къумукъ тил (qumuq til)
Native toNorth Caucasus
RegionDagestan, Chechnya, North Ossetia
Native speakers
450,000 (2010 census)[1]
Cyrillic, Latin, Arabic
Official status
Official language in
Dagestan (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639-2kum
ISO 639-3kum
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Kumyk (къумукъ тил,[2] qumuq til,[3] قموق تيل[4][5]) is a Turkic language spoken by about 426,212 people, mainly by the Kumyks, in the Dagestan, North Ossetia and Chechen republics of the Russian Federation.[6][better source needed] Until the 20th century Kumyk was the lingua-franca of the Northern Caucasus.


Kumyk language belongs to the Kipchak-Cuman subfamily of the Kipchak family of the Turkic languages. It's a descendant of the Cuman language, with likely influence from the Khazar language,[7] and in addition contains words from the Bulghar and Oghuz substratum.[7] The closest languages to Kumyk are Karachay-Balkar, Crimean Tatar, and Karaim languages.[8]

Nikolay Baskakov, based on a 12th century scripture named Codex Cumanicus, included modern Kumyk, Karachai-Balkar, Crimean Tatar, Karaim, and the language of Mamluk Kipchaks in the linguistic family of the Cuman-Kipchak language. Samoylovich also considered Cuman-Kipchak close to Kumyk and Karachai-Balkar.[9]

Amongst the dialects of the Kumyk there are Kaitag, Terek (Güçük-yurt and Braguny), Buynaksk (Temir-Khan-Shura) and Xasavyurt. The latter two became basis for the literary language.[10]


Kumyk had been a lingua-franca of the bigger part of the Northern Caucasus, from Dagestan to Kabarda, until the 1930s[11][12][13] and was an official language of communication between the North-Eastern Caucasian nations and the Russian administration.[14]

In 1848, a professor of the "Caucasian Tatar" (Kumyk) Timofey Makarov published the first ever grammatical book in Russian language for one of the Northern Caucasian languages, which was international Kumyk. Makarov wrote:[15]

From the peoples speaking Tatar language I liked the most Kumyks, as for their language's distinction and precision, so for their closeness to the European civilization, but most importantly, I take in account that they live on the Left Flank of the Caucasian Front, where we're conducting military actions, and where all the peoples, apart from their own language, speak also Kumyk.

More than 90% of the Kumyks, according to 2010 census, also speak Russian, and those in Turkey and the Levant speak Turkish and Arabic.[citation needed]


Kumyk vowels
Front Back
Close i ⟨и⟩ y ⟨уь⟩ ɯ ⟨ы⟩ u ⟨у⟩
Mid e ⟨e⟩ ø ⟨оь⟩ o ⟨o⟩
Open æ ⟨ә⟩ a ⟨a⟩
Kumyk consonants
Labial Dental Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m ⟨м⟩ n ⟨н⟩ ŋ ⟨нг⟩ (ɴ) ⟨нг⟩
voiceless p ⟨п⟩ t ⟨т⟩ ⟨ч⟩ k ⟨к⟩ q ⟨къ⟩[a]
voiced b ⟨б⟩ d ⟨д⟩ ⟨дж⟩ ɡ ⟨г⟩ (ɢ) ⟨къ⟩[a]
Fricative voiceless f ⟨ф⟩ s ⟨c⟩ ʃ ⟨ш⟩ χ ⟨x⟩ h ⟨гь⟩
voiced β ⟨в⟩ z ⟨з⟩ ʒ ⟨ж⟩ ʁ ⟨гъ⟩
Liquid rhotic r ⟨p⟩
lateral l ⟨л⟩
Semivowel j ⟨й⟩
  1. ^ a b къ represents [ɢ] at the beginning of words, and [q] elsewhere (complementary distribution).[16]


Kumyk has been used as a literary language in Dagestan and Caucasus for some time.[when?] During the 20th century the writing system of the language was changed twice: in 1929, the traditional Arabic script (called ajam) was first replaced by a Latin script, which was then replaced in 1938 by a Cyrillic script.

