Yurats Addenda

One step up from the likes of Meshcheran, probably the most obscure Uralic language to have still been rudimentarily documented is Yurats: a Northern Samoyedic language recorded in one wordlist by G. H. Müller in the mid-1700s. As far as I know, we have zero other information about the language, not even any clear idea on when it might have gone extinct. A century later Castrén did not record it, but to my knowledge he also did not really search for it either; * unlike Mator, which we can be pretty sure was indeed extinct by 1845.

Some parts of the data were reprinted by Pallas in the late 1700s and Klaproth in the early 1800s (a reproduction of the latter can be found in Donner’s Samojedische Wörterverzeichnisse, pp. 36–50). Janhunen’s Samojedischer Wortschatz (1977) only takes these secondary editions into account when listing Yurats cognates. Just the year before in 1976, though, Helimski had put out an article that actually reviews Müller’s original data instead (but presumably back in the 1970s article collections published in Tomsk were not yet in the habit of diffusing to Helsinki within one year). He also includes a transcript of the vocabulary. This article has by now been conveniently reprinted in Helimski’s 2000 compilation book Компаратистика, уралистика (Moscow: Языки русской культуры).

This is somewhat corollary-snipey, but I might as well still put this out there: a comparison of Janhunen’s Yurats coverage with the original data. Several additional etymologies can be easily noted, at least.

  • áddinelma‘ < PSmy *ånčɜ (perhaps a loan from Enets due to lack of ŋ-?)
  • cháru ‘larch’ < PSmy *kårwï (not in SW)
  • ja ‘flour’ < PSmy *jaə (not in SW; loan from Indo-Iranian *yawa- ‘grain’)
  • jur ‘fat’ < PSmy *jür (loan from Turkic *ür₂)
  • kírwa ‘bread’ < PSmy *kïrɜwå (not in SW)
  • módi jarra ‘I cry’ < PSmy *jåru-
  • maraga ‘cloudberry’ < PSmy *məråŋkå (not in SW, but cf. PU *mura)
  • mug ‘arrow’ < PSmy *muŋkə (not in SW, but cf. PU or maybe better a west Siberian Wanderwort #muŋkɜ)
  • nócha ‘arctic fox’ < PSmy *nokå
  • ngóde ‘berry’ < PSmy *wota (with *wo- > *o-, as also in Ne En)
  • pi ‘aspen’ < PSmy *pi
  • pimà ‘boot’ < PSmy *pajmå (loan from Turkic *bal₂mak)
  • poiju ‘alder’ < PSmy *pəjɜ (not in SW; misglossed by either Müller, Helimski or some intermediate editor as ‘almus’ pro ‘alnus’, but it’s in the middle of the tree names section)
  • pämesúma ‘darkness’ < PSmy *pəjmä (not in SW, but cf. PU *pid₂mä)
  • túa ‘wing’ < PSmy *tuəj

There would be more cases that only go back to Proto-Northern Samoyedic or perhaps just Proto-Nenets (e.g. sárnu ‘egg’, wuing ‘sea’ ~ Tundra Nenets sar°ʔńu, wī̮ʔ < *sarəʔnü, *wïəŋ), but I cannot claim to have put together any reasonably good coverage of these.

A small etymological puzzle is múde. Janhunen lists this under two different roots: from Pallas under *mərkä ‘shoulder’ (with the comment “(? < En)”), and from Adelung under *utå ‘hand’. Müller only has the sense ‘arm’, which could be a semantic shift from either, but also suggests there is only one word here, not two homophones. Straightforwardly we’d probably expect ˣmarze, ˣŋuda, so maybe contamination is however possible. — A reflex of ‘hand’ with ŋ- indeed appears in ngudéesse ‘ring’ (‘hand-iron’), but (j)ésse ‘iron’, with *ẃ > j, is clearly a loan from Tundra Nenets, and so maybe the first part of the compound is as well. Actually, nothing rules out even a third interpretation: that in Yurats *ŋ > m / _u regularly?

Another intriguing case is ngä́mme ‘breast’. This seems related to PSmy *ńimmä, but not as a direct descendant: it points to something like *əjmmä instead. *ə- rather than *ńi- could be perhaps by analogy from *əm- ‘to eat’ … but it could be also an archaism, since ‘breast’ is derived from *ńim- ‘to suck’, which in turn has also a variant *imə- in Proto-Uralic (> Fi. imeä, Hu. emik etc.). I believe that if a derivative *imə-mä > *immä had been formed already in PU, then this would regularly develop into *əmmä in PSmy, reaching quite close to the Yurats form. But I still have no good explanation for palatalization to ä.

