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Moksha language

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Moksha language

Мокшень кяль / mokšenj kälj
Native to Russia
Region European Russia
Ethnicity Mokshas
Native speakers
390,000 (together with Erzya)  (2010 census)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 Mordovia (Russia)
Regulated by Mordovian Research Institute of Language, Literature, History and Economics
Language codes
ISO 639-2 mdf
ISO 639-3 mdf
Glottolog moks1248[2]

The Moksha language (Moksha: мокшень кяль mokšenj kälj) is a member of the Mordvinic branch of the Uralic languages with around 130,000 native speakers.[1] Moksha is the majority language in the western part of Mordovia.[3] Its closest relative is the Erzya language, with which it is not mutually intelligible. Moksha is also considered to be closely related to the extinct Meshcherian and Muromian languages.[4] There are presently six dialects of Moksha: Central, Western (or Zubu dialect), South-Western, Northern, South-Eastern and Southern.

Official status

Moksha is one of the three official languages in Mordovia. The right to one's own language is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Mordovia Republic.[5] However, there is no special language law regulating the use of Moksha. Courts and other governmental agencies in Mordovia conduct their proceedings and issue official documents only in Russian. Moksha and Erzya languages support is largely decorative and even that is rather limited. Public speeches, street information, names of farms, companies are in Russian. Mordvinian State University offers all courses only in Russian. Since 1973 Moksha language was allowed to be used as language of instruction in first 3 grades of elementary school in rural areas and as a subject on a voluntary basis.[6] Since 2010, compulsory study of Moksha in schools is illegal.[7]


Due to the extensive use of its agglutinative morphology, Moksha words can be quite long.

The main stress is always on the first syllable. Stress does not cause any measurable modifications in vowel quality. However, stress is not strong and words may appear evenly stressed.

Other grammatical features of Moksha include a lack of gender and vowel harmony, like most Uralic languages.[8]


There are eight vowels, whose lexical and grammatical role is highly important, and which are unusually strictly controlled, so that there is almost no allophony. These are always different phonemes in the initial syllable; for non-initial syllable, see morphophonology below. Moksha has lost its original system of vowel harmony.

Front Central Back
Close i (ɨ) u
Mid e ə o
Open æ a


There are 33 consonants in Moksha.

Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
plain palat.
Nasal m n
Stop p b t d k g
Affricate ts tsʲ
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ ç x
Approximant l l̥ʲ j
Trill r r̥ʲ

/ç/ may be realized also as a sibilant [ɕ] in certain dialects.

Palatalization, characteristic of Uralic languages, is contrastive for alveolar consonants. Before the front vowels /i e ɛ/, all other consonants have palatalized allophones as well. There is also a palatalized postalveolar affricate, which lacks a corresponding non-palatalized affricate, but the postalveolar fricatives lack palatalized counterparts.


Unusually for an Uralic language, there is also a series of voiceless liquid consonants: /l̥ l̥ʲ r̥ r̥ʲ/. These have arisen from Proto-Mordvinic consonant clusters of a sonorant followed by a voiceless stop of affricate: *p, *t⁽ʲ⁾, *ts⁽ʲ⁾, *k.

Before certain inflectional and derivational endings, devoicing continues to exist as a phonological process in Moksha. This affects all other voiced consonants as well, including the nasal consonants and semivowels. No voiceless nasals are however found in Moksha: the devoicing of nasals produces voiceless oral stops. Altogether the following devoicing processes apply:
Plain b m d n g l r v z ʒ j
Devoiced p t k l̥ʲ r̥ʲ f s ʃ ç

E.g. before the nominative plural /-t⁽ʲ⁾/:

  • кал /kal/ 'fish' > калхт /kal̥t/ 'fishes'
  • лем /lʲem/ 'name' > лепть /lʲeptʲ/ 'names'


Writing system

Moksha is written using Cyrillic with spelling rules identical to those of Russian and as a consequence of that vowels e, ä, ə are not indicated in a consistent way.[9] The Moksha version of the Cyrillic alphabet has several extra letters, either digraphs or single letters with diacritics.[10] Although the use of the Latin script for Moksha was officially approved by the CIK VCKNA (General Executive Committee of the All Union New Alphabet Central Committee) on June 25, 1932, it was never implemented.

