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The relationship of Nivkh to Chukotko-Kamchatkan revisited

Michael Fortescue *
Institute of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen, Njalsgade 120, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark
1. Introduction
The current consensus as regards the interrelationship of the so-called Paleosiberian (or Paleoasiatic) languages is
that there is no such relationship, merely a collection of all the non-Altaic languages of eastern Siberia, as originally put
under the rubric ‘‘Paleoaziatskij’’ by Schrenck (1883). It was intended to cover Chukotko-Kamchatkan (i.e. Chukotian plus
Itelmen), Nivkh (Gilyak), Yukaghir and Yeniseian (later sometimes extended to Ainu and Eskimo-Aleut – cf. Comrie,
1981:239). Nivkh in particular is regarded today as an isolate displaying a number of dialects but with little historical
depth between them (cf. Mattissen, 2003:4). The unity of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan family (CK) within Schrenck’s
grouping is on the other hand well established (cf. Fortescue, 2005), despite some lingering doubts as to the exact
relationship of Itelmen to the northern branch on the part of Russian specialists (cf. Maslova, 2001). With Yeniseic now
on its way to being firmly related to Na-Dene (cf. Vajda, 2010), and Yukaghir’s probable relationship to Uralic and/or
Eskimo-Aleut still being the most likely hypothesis proposed (cf. Fortescue, 1998:44ff), it is time to take another look at
the two remaining groups, CK and Nivkh (itself once presumably part of a larger Amuric family
), and reconsider whether
there might still be a ‘‘special’’ relationship between them that could salvage at least part of Schrenck’s grouping as
genetically valid. Any progress in relating these distant languages one to the other – or to completely different language
families – must be based on the relationship between the individual reconstructed proto-languages concerned, not on
Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376
Article history:
Received 30 July 2010
Received in revised form 2 March 2011
Accepted 3 March 2011
Available online 8 April 2011
Genetic relationship
With the availability today of reliable materials for comparing the languages that in the
past have been lumped together under the rubric ‘‘Paleosiberian’’ it has become possible to
reassess the genetic relationship – or lack of it – between the individual languages of this
traditional grouping. It will be demonstrated that the case for the genetic relationship of
two of the constituent groups, Chukotko-Kamchatkan and the isolated Amuric language
Nivkh (Gilyak), is actually quite strong, although the rest of the grouping must indeed be
abandoned as a genetic unit. A case is made for reconstructing a Chukokto-Kamchatkan-
Amuric proto-language associated with the Neolithic of the Lower Amur and adjacent
coasts of the Sea of Okhotsk. Emphasis is laid especially on the morphology and shared
typological features of these languages, but numerous lexical items based on systematic
sound correspondences are also introduced. A plausible archaeological framework
elucidating the evident closeness of the two linguistic entities is also sketched.
ß 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
* Tel.: +45 3532 3660; fax: +45 3532 8377.
E-mail address:
This term is due to Janhunen (1996:225), who suggests a Manchurian origin for the family on the Upper Amur during the Neolithic period. He further
tentatively proposes that the ‘‘Kamchukotic’’ homeland was on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk immediately north of the Lower Amur region (Janhunen,
1996:237). I shall continue to refer to Nivkh as a family (of which it is the one surviving language), though its historical depth is quite shallow. The incursion
of Tungusic speakers fromboth south and west has undoubtedly confined the territory of the language to a much smaller area than it once covered, with the
ensuing demise or merging of earlier dialect – and even language – varieties.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ l i ngua
0024-3841/$ – see front matter ß 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
unanalysed contemporary lexical sources (which vary greatly in accuracy). A direct comparison of this sort is now
possible between Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Nivkh thanks to the reconstructions for the former in Fortescue (2005) plus
the comparative Nivkh files that I have since assembled, based on all the published lexical sources available to me
(Japanese as well as Russian) plus the comparative work of Hattori, Jakobson and Austerlitz, as well as the grammatical
descriptions of Krejnovicˇ, Panfilov, Gruzdeva and Mattissen. These are all included in the references below. Proto-Nivkh
forms can be set up according to the criterion that they should be reflected in at least one northwestern dialect, i.e. the
mainland Amur dialect (A) plus that of the northwestern shore of Sakhalin opposite (NS), and at least one from the
eastern Sakhalin dialects, i.e. East Sakhalin (ES) and South Sakhalin (SS).
This results in some 1100 lexical sets plus 120
common affixes and postpositions.
This comparativebasis is relativelyshallow, arguablyonlyinvolvingdialects of a singlelanguage, andthe forms I reconstruct
for the ‘‘proto-language’’ are thus very close to the modern forms in the more conservative south-eastern dialects. Standard
comparative procedures can nevertheless be applied in order to reconstruct earlier stages of the language – with Nivkh one at
least benefits from the rich possibilities for internal reconstruction, a point stressed by Austerlitz (1982, 1984, 1990a).
A methodological paradox arises here, however: the level of ‘‘Proto-Nivkh’’ that I reconstruct from comparing contemporary
forms is shallower than that Austerlitz aims at, at least in some of his reconstructions, which must be assigned to various
‘‘pre-proto’’ stages on my definition. My hypothetical ‘‘Proto-CKA’’ (Proto-Chukotko-Kamchatko-Amuric) may or may not lie
still deeper than any of these stages.
Various attempts to relate Nivkh to Paleosiberian and/or other languages have been made in the past, but none of
them has passed beyond listing a few dozen look-alikes (see Mattissen, 2003:4 for detailed references). The most serious
attempt was undertaken by Tailleur (1960), who limited his focus specifically to Nivkh and Chukotko-Kamchatkan, but
this was premature, being based on unreliable data from individual languages, without any preliminary family-internal
Later attempts to relate Nivkh to larger groupings such as hypothetical Nostratic were no more
convincing, culminating in the attempt by Mudrak and Nikolaev (1989) to relate it at one and the same time to
Chukotko-Kamchatkan and to Greenberg’s controversial Almosan-Keresiouan. Although their brief list does cite
reconstructed proto-forms as far as possible it makes hardly any attempt to sort out detailed sound correspondences
between families. Of these earlier lists of look-alikes, many (if not most) must in fact be rejected now that Proto-CK can
be directly compared to Proto-Nivkh. It will be seen in what follows that a much stronger case can be made today for
relating Nivkh with CK than was possible for Tailleur, although the evidence will not be sufficient to declare
unequivocally that there is a direct genetic link between the two families comparable to the one that can be established
for the relationship between, say, Chukotian and Itelmen. Given that we are dealing here with a very distant relationship
it is too early to claim final proof of genetic relationship – what I hope to achieve, however, is a significant increase in the
likelihood of such a relationship, bolstered by the relative perspicacity of the reconstructions presented. This will
principally involve the area of morphology. Although the lexical evidence is slender, it will be seen to involve basic
vocabulary, of the kind unlikely to have been borrowed between neighbouring languages. The list of potential
‘‘correlates’’ between Nivkh and CK presented in Fortescue (1998) – taken mostly from Tailleur – can no longer be
interpreted as reflecting simple borrowings. Many of them can in fact be dismissed as chance look-alikes, though, as we
shall see, a residue does remain, a residue that can be increased by more convincing parallels not noticed earlier. A
further justification for this new attempt is the light that the broader perspective sheds on some of the more puzzling
morphological and phonological details that have remained unexplained in both Nivkh and CK individually, such as the
historical source (and original semantic purport) of the Nivkh ‘‘undergoer’’ prefix for unspecified object and the CK
inverse prefix of similar shape, and of the areal nature of the remnant vowel harmony system of Nivkh and the strangely
‘‘skewed’’ vowel harmony system of CK.
The earliest homelandof the ‘‘northeasternPaleoasiatics’’ (i.e. Chukotko-Kamchatkans) was, according to Levin(1963:283),
along the northern coasts of the Okhotsk Sea (where dwellings of the Nivkh and Kamchatkan type with winter roof entrances
havebeenexcavatedinconnectionwiththe‘‘OldKoryak’’ cultureof thelatter part of thefirst millenniumBC).
TheNivkh, onthe
other hand, are believedtobe descendants of the oldest inhabitants of the territoryaroundthe mouthof the Amur –whichthey
now occupy – and further along the adjacent mainland coasts. The later ‘‘Okhotsk Culture’’ of the 5th to 13th century AD that
spread fromthe southern shores of Sakhalin to northern Hokkaido and up along the Kurile islands towards Kamchatka is also
considered to have been borne by the Nivkh (Levin, 1963:118). Vasil’evskii (1969:153) specifically relates the Old Koryak and
Okhotsk cultures and suggests their common origin. In the Conclusion I shall return to the archaeological evidence supporting
the idea of a common origin for contemporary Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Nivkh groups in the Neolithic of the Amur region,
The principal phonological differences between the Amur and the East Sakhalin dialects are: */a/ has reduced to /ә/ in many (but by no means all) initial
stemsyllables and /v/ and /w/ have merged as /v/ in A; final /rˇ/ (a suffix on nouns) has become /s/ and final /ŋ/ (when representing an original suffix on both
nouns and verbs) has been lost in A. North Sakhalin is intermediate. South Sakhalin further differs fromES by maintaining a – probably original – distinction
between a lenis vs. fortis (or voiced vs. voiceless) initial consonant series as opposed to the unaspirated vs. aspirated one developed elsewhere along with
the introduction of a new, third voiced series as the result of ‘‘nasal sandhi’’ (I return to this below). The two series are conflated (as fortes) in clusters (and
generally later in the word). For a precise account of the secondary origin of initial fricatives in Nivkh see Jakobson (1971:85ff).
As a single example of a dubious lexical comparison (one that Tailleur makes much of) consider the form lewlew-, which he gives as ‘trick, deceive’ for
East Sakhalin, supposedly the same as Chukotian lewlew-et of that meaning. The nearest one can actually get to that formin the modern dictionaries is either
valt- ‘lie, deceive’ or laulaud’ ‘argue’.
Compare the possible CK cognates of Nivkh t’om(s) ‘smoke-hole’ in the section on lexical material below.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1360
with the Tokareva culture of the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk of about 3500 BP as the ‘‘missing link’’. In Fig. 1 the approximate
extent of these early cultures (in capitals) has been superimposed on the extent of the relevant languages in the region today.
