Native toUkraine, Georgia
EthnicityUrums (Turkic-speaking Greeks)
Native speakers
190,000 (2000)[1]
  • Tsalka
  • North Azovian
Cyrillic, Greek
Language codes
ISO 639-3uum
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Urum is a Turkic language spoken by several thousand ethnic Greeks who inhabit a few villages in Georgia and southeastern Ukraine. Over the past few generations, there has been a deviation from teaching children Urum to the more common languages of the region, leaving a fairly limited number of new speakers.[2] The Urum language is often considered a variant of Crimean Tatar.

Name and etymology

The name Urum is derived from Rûm ("Rome"), the term for the Byzantine Empire in the Muslim world. The Ottoman Empire used it to describe non-Muslims within the empire. The initial vowel in Urum is prosthetic. Turkic languages originally did not have /ɾ/ in the word-initial position and so in borrowed words, it used to add a vowel before it. The common use of the term Urum appears to have led to some confusion, as most Turkish-speaking Greeks were called Urum. The Turkish-speaking population in Georgia is often confused with the distinct community in Ukraine.[3][4]


Urum is a Turkic language belonging to the Kipchak branch of the family. According to Glottolog, Urum is a West Kipchak language and forms a subfamily with the Crimeaic languages (Crimean Tatar and Krymchak).[5]



Front Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
Close i ü /y/ ı /ɯ/ u
Close-mid e o
Near-open ä /æ/ ö /œ/
Open a



Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ⟨nʼ⟩ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t c ⟨tʼ⟩ k
voiced b d ɟ ⟨dʼ⟩ g
Affricate voiceless (ts) ⟨č⟩
voiced ⟨ǰ⟩
Fricative voiceless f (θ) s ʃ ⟨š⟩ x ⟨h⟩ h
voiced v (ð) z ʒ ⟨ž⟩ ɣ ⟨ğ⟩
Approximant (w) j
Lateral plain l
velarized ɫ
Flap ɾ ɾʲ ⟨rʼ⟩

/θ, ð/ appear solely in loanwords from Greek. /t͡s/ appears in loanwords. [w] can be an allophone of /v/ after vowels.[6][7]

Writing system

A few manuscripts are known to be written in Urum using Greek characters.[8] During the period between 1927 and 1937, the Urum language was written in reformed Latin characters, the New Turkic Alphabet, and used in local schools; at least one primer is known to have been printed. In 1937, the use of written Urum stopped. Alexander Garkavets uses the following alphabet:[9]

А а Б б В в Г г Ғ ғ Д д (Δ δ) Д′ д′
(Ђ ђ) Е е Ж ж Җ җ З з И и Й й К к
Л л М м Н н Ң ң О о Ӧ ӧ П п Р р
С с Т т Т′ т′ (Ћ ћ) У у Ӱ ӱ Υ υ Ф ф
Х х Һ һ Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы
Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я Ѳ ѳ

In an Urum primer issued in Kyiv in 2008, the following alphabet is suggested: [10]

А а Б б В в Г г Ґ ґ Д д Д' д' Дж дж
Е е З з И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н
О о Ӧ ӧ П п Р р С с Т т Т' т' У у
Ӱ ӱ Ф ф Х х Ч ч Ш ш Ы ы Э э


Very little has been published on the Urum language. There exists a very small lexicon,[11] and a small description of the language.[12] For Caucasian Urum, there is a language documentation project that collected a dictionary,[13] a set of grammatically relevant clausal constructions,[14] and a text corpus.[15] The website of the project contains issues about language and history.[16]


  1. ^ Urum at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Did you know Urum is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  3. ^ Казаков, Алексей (December 2000). Понтийские греки (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2008-01-27.
  4. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., ed. (2005). "Ethnologue Report for Urum". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. SIL International.
  5. ^ "Glottolog 4.3 - Urum". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  6. ^ a b Stavros, Skopeteas (2016). "The Caucasian Urums and the Urum language/Kafkasya Urumları ve Urum Dili". Handbook of Endangered Turkic Languages.
  7. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1986). Notes on the Urum language. Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 99–112.
  8. ^ "Urum". Language Museum. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015.
  9. ^ Гаркавець, Олександр (2000). Урумський словник (pdf) (in Ukrainian and Urum). p. 632.((cite book)): CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  10. ^ Смолина, Мария (2008). Урумский язык. Урум дили (приазовский вариант). Учебное пособие для начинающих с аудиоприложением (in Russian and Urum). p. 168. ISBN 978-966-8535-15-4.((cite book)): CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  11. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1985). A Tatar - English Glossary. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-00299-9.
  12. ^ Podolsky, Baruch (1986). "Notes on the Urum Language". Mediterranean Language Review. 2: 99–112.
  13. ^ Skopeteas; Moisidi; Sella-Mazi; Yordanoglu (2010). "Urum basic lexicon. Ms" (PDF). University of Bielefeld. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26.
  14. ^ Verhoeven; Moisidi; Yordanoglu (2010). "Urum basic grammatical structures. Ms" (PDF). University of Bremen. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26.
  15. ^ Skopeteas; Moisidi (2010). "Urum text collection. Ms". University of Bielefeld. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-09-19.
  16. ^ "Urum documentation project". Archived from the original on 2012-04-26.