Uralo-Siberian languages

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Uralo-Siberian is a hypothetical language family consisting of the following language families:

  • Uralic
  • Yukaghir
  • Chukotko-Kamchatkan
  • Eskimo-Aleut


Structural similarities between Uralic and Eskimo-Aleut languages were observed early. In 1746, the Danish theologian Marcus Wöldike compared Greenlandic to Hungarian. In 1818, Rasmus Rask considered Greenlandic to be related to the Uralic languages, and presented a list of lexical correspondences. (Rask also considered Uralic and Altaic to be related to each other.) In 1959, Knut Bergsland published the paper The Eskimo-Uralic Hypothesis, in which he, like other authors before him, presented a number of grammatical similarities and a small number of lexical correspondences. In 1962, Morris Swadesh proposed a relationship between the Eskimo-Aleut and Chukotko-Kamchatkan language families. In 1998, Michael Fortescue put all the strings together in his book, Language Relations across Bering Strait.



The consonant inventories of the reconstructed protolanguages of the four Uralo-Siberian families show similarities which invite comparison, such as the single set of voiceless stops matched by a set of nasals at the same places of articulation, and a set of consonants usually reconstructed as voiced fricatives at some of these places. Fortescue (1998:129 ff.) reconstructs the following.


  Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Stops *p *t *t' *k
Voiced fricatives *v *ð'
Nasals *m *n *n'
Affricates   *c    
Sibilants   *s *s'  
Laterals   *l (*l')  
Glides *w *r *j  


  Front Central Back
Close *i (*ü)   (*ï) *u
Mid *e *o
Open   *a

Sound correspondences

Uralic Yukaghir Chukotko-
*p *p *p-/-w- *p *p
*t *t *t-/-ð- *t *t
*t' *c *c' *t *t'
*k *k *k-/-ɣ- *k/q *k/q
*v *w *w *v *v
*ð' *ð' *ð/l' *(l') ð/l/Ø-
*ɣ/w *ɣ/R *ɣ/R
*m *m *m/-w- *m *m/-w-
*n *n *n/n' *n *n
*n' *n' *n/n' *(j) *n'
*s *s *l-/j-/Ø Ø Ø
*s' *s'/c' *s'/c' *c/l s'
*c *c *c'/-c- *c *c
*l *l *l/l' *l *-l-/Ø-
*l' *(l') *l/l' *(l') *(-l'-/Ø)
*r *r *r *r *l
*w *w *w *w -v-(Ø-)
*j *j *j *j -j-/Ø-
*a *a/ï *a/e/ï *æ~a *a
*e/a *æ~a *a
*e *e *e *i~e *i
*i *i *i *i~e *i
*o *o *o *u~o *u
*u *u/ü  ? *u~o *u


Apparently shared elements of Uralo-Siberian morphology include the following:

*-t plural
*-k dual
*m- 1st person
*t- 2nd person
*ka interrogative pronoun
*-n genitive case

Uwe Seefloth reconstructed a verbal paradigm for Uralo-Siberian on Samoyedic and Eskimo-Aleut data.


Fortescue (1998) lists 95 lexical correspondence sets with reflexes in at least three of the four language families, and even more shared by two of the languages. Examples are *ap(p)a 'grandfather', *kað'a 'mountain' and many others.


  • Knut Bergsland (1959) The Eskimo-Uralic hypothesis. Journal de la Societé Finno-Ougrienne, 61, 1-29.
  • Michael Fortescue (1998) Language Relations across Bering Strait. ISBN 0-304-70330-3.

This article is derived from the Wikipedia article.