Given the results of the present investigation, the general conclusion in Fortescue (1998) as to the relationship
between CK and the hypothetical ‘‘Uralo-Siberian mesh’’ needs to be readjusted somewhat.
I would no longer wish to
relate CK directly to that mesh, although I believe that some of the lexical evidence adduced for a link with it will hold up
in terms of borrowing/diffusion. The more important morphological and grammatical links of CK to other languages
would now seem, however, to point definitely towards the south, to Nivkh, a possibility that I left open in my
One reason this relationship has not been more apparent in the past is the relative dearth of inflectional morphology
in Nivkh (as opposed to its profusion in CK). The most reasonable starting point for a renewed line of attack on this matter
is to assume that Nivkh has been more ‘‘worn down’’ by contact with more numerous neighbours than has CK, which has
remained more isolated, spread over the sparsely populated tundra and adjacent icy shores to the north. Much of what
follows will be devoted to demonstrating how there are traces of an earlier, somewhat more complex morphology in
Nivkh that can be correlated with the relatively better preserved situation in CK. The suffixal morphology of the CK
languages has also been worn down (to be partially replaced by prefixes), and these languages can be shown to have
innovated much of their inflectional complexity since Proto-CK times, as reconstructed in Fortescue (2003). There are in
fact numerous typological traits (some quite unusual) shared by the two families that suggest genesis from a common
What are these common traits? First, as regards word-order, Proto-CK almost certainly displayed SOV order (although
it is fairly free in modern Chukotian, these languages display the verb-auxiliary, adjective-noun and possessor-noun
order expected of this type), as does Nivkh. Unsurprisingly, the morphology in both families is primarily suffixing – CK
prefixes are demonstrably more recent, corresponding to the expected pre-verbal position of subject, object and
adverbial constituents (cf. Fortescue, 2003:85). There are also postpositions/enclitics in both families (bound in Nivkh
and now mainly suffixal in CK). More significantly, both show a considerable degree of polysynthesis in general and
(arguably) of incorporation in particular, both verbal and nominal (i.e. of nominal adjuncts as well as verbal objects),
although not all descriptions of Nivkh (e.g. Panfilov, 1962:25ff) have agreed on the incorporation analysis. The specific
dependent-head variety of incorporation that typifies Nivkh according to Mattissen (2003:104ff) can be seen also to
characterize CK as regards the dominant order of incorporated elements, namely dependent elements (objects, attributes
or adverbial converbs) before heads (verbs or nominal phrasal heads).
Although Georg and Volodin (1999:229) cite the
lack of incorporation in contemporary (western) Itelmen as a sign of the lack of unity of that family, its loss can be related
to the relative ‘‘newness’’ – and transparent productivity – of the fully-blown phenomenon in Chukotian and/or the
abrasion of Itelmen under Russian influence (the surviving western language has been much influenced by both Russian
and Koryak/Alutor).

Nivkh (A + NS)

Nivkh (ES
+ SS)
Sea of
Fig. 1. Languages and cultures of the Sea of Okhotsk region.
This was proposed to cover Eskimo-Aleut, Yukaghir and Uralic – as well as (much more tentatively) CK itself.
Summing up the structural parallelisms between polysynthesis in Chukchi and other northern languages and Nivkh dependent-head synthesis,
Mattissen (2003:288) states: ‘‘Especially between Chukchi and Nivkh, differences seem to be of degree rather than kind’’.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1361
Other potentially diagnostic traits include the lack of distinction between ‘‘grammatical’’ case forms (nominative and
accusative – also genitive) in both families, although Chukotian (not Itelmen) has developed ergative case marking and both
display locative case systems on nominals
; the lack of a special adjective class (there are quality/quantity verbs rather);
auxiliary verbs; dual number (only residual in Nivkh and perhaps not original in CK); indefinite object/antipassive-like
prefixes on transitive verbs; fluctuating nasal (and other consonantal) endings on nominals that may reflect earlier noun
classes (the so-called ‘‘singulative’’ markers of CK); and a distinctive ‘‘root retraction’’ (or high/low) form of vowel harmony
(with only traces left in Nivkh and Itelmen, but virtually intact in Chukotian). It should be pointed out that this cluster of
traits constitutes a quite different profile from those of Eskimo-Aleut, Yukaghir or Yeniseian. As regards other phonological
traits, both families display a rather similar – and not particularly complex – array of phonological units (see below),
although Nivkh appears to have undergone considerably more syncope than CK (with the egregious exception of Itelmen),
resulting in more complex consonant clusters and the contraction of what once must have been bisyllabic stems into
monosyllables (internal dialect differences and also distinct prosodic patterns in Nivkh help clarify this – cf. Austerlitz,
As for the major divergences between the two families that require explanation, these include ergativity in CK (a
secondary phenomenon, as discussed in Fortescue, 1997, 2003) but not in Nivkh; a complex system of numeral classifiers in
Nivkh but not in CK; evidential/epistemic mood marking in Nivkh but not in CK; exclusive vs. inclusive 1st person in Nivkh
but not in CK; a reflexive vs. non-reflexive distinction in possessive markers in Nivkh but not in CK; reduplication of stems in
both families, but used for different purposes
; distinctive sandhi-like alternations at word as well as morpheme boundaries
in Nivkh (phonologically determined but utilized for morphosyntactic purposes)
; circumfixes in CK; and a complex system
of verbal paradigms for mood/tense/aspect in CK (including remnants of an ‘‘inverse’’ system) but not in Nivkh.
All of these
will be touched upon in what follows.
2. The common sound system
The phonological system of the hypothetical proto-language – let us call it Proto-Chukotko-Kamchatko-Amuric (or,
somewhat less unwieldy, Proto-CKA) – can be set up here as an initial approximation at least. Internal reconstruction for
Nivkh (e.g. Austerlitz, 1990a) and comparative work on CK (Fortescue, 2005) converge on a symmetrical six vowel system
(plus schwa, outside of the vowel harmony system in CK – see below) and a consonant system involving a velar/uvular
distinction and a single voiceless (or fortis) vs. voiced (or lenis) plosive series, with corresponding voiced fricatives, liquids
and nasals.
The combining of a single series of voiced rather than voiceless fricatives with a plosive system like this is
typologically rather unusual, but is definitely what is found in CK. The voiceless fricatives – and initial fricatives in general –
are of secondary origin in both families (cf. Fortescue, 2005:7ff for CK and Austerlitz, 1990a:20 for Nivkh). The distinction
between two open vowels /a/ and /æ/ (back/dominant vs. front/recessive) of Proto-CK is not found in Nivkh, and may
indirectly reflect the decay of vowel harmony in that language, the source I reconstruct for CK front/æ/, namely */L/,
becoming /ә/ or /a/ in that language. The different reflexes here may reflect position respectively within morphemes
originally of recessive/high vs. dominant/low harmony.
The two plosive series hypothesizedonthe basis of Nivkh must have collapsedinCK,
and most Nivkh dialects developeda
distinct voicedseries of plosives inconnectionwith‘‘nasal sandhi’’ or ‘‘nasal alternation’’ (fromsequences of ‘‘weak’’ nasals –cf.
Mattissen, 2003:29 – plus plosives, the result remaining even if the nasal subsequently dropped). All dialects – like Itelmen
within CK – developed independent voiceless fricatives under certain phonotactic conditions (in Nivkh through the
fricativization of plosives – including that of */t/ to /rˇ/). Austerlitz (1990a:25) supports the idea of the secondary nature of
the three-way distinction in plosives of all dialects of Nivkh except South Sakhalin, but goes too far to my mind in suggesting –
mainly on areal grounds – that this might further be reduced to one.
I am also sceptical of his suggestion (Austerlitz, 1990a:20) that the velar vs. uvular distinction is secondary (at least as
regards my CKA level) – there are just too many contrasting initial velar/uvular plus (same) vowel forms reconstructible in
Besides its locative case endings, Nivkh has an unmarked ‘‘nominative’’ case (like Itelmen and corresponding to the Chukotian ‘‘absolutive’’), an
instrumental case and one specialized for ‘‘standard of comparison’’, also a ‘‘causee’’ case -(a)X, called ‘‘dative-accusative’’ in Saveljeva and Taksami (1965)
and used in causative constructions with animate causee (perhaps originally a dative). Chukotian also has an instrumental case (used alongside the locative
to mark the ergative subject on nouns), two comitative cases, as well as an ‘‘attributive’’ and a ‘‘referential’’ case. In both families case endings can to some
extent be applied to bare verbal stems, e.g. in the Amur Nivkh ‘‘supine’’ and the CK ‘‘infinitive’’, both treated below.
For repeated, intense or reciprocal action with verbs in Nivkh and for the basic forms of certain nouns that do not take singulative suffixes in CK. There
are, however, some reduplicated nouns in Nivkh, like k’әfγәf ‘spider’ (and reduplication of nouns can also indicate plurality – cf. Mattissen, 2003:8).
I use the word ‘‘sandhi’’ throughout this paper rather loosely – it has been the subject of considerable debate whether the phenomenon is best
characterized by this termor not. Certainly it goes further than changes at morpheme boundaries between free words, as suggested by Panfilov’s use of the
term (see Mattissen, 2003:65ff for a discussion).
Most noticeable in this area is the almost total lack of person (subject) marking on verbs in Nivkh: it is only present in the distinct 1s and plural person
endings in converbs.
In the South Sakhalin dialect of Nivkh the distinction is between lenis and fortis, overt only in initial position before a vowel – Austerlitz writes lenis /d/
vs. fortis /t/, etc. in that position (corresponding to /t/ vs. /t’/ in other dialects), elsewhere neutralized to /t/, etc. The aspirated vs. plain distinction is also rare
outside of initial position in other dialects (a medial aspirated plosive may reflect the first phoneme in an originally independent word, as in postpositional
-t’xә ‘on’ discussed below).
Compare Southern Wakashan, which has conflated without trace the original voiced/voiceless plosive distinction preserved in Northern Wakashan
(Sapir and Swadesh, 1952).
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1362
what I call Proto-Nivkh, though the origin of uvulars may well have been due to flanking vowels (as Austerlitz suggests) at a
still earlier stage (pre-Proto-CKA).