The comparison also reveals a few words in SW sourced from Pallas that do not seem to appear in Müller. These are mainly anatomical terms: лы ‘bone’, пулы ‘knee’, хоба ‘skin, bark’, хыва ‘blood’. Pallas’ materials have elsewhere also an issue with words from a single source being duplicated under multiple languages, so maybe here as well? On the other hand, at least the last still looks phonologically clearly like Yurats specifically: *k- > x- and *-m- > -w- rule out Enets (which has kiʔ : kio- for ‘blood’), while *ë > ɨ seems to rule out Tundra Nenets (which has xe̮m ‘blood’; xe̮wa- ‘to bleed’).

Altogether, give or take some unclear cases like this, the number of Yurats words with a Proto-Samoyedic etymology seems to be some 140±5. This already suffices to work out the main points of historical phonology. Even already among the above examples you can note a few repeating correspondences: *å > a, *ŋk > g and various trivial identities. The big picture seems to be of a language with a vowel system close to (Proto-)Nenets (*ə > a, some apocope, *a > ä and *ä > e kept apart, almost no vowel clusters), but with a few quirks in the consonant system that instead align with Enets (chiefly *mp *nt *ŋk > b d g). Basically everything seems to be also derivable from Proto-Nenets-Enets without reference to the other Samoyedic languages.

There are at least a few individual quirks however. One is the development *w > b, which in Yurats only seems to happen before front vowels: bedu ‘intestine’ < *wätə; behánna ‘sturgeon’ < *wäkånå; bi ‘water’ < *wet, bidímat ‘to drink water’ < *wetɜ-; ’10’ < *wü(ə)t. Before back vowels, w remains: uáddu ‘root’ < *wånčå; wark ‘bear’ < *wərkə; wéneku ‘dog’ < *wën. So at least allophonic palatalization of labials for some time existed in Yurats. Having /bʲ/ but no /b/ would be weird though, and I suppose the split may have been one where *ẃ simply drops its velar component to yield *β > /b/.

Another distinctive conditional shift is that normally *a > ä, but *ja instead > ja, as in ja ‘flour’ < *jaə; jákki ‘smoke’ < *jačkə; jálle ‘light, sun’ < *jalä. Since the fronting of *a is a common Nenets-Enets (“Northwestern Samoyedic”?) feature, I would think this is probably a back-development similar to *Ca > *Ćā in Nenets. This is also suggested by two examples of *jü > ju (jur ‘fat’, jur ‘100’) versus retention otherwise ( ’10’, tükǘjalle ‘today’).

As you may have noticed, Müller also marks stress most of the time. This seems to be primarily on the penult (cháru, nócha etc.; behánna etc.) but there are also smaller groups of words with final stress, invariably marked with a grave accent and not an acute one (e.g. pürrè ‘pike’), or with initial stress on a trisyllable (wéneku). Tetrasyllables are rare, compounds aside, but seem to most commonly (6 out of 10 cases) have antepenult stress (e.g. tehánuda ‘wolf’). I have no idea if any of this has comparative significance.

* Addendum 2018-10-11: I have been informed that Castrén may have met the Yurats after all, as he mentions meeting, near the mouth of the Yenisei, a Nenets group whose speech had similarities to Enets. While he does not have any records marked as being specifically from this dialect, apparently his Nenets materials do contain a few dialectalisms that look Yurats-ish. My thanks to Olesya Khanina and Juha Janhunen for the correction.

Lastly, under the cut: the full wordlist itself (in Helimski’s transcription).

I’ve kept the original semantic-based order of the list, and the items that are mentioned as having been struck (during post-editing?), but not some missing slots on it; and consolidated polysemic words appearing under multiple glosses.

[Celestial phenomena:]
nub ‘Deus; coelum’
sírte ‘diabolus’
kä́hä ‘idolum; tonitru’
tir ‘nubes’
mérse ‘ventus’
cháda ‘procella’
sáru ‘pluvia’
sírre ‘nix’
serápta ‘grando’
kä́hä-tu ‘fulgur’
káiar ‘sol’
jirrì ‘luna; mensis’
núbge ‘stella’

jálle ‘dies; lucidus’
pi ‘nox’
jállema ‘mane’
jállewoi ‘meridies’
paússema ‘vespera’
píjir ‘media nox’
jirri ‘hebdomas’
pu ‘annus’

