Kalmyk language resources
Kalmyk is spoken on a daily basis in: Mongolia
Additional background on
Kalmyk (Kalmuck, Calmouk, Oirat) is the language of the Kalmyks, spoken in Kalmykia (Russian Federation), Western China and Western Mongolia. There are about 160,000 Kalmyk speakers in each country.
Kalmyk belongs to the Kalmyk-Oirat subgroup of the Mongolic languages. It also has some elements in common with the Uralic and Turkic languages, and is sometimes speculated to be a member of the disputed Altaic language family. This reflects Kalmyk's origin as the common language of the Oirats, a union of four Kalmyk tribes that absorbed some Ugric and Turkic tribes during their expansion westward.
The literary tradition of Kalmyk reaches back to 11th century when the Uyghur script was used. The official Kalmyk alphabet named Todo Bichig (Clear Script) was created in the 17th century by a Kalmyk Buddhist monk called Zaya Pandit. In 1924 this script was replaced by a Cyrillic script, which was abandoned in 1930 in favor of a Latin script. The Latin script was in turn replaced by another Cyrillic script in 1938. These script reforms effectively disrupted the Kalmyk literary tradition.
The Kalmyks suffered greatly during the Soviet period. Half of all Kalmyk speakers died during the Russian Civil War. Stalin's ethnic cleansings also significantly reduced the population of the Kalmyk people. Until recently, the Kalmyk population in Russia was at lower levels than it had been in 1913. Russian was made the primary official language of Kalmykia, and in 1963 the last Kalmyk language classes were closed and Russian became the language of education for Kalmyk children.
As a result of these policies, many Kalmyks do not speak their own language. Kalmyk linguists, in collaboration with the Kalmyk government, are working to improve this situation. Beginning in 1993, school education in the Kalmyk language was restored.
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All data is derived from UNESCO.