It is certainly true that initial uvulars may only appear before /a/ or /o/ in modern Nivkh
(Jakobson, 1971:84) and an initial velar has gone to the corresponding uvular before /a/ in many ES/SS forms that retain the
velar plus reduced /ә/ < */a/ in the Amur dialect, such as A kәj ‘sail’, ES qaj (< *kaj). Original *qa-, by contrast, is kept in both
dialects, as in the stemof this shape meaning ‘go downstream’. This may also explain such medial correspondences as A ciγr
(< *ciga´r-?), ES c’Xarˇ ‘tree, wood, stick’, where, as Austerlitz proposes (1994a:229), the uvular in ES and SS is due to the
following /a/ (plus a shift of stress in A and conflation of /cX-/ with /c’X-/ in ES) – compare Chukotian cik(ә)l(æ) ‘pole for
training reindeer with’ as a likely cognate, going directly with Nivkh tla ‘shaft of spear’, which Panfilov (1962:197) relates to
ciγr plus -la, the numeral classifier ending for poles.
Further differences among the contemporary languages can be rather simply (if speculatively) explained – such as the
aspirated plosive series in most Nivkh (but not in CK), which probably just reflects the original voiceless (or fortis) series. The
distinct palatal series of Nivkh appears also to have been original, collapsed in CK except for the distinct plosive /c/ (=*/t’/),
but with some further residue (especially in Koryak) utilized for affective purposes. The origin of the glottal stop and
pharyngeals found in some CK (also the ejectives of Itelmen) are discussed in Fortescue (1998, 2003). In general, Occam’s
razor has been applied in providing a coherent picture of the probable original system. This can be laid out in the following
The specific sound correspondences between Nivkh and CK that lie behind this reconstruction (as reflected in the lexical
and morphological material presented in this paper) can be summarized in Table 1. The complete phoneme inventory for
Proto-CKA is reconstructed in Table 2.
I assume that */ð/generally merged with */r/in Nivkh (as in Chukchi) – note that/r/is treated as a voiced fricative as regards
sandhi alternations there. The lack of a sibilant is also notable in Table 2 – in contemporary Nivkh /s/ and /z/ are the result of
the regular sandhi/transitivizing alternation of */t’/ and */d’/ (though in some cases medial /z/ appears to have developed
from */r/)
, and /s/ has developed from earlier /c/ (*/t’/) in Chukchi and Alutor; /z/ or /s/ is generally from */j/ in Itelmen
(Fortescue, 2005:7ff). I cannot accept Austerlitz’ (1990a:19) very tentative, typologically based proposal that/h/might have
come froma proto-phoneme */s/. The reconstruction of /h/ in Table 2 requires further comment – it is absent in CK although
common in Nivkh (initial only). I shall return to this matter in the section on lexical material. I do follow Austerlitz in
assuming that initial consonant clusters in Nivkh reflect the loss of an intermediate unstressed vowel that was lost
(Austerlitz, 1990a:21), initial clusters being secondary, much as in the more conservative CK languages Chukchi and Koryak,
Table 1
Sound correspondences between Nivkh and CK.
CK Nivkh
p, t, c, k, q p’, t’, c’, k’, q’
‘‘ p, t, c, k, q
v, ð, γ, R v, r/z, γ, R
m, n, n, ŋ m, n, n’, ŋ
w, j w, j
l, r l, r/z
Ø h
i, u i, u
e, o e, o
ә ә
æ a/ә
a a
This aspirated series could be written p, t, c, k, q, and the plain series belowit as b, d, d’, g, G (reflecting the conservative SS dialect). The voiced series of
the other dialects developed from‘‘nasal sandhi’’, and the voiceless fricative series f, rˇ, s, x, Xby ordinary (non-nasal) sandhi fromthe first series (the result of
ordinary sandhi of the second series falls together with the voiced fricative series below).
Table 2
Reconstructed phoneme inventory for Proto-CKA.
i (ә) u p t t’ k q
e L o b d d’ g G
a v ð γ R
m n n’ ŋ
w j h
Note that root retraction vowel harmony usually presupposes uvular or pharyngeal segments as a post-vocalic trigger that may or not then disappear
(cf. Bessell, 1992:167ff). The origins of the uvular/velar distinction and of root retraction vowel harmony are at all events probably related here.
As in Ac’uz-, ES c’ir- ‘new’, comparable with CKtur- ‘new’, and ES kuz- ‘go out’, comparable with CKtәkur- ‘go off’. There is sporadic inter-dialect variation
between these two phonemes, as in the first form cited here, also A hurur, ES huzus ‘everywhere’, A jaz-d’, ES jar-d ‘bite’, but also A zozu-d’, ES roru-d
‘extinguish’ and A vazud’, ES varud ‘sew strips of net’.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1363
which still by and large disallow such clusters (and where medial clusters are limited to two consonants). There is also
confirmatory evidence for his reconstruction of initial C
V- sequences in Nivkh (where pl = plosive and fr = fricative) as
generally coming from *C
V- in such correspondences as -t’xә ‘on’ going with CK -tkә(n) of that meaning. In fact this is
one of the examples he gives (reconstructed as *tәky´, where /y´ / is a stressed mid-high vowel corresponding to my schwa).
As regards the vowels, note that ‘‘root retraction’’ vowel harmony in CK operates between ‘‘dominant’’ /e/, /o/ and /a/ and
corresponding ‘‘recessive’’ /i/, /u/ and /æ/ such that if a word has one dominant vowel, all its vowels must be dominant too.
This works bi-directionally, as still marginally reflected in the residual cases remaining in Nivkh, where a ‘‘high’’ series /i/, /ә/
and /u/ alternate with a ‘‘low’’ /e/, /a/, /o/ series – e.g. in allative e-rX ‘to him’ fromi(f) (where the case suffix in its full formis
dominant -toX/-roX), and, less commonly, the epenthetic vowel following (some) reduplicated stems harmonizes with that
of the stem, as in perper-a-d’ ‘sways’ vs. pәrpәr-i-d’ ‘lies about’ (Mattissen, 2003:79).
Notice that it is /ә/ that alternates with
/a/ in Nivkh, not /æ/ as in CK, and that in CK /ә/ is largely epenthetic and outside the vowel harmony system. The
reconstructed vowel systemin Table 2 presents a more symmetric picture for vowel harmony than in CKitself (where the /æ/
alternating with /a/ is an ‘‘extra’’ front vowel
). The replacement of /æ/ by a centralized /L/ in Table 2 brings the alternation
pattern more in line with the simpler high vs. low system in Nivkh – also with neighbouring Tungusic languages. These
display similar ‘‘root retraction’’ harmony systems in which ‘‘soft’’ (i.e. high) /ә/ varies with ‘‘hard’’ (i.e. low) /a/ (the latter in
fact a lowered schwa like /L/ in Even, which has maintained the purest system). In Tungusic this does not operate bi-
directionally as in CK but progressively alone, as in Mongolian (cf. Comrie, 1981:70f). This may well represent an areal
There are some good potential cognates containing CK /æ/ corresponding to Nivkh /ә/, notably әr-ŋ ‘mouth of river’ (and
related forms cited further on) that appear to go with CK ær- ‘flowout’, and t’әkә ‘edge of sleeping platform’ which goes with
CK -tæγәn ‘near or at edge of’ (also the Nivkh ‘‘terminative’’ case endings, discussed in the following section). Others show/a/
in Nivkh, which may simply be indicative of the early break down of the vowel harmony system in Nivkh at this point (the
alternation is very peripheral today).
Note that Amur /ә/ comes from */a/ in those forms where the Sakhalin dialects have
an /a/ (e.g. A tәf, ES taf ‘house’ – cf. Jakobson, 1971:91), but әr-ŋ is precisely not one of these, having schwa in all dialects.
Finally, the development of the sandhi-like phenomena at morpheme boundaries in Nivkh must be of later origin than the
hypothesized Proto-CKA stage. The processes involved – all quite natural – include the development of a voiced series of
plosives through ‘‘nasal sandhi’’ and the more general results of the morphophonemic principle whereby plosive plus plosive
sequences became dissimilated to fricative plus plosive or plosive plus fricative, with varying patterns according to the word
classes involved (Mattissen, 2003:44ff). Various morphophonemic processes have produced alternation in the shape of
morphemes within CK too, but these are more idiosyncratic, such as the alternation of initial /r-/ (Koryak /j-/) with medial
/-n-/ in Chukotian transitive verb stems (from *ðәn-), and at all events are not reconstructible for the proto-language (cf.
Fortescue, 2005:10). Since there are no common morphophonological alternations at morpheme boundaries reconstructible
for Proto-CKA, there is no evidence that it had a comparable level of polysynthesis to that of modern Chukotian or even
Nivkh. In particular, it may have lacked incorporation – as opposed to fixed sequences of independent words – altogether.
3. Nominal morphology
Let me proceed now with an investigation of the morphology of both families – I shall return to a more exact
consideration of sound correspondences in connection with the lexical evidence presented in section 5. First I shall consider
nominal inflection and derivation, and thereafter – via pronominal and participial markers – I shall move on to verbal
inflection and derivation in a separate section.
The oldest spatial case markers in CK (reconstructible for the proto-language and found in numerous combinations and
functions in the modern languages) are general ‘‘locative’’ -k(ә) and general ‘‘lative’’ (including ‘‘allative’’) -ŋ (see Fortescue,
2005:426). Both elements would appear to have reasonable correlates in Nivkh. As regards the first compare the ‘‘locative/
ablative’’ case marker -(u)x on nouns (also ES extension -uxe = Amur perlative -uγe), and -k in rˇa-k ‘where’ (and note hu-g/ES
hun-x ‘there’, CK әn-kә ‘there’, miŋ-kә ‘where’). As regards * -ŋ (*-ŋ(a)?) compare suffix -ŋa ‘fairly close to’ (with locational
stems) and extension -ŋajo ‘further from’,
as in ES t’az-ŋa ‘place out on the water somewhat removed from the shore/
village’, t’az-ŋajo ‘place out on the water further removed from the shore’ (from t’as ‘(exact) place out on water near shore’ –
Krejnovicˇ, 1986:163). Gruzdeva (2008:185) refers to these as ‘‘medial’’ and ‘‘distal’’ respectively in the ‘‘secondary deictic
See further in Hattori (1962, 2) for traces of the system within polysyllabic stems.