Mokshan Latin alphabet 1930s
Mokshan Cyrillic alphabet 1924–1927
SIL code: MDF
ISO 639-2: mdf
  • Latin alphabet (1930s): A/a, B/в, C/c, Ç/ç, D/d, Ə/ә, E/e, F/f, G/g, Y/y, I/i, J/j, K/k, L/l, M/m, N/n, O/o, P/p, R/r, S/s, Ş/ş, T/t, U/u, V/v, X/x, Z/z, ƶ, ь, rx, lh
  • Cyrillic alphabet for Russian: 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, О/о, П/п, Р/р, С/с, Т/т, У/у, Ф/ф, Х/х, Ц/ц, Ч/ч, Ш/ш, Щ/щ, Ъ/ъ, Ы/ы, Ь/ь, Э/э, Ю/ю, Я/я
  • Alternative Latin alphabet: Aa, Ää, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Qq, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, Zz
Pronunciation of the Cyrillic alphabet
Letter Sound
А а [a], [ə]
Б б [b]
В в [v]
Г г [ɡ]
Д д [d]
Е е [je]
Ё ё [jo]
Ж ж [ʒ]
З з [z]
И и [i]
Й й [j]
К к [k]
Л л [l]
М м [m]
Н н [n]
О о [o], [ə]
П п [p]
Р р [r]
С с [s]
Т т [t]
У у [u]
Ф ф [f]
Х х [h]
Ц ц [ts]
Ч ч [t͡ʃ]
Ш ш [ʃ]
Щ щ [ʃt͡ʃ]
Ъ ъ hard sign, [ə]
Ы ы [ɨ]
Ь ь soft sign, [i]
Э э [e]
Ю ю [ju]
Я я [ja]


Before 1917 about 100 books and pamphlets mostly of religious character were published. More than 200 manuscripts including at least 50 wordlists were not printed. In the 19th century the Russian Orthodox Missionary Society in Kazan published Moksha primers and elementary textbooks of the Russian language for the Mokshas. Among them were two fascicles with samples of Moksha folk poetry. The great native scholar Makar Evsevyev collected Moksha folk songs published in one volume in 1897. Early in the Soviet period, social and political literature predominated among published works. Printing of Moksha language books was all done in Moscow until the establishment of the Mordvinian national district in 1928. Official conferences in 1928 and 1935 decreed the northwest dialect to be the basis for the literary language.

Common expressions (Moksha–Russian–English)