[Substances and topography:]
ja ‘terra’
sotì ‘mons’
tu ‘ignis’
jákki ‘fumus’
ja ‘pruna’
bi ‘aqua’
lópta ‘campus (наболоки)’
wÿng ‘campus (тундра)’
ngu ‘via’
pas ‘sylva’
pjä ‘arbor’
wuing ‘mare’
to ‘stagnum’
jágʰa ‘fluuius’
jaháku ‘amnis’
márra ‘arena’
táua ‘lutum’
‘lapis; камен
kréjessèaurum, aurichalcum (gelb Metall)’
néneĭ ‘argentum’
njäráue ‘cuprum’
kubt ‘stannum, plumbum’
jésse ‘ferrum, chalybs’

nénnetsi ‘homo’
nissè ‘pater’
néwau ‘mater’
nju ‘filius’
piripte nju ‘filia’
ninjä́ka ‘frater natu major’
péwe ‘frater natu minor’
njä́baku ‘soror natu major’
pápa ‘soror natu minor’
kassawaù ‘maritus’
pútjau ‘uxor’
ólöko ‘infans, puer’
néelku ‘puella’
jéru ‘dominus’
chabíu ‘seruus’
neelku-chabíu ‘ancilla’

[Body parts:]
ngä́wau ‘caput’
ngöbt ‘capillus’
tarr ‘pilus’
mudùt ‘barba’
säau ‘oculi’
kau ‘aures’
puija ‘nasus’
njäng ‘os’
pÿptjä̀ ‘labia’
njä́amu ‘lingua’
padùi ‘genae’
njä́ngu ‘mentum’
múde ‘brachium’
mudè-tárka ‘manus’
tárka ‘digitus’
ljabárra ‘pectus’
seĭ ‘cor’
ngä́mme ‘mamillae’
tíu ‘venter’
bédu ‘intestina’
njä́dda sówu ‘vesica’
sag ‘penis’
jew ‘cunnus’
mácha ‘dorsum’
nge ‘pedes’

sodèm ‘vestis (парка)’
sauk ‘vestis pellicea (сокуи)’
saua ‘mitra’
pibmi ‘femoralia’
pimà ‘tibialia, ocreae (пимы)’

[Household and items:]
karrad ‘urbs, pagus (зимовье), domus’
mjä ‘Jurten’
mokóla ‘fenestra (ist die Oeffnung zu oberst in den Jurten)’
latta ‘mensa’
nabdö́rsi ‘sella; scamnum’
nju ‘janua’
chowa ‘lectus’
jel ‘ahenum’
kuddusi ‘vasculum ex ligno (турзукъ)’
char ‘culter’
mattowsi ‘forfex’
kug ‘cochlear’
ngudéesse ‘annulus’
ngídde ‘arcus’
mug ‘sagitta’
chádde ‘traha’
ngáddu ‘linter (ветка)’
gíne, tínsche ‘funis’
túpka ‘ascia’
pódär ‘frenum’

júda ‘equus’
njä́wa ‘lepus’
tarrèku ‘sciurus’
tehánuda ‘lupus’
wark ‘ursus’
ti ‘rangifer cicur’
giléwsi ‘rangifer ferus’
gabórta ‘alce’
piéku ‘hermineum’
to ‘martes zibelina’
gíngäni ‘gulo’
tö́öna ‘vulpes’
nócha ‘песецъ’
wéneku ‘canis’
písse ‘mus’
púddo ‘glis’

chálljä ‘piscis’
tiréwjä ‘oua piscium’
behánna ‘sturio’
nadsìk ‘sterled’
pürrè ‘lucius’
nója ‘mustela fluviatilis (налим)’
nísche ‘perca’
lagórka ‘soroga’
táiï ‘таимен’
áddi ‘nelma’
beríse ‘tschira’
subbùg ‘muxun’

jeptu ‘anser’
njawétjä ‘anas’
chanípsu ‘noctua’
líbbe ‘aquila’
tíä ‘accipiter’
kugórre ‘cygnus’
túa ‘ala’
sárnu ‘ovum’

ngámmjä ‘lac’
jur ‘butyrum, oleum’
kírwa ‘panis’
ja ‘farina’

kuo ‘betula’
cha ‘abies’
pi ‘abies alba’
je ‘pinus’
cháru ‘larix’
tíddi ‘cedrus’
néru ‘талникъ salix’
poiju ‘олха almus’
pi ‘осина populus’

[Other plants:]
uewa ‘folium’
uáddu ‘radix’
ngóde ‘ягоды’
marága ‘мороска’
kjö́pte ‘кислица’
panárma ‘черница’
jésire ‘брусница’
schar-ngóde ‘черемха’
ngub ‘gramen’

