivided according to the geographic areas in which they are spoken. The differences among the dialects are mostly phonological. For the most part, the dialects are mutually intelligible.

  • Middle, or Central, Tatar spoken by Kazan (Volga) and Astrakhan Tatars
  • Western Tatar (Mişär), spoken primarily by Tatar minority in Finland where it is recognized as an official minority language
  • Eastern, or Siberian Tatar subdivided into numerous sub-dialects spread over Siberia
  • Chinese Tatar, an archaic variant spoken by descendants of Volga Tatars in Xinjiang province of China
  • mixed dialects such as Kasimov, Tepter, Astrakhan, and Ural Tatar

Middle Tatar as spoken by Kazan Tatars is the literary language.

Structure

Sound system
The sound system of Tatar is characterized by vowel harmony, a type of phonological process that places limitations on which vowels may be found near each other in a word. There are two kinds of vowels — front vowels, which are produced at the front of the mouth, e.g., /i/, /e/, and back vowels, produced at the back of the mouth, e.g., /u/, /o/. Native Tatar words can contain either only all front or all back vowels, and all suffixes must conform to the vowel of the syllable preceding them in the word. For example, a vowel at the beginning of a word can trigger assimilation of the rest of the vowels in that word.

Vowels
Tatar has 12 vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that distinguish word meaning. There is a contrast between unrounded and rounded front and back vowels. Rounded vowels are produced with rounded protruding lips. Some of the vowels are not native to Tatar and occur only in borrowed words.

Close
i
y
u
Close-mid
e
ø
o
Open-mid
Near-open
æ
Open
  • /i/ = ee in beet
  • /e/ = e in bait
  • /ɛ/ = e in bed
  • /æ/ = a in bat
  • /y/ = second vowel in statue
  • /ø, œ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /ɯ/ has no equivalent in English
  • /ɑ/ = a in spa
  • /u/ = oo in boot
  • /o/ = o in bow
  • /ɒ/ = au in caught in some dialects of English

Consonants
Some consonants are not native to Tatar and occur only in borrowed words, e.g., /f/, v/ and /z/. Syllables in Tatar can end in a vowel or one or two consonants. There are no initial consonant clusters. Final consonants may be devoiced.

Stops voiceless
p
t
k
voiced
b
d
g
Fricatives voiceless
f
s
ʃ
h
voiced
v
z
ʒ
Nasals
m
n
Trill
ɾ
Lateral
l
Approximant
w
z z z
j
z z
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ = s in vision
  • /ɕʑ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /xɣ/ have no equivalents in English
  • /ŋ/ = ng in song
  • /j/ = y in yet

Stress
Stress in Tatar words is normally placed on the final syllable. There are a number of exceptions. In recent loanwords the placement of the original stress is usually preserved.

Grammar
Like all Turkic languages, Tatar is agglutinative, i.e., grammatical relations are indicated by the addition of suffixes to stems. There is a one-to-one relationship between suffix and meaning, so suffixes are strung together one after another, resulting on occasion in long words. There are various rules for their ordering. Tatar uses postpositions rather than prepositions to signal certain grammatical relationships.

Nouns, adjectives, articles, pronouns

  • Tatar nouns are marked for number (singular and plural). Plural is represented by the suffix -lar, e.g., kitap ‘book’ and kitaplar ‘books’.
  • Possession is marked by suffixes, e.g., bala- ‘child’ + -m ‘my’ = balam ‘my child'; bala- ‘child’ + büz ‘our’ = balabüz ‘our child’.
  • There are six cases: nominativegenitiveallativedativeaccusativelocativeablative. Cases are marked by inflectional suffixes.They are governed by verbs and postpositions.
  • There is no grammatical gender.
  • There are no articles.
  • 3rd person singular pronouns do not distinguish gender, e.g., ul means ‘he, she, it’.

Verbs
Verbs agree with their subjects in person and number. They have the following grammatical categories:

  • two numbers: singular and plural
  • three persons: 1st, 2, 3rd
  • three tenses: present, past, future
  • There are three past tenses: continuous, remote, and repetitive, e.g., baralar ide ‘they were walking’, bargannar ide ‘they walked (a long time ago)’, bara torgannar ide ‘they walked from time to time.’
  • Evidentiality is required in the past tense. It indicates whether evidence exists for a given statement. Tatar contrasts categorical past, i.e., information reported directly and one the speaker has no doubts about, and indefinite past, i.e., information reported indirectly and one that the speaker is not sure of.
  • There are three future tenses: categorical, indefinite, and future in the past. Tatar contrasts categorical future, i.e., information that the speaker is sure about, and indefinite future, i.e., information that the speaker is not sure of.
  • Aspect is expressed through auxiliary verbs or affixes.
  • There are four moods: indicativeimperativeconditional, and subjunctive
  • two voices: active, passive
  • Tatar has forms for reflexivecausative, and reciprocal verbs.
  • Infinitive is marked by suffixes, e.g., ash ‘eat’ and ash arga ‘to eat’.
  • Negation is formed by adding the particle -ma to the verb stem, e.g., at -‘throw’ and atma ‘don’t throw’.

