Asian Geographic - - Front Page - REPUB­LIC OF XAKASIA, 50–60 SPEAK­ERS

Lit­tle is known about the Xyzyl lan­guage (pro­nounced ‘hiz­zle’), orig­i­nat­ing from the Repub­lic of Xakasia (or Khakas­sia). With only 50 to 60 speak­ers in the Xyzyl ter­ri­tory in Siberia to the north­west of Mon­go­lia, it is a crit­i­cally en­dan­gered lan­guage. Like most other di­alects in the re­gion, the de­cline in use of Xyzyl can be at­trib­uted to the stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of Rus­sian as a na­tional lan­guage.

It is recog­nised as an of­fi­cial di­alect of the Khakas (also spelled ‘Xakas’) lan­guages, which orig­i­nated from the south­ern Siberian Khakas Repub­lic. How­ever, the Xyzyl peo­ple as­sert that it is a sep­a­rate lan­guage al­to­gether. A lin­guis­tic anal­y­sis un­der­taken by re­searchers in the 2012 ‘En­dur­ing Voices’ ex­pe­di­tion demon­strated sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween some words of the Xyzyl and Khakas lan­guages. For ex­am­ple, the word for ‘ice’ is pho­net­i­cally sim­i­lar: it is pus in Khakas and mus in Xyzyl. How­ever, cer­tain words in both lan­guages do not cor­re­spond – such as ‘woman’, which is ipchi in Khakas and xat in Xyzyl. Both lan­guages are writ­ten in the Cyril­lic al­pha­bet.

Re­search has shown that Xyzyl is ef­fec­tively dif­fer­ent from other Khakas di­alects – enough to war­rant a dif­fer­ent set of ma­te­ri­als from the stan­dard­ised reg­is­ter of Khakas avail­able. Preser­va­tion ef­forts are be­ing made in re­sponse to its pre­car­i­ously en­dan­gered sta­tus and lack of writ­ten records. Mikhail Ta­batkin, for ex­am­ple, is a na­tive Xyzyl speaker who has spent the past decades pre­serv­ing words and tales in his lan­guage. Scan from Khakas book Buk­var (1934)


A Ta­jik tra­di­tional yurt in Pamir moun­tains, Ta­jik­istan


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