[Foodstuffs II:]
ngábsa ‘caro’
sir ‘sal’
tú bi ‘vinum adustum’

ngámgad ‘esuriens’
bigíllang ‘sitiens’
malínem ‘satur’
jäwílnem ‘ebrius’
aúwurman ‘edere’
bidímat ‘bibere’
páddanga ‘scribere’
chonáui ‘dormire’
cháiwe kánto ‘ire’
núled ‘stare’
láchan ‘loqui’
múdsju ‘sile’
cháiwe ‘vehi’
módi ‘núel sto’
au ‘stas’
pu pi ‘stat’
modi chodégu ‘dormio’
modi modíegan ‘video’
nje modès ‘non video’
módi pissídagat ‘rideo’
módi járra ‘lacrymo’

sirr ‘albus’
parríde ‘niger’
njä́rkana ‘ruber’
tássedénga ‘viridis, caeruleus, flauus’

[Other adjectives:]
njárka ‘magnus’
nö́löku ‘paruus’
pírtse ‘altus’
ladíku ‘humilis’
pämesúma ‘tenebrosus’
júwa ‘calidus’
títi ‘frigidus’
nodábi ‘humidus’
kássui ‘siccus’
jilléga ‘viuus’
chábbi ‘mortuus’

mer ‘mane’
pä́mesúma ‘sero’
tükǘjalle ‘hodie’
tépta ‘cras’
tehúwjalle ‘perendie’
téjalle ‘heri’
nhä́rudodijálle ‘nudius tertius’
ngjarnà ‘antrorsum’
púnjä ‘retrorsum’

ngob 1
sídde 2
njä́har 3
tétti 4
sábljäk 5
mat 6
séo 7
sírdjet 8
nä́essa 9
bü, büu 10
ngob-jagà 11
side-jagà 12
njär-jagà 13
tjäti-jagà 14
sabljäk-jagà 15
mat-jagà 16
seo-jagà 17
sirdjét-jaga 18
näessà-jagà 19
sidè-wü 20
njä́har-bü 30
tjäto-bü 40
sabljä̀g-bü 50
mátta-bü 60
séo-bü 70
sirdétte-bü 80
näessa-bü 90
jur 100
jur-ngob 101
sidè-jur 200
njä́har-jur 300
bü-jur 1000
jur-jur 10000

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Posted in Etymology
13 comments on “Yurats Addenda
  1. David Marjanović says:

    while *ë > ɨ seems to rule out Tundra Nenets (which has xe̮m ‘blood’; xe̮wa- ‘to bleed’).

    Isn’t ы one of the most obvious Russian options for interpreting [ɤ]?

    (Or maybe I’ve just been in Poland for too long, where y is [ɘ] or thereabouts.)

    wark ‘bear’ < *wərkə

    …Any connection to the Scandinavian varg…?

    pápa ‘soror natu minor’


    • j. says:

      Isn’t ы one of the most obvious Russian options for interpreting [ɤ]?

      For [ɤ] it would likely be, but “” is fairly open in most Siberian Uralic languages (as far as [ɐ] in some of Mansi). AFAI have seen, early Russian sources mostly use е, э or а, я, occasionally even ё.

      …Any connection to the Scandinavian varg…?

      If you are willing to buy an analysis of that being also derived from Indo-Iranian *wr̥gas (IMO perhaps better through Finnic *vargas than directly II → Germanic).

      • Howl says:

        Samoyed *wərkə reminds me of PIE *ǵʰwḗr ‘bear’ which is possibly even the ancestor of the germanic word ‘bear’.

        • Howl says:

          A small correction. PIE *ǵʰwḗr does not mean ‘bear’ but ‘wild animal’.

          But I do see a parallel in PIE *ǵʰwḗr ‘wild animal’ ~ PSam *wərkə ‘bear’ with PIE *ḱwṓ(n) ‘dog’ ~ PSam *wën ‘dog’.

  2. Crom Daba says:

    The situation with w and b reminds me of Daur, where *b is preserved only when palatalized (before *ï, *i).

    • j. says:

      Interesting … I’ve had for a while a hypothesis brewing that early Mongolian and Turkic may have been hit by the same wave of *w-fortition as most of Samoyedic and/or much of Indo-Iranian (similar to the not quite as widespread *j > ď ~ dž ~ etc.), as a partial source of Mongolic *b and perhaps the main source of Turkic *b. In this case fricatives / glides in some dialects might then be actually retentions. Although, Uralic *w ~ Altaic *b correspondences could be surely just a sound substitution in loanwords as well.