Word order
The normal word order Tatar sentences is Subject-Object-Verb. However, other orders are possible, depending on discourse-oriented considerations such as emphasis. Adjectives precede the words they modify.

Vocabulary
The basic vocabulary of Tatar is Altaic in origin. Principal mechanisms of word formation are derivational suffixes. The language has a large number of loanwords, mostly from Russian, e.g., universitet ‘university’, gazeta ‘newspaper’, par ‘steam’, stakan ‘glass’. There are also numerous loanwords from Arabic, e.g., taraf  ‘side’, Persian, e.g., atna ‘week’, and Mongolian, e.g., uram ‘street’. Tatar has as many as 800 onomatopoeic words, e.g., bak-bak ‘quack-quack’.

Below are some common words and phrases in Tatar.

Hello isänme isänmesez
Good bye saw bul, xušihiz, xuš, saw bulihiz
Thank you räxmät
Please zínhar öçen
Excuse me tyldaq
Yes äye
No yuq
Man erkek
Woman qadin, xatin

Below are Tatar numerals 1-10.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
bir
eki
üç
dört
beş
altı
yedi
sekiz
doquz
on

Writing

Tatar has a long history of being written with different alphabets:

  • Orkhon alphabet, an Old Turkic script, before the 9th century AD
  • Arabic alphabet until 1920
  • a modified Arabic alphabet between 1920 and 1927
  • an adated version of the Latin alphabet (Jaŋalif) between 1927 and 1939
  • Cyrillic alphabet (татар әлифбасы), imposed as part of Stalin’s russification campaign, in 1939
  • modified version of Latin alphabet adopted in 2001

The official Cyrillic alphabet used in Tatarstan contains 29 letters which are given below in their traditional order.

A a
Ә ə
Б б
В в
Г г
Д д
E e
Ë ë
Ж ж
Җ җ
З з
И и
Й й
К к
Л л
М м
Н н
Ң ң
О о
Ө ө
П п
Р р
С с
Т т
У у
Y ү
Ф ф
X x
Ч ч
Ш ш
Щ щ
Ъ ъ
Ы ы
Ьь
Э э
Ю ю
Я я
Ю ю
Я я

The adapted version of the 2001 Latin alphabet for writing Tatar is given below.

A a
Ә ə
B b
C c
Ç ç
D d
E e
F f
G g
Ğ ğ
H h
I ı
İ i
J j
K k
Q q
L l
M m
N n
Ŋ ŋ
O o
Ө ө
P p
Q q
R r
S s
Ş ş
T t
U u
Ü ü
V v
W w
X x
Y y
Z z

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tatar in Cyrillic and Latin scripts.

Cyrillic
1 статья
Барлык кешеләр дә азат һәм үз абруйлары һәм хокуклары ягыннан тиң булып туалар. Аларга акыл һәм вөҗдан бирелгән һәм бер-берсенә карата туганарча [туганнарча] мөнәсәбәттә булырга тиешләр.
Latin (2001 version)
Barlıq keşelər də azat həm üz abruyları həm xoquqları yağınnan ti bulıp tualar. Alarğa aqıl həm wөcdan birelgən həm ber-bersenə qarata tuğannarça mөnasəbəttə bulırğa tieşlər.
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Did You Know?

 

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Tatar?
There is no data on the difficulty of Tatar for speakers of English.

6 Responses to Tatar

  1. Pingback: 10 Interesting facts about Russia and the Russian language : Odysen Blog

    • Irene Thompson

      Thank you for your comment regarding the blog. It has useful information about the Russian Federation.

       
  2. הלוואה בערבות המדינה

    I truly love your website.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as
    I’m attempting to create my own site and want to know where you got this from or what the theme is named. Cheers!

     
  3. Alex

    The Latin alphabet in the table below the Cyrillic alphabet is Janalif, which was used in the 1930s, though it is listed as the 2001 alphabet. Zamanalif is the 2001 Latin alphabet. The UN declaration segment example is written in Zamanalif.

     
    • Alex

      Sorry, I meant to say that the UN declaration segment is written in Janalif, not Zamanalif.

       

Add a Comment