This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Nuts and Bolts: Tundra Yukagir

It's Christmas Eve, and everyone greedy for presents is turning their thoughts to the far north.

My thoughts are in the far north, too, but just now I am more concerned about something that we're in danger of losing.

The language of Tundra Yukagir is spoken by about fifty people in the northeast of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in Arctic Russia.

Tundra Yukagir is extremely special and precious, because when you tell stories in Tundra Yukagir you do it in a different way from everyone else in the world.

When you tell a story in Tundra Yukagir, you start off speaking it, but gradually you begin to sing.

Here's a poem translated from Tundra Yukagir. The poetry of Tundra Yukagir is stunningly beautiful, and I recommend it strongly.

When Our Camps Separated

When our camps separated
I looked after him:
He is tall like a mountain ash
His hair covered his shoulders
Like black squirrels' tails.
When he disappeared
I lay down in the tent:
Oh, how long is a spring day?
But the evening came
And through a hole in the tent cover
I saw my love coming.
When he came in
And looked at me
My heart melted
Like snow in the sun.

It being Christmas time, I'm glad to bring tidings of great joy. The name the Tundra Yukagir people have for themselves is the Odul, which means mighty, and in the village of Andryushkino, where most Tundra Yukagir people live, Tundra Yukagir is refusing to die. The children are learning their mother tongue at school from local native teachers, and a huge effort is being made to preserve it, to record it, and to encourage outside people to learn it.

And I have hope that soon there will be more Tundra Yukagir stories and poems for us to cherish.

Yukagir Shaman, 1902.

Word To Use Today: tundra. This word comes from the Finnish tunturi, a treeless hill.


  1. That is indeed truly beautiful and I am going to tweet the link. So glad the language will not die...

    1. Thanks, Adele. It's so simple, isn't it, but it says so much about all of us.

      Happy Christmas!