Southern Altai
Oirot, Oyrot (before 1948)
тÿштÿк алтай тил, tüştük altay til
Southern Altai written in Cyrillic and Latin scripts
Native toRussia
RegionAltai Republic
Native speakers
68,700 (2020)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-2alt
ISO 639-3alt
ELPSouthern Altai

Southern Altai (also known as Oirot, Oyrot, Altai and Altai proper) is a Turkic language spoken in the Altai Republic, a federal subject of Russia located in Southern Siberia on the border with Mongolia and China. The language has some mutual intelligibility with the Northern Altai language, leading to the two being traditionally considered as a single language. According to modern classifications—at least since the middle of the 20th century—they are considered to be two separate languages.[5]

A man, named Dmitry, speaking Southern Altai.

Written Altai is based on Southern Altai. According to some reports, however, it is rejected by Northern Altai children. Dialects include Altai Proper and Talangit.[6]


Southern Altai is a member of the Turkic language family. Within this family, there have been various attempts to classify Altai, and not all of them agree as to its position as it has a number of ambiguous characteristics.[7] Due to certain similarities with Kyrgyz, some scholars group Altai with the Kyrgyz–Kipchak subgroup of the Kypchak languages.[2][3][8]

Geographic distribution

Southern Altai is primarily spoken in the Altai Republic, where it has official status alongside Russian.


Baskakov identifies three dialects of Southern Altai, some of which have distinctive sub-varieties:[2]

Some sources consider Telengit and Teleut to be distinct languages.[9][10]


Southern Altai has 8 vowels, which may be long or short, and 20 consonants, plus marginal consonants that occur only in loan words.[11]


Southern Altai vowels
Front Back
High iy ɯu
Low eø ao


Southern Altai consonants
Labial Alveolar Post-alveloar Velar Uvular
Plosive pb td ɟ kɡ q
Affricate (ts)
Fricative fv sz ʃʒ (x)   ɣ
Nasal m n ŋ
Trill r
Approximant l j

Phonemes in parentheses occur only in Russian loanwords.

Writing system

Southern Altai employs a version of the Cyrillic alphabet with additional characters to represent sounds not found in Russian.[12]

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Ј ј Е е
Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Л л
М м Н н Ҥ ҥ О о Ӧ ӧ П п Р р
С с Т т У у Ӱ ӱ Ф ф Х х Ц ц
Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Э э


  1. ^ "Информационные материалы об окончательных итогах Всероссийской переписи населения 2010 года". Russian Federal State Statistics Service. 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Baskakov, N. A. (1958). "La Classification des Dialectes de la Langue Turque d'Altaï". Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae (in French). 8: 9–15. ISSN 0001-6446.
  3. ^ a b Kormushin, I. V. (2018). "Алтайский язык" [Altai language]. Большая российская энциклопедия/Great Russian Encyclopedia Online (in Russian).
  4. ^ Tekin, Tâlat (January 1989). "A New Classification of the Chuvash-Turkic Languages". Erdem. 5 (13): 129–139. doi:10.32704/erdem.1989.13.129. ISSN 1010-867X. S2CID 64344619.
  5. ^ Nikolay Baskakov (1958). The Altai language. Moscow: Nauka.
  6. ^ Raymond G. Gordon, Jr, ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  7. ^ Schönig, Claus (1997). "A new attempt to classify the Turkic languages (1)". Turkic Languages. 1: 117–133.
  8. ^ Schönig, Claus (2007). "Some notes on Modern Kipchak Turkic (Part 1)". Ural-altaische Jahrbücher. 21: 170–202.
  9. ^ "Telengitsky yazyk | Malye yazyki Rossii" Теленгитский язык | Малые языки России [Telengit language | Minor languages of Russia]. Retrieved 2023-05-23.
  10. ^ "Teleutsky yazyk | Malye yazyki Rossii" Телеутский язык | Малые языки России [Teleut language | Minor languages of Russia]. Retrieved 2023-05-23.
  11. ^ Baskakov, N.A. (1997). "Altaysky yazyk" Алтайский язык [Altai language]. In Institut Jazykoznanija (ed.). Tyurkskie yazyki Языки мира: тюркские языки [Languages of the world: Turkic languages]. Jazyki mira / Rossijskaja Akademija Nauk, Institut Jazykoznanija. [Glav. red. koll.: V. N. Jarceva (otv. red.) ...] Biškek: Kyrgyzstan. ISBN 978-5-655-01214-1. OCLC 42579926.
  12. ^ Russko-altaysky slovar. Tom 1: A-O Русско-алтайский словарь. Том I: А – О [Russian-Altai dictionary. Book I: A-O]. Gorno-Altaysk: Nauchno-issledovatelsky institut altaistiki im. S.S. Surazakova. 2015. ISBN 978-5-903693-23-8.