Its development from */L/ in CK may have been triggered by the increasing functional burden of /ә/, outside of the harmony system, whose allophones
in the environment of uvulars would have been difficult to distinguish from /L/.
An original bi-directional high vs. low system in Tungusic, shared with Nivkh, may have been influenced by the Mongolian system to the west, which
also infused it with superimposed labial harmony.
An independent merger between /æ/ and /e/ has occurred in Chukchi, undermining its own harmony system. In those dialects of Koryak and Alutor
where there has been a merger it is between /æ/ and /a/ rather. In Itelmen, where vowel harmony broke down long ago except for the i/e and u/o alternations
in certain affixes, */æ/ sometimes went to /a/ as opposed to /e/ by generalization of the dominant formof a morpheme, and original schwa could go to either
/i/, /e/ or /a/ (Fortescue, 2005:12).
With adverbial suffix -jo, which has comparative (as well as iterative and verbalizing) function (cf. Saveljeva and Taksami, 1970:524). It would seem
more likely that this would attach to an originally directional (or deictic) than to a static locative base. Note that -jo in Nivkh is a dominant vowel harmony
form alternating with recessive -ju (cf. Austerlitz, 1994b:259), as expected following -ŋa, which also has a ‘‘dominant’’ vowel – CK -ŋ is also dominant.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1364
The first of these may appear added directly to verbal stems in both language families to produce non-finite/adverbial
forms, respectively CK infinitive -k(ә) and Nivkh converb ending -ke ‘when V-ing’ – also participial marker -k (especially
common in ES). Consider also the special ‘‘comparative’’ (standard) case marker -(a)k in Nivkh – it is precisely the locative
case that is used for marking the standard of comparison in CK.
The second element (*-ŋ(a)) also appears to have verbal
function in both languages, namely CK -ŋ ‘adverbial formant’ and Nivkh temporal converb endings -ŋa(n) and -ŋә.
Another possibly common element is -r ‘in such and such a location’ (with locational roots) in Nivkh, going with fossilized
‘‘dative’’ -ri (with directional adverbs only) in CK, and Nivkh ‘‘terminative/limitative’’ (‘up to an edge’) -t’әkә/ES -t’aka
(regarded as a case ending in the standard grammars), going with CK -tæγәn ‘near or at edge of’ – cf. Nivkh t’әkә ‘edge of
sleeping platform’ as a noun (Panfilov, 1962:143). A similar item (somewhere between being a case ending and a
postposition) is Nivkh -t’xә ‘on’ (no doubt originally an independent word – cf. Mattissen, 2003:9f.), going with CK
derivational affix -tkә(n) of the same meaning, already mentioned.
Of particular interest is the relationship of the CK ablative to the Nivkh case system: Tailleur (1960:117) directly links a
supposed ablative -nxe as in East Sakhalin tu-nxe ‘from here’ (his hyphen) to the Koryak ablative -ŋqo and (supposed)
Itelmen -nk (-enk is actually the locative). However, the Nivkh ending is in fact the ‘‘locative/ablative’’ -(u)x/-(u)xe already
mentioned (and found in all dialects) and added here to base tun- or tuŋ-. The Koryak ablative reflects Proto-CK ablative *-ŋqo
(rәŋ), probably related to qorәŋ ‘hither’ (added to the ‘‘lative’’) and distinct from the Itelmen ablative -x?al, (on personal
pronouns -nx?al), which is probably the same as Alutor -ŋqal, consisting of -ŋ plus qal(a) ‘side, direction’ (see Fortescue,
2005:434for details). What is interestinghereis not somuchtheexact formbut the typologicallyoddassociationof theablative
and the locative in a single case ending in Nivkh (only the Amur dialect has a distinct locative -(u)in).
For the ablative is also
an innovation in CK and as can be seen from the above its meaning is curiously intertwined with that of the lative ‘direction
towards’ meaning (and even seems to contain the old lative case ending). A clue: qorәŋ ‘hither, this way, bring me X’ is used in
pointing and ‘to here’ is in deictic contexts the same as ‘from there’.
As was noted above, neither family has a genitive case, but both have possessive pronouns. In CK these are formed from
the derivational possessive ending -inæ (productively applicable to nouns as well as pronouns),
corresponding to Nivkh
possessive pronoun marker -nә (as a nominal root ‘thing’, perhaps reflecting the common CKA source). Note also that 3s and
plural prefixes/proclitics in possessive usage cause following nasal sandhi, as if an *-ŋ or -n has been lost (this is the essential
origin of this pattern of alternation in the dialects of Nivkh that have it). Most of the other case endings in both families are
secondary and/or relatable to independent stems, e.g. Nivkh instrumental -kir, related to verbal stem i-γr-/-k’ir- ‘use’ (as
suggested by Austerlitz, 1982:85), and allative -toX/roX/doX, which Austerlitz (1990a:28) relates to verb -tXop- ‘touch’, and
Chukotian allative -jәtәŋ, based on verbal stem jәt- ‘go for’ plus ‘‘lative’’ -ŋ above. The CK comitative will be dealt with in
connection with the dual number below.
Let us turn to number marking on nominals. Both families have a dual/plural distinction, although it has been lost in
Chukchi and in Nivkh it is limited to 1st person pronouns. As I have argued in Fortescue (1997:373) the original plural (or
perhaps ‘‘paucal’’) in CKmay have been-t(i), nowdual in Koryak (but not Chukchi or Itelmen), where the ‘‘new’’ plural is -wwi
< *-gvi from derivational suffix -γiniv ‘collection of’.
Note that -wwi on personal names has a clear collective sense (‘X and
family/companions’). The Itelmen plural is -‘n (=glottalized/n/).
In Nivkh the only trace of a plural -t is in the plural of
converbs (falling together with a different, 1s -t I shall return to below). The regular nominal plural is -kun(u)/-gun(u)/-γun
(u), which may very well go with CK -γiniv above (and hence have a parallel origin to the Koryak plural). Moreover, this is in
turn related to the comitative markers Amur du. -ke, pl. -ko (ES -kin, -kunu), which can be directly compared to CK comitative
prefix kæ- fromadverbial kәnmæl ‘together’ (and which combines with a participial or an instrumental suffix respectively to
form two related circumfixes on nouns).
Beyondthe dual andplural inCK, one alsohas toconsider the ‘‘singulative’’, anunusual feature of nouns inthis family: many
(perhaps most) must bemarkedbyaspecial suffix(or elsebyreduplicationof thestem) as beingsingulative–originallyperhaps
indicating distinct semantic classes (for instance items that typically occur in pairs or groups – cf. Fortescue, 2005:433). These
are dropped(except inItelmen) whencaseendings are added. The most commonof these are -ŋæ, -lŋәnand-n(Itelmenalsohas
-c, and -lŋin and -miŋ, bothof which are especially usedfor paired objects). Nowa notable inter-dialectal aspect of Nivkhis that
many nouns in the East (and South) Sakhalin dialects end in a nasal (mainly -ŋ) which is lost in the mainland (Amur) dialect.
Could these be the remnants of singulative markers of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan kind? There may even be traces of the
semanticclass of objects towhichtheyoncereferred, for exampleinthefact that manyanimateobjects tendtoendwithsuchan
endinginthe morearchaiceasterndialects. The ending-n(alsoa nominalizer inall dialects) is commoninnouns referringtokin
Though Mattissen (2003:82) relates this to verbal stem (j)әk- ‘reach’.
Compare also Nivkh -le/laxe ‘next to, up against’ and CK -lәku(n) ‘between, among’.
cf. Levinson (2003:101), where the conflation of ‘‘location’’ and ‘‘source’’ (as opposed to ‘‘goal’’) is not an attested possibility. Krejnovicˇ (1979:302)
relates Amur -(u)in to the -n- in ES hunx ‘there’, etc. Note that there is a variant -uine (cf. Panfilov, 1962:138), perhaps from *-uγine, of which the first part
could be the ‘‘locative/ablative’’ above.
Also ingredient in -kinæ‘thing associated with –’ and a number of participial suffixes like -linæ and -qinæ, where the -i- is probably a copular element.
The source of the prefix may have been an independent word *әnikæ meaning ‘something’ (> CK *nikæ – cf. Fortescue, 2005:187).
On verbs the plural is distinguished from the dual in Koryak by the addition of suffix -la- of several subjects/objects of an action (also found in Chukchi)
before the ‘‘dual’’ marker -t.
Probably deriving from CK ‘‘Class 2’’ (animate) plural -(ә)nti containing 3rd person demonstrative әn- (which I shall return to below).
This dialect tends in general to showmore syncope than the more archaic eastern dialects – according to Krejnovicˇ as a result of the shifting forward of
word stress from the second to the first syllable in many words in that dialect (Krejnovicˇ, 1979:299).
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1365
or animals according toSaveljeva andTaksami (1970:528f.). Theyalso mentionthe ending-γr foundina fewwords referring to
natural objects that occur in aggregates (Saveljeva and Taksami, 1970:523), which can be compared to CK-rγæri ‘a group of -s’.
As regards more clearly derivational (deverbal) suffixes, consider Nivkh -f ‘place of -ing’ (the basic form is actually -v,
regularly devoiced in final position, as in mif/miv- ‘land’ from postposition mi- ‘inside’ – to which compare CK mi-ŋkә
‘where’); this corresponds to CK -nvә of the same meaning.
This is involved in ‘‘purposive’’ and/or ‘‘supine’’ forms of the
verb in both languages – Nivkh has purposive -f-toX, with the allative case marker -toX following it (on a bare verbal stemthe
latter alone produces the so-called ‘‘supine’’ – cf. Gruzdeva, 1998:51f), while in Chukotian the supine formant is -nvә-ŋ with
the ‘‘lative’’ marker following -nvә (Itelmen -no-ke). Also some important deverbal participial formants apparently common
to both families can be introduced here. In ES Nivkh there is an ‘‘attributive’’ participial form of verbs in -ŋ, which (like the
singulatives above) has been dropped in the mainland dialect. In the SS dialect this varies with -n, so perhaps it derives from
*-ŋәn and can thus be compared with CK -γәrŋәn ‘quality/action nominalizer’. The 2/3s converb formant -r (plural -t) in
could in turn be correlated with the first part of CK ‘‘progressive/present participle’’ -ðkә(n), pl. -ðkәt (I shall return to
this in the following section). The most important of these ‘‘participial’’ (or rather deverbal) forms in Nivkh is *-nt or *-nc (>
Amur -d’, ES -nt/nd/d, SS -nt), which is not only a deverbal nominalizer but forms the indicative mood of verbs (same formfor
all persons), and furthermore verbalizes interrogative and demonstrative roots (see Mattissen, 2003:16 for examples).
