Tuvan language

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Tuvinian language
( тыва дыл )

Spoken in

speaker 283,400 (2010)
Official status
Official language in Tuva RepublicRepublic of Tuva Republic of Tuva
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The Tuvinian language (tuwin. Тыва дыл tyva dyl ) is a Turkic language spoken by around 206,000 Tuvinians and the official language in the Russian Republic of Tuva. It is since 1940 with Cyrillic writing letters. There are also around 27,000 speakers of this language in the neighboring areas of Mongolia and the People's Republic of China .


In the Republic of Tuva, Tuvinian is the predominant everyday language. The preservation of the language is favored by the relative inaccessibility of the region. In addition to oral tradition, there is modern Tuvinian literature, books and newspapers appear. There are TV shows, websites and pop music in the Tuvan language.


Tuvinian distinguishes between four dialect groups: Central, West, Northeast and Southeast Tuvin: Middle Tuvin
includes the dialects Ovyur and Bii-Khem ; in addition, it forms the basis of the written Tuvan language. West Tuvinian was strongly influenced by the Altaic language, whereas the dialect in the south-east of the Tuvinian-speaking area was strongly influenced by Mongolian. Northeast Tuvinian makes use of nasal vowels and has many hunting and reindeer herding related expressions in its lexicon.

According to the system


Tuvinian has 19 consonantic phonemes, plus / f / and / ʦ /, which only appear in borrowings from Russian. Depending on the region, the language has either no voter participation or no aspiration correlation , with the former being the case for the majority of speakers.

Tuvinian consonant system
labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Plosives p t ʧ k ɡ
Nasals m n ŋ
Fricatives s z ʃ ʒ x
Taps / flaps ɾ
Lateral approximants l
Approximants ʋ j


One of the phonetic characteristics of Tuvinian compared to the other Turkic languages ​​is that Tuvinian distinguishes between short, long and deep vowels. The low tone affects the vowels differently:

  • a low vowel is half as long as a short vowel
  • Vowels in monosyllabic words rise in pitch after about half their duration from the low to the normal pitch
  • Polysyllabic words experience neither lengthening of the vowels nor an increase in pitch.

Harrison (2001) has shown that the low vowels are not pharyngealized vowels, as previously assumed.

Tuvan vocal system
Short Long Deep
closed open closed open closed open
Front Unrounded i e ì è
Rounded y O O O
Back Unrounded ɯ a ɯː à ɯ̀
Rounded u O O ù O


Tuvinian, like the related Turkish, is an agglutinating language . Tuvinian nouns can be declined in seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative , locative and allative . The basic functions of the cases can be seen from the following table:

Teve [teve] Nominative 'Camel' (no suffix)
Teve + / -NIŋ / [teveniŋ] Genitive , The camel '(The symbol [⁠ ŋ ⁠] is like the' ng 'in the German word, long pronounced')
Teve + / -NI / [teveni] accusative 'The camel' (direct object, as in "I saw the camel")
Teve + / -KA / [tevege] dative 'The camel'
Teve + / -DAn / [teveden] ablative 'From the camel' or 'as a / the camel' (in the sense of "bigger than a camel ")
Teve + / -DA / [tevede] locative 'By the camel' or 'in the camel' (sometimes used to denote possession)
Teve + / -Ye / [teveʒe] Allative , The camel '(the symbol [⁠ ʒ ⁠] is like the' g 'in the word, pronounced Floor')
Teve + / -DIvA / [tevedive] Allative 'Zum Kamel' (outdated or dialect expression of the allative)

The syntax follows the so-called SOV position. Example: [teve sigen tʃipken] (Camel eating hay-PRÄTERITUM) "The camel ate the hay"


Until 1930, the traditional Mongolian alphabet was used for the spelling of Tuvinian, after which the uniform Turkish language alphabet was used, which was replaced in 1940 in favor of a modified Cyrillic alphabet . This was extended by three additional characters in order to be able to designate purely Tuvan sounds.

New Turkish language alphabet (Jangalif) (1930 - 1941):

A a B ʙ C c D d E e F f G g Ƣ ƣ
H h I i J j Ɉ ɉ K k L l M m N n
Ꞑ ꞑ O o Ө ө P p R r S s Ş ş T t
U u V v X x Y y Z z Ƶ ƶ Ь ь

The letter Ɉ ɉ was excluded from the alphabet in 1931.

Additional Cyrillic characters from Tuvan

  • Ң ң ([ŋ], like German "ng")
  • Ө ө ([ø], like German "ö")
  • Ү ү ([y], like German "ü")

In the alphabet, they are placed immediately after the letter from which they are derived: Н follows Ң, О follows Ө, and У follows Ү.

Modern Tuvinian alphabet:

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж
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 Ү ү
Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы
Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я


  • Harrison, K. David. (2001): Topics in the Phonology and Morphology of Tuvan , Doctoral Dissertation, Yale University. (OCLC catalog # 51541112)
  • Ölmez, Mehmet: Tuvinian vocabulary with old Turkish and Mongolian parallels , Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-447-05499-7
  • Taube, Erika: Tuvinian songs. Folk poetry from Western Mongolia , Leipzig and Weimar. Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, 1980.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Tuvinian at Ethnologue

Web links