Latin based alphabet (1927–1937)

Kumyk alphabet from newly introduced Latin school book (1935).
Kumyk alphabet from newly introduced Latin school book (1935).
A a B b C c Ç ç D d E e F f G g
Ƣ ƣ H h I i J j K k L l M m N n
Ꞑ ꞑ O o Ɵ ɵ P p Q q R r S s Ꞩ ꞩ
T t U u V v X x Y y Z z Ƶ ƶ Ь ь

Cyrillic based alphabet (since 1937)

А а Б б В в Г г Гъ гъ Гь гь Д д Е е
Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Къ къ Л л
М м Н н Нг нг О о Оь оь П п Р р С с
Т т У у Уь уь Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш
Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я

Literature and media

Irchi Kazak (Ийрчы Къазакъ Yırçı Qazaq; born 1839) is usually considered to be the greatest poet of the Kumyk language. The first regular Kumyk newspapers and magazines appeared in 1917–18 under the editorship of Kumyk poet, writer, translator, and theatre figure Temirbolat Biybolatov (Temirbolat Biybolat). Currently, the newspaper Ёлдаш (Yoldash, "Companion"), the successor of the Soviet-era Ленин ёлу (Lenin yolu, "Lenin's Path"), prints around 5,000 copies 3 times a week.[citation needed]

The Kumyk language was learned by Russian classical authors such as Leo Tolstoy[17] and Mikhail Lermontov,[18] both of whom served in the Caucasus. The language is present in such works of Tolstoy as "The Raid",[19] Cossacks,[20] Hadji Murat, and Lermontov's - "A Hero of Our Time",[21][18] Bestuzhev-Marlinsky's - "Molla-nur" and "Ammalat-bek".



  1. ^ 2010 Russian Census
  2. ^ L. S. Levitskaya, "Kumyk language", in Languages of the world. Turkic languages (1997). (in Russian)
  3. ^ https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/136205[bare URL PDF]
  4. ^ Ногайские и Кумыкский тексты, 1883, М.-Э. Османов, СпБ
  5. ^ Татарская грамматика кавказского наречия / Сост. Т. Макаровым. - Тифлис : тип. Канцелярии наместника кавк., 1848
  6. ^ "Kumyk language, alphabet and pronunciation".
  7. ^ a b Baskakov N.A. Введение в изучение тюркских языков. М., 1962, с. 236.
  8. ^ Кумыкский энциклопедический словарь. Махачкала. 2012. С. 218.
  9. ^ Абибуллаева С. "'Кодекс Куманикус' – ПАМЯТНИК ТЮРКСКИХ ЯЗЫКОВ КОНЦА XIII – НАЧАЛА XIV ВЕКОВ" (PDF) (in Russian). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Кумыкский язык // Большая советская энциклопедия : [в 30 т.] / гл. ред. А. М. Прохоров. — 3-е изд. — Москва: Советская энциклопедия, 1969—1978.
  11. ^ Pieter Muysken. (2008). Studies in language companion series. From linguistic areas to areal linguistics. Vol. 90. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 74. ISBN 9789027231000.
  12. ^ Nansen. Gjennem Kaukasus til Volga (Oslo: Jacob Dybwads Forlag, 1929).
  13. ^ Н.С.Трубецкой (1925). "О народах Кавказа" (статья ed.). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Ярцева В.Н. и др. (ред.) Языки Российской Федерации и соседних государств. Том 2. К-Р, стр. 183
  15. ^ "Kafkaz Lehçeni Tatar Grammatikası, Makarov 1848". caucasian.space (in Kumyk and Russian). Archived from the original on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
  16. ^ Levitskaïa. 1997.
  17. ^ "Лев Толстой: Дневник 1847 — 1854 гг. Тетрадь Г. Март - май 1851 г." tolstoy.lit-info.ru. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
  18. ^ a b Мугумова, Анна Львовна. "К проблеме ориентального лексического влияния на язык русской художественной литературы 20-30-х годов XIX в.: На материале произведений М. Ю. Лермонтова" (диссертация ed.). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ s:Набег (Толстой)
  20. ^ s:Казаки (Толстой)/XL
  21. ^ s:Герой нашего времени (Лермонтов)/Предисловие