It is
tempting to relate this to CK verbalizer (of nouns and adjectives) -(ŋ)æt, also a detransitivizer (e.g. in benefactive
constructions with incorporated object), and – together with transitivizing prefix *ðәn- – involved in transitivizing verbs.
However, there is also a Nivkh verbalizer -әt which may be more directly related to the CK suffix, so there is no obvious
candidate for a direct CK correlate to Nivkh *-nt.
Finally, there is a suffix of ‘‘permanent quality’’ -la in Nivkh which is applied to quality verb stems (combinable with
following indicative *-nt). This can be compared with the Itelmen adjective formant -laX, perhaps going with Chukotian
participial -lRәn ‘one who –s’. Alternatively, it is possible that the original indicative in Nivkh was actually the archaic
‘‘narrative’’ mood suffix -qana/-(ja)Rana, later ousted by the nominalizing*-nt suffix, and it is the former that goes with
Chukotian -lRәn.
We can now turn to personal pronouns – and in particular their bound (affixed and cliticized) forms, an area where Nivkh
andCKappear onthe surface to diverge considerably. First let us take the independent pronouns. The Nivkh1pl (inclusive) mer
(n)/ES mirˇn ‘we (incl.)’ (where the -n marks plurality –as innominal suffix -kun) is directlycomparable toCKmur(i) ‘we’ (where
the -i is from plural *-ti via *-ði).
On the other hand, there is no obvious candidate either to match with Nivkh 1s n’i or with
1p exclusive n’in (the plural of n’i) in CK, where ‘I’ is *kәm. There may be some evidence for a connection in the 1s form of the
converb -t mentioned above – compare the CK 1s prefix tә- (if both reflect some much reduced combination of a t-initial
demonstrative root plus a 1st person marker *m(V)).
Panfilov (1962:236) suggests that 1s n’i is identical with – and the
sourceof –numeral n’i- ‘one’, whichhas areasonable cognate inCKәnnæntreatedinthe sectiononlexical material below. If this
is so, then the reverse order of derivation would seem more likely.
Better affixal matches with the Nivkh 1st person root
mer-/mir- are the CK 1s optative/imperative prefix mә-, pl. mәn-, and the Itelmen transitive object suffixes 1s -miŋ, 1pl -mi’ŋ
(< *-miŋt?). Whatever the case, there would seem to be somewhat less of a problem as regards the 2nd person – Nivkh
c’i (pl. c’in), corresponding to CK 2pl. turi ‘you’ (parallel to muri) and 2s kәð/kәt (on a demonstrative base kә- like the
1s form above). Note that the prefixed form is c’-, alternating in the SS dialect with d- before a dental consonant (the prefixed
1 s form is n’- alternating with n- – Mattissen, 2003:55). This may have influenced the 1 s form in Nivkh (so n’(i)- could
originally have been from *m(i)r- just as c’(i)- could have been from *t(i)r-). There is no prefixed subject form on verbs
paralleling the 1s form in CK (1s marking is idiosyncratic in another way in Nivkh, namely as regards the converb suffix
mentioned above).
As regards the 3rd person, it is tempting to relate Nivkh 3s if – or at least the corresponding prefixed undergoer form
i- (j- before vowel) – to CKәn ‘he, she’. The principal evidence for this lies in the fact that i- as a possessor or emphatic/definite
Compare winvә ‘track’ and atәnvә ‘wound’, mentioned in the section on lexical material below.
ES regularly 2s/3s -rˇ, 1s/all persons pl -t (or -n in the future or imperative – combined presumably with intentional suffix -inә); Amur -r/-t. The plural
person form-t may reflect the plural -t mentioned above in connection with nominal plural marking. I shall deal with the 1s formof this shape under verbal
morphology below.
Jakobson (1971:100) analyses it as a ‘‘thematic’’ verbal element -n- (cf. the ‘‘attributive’’ form of verbs in -ŋ-) followed by a nominalizer -c (=-s in the
Amur dialect, but -rˇ in ES and SS).
However, Krejnovicˇ analyses the indicative/nominalizer as semantically ‘someone/something that is –/that V-s’ (Krejnovicˇ, 1979:307f.), as if the final
-t/d of *-nt were an indefinite pronoun. This could reflect ES nunt/nud ‘(indefinite) what’, with the same ending as in demonstrative tud, Amur tәd’ ‘this’. He
states that this form expresses more uncertainty than runt/rud, which is the form going with the Amur equivalent sid’ (and note also Amur nә-d’ ‘thing, do’,
mentioned above in connection with possessives). So there is in fact a possible link to CK ðæq(ŋut) ‘what’ (the last part is ŋut ‘this’ – both will be found in the
section on lexical material below), as in Chukchi r’enut ‘what, something’, and/or CK nikæ(ŋut)’something’. Note extended formnudlu ‘someone/something’
(Amur sid’lu). Nivkh *-nt is at all events a very general kind of nominalizer (also on transitive verbs, as in ES in’d ‘food’ from in’- ‘eat’), and is in the right
position vis-a` -vis the verbal stem to reflect an earlier nominal construction in Nivkh.
The 1st person dual form, in A megi (ES meŋ), is from *men-gin or *meŋ-gin according to Panfilov (1962:238), where -gin is the dual comitative. His
suggestion that the first part is mi/me ‘two’ seems unnecessary.
As I have previously suggested, the 1s and 2s pronouns in CK may actually have come from still earlier forms *t(ә)kәm and *t(ә)kәt, with regular loss of
initial /t/ in this position (Fortescue, 1997:374). Compare also Chukchi kur- < Proto-CK*tәkur- ‘go off’.
Thus n’in ‘one (person)’ (compare the impersonal/regal ‘one’ in English). Also worth noting is the use of Chukotian ‘‘antipassive’’ prefix inæ- ‘someone/
something’ as a 1s undergoer prefix in inverse transitive verb inflections (Tailleur, 1960: 143 directly compares this to the Nivkh 1st person marker). Cross-
linguistically, 1st person is the highest candidate for ‘‘subjecthood’’, and its function as object/undergoer is therefore prone to being somehow ‘‘marked’’.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1366
‘‘undergoer’’ causes ‘‘nasal sandhi’’ in following plosives.
The corresponding ES plural forms in(γun)/irˇn ‘they’ could then be
related to CK әð(ð)i ‘they’ (< *әn plus plural -ði). The -f of if and the -v or -m of Amuric plural imŋ/ivŋ (also imγ) are more
problematic, but they may well contain the ‘place of -ing’ suffix -f (<*-nvә mentioned earlier), as Austerlitz (1990a:108)
suggested, the -ŋ of the plural form representing nominal plural -kun/γun. ES 3pl in(γun) suggests the direct addition of
nominal plural suffix -γun to hypothetical *әn-. It seems best to postpone further treatment of the source of the ‘‘undergoer’’
prefix itself (probably contained in if) until the following section on verbal morphology, where I shall relate it in turn to CK
*әn <CKA *hәn. I shall in fact return there to the full array of affixed person markers of CK, but note for nowthat CK lacks the
prefixed possessive forms found on nouns in Nivkh (for 1st and 2nd person; the plural forms are proclitic – cf. Mattissen,
2003:61). Instead it has the independent possessive form of the independent pronouns before their head nouns (at least in
the same position before the head noun as the Nivkh possessive morphemes).
Finally, to address the matter of the apparent lack of numeral classifiers in CK (which proliferate in Nivkh), consider the
possibility that the original distinction in Nivkh was between animate and inanimate noun classes and that the former was
marked by the suffix -n on nominals that Saveljeva and Taksami (1970:528f.) note as particularly common on names of
human kin and animals. Perhaps this is the same -n as the numeral classifier for human beings, as in n’i-n/n’e-n ‘one (human
, but observe also the classifier for animals -(a)n’ in both dialects. This can be compared with the -n that marks Class
2 nouns in CK (for individualized persons and animals in Chukchi and Koryak) – it has been related by Zhukova (1974) to the
demonstrative әn ‘that’ which, however, is not limited to animates. In fact it might have been the same as the singulative
suffix of that form in its original class-indicating function. Note that in Itelmen the Class 2 ending is kept before plural -t
(producing generalized plural -n’, as mentioned), and indeed before case endings as well. The same is true of ES Nivkh
nominal suffix -ŋ (not dropped before endings, singular or plural). The development of a full-blownnumeral classifier system
in Nivkh could have been due to areal influence (as in Japanese, Korean and Ainu – even Tungusic languages have some
‘‘collective’’ classifiers). The other classes are marked by replacing the -n by suffixes transparently related to nouns in most
cases (e.g. -m for boats, from mu).
4. Verbal morphology
Before introducing some potentially common affixal elements relevant to the verbal morphology of both families, it is
necessary to make a brief excursion into the manner in which the complex person/number/mood/aspect paradigms of CK –
both intransitive and transitive – were built up from a simpler basis. I have presented a diachronic scenario for this in
Fortescue (1997), where I focused on the possible areal influence of neighbouring Eskimo in producing the ergative clause
type in the Chukotian branch of the family. The common pre-CK starting point I proposed (before any transitive paradigms
developed) was the intransitive aorist (or perfective) paradigmreconstructible as belowin Table 3 fromthe modern forms. It
contains a ‘‘perfective’’ suffix *-γәRæadded to the verbal stem (V) and still visible in the 1st/2nd/3rd singular and 3rd plural
Chukotian forms before the corresponding pronominal markers (and prior to rather radical assimilation/attrition of the
suffixes in Chukotian).
