middle chulym

I’ve always been fascinated with linguistics and different languages. I’m sure many kids invent their own language or secret writing system. I wish I could find mine, I seem to remember it being really cool. The fact that there are so many different natural spoken languages is amazing to me, far more than are even written down. I read today in Science Now (non-free reg. required) that:

Scholars have found a previously unrecorded language spoken by Siberians living along the Chulym River, 450 kilometers north of Western Mongolia. Known locally as “Ös,” it has also been provisionally termed “Middle Chulym.” The language is thought to belong to the Siberian Turkic family of languages, which are very different from Slavic languages like Russian.

The full article is here if you have a subscription. I think Ös is a much better name than Middle Chulym, but whatever the language is, I think it’s incredible that these people have been living peaceably in Siberia without anyone noticing they speak an entirely different language.

The article goes on to talk about Russian linguists’ early studies of these languages (in the Communist era) that were politically motivated to erase the ethnic heritage of groups living in Siberia. This policy was also extended to Mongolia, where they outlawed the writing of Mongolian in its traditional script. They only started teaching the script again in 1994, with limited success, according to a friend of mine who spent a year there teaching English. However, it does make for some pretty wicked looking tattoos.

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