Moksha Transliteration Russian English
И́на Ina Да Yes
Э́ле Elä Да Yes
Пара Para Ладно Good
Аф Af Не Not
Аш Ash Нет No
Шумбра́т! Shumbrat! Здравствуй! Hello! (addressing one person)
Шумбра́тада! Shumbratada! Здравствуйте! Hello! (addressing more than one person)
Сюк(пря)! Sjuk(prä)! Привет! ("поклон"), Добро пожаловать! Hi! (Welcome!)
Ульхть шумбра́! Uljxtj shumbra! Будь здоров! Take care!
У́леда шумбра́т! Uleda shumbrat! Будьте здоровы! Take care (to many)!
Ко́да те́фне? Koda tefnä? Как дела? How are your things getting on/How are you?
Ко́да э́рят? Koda erjat? Как поживаешь? How do you do?
Лац! Це́бярьста! Lats! Tsebärjsta! Неплохо! Замечательно! Fine! Very good!
Ня́емозонк! Näjemozonk! До свидания! Good bye!
Ва́ндыс! Vandys! До завтра! See you tomorrow!
Шумбра́ста па́чкодемс! Shumbrasta pachkodems! Счастливого пути! Have a good trip/flight!
Па́ра а́зан
- ле́здоманкса!
- се́мбонкса!
Para azan
- lezdomanksa!
- sembonksa!
- за помощь!
- за всё!
Thank you
- for help/assistance!
- for everything!
Аш ме́зенкса! Ash mezenksa! Не за что! Not at all!
Простямак! Prostjamak! Извини! I'm sorry!
Простямасть! Prostjamastj! Извините! I'm sorry (to many)!
Тят кя́жиякшне! Tät käzhijakshnä! Не сердись! I didn't mean to hurt you!
Ужя́ль! Uzhälj! Жаль! It's a pity!
Ко́да тонь ле́мце? Koda tonj lemtsä? Как тебя зовут? What is your name?
Монь ле́мозе ... Monj lemozä ... Меня зовут ... My name is ...
Мъзя́ра тейть ки́зa? M'zjara teitj kiza? Сколько тебе лет? How old are you?
Мъзя́ра тейнза ки́за? M'zjara teinza kiza? Сколько ему (ей) лет? How old is he (she)?
Те́йне ... ки́зот. Teinä ... kizot. Мне ... лет. I'm ... years old.
Те́йнза ... ки́зот. Teinza ... kizot. Ему (ей) ... лет. He (she) is ... years old.
Мярьгат сува́мс? Märjgat suvams? Разреши войти? May I come in?
Мярьгат о́замс? Märjgat ozams? Разреши сесть? May I have a seat?
О́зак. Ozak. Присаживайся. Take a seat.
О́зада. Ozada. Присаживайтесь. Take a seat (to more than one person).
Учт аф ла́мос. Ucht af lamos. Подожди немного. Please wait a little.
Мярьк та́ргамс? Märjk targams? Разреши закурить? May I have a smoke?
Та́ргак. Targak. Кури(те). You may smoke.
Та́ргада. Targada. Курите. You may smoke (to more than one person).
Аф, э́няльдян, тят та́рга. Af, enäldjan, tjat targa. Нет, пожалуйста, не кури. Please, don't smoke.
Ко́рхтак аф ламода сяда кайгиста (сяда валомня). Korxtak af lamoda sjada kajgista (sjada valomnä). Говори немного погромче (тише). Please speak a bit louder (lower).
Азк ни́нге весть. Azk ningä vestj. Повтори ещё раз. Repeat one more time.
Га́йфтть те́йне. Gajfttj teinä. Позвони мне. Call me.
Га́йфтеда те́йне. Gajfteda teinä. Позвоните мне. Call me (to more than one person).
Га́йфтть те́йне сяда ме́ле. Gajfttj teinä sjada melä. Перезвоните мне позже. Call me later.
Сува́к. Suvak. Войди. Come in.
Сува́да. Suvada. Войдите. Come in (to many).
Ётак. Jotak. Проходи. Enter.
Ётада. Jotada. Проходите. Enter (to many).
Ша́чема ши́цень ма́рхта! Shachema shitsenj marxta! С днём рождения! Happy Birthday!
А́рьсян тейть па́ваз! Arjsjan teitj pavaz! Желаю тебе счастья! I wish you happiness!
А́рьсян тейть о́цю сатфкст! Arjsjan teitj otsju satfkst! Желаю тебе больших успехов! I wish you great success!
Тонь шумбраши́цень и́нкса! Tonj shumbrashitsenj inksa! За твое здоровье! Your health!
Од Ки́за ма́рхта! Od Kiza marxta! С Новым годом! Happy New Year!
Ро́штува ма́рхта! Roshtuva marxta! С Рождеством! Happy Christmas!
То́ньге ста́не! Tonjgä stanä! Тебя также! Same to you!

See also


  1. ^ a b Janurik, Boglárka (2013). "Code-switching in an Erzya-Russian bilingual variety: An "endangered" transitory phase in a contact situation". In Mihas, Elena; Perley, Bernard; Rei-Doval, Gabriel et al. Responses to Language Endangerment. In honor of Mickey Noonan. New directions in language documentation and language revitalization. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. p. 180.  
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Moksha". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ [1] Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ Janse, Mark; Sijmen Tol; Vincent Hendriks (2000). Language Death and Language Maintenance. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. A108.  
  5. ^ Constitution of the Mordovia Republic
  6. ^ Isabelle T. Kreindler, The Mordvinians: A doomed Soviet nationality? | Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique. Vol. 26 N°1. Janvier-Mars 1985. pp. 43-62
  7. ^ General Prosecutor of Mordovia on language law violation
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ Denis Sinor, The Uralic Languages: Description, History and Foreign Influences. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-07741-3
  10. ^ page on the Moksha language


External links

  • Mokshen Pravda newspaper
  • News in Moksha
  • Mokshan folklore
  • Mokshan mythology
  • Linguistic links
  • "Periodic table in Moksha language". Archived from the original on 2012-11-17. 
  • Russian-Moksha-Erzya Dictionary
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