Contrasting with the aorist already at this stage there may have been a common CK progressive (or imperfect) paradigm,
represented by the ‘‘present’’ paradigm of Chukchi. This is reached in the Chukotian branch by removing the prefixes and
replacing the suffixes by an ending (probably of participial origin) *-ðkәn
, but in Itelmen by inserting a present tense suffix
-z/s- before the suffixes of the aorist. Actually the latter may reflect the initial *-ð- in the Chukotian form, and either a
reanalysis occurred in Itelmen or the *-kәn in Chukotian represents the original 3s aorist form*-γәRæn >It. -(γ)en (compare
the 3pl form -ðkәt, with additional plural -t > It. glottalized -n’). In either case the second element could have been a later
addition, influenced by the aorist. There is also an imperative/optative paradigm with similar endings but different prefixes,
namely 1s mә- (It. m-), 1pl mәn- (It. mәn-), 2s/pl qә- (It. q-), 3s/pl nә- (It. xan-). Georg and Volodin (1999:229) have argued that
Table 3
Chukotko-Kamchatkan verbal inflections.
1s tә-V-γәRæ-k 1pl mәt-V-mәk
2s V-γәRæ-ð 2pl V-tәk
3s V-γәRæ-n 3pl V-γәRæ-t
1s t-V-k(icen) 1pl n-V-k(icen)
2s V-c 2pl V-sx
3s V-(γ)en 3pl V-(γ)e?n
Also independent pronoun if causes nasal alternation with some following endings (-doγo, -da <-toγo, -ta). Its relationship to the ES and SS form jaŋ is
problematic – the latter may have a different origin involving interrogative/relative root ja-, as suggested by Austerlitz (1959a), or i/j- as above followed by
(Amur) aŋ ‘who’ (cf. Otaina and Nedjalkov, 2007:1742; Panfilov, 1962:240 suggests haŋ ‘that’ as the second part rather). Also Jakobson (1971:88) sees
‘‘prepositive’’ i/j- here. Note also respectful 3rd person forms avŋ (pl. avγun), Amur әf. These suggest the -vŋ ending in the (ES formof) ethnonymN’iγvŋ, lit.
‘‘inhabitant of (somewhere called) N’iγ’’, apparently containing -v- from p’i-/-vi- ‘be (in/at)’ and participial/attributive -ŋ (Krejnovicˇ, 1986:163).
n’enŋ in ES and SS, which suggests that the ending was originally *-nәŋ.
The same in all persons, except 3pl -ðkәt and 2pl -ðkәnitәk (see below for the latter).
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1367
all the verbal prefixes in Itelmen are borrowings from Chukotian, which I regard as unlikely (cf. Fortescue, 2003:53 for
arguments), but this has no great bearing onthe comparison withNivkh, since it is clear, as mentioned, that the CKprefixes are
inanycaselater thanthesuffixes andpost-datethehypothetical Proto-CKAstage. Thecorrespondingtransitiveparadigms were
built upessentiallybyaddinga 3rdpersonpronominal suffixtothe intransitive forms inbothbranches, extendedto1st and2nd
person objects by integrating two different ‘‘inverse’’ constructions (involving originally antipassive prefix inæ- or ‘‘general
inverse’’ prefix næ- – originally a non-specific 3rd person subject marker). For details see Fortescue (1997). The parting of the
way between the two branches occurred according to this model when the ergative construction subsequently developed in
Chukotian, superimposed on the otherwise thoroughly nominative-accusative morphology of the family.
The basis from which the comparison between CK and Nivkh verbal morphology should be made then is prior to the
building up of transitive paradigms in CK. The essential repertoire at the pre-CK stage would have consisted of a basic two-
way distinction between aorist (or perfective) and present (or progressive), the former characterized by suffix -γәRæ added
to the verbal stem – compare ES Nivkh ‘completive’ -Rar-/-Xar and ‘resultative’ -Rare-/-Xare (the equivalent of -γәt- and
-γәta- respectively on the mainland).
The suffix would have been followed by subject person/number markers. Note that
the 3s ending in CK was (and is still) -(ә)n, which simply represents the demonstrative әn ‘that/he/she/it’. The present/
progressive in -ðkәn, on the other hand, apparently a participial form inflected only for number, may be bi-partite, as
discussed in the previous section, with the first consonant comparable to Itelmen present tense affix -z- and the Nivkh
converb -r (likewise inflected only for number, apart fromthe 1s formmentioned above).
Perhaps its original function was
one of temporal subordination, like the Nivkh converb. As the aorist person endings decayed already in pre-CK, prefixes were
added for 1st person (1s tә-, 1pl. mәt-, the latter presumably with plural -t). The present/progressive further distinguished
2pl subject by addition of the person marker -tәk following a linking or ‘‘copular’’ -i-, which may once have occurred also with
other person subjects, but could be an innovation in Chukotian.
In CK a whole series of binary pairs of mood/tense forms emerged, respectively perfective and imperfective, as further
paradigms werebuilt up, for instancethefuture(involvingcircumfixðæ- -ŋә ‘want to, future’ –cf. verbal stemγәjin(ðæ)- ‘desire’
for the prefix, comparable to Nivkh (j)aγn’- ‘want’) and the conditional (an extension of the optative
). Note that there are
numerous modal and focal suffixes in Nivkh but these are not organized into inflectional paradigms like in CK(they can follow
general indicative, converb or imperative suffixes, with the usual minimal person and number distinctions). CKlanguages also
display numerous independent ‘‘modal’’ particles that overlap semantically withthe scalar and focal suffixes/enclitics of Nivkh
and include evidential/epistemic items. Although mood, aspect and tense do not formtight paradigms as in CK, there is a basic
future/non-future distinction in Nivkh (future marked by a suffix) and aspect is also distinguished by suffix (including the
‘‘completive’’ suffix above). Moreover, it displays numerous converb suffixes besides -r which could in theory have developed
from independent particles. It is reasonable to suppose, in conclusion, that Proto-CKA had simple intransitive paradigms
marked by some kind of modal or aspectual suffix combined with person/number subject suffixes, like in (pre-)Proto-CK (as
reconstructedin Fortescue, 2003:59) but that these become so attenuatedin time in Nivkhas to be replaced almost entirely by
independent pronouns (which further became prefixed/proclitic to the verb when used as object markers).
Another central category of the verbal morphology of bothfamilies is valency-increasing (and decreasing) by affixation. In
CK this is a matter of causative/transitivizing prefixes or circumfixes plus an ‘‘antipassive’’ prefix, in Nivkh of initial
consonant alternation or a single (non-productive) transitivizing suffix plus a productive causativizing suffix. Neither family
has a passive voice – apart from an innovatory paradigm in Itelmen – although the CK ‘‘inverse’’ constructions mentioned
above are very ancient (they are shared by Chukotian and Itelmen). Can these things be compared? Perhaps surprisingly, yes.
Let us start with the situation in Nivkh. Most intransitive verbs start with a plosive and transitive ones with a fricative
(though sonorant-initial ones can be either) – there are many pairs of verb forms associated by this alternation. A priori one
might expect this to correlate with the use of the ubiquitous transitivizing prefix *ðәn- in CK (Itelmen әn-, <pre-CK *tәn-
In fact there are just a handful of cases where there is additional nasalization present in the resulting Nivkh transitives, as in
e-mXaRu- ‘make s.o. younger’ from p’ŋaRa- ‘(be) young’, and e-mXaqu- ‘shorten’ from pXaq- ‘(be) short’, which could
reflect the final nasal segment of *tәn- – compare also the difference between ES e-n’ra- ‘aimat’ and Amur cognate e-zra-.
However, all of these contain the (indefinite) 3rd person ‘‘undergoer’’ prefix i-/e-
(j- before vowel). This morpheme is
required in all cases where fricativization of an initial plosive cannot apply (apart from before single fricatives, nasals and
liquids, when nothing further happens), i.e. before consonant clusters and vowels.
For the change of */γa/ to/ γә/ in A and /Ra/ in ES here compare the discussion of ciγr/c’Xarˇ ‘tree’ in the section on sound correspondences above.
According to Krejnovicˇ (1979:321) the -r/t converb endings represent relics of person markers.
The remaining 1pl suffix -mәk may have been influenced by 2pl -tәk (dissimilation from*-tәt?), but the k in both could reflect the old dual. As regards the
linking -i-, this is probably the same as copula verb i(t)-, which is comparable to ES Nivkh -i-, a verbal ordinal formant after numeral classifiers (Krejnovicˇ,
Marked by a prefix (following person prefixes) Rә-, which, being of adverbial origin, may be compared to the Nivkh conditional converb in -qa/Ra.
Note that initial fricatives in Chukotian generally derive from corresponding plosives, which are mostly preserved in Itelmen (Fortescue, 2005:7). The
Itelmen prefix әn- may reflect assimilation after loss of the medial schwa in *tәn- – compare the other formof the transitivizing prefix (appearing in certain
combinations) łin-, with /ł/ regularly <*/t/ next to a sonorant (the /i/ may be intrusive). The CK prefix itself probably comes from an independent auxiliary
verb ðәntә- ‘have (as)’ (<*tәntә-), whose function is transitivizing (as opposed to intransitive auxiliary it- ‘be’) – cf. Fortescue (2005:71).
The choice of allomorph is determined by vowel harmony with the stem– one of the fewvestiges of that phenomenon in Nivkh. Exactly the same initial
vowel alternation is found in the CK antipassive morpheme inæ-/ena- discussed below (under virtually the same conditions – i.e. a ‘‘recessive’’ vs. a
‘‘dominant’’ stem vowel respectively).
Actually fricativization of the first plosive of a cluster can occur, but the prefix is still required.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1368
Now, although this prefix is generally described as indicating a 3rd person undergoer (or object), it is often glossable as
indefinite ‘(do to) something/someone’ – and although its presence is not itself determined by definiteness it is precisely not
present when a definite object precedes the verb and is integrated with it. As Otaina and Nedjalkov (2007:1718) put it: ‘‘if
there is no explicit direct object, a 3sg object like ‘he/she/it’ is generally implied unless it is used in a citation form’’. In other
words, the prefix is neutral as to definiteness, only implying a definite object in a suitable context where one is understood.
Also Jakobson (1971:86) glossed this ‘‘prepositive pronoun’’ as ‘someone or something’. This is at least in part comparable to
what the CK ‘‘antipassive’’ prefix inæ-/ena- does to transitive stems, namely render the implicit object indefinite. It may in
fact be relatable to Nivkh ena- ‘other, stranger’ (cited under the lexical correspondences below), which would be a reasonable
source for both an ‘‘antipassive’’ and an ‘‘inverse’’ marker.
