LWM 186: Enets

Artikel-Nr.: ISBN 9783895862298
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Ago Künnap
University of Tartu

Enets is one of the Samoyed languages, fairly little investigated but of considerable interest from the point of view of historical linguistics. The native speakers of Enets live in Siberia, on the eastern bank of the Yenisey River, close to the estuary of the river.

The written records about Enets were first fixed in the 17th century. Now there are about 200 Enetses, from them nearly 100 can yet speak Enets. All the Enetses can speak Russian and/or Nenets, partly also Nganasan. In the 18th century the number of the Enets population is supposed to have exceeded 3,000. The Enetses have never had their own written language or school instruction in their mother tongue.

From all the other Samoyed languages, Nenets and Nganasan are the closest to Enets. Enets has received most of the outside influence from Nenets, more recently from Russian. Enets has two dialects: Bai (Forest) and Madu (Tundra). The dialects primarily differ phonetically and lexically, partly also morphologically. The present outline has been compiled on the basis of the Bai dialect. In the Enets phonology the opposition of short and long vowels can be observed. Although there is a fairly good survey about the grammar of Enets, very few longer texts have been recorded. Enets is typologically a rather common Uralic language. Agglutination predominates over flection, synthetical features over analytical ones.

The parts of speech in Enets are nouns, adjectives, numerals, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, postpositions, conjunctions, particles and interjections. Grammatical gender is lacking. The category of case is primarily expressed by means of suffixes, there are seven cases. The nouns are used with the possessive suffix. There are also subject and object conjugations with differences in personal suffixes. The nouns may also be conjugated (nominal conjugation). The Enets modes are indicative, exadhortative, conjunctive, debitive, optative, imperative, auditive, interrogative and quotative. The tenses can be expressed by a common verbal aspect but in the preterite and future tenses separate suffixes can also be used.

The separate orientation can be expressed by a trinominal distribution of locatives: to where? where? from where? In case of verbal negation a separate negative auxiliary is used. The verbal forms can indicate the subject person and, in addition to its number, also the number of the object. Enets has no compound sentences: instead of a subordinate clause participial, gerundial and infinitival constructions are used. An attribute precedes its main word. In Enets there are numerous loan words from Nenets, particularly concerning reindeer rearing, Nganasan loans in connection with reindeer hunting and Russian loans related to more modern spheres of activity.

This outline is the first extensive modern survey about Enets.

Ago Künnap is Professor of Uralic Languages of the University of Tartu. He has published numerous papers and a few books on Samoyed languages.

ISBN 9783895862298. Languages of the World/Materials 186. 62pp. 1999.

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