      Now that I’m looking up Dagur it also seems that you only mean medial *-b-; StarLing has all sorts of examples like beri ‘daughter-in-law’, bodo- ‘to think’, budūn ‘thick’, which I assume would also have [p] and not [b].

      • Crom Daba says:

        I was thinking of **w > **p > *h to connect Tü. *här, *herkek ‘man’ with the IE vir etymon, but I that’s all I have (Tungusic doesn’t have *w except in *wā- ‘to kill’).

        I don’t have any work to show on this, but I’d bet Tü. *b- is largely from **m-, it’s hard to explain the lack of *m- otherwise, and Yeniseian also seems to show *N > *D in some Dene-Yeniseian comparisons.

        Yeah, Daur lenition is intervocal.

        Mo. **w > *b intervocally would be nifty as it would make Khitan more archaic in this respect. I have this other idea though, that perhaps it was **-b- which became *-x- while **-p- lenited to *-b-, which would make more sense phonetically and explain Tü. *-b- ~ Mo. *-x- (but then Ma. -f- ~ Mo. *-x- becomes problematic).

        • j. says:

          Everyone seems to agree that Turkic does *n- (and *ń-?) > *j-, so for *m- the development may have been similarly > *w- > *b-. Although I would also not discount offhand even the option that lack of initial nasals is an archaism of some time-depth, and whatever are the closest relatives of Turkic have rather gone through something like *B > *m before nasal vowels.

          • Crom Daba says:

            **n- > *y- doesn’t seem incontrovertible, although I am hopeful for it.
            **ń- > *y- is a more popular proposition since cases with Mo. *nI- ~ Tü. *y- and Hu. ny- ~ Tü. *y- appear more secure.

            But an important piece of evidence is the change **d- > *y-, confirmed by many Mongolic cognates a few Hungarian cognates (if a bit shaky) and IIRC some Khazar onomastics/toponymy (I can’t find them atm though, hopefully I’m not misremembering).
            Taking it into account it seems preferable to explain **n, **d > *y as **n > **d > *y since the first is already found in Yeniseian.

            I don’t have any data on phonotactic constraints, but no initial nasals seems somewhat unusual and the fact that it lasted for only a short period after the first attestation seems to support the notion of being unstable.

            • j. says:

              **d- > *y-, confirmed by many Mongolic cognates a few Hungarian cognates

              Mongolic basically doesn’t have *j- outside of *ia > *ja, does it? I would be again tempted to reverse the analysis and assume *j > *ď > *d there vs. retention in Turkic. (But unlike the *w case, I can’t seem to find any real corroboration for this idea from Uralic.)

              AFAIK Hungarian only really has examples for *j → gy or sz, though a few words like disznó ‘pig’ have a later development (only in some dialects) gyi > di.

              it seems preferable to explain **n, **d > *y as **n > **d > *y

              This is amusingly the exact opposite of Sayan Samoyedic, which characteristically has *j > *ď > *ń ( /_VN) > n (or maybe *ď > *d > n).

              no initial nasals seems somewhat unusual and the fact that it lasted for only a short period after the first attestation seems to support the notion of being unstable

              No phonetic initial nasals would be very unusual for sure, but the b → [m] / _N rule could have existed as allophonic for a good while.

              • Crom Daba says:

                Actually Proto-Mongolic has a clear opposition between *y- and *ǰ- (although *y- is a bit less common than *ǰ-, less than 20 roots against around 80) which is often trotted out when discussing Turkic (all but the most recent loans show Tü. *y- ~ Mo. *ǰ-).
                (Although I have harboured the idea of **IxV- > *yV- in Mongolic for some time now, but this isn’t something I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere.)

                There’s also Tü. *yaŋak, *yagak ‘nut’ ~ Hu. dió, but yes it’s weak.

                I also thought that the correspondence might be due to fortition in Mongolic (inspired by the split of Tun. *ǯ into Orok ǯ and d before i and other vowels respectively and palatalization of Mongolic *dI), but that Khazar evidence tipped me over to the other side.

                *y- > *ń ( /_VN) is also a Yenisei Turkic thing, so it might be a later reversal.

      • j. says:

        I’ve had for a while a hypothesis brewing that early Mongolian and Turkic may have been hit by the same wave of *w-fortition as most of Samoyedic and/or much of Indo-Iranian

        Slightly belated note: this hypothesis is now explored, partly modified, in a follow-up post .

  3. Howl says:

    jäwílnem ‘ebrius = drunk’

    Any connection to PU *jëxe ‘to drink’?

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