In that case this morpheme might have more than one formand
function in Nivkh (respectively as stem and as prefix), and the CK ‘‘inverse’’ might in fact find its source still reflected in
Nivkh, namely in the common ‘‘antipassive’’ construction.
For a specific 3s object – or undergoer – there is also a different i- prefix in Nivkh, often called ‘‘emphatic’’ (as in Mattissen,
2003:57f.) but perhaps better ‘‘definite’’, one that causes following ‘‘nasal’’ rather than fricativizing alternations,
just like
the 3s pronominal possessor discussed in the previous section in connection with CK pronominal әn, so possibly from *in-.
Actually I would suggest that the ultimate source is CKA*hәn, related to Nivkh demonstrative root hә-/ES huŋ-, and it is such a
formthat can be compared directly with the CK 3rd person root әn-. I shall return to this relationship at the end of the section
on lexical correspondences in connection with h-initial morphemes in Nivkh in general.
The oldest layer of transitive verbs in Nivkh could still in theory reflect a pre-Nivkh transitivizing morpheme *tәn-, as in
pre-CK, but this may have been obscured by the later diffusion of *inL- (>CK *inæ-), coming to apply to already transitivized
stems (an initial plosive would automatically become fricativized following the final vowel of *inL- according to the general
rules of sandhi in Nivkh). There is some evidence that this might well have been the case, namely in the relic transitivizing
suffix -u- (as in nok-u- ‘make narrow’ from nok- ‘(be) narrow’) – this corresponds nicely to the suffixed part of the CK
transitivizing circumfix ðәn- -æv. The prefixed part (corresponding to initial fricativization in the more productive process
described above) could well reflect the loss of *ðәn-, as can be seen with transitive verbs of this kind starting with plosives, e.
g. faz-u- ‘undress’ from intransitive p’az- and Xav-u- ‘heat up’ from q’av-.
This -u- can also verbalize nouns, which CK
-æv- also can. Recall that prefixes are generally later phenomena than suffixes in CK, and thus the suffixed part of verbal
circumfixes like this can be taken to be older than the prefix. The use of *inL- to mark an (indefinite) undergoer in Nivkh
might then only have been necessary with stems whose initial consonant – or cluster – precisely could not be fricativized
(after the suffix was no longer productive). The modern 3s ‘‘undergoer’’ prefix may thus represent the conflation of two
different morphemes, definite and indefinite respectively.
The modern Nivkh forms and processes mentioned so far are all non-productive – to formcausative (as opposed to merely
transitive) verbs productively, the suffix-ŋku- is required (applicable to transitive as well as intransitive verbs). Krejnovicˇ
(1979:314) suggests aconnectiontothecomitativeaffix-ku- here,
but perhaps it maybedirectlycomparedtothecommonCK
suffix -tku-, which is essentially a frequentative, but may also indicate protracted or intense activity and is used as a ‘‘general
antipassive’’ (of ‘‘potential object’’) – it means ‘act or do with’ on nominal bases. Finally, the reciprocal prefix u-/w- may be
compared to CK uviki ‘body, self’, which functions as a reflexive pronoun and may well go with Nivkh vic, ES ut ‘body’.
5. Lexical material
Rather than simply presenting a list of lexical look-alikes in the manner of Tailleur (a hazardous approach at best), let me
start by singling out a handful of particularly good candidate cognates among basic items of vocabulary. These relate to the
common hunting/fishing way of life that goes back to Neolithic times in the region. Consider then the following group of
forms, which contains one of the derivational morphemes introduced in the section on nominal morphology:
Nivkh (Amur) tәf,
ES, SS taf ‘house’ (stemtav-, ending in suffix -f/v ‘place where’) can be compared with Proto-CKtәvanvә
‘place’ (with the ‘‘same’’ suffix -nvә ‘place of’ on stemtәva- ‘be, live, sit’ – note also Chukotian (tә)varat ‘people’, fromthe same
Thus ‘he does/you do something to me’ would be expressed in CK as ‘he does/you do something to someone else’, with *inæ-/ena- as undergoer (the 1s
object being higher on the animacy/person hierarchy than the subject). Why the ‘‘dominant’’ form of this hypothetical common morpheme should have
become lexicalized in Nivkh requires explanation – but note that in the correlated Chukotian formena-ra-lRәn ‘neighbour’ it is due to the dominant vowel of
following stem-ra- ‘house’; perhaps Nivkh *tav of that meaning (as in Amur enadәv- ‘another house’) was also dominant, as the reconstructed vowel
suggests (ena- is, however, a fixed form today).
Perhaps better called ‘‘generalized undergoer’’ construction, since the term ‘‘antipassive’’ has become rather too closely associated with ergative
languages. Also non-ergative Itelmen, Yukaghir and Na-Dene languages, among others, have similar morphemes (Fortescue, 1998:61).
This causes a following plain (non-aspirated) plosive to be replaced by the corresponding voiced plosive inthe Amur dialect and is generally triggered by
a final nasal that may or may not itself have dropped (it is generally retained in the ES and SS dialects).
Note also si- (fricativized from c’i-) ‘put’, which can be compared with CK ðәððil- of that meaning listed in the section on lexical material below.
Used before a following converb ending -r it forms adverbials and may contain initial -ŋ, the ‘‘attributive’’ form of verbs in ES.
If not Itelmen reciprocal prefix lu-. Otaina and Nedjalkov (2007:1742) tentatively suggest *un- as the source of the Nivkh prefix u- (where *-n would
represent the plural), since it causes ‘‘nasal assimilation’’ of the same sort as 3s i- above. Compare, however, West Sakhalin ut-ŋazi- ‘be of the same height
(as)’, corresponding to Amur u-ŋәzi- with reciprocal u- (Otaina and Nedjalkov, 2007:1728). Note that u- is also a reciprocal prefix in Ainu (just as i- is also a
3rd person ‘‘undergoer’’ prefix) – this could represent early borrowing from Nivkh during Okhotsk Culture times in northern Hokkaido.
Also raf ‘(model) mortuary house’ (which may reflect an original indefinite possessor form *i-taf according to Jakobson (1971:91). But note also CK ra-
‘house’ (and ræ- ‘enter’, raan ‘entrance’), as Tailleur suggested – Jakobson (1971:99) sees a possible verbal stem ra-/ta- ‘install’ here, also reflected (with
reflexive prefix) in p’rә- ‘arrive’.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1369
stem plus -ræt ‘set (of)’).
So the original ‘house’ word in both families could have been *dәvanvә, parallel with Chukotian
wi-nvә ‘track’, mentioned earlier, the stemof which goes perhaps with Nivkh wi- ‘go’. Also Nivkh wo ‘village’ (actually more a
‘gathering place for the winter’, away from the summer fishing sites – Austerlitz, 1990b) has a possible CK cognate. As
Austerlitz suggests, this word (beginning, unusually for a noun, with /w/) probably contains the reciprocal prefix w-/u-
before a hypothetical stem o- meaning ‘gather’, as also reflected in verb w-op-u- of that meaning. It looks as if a final
nominalizing element has been eroded, so why not -f/v ‘place’ again? It is at all events attractive to relate this to CK
omak- ‘together’, transitive ð-umæk-æv- ‘gather’ (and Chukchi umek ‘group’), so Nivkh wo <*w-umәk-(ә)nvә, via assimilated
Now Nivkh (and Itelmen) summer houses are typically situated near the mouths of large rivers (Black, 1973:6). Consider
the following group of potential cognates: Nivkh eri, ES and SS i ‘river’, CKær- ‘flowout’ and It. i ‘water’.
What could be more
natural than that a ‘river’ (*Lr-i) be regarded as ‘water’ (*i) that ‘flows out’ (*Lr-)? There is also the word for ‘sea’ itself,
ke-rqŋ (where (he)rqŋ is ‘side, direction’ – cf. Austerlitz, 1959b:220), to which can be compared Chukchi γe-curmәn ‘shore’
(<*ke-curmәn, where the second element means ‘edge’).
Further derivatives of the *Lr- root in Nivkh are: әr, ES әrŋ ‘mouth
of river’ and әrkә, ES әrˇkәrˇ ‘shore, bank’, which can be compared to CK ær-γәrγәn and ær-γiŋ of precisely the same meanings
(recall what was said in the section on sound correspondences about reflexes of */L/in Nivkh). The suffixes in CK are
respectively the nominalizer -γәrγәn treated under nominal morphology and γiŋ ‘below’. Probable cognates for
‘downstream’ and ‘upstream’ will be found in Table 4 below.
Another promising lexical area is that of fish – more specifically salmon, with which the rivers of the whole area teem.
Thus compare: Nivkh c’o ‘fish’ and CK æwæcu ‘salmon’, qæ(wæ)cu humpback salmon’, It. c’uv(aj) ‘salmon (chinook)’. All of
these could contain an original stem *wLcu (i.e. *wLt’u). This assumes syncope and/or assimilation in both Nivkh and
Itelmen (which would explain the ejective in the latter – cf. Fortescue, 2003:67).
As regards inland hunting as opposed to fishing, compare Nivkh ŋәŋ-/ES ŋaŋanγ- ‘hunt’ (the ES form contains ŋa- ‘land
animal’), ŋa(γi)- ‘go for, chase after’ with. Chukotian -ŋәrtә ‘catch’ (It. ŋes- ‘hunt’), and ŋәta- ‘go for’
, perhaps all from root
*ŋәra-. A further basic word, relating to the spoils of the hunt, is Nivkh in’-/n’i- ‘eat’ (the i- is the 3rd person ‘‘undergoer’’
prefix), comparable with CK nu- ‘eat’,
perhaps both from *n’u-, with assimilation of /u/ to /i/ in Nivkh.
In Table 4 belowI list most of the reasonably good – i.e. more or less regular – correspondences that have turned up so far
in the hope that they will form the basis for a more far-reaching search in the future. The Proto-Chukotian/Proto-Chukotko-
Kamchatkan forms are from Fortescue (2005), and the (Proto-)Nivkh ones are the oldest forms to be gleaned from the
modern dictionary and word-list sources (primarily Saveljeva and Taksami, 1965, 1970, Nakagawa et al., 1993, and Tangiku
et al., 2008). Basically this means ES if there is any discrepancy from corresponding Amur forms.
Lack of a gloss under
Proto-Chukotian indicates virtual identity to the gloss under Nivkh. The older Itelmen forms (in particular those from the
extinct eastern and southern languages, ‘‘E. It.’’ and ‘‘S. It.’’) are not always reliable as to form. An apostrophe after a
consonant indicates an ejective in Itelmen, not an aspirated/fortis one as in Nivkh (except for /d’/ and /n’/, which are palatal in
Nivkh, as is /t’/ in reconstructed Proto-CKA forms).
Let me now sum up the principal evidence here for the sound correspondences given in Table 1 in the light of the
hypothesized sound systemof the proto-language presented in Table 2. It would appear, if these correlations hold, that there
must have been considerable contraction/syncope in Nivkh, involving the weakening and disappearance of intervocalic
consonants (especially voiced fricatives and liquids), also the reduction of clusters involving sonorants (nasals, liquids and
semi-vowels). The basic shape of nominal stems in the proto-language seems to have been (C)VC(C)V(C), and of verbal stems
(C)V(C)-, with no long vowels and no clusters of more than two consonants (the latter medial only). The vowel
correspondences are fairly regular, with allowance made for instances of labial and dental assimilation (in particular of
schwa to /u/ and /i/ respectively).
First as regards the plosives. Note that the difference between voiced and unvoiced (or lenis and fortis) is overwhelmingly
confined to initial position in Nivkh, and so probably also in Proto-CKA. For the labials (collapsed to a single series in CK, as all
plosives) see: *panða, *pәki(r)-, *pәt-, *bәl-, *bәlmә-, *hәp-, *әba-, and *bәla- above. For the dentals see: *dәvanvә, *dәR-, *diwlә-,
*tәlvә-, *pәt-, *tem-, *duvŋә, *duŋ-, *dod(o), *tәðil-, *tek(a)-, *әtlәγ, *ta(la)-, *tL(q)-, *dLqL, *dәγ(ak)- and *dәvi-. For the
palatals see: *wLt’u, *mәt’Ral, *tә(n)t’i(l)-, *d’Lŋd’i-, *t’evar-, *d’әm(i), *mLt’v-, *t’әγ-, and *t’ev-. For the velars see: *pәki(r),
cf. Itelmen cognates ła- ‘sit’, ła-nom ‘seat’ (-nom is the Itelmen reflex of *-nvә) and compare in turn Nivkh t’iv-/rˇiv- ‘sit on’ and t’ifc ‘chair’ (with another
Compare more recent productive form wopuf ‘meeting’, containing precisely these three elements.
The latter form and its relationship to Chukotian presented somewhat of a mystery in Fortescue (2005:398).
Perhaps also Itelmen qiX ‘sea’, (with assimilation to the final uvular /X/?) – earlier forms attested for Itelmen are kix, kejaga and kaijan (see Fortescue,
Other kinds of salmon one might catch in the area are Nivkh wel ‘summer salmon’ and wec’k ‘kind of Siberian salmon’, comparable to It. fłec/vilc of that
meaning, and/or fackc ‘loach, golets’ (the -c is a singulative suffix), also Nivkh va(γ)s ‘kind of salmon, sig’ and Chukotian witә(wit) ‘small kind of salmon,
Also perhaps γәrnik ‘animal’ and γәr-oR- ‘give birth (animal)’ – for the second element compare Nivkh q’o-/eR- ‘give birth to’ (an ‘‘ablauting’’ verb where
the initial e- is the form of the undergoer prefix required by vowel harmony), as in *qola in the table below.
Which is transitive and seems to contain the transitivizing prefix *ðәn- discussed under verbal morphology (as reflected e.g. in Koryak ju- < *ðu-), so
perhaps < *tә(n)n’u-.
‘‘Proto-’’ is in quotations here, reflecting the shallow nature of the comparative base, as discussed in the Introduction. ES forms without attested
equivalent in A (or vice versa) are marked as such. An oblique separating forms otherwise indicates morphophonological variants.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1370
Table 4
Further potential Nivkh-CK cognates.
(Proto-)Nivkh Proto-Chukotian/CK Proto-CKA
rˇәf ‘wound’
atәnvә *atәnvә?
al-rˇ ‘berry’
æl-u- ‘gather berries’ *Ll-?
alv-erq ‘behind’
ælvæ- ‘other’ (It. elveze- ‘go back’)
ES azmәc ‘man (male)’
ærәm(æ) ‘leader, strong’ *LrәmL-?
pil- ‘big’ It. pl- ‘big’ (Ch. pәl- ‘completely’) *bәl-?
plaŋ(q) ‘leaf’ It. pәla(l) *bәla-?
polm- ‘blind’ pәlmә- ‘dark from rain/snow, blind’ *bәlmә-?
(he)rq(ŋ) ‘side, direction’ ðæqæ ‘edge’ *dLqL?
rәk-/-tәk-/ES rak- ‘carve, cut’ ðәγ- ‘dig, scratch’ *dәγ(ak)-?
rәru-/-tәru- ‘untie, release’ ðәr- *dәr-?
taX ‘epidemic, cold, influenza’ tәRәl- ‘ill’ *dәR-?
tvi- ‘end’ -tvi- ‘become’ *dәvi-?
irlә-/-tlә- ‘pull, drag’ ðiwlә- (It. timpł-) ‘take (across), haul’ *diwlә-?
tot ‘(upper) arm’ E.It. soto/sˇoto ‘arm’
tә-/ES tuŋ- ‘this’ ŋut ‘this’
tuvŋ/ruvŋ ‘elder brother, tumγә ‘friend’ (It. tumx *duvŋә?
blood relative’ ‘sibling of same age’)
SS d’icm-/ES zicv- ‘tread’/A zit- ‘kick’ tæŋti- ‘tread’ (Kerek caŋci-tRu-‘kick’) *d’Lŋd’i-?
com(ŋ) ‘raft’ timi *d’әm(i)?
ena- ‘other, stranger’ ena-ra-lRәn ‘neighbour’
kmә- ‘scurry back and forth (of insects)’ kame(cγat)- ‘move around’ (and kæmæk ‘beetle’) *gLm-?
kit-/ES kitn- ‘run away’ γәntæv-
kur-ŋ ‘God, the world’
k(әR)uðkәl ‘creator, Raven’, It. kutx ‘legendary creator of Kamchatka’ *gәRuð-?
qa- ‘go downriver’ qalelle(ŋ) ‘downriver, downhill’
‘bright’ qeðγә-‘light’ *Geðγә-?
hawa- ‘open mouth wide’
awaŋ- ‘open (e.g. mouth)’ *hawa(ŋ)-?
hup- ‘tie’ әp- ‘be attached, penetrate’ *hәp-?
hiγr ‘stomach of animal’ jiγ(jiγ) ‘gut’ *hiγ-?
hilx ‘tongue’ (and jelel-/ jilә(jil) ‘tongue’ *hilә?
helel- ‘lick’)
him ‘cedar thicket’ im- ‘dense, frequent’ *him-?
ur ‘island’ ilir(i) *ilur(i)?
k’i/xi- ‘up’ kæwji ‘go up’
k’әlmr ‘navel’ kil(kil) *kәl-?
imγ-/-k’im- ‘give’
ækmit- ‘take’ *(L)kәmi(t)-?
k’әzm ‘whitethorn’
kilam, E.It. kerem ‘whitethorn berry’ *kәrәm?
k’әs-/ES k’әjru- ‘happy’ kәrvi- *kәr(vi)-?
k’әr- ‘be hungry’ γәt(Ræt)- *kәt-?
le(le) ‘very’ lәγi ‘really’ *lәγi?
‘wolf’ l(ә)Riγә(n) (It. Xiγne) *lәRiγ(ә)?
ŋif ‘heart’
liŋ(liŋ) *liŋ-?
maŋ(g)- ‘strong’
mæjŋ- ‘big’ *mLjŋ-?
moc/ES mәc ‘breast (woman’s)’ macve ‘chest’
mγәl- ‘tow along shore’ mәγu(lRæt)- ‘wander, go off far’
mlә ‘wooden figurine in It. mila-cX ‘baby’, CK mәl- ‘fine, *mәl-?
commemoration of the deceased’ small’
mla ‘ear’ (ES; and mә-‘hear’
) vilu(lŋәn) ‘ear’ (and valom- ‘hear’) *mәlu-?
moq- ‘break into pieces’ mәq- ‘small’ *mәq-?
‘rowan’ mic(Ral)/mәc(Ral) (It. mc’e-) *mәt’Ral?
nana ‘recently’ (naf ‘now’) It. ne’n, S.It. dani ‘now’ *na(n)-?
nuγi ‘in front, first’ E.It. duk- ‘in front’
‘young (animal)’ (u)nænæ ‘child, baby’ *nun(L)?
(SS ‘baby’)
ŋaltәr/ŋaf ‘side (of body)’ ŋalŋәl ‘on both sides’ *ŋal-?
ŋaγr ‘skin (animal)’ (SS nælγә(n) ‘skin, hide’ *ŋLlγ-?
ŋalrˇ ‘skin’)
ŋә ‘otter’ ŋænŋæt
ŋoi ‘penis’ ŋojŋ(әn) ‘tail’ *ŋoj(ŋә)?
p’an’ ‘gaiters, leg covering’
panða ‘(boots of) leg skin of *panða?
p’xә- ‘return’ pәkir- ‘come’ *pәki(r)-?
p’әt(u)- ‘split’ -pәt ‘piece of’ *pәt-?
q’a (noun)/Xa- (verb) ‘name’ It. Xela(ŋ)/Xalәn *qela-?
q’au(k) ‘no, not have’
qәðәm/It. qa?m ‘no, not’ *qaðә(m)?
q’av- ‘hot’ (Xav-u- ‘heat qevja- ‘(let off) steam, scald *qәjv(a)-?
up’) self’ (It. qejve-/qevu- ‘boil’)
oRlaŋ ‘child’
Rola ‘boy’ *qola?
za-/-t’a- ‘beat’ tala- *ta(la)-?
t’a-/rˇa- ‘where, which’ ðæq ‘what’ (ðæqu ‘why’, *tL(q)-?
(and si-/NS su-/rˇu-/ tæRәr ‘how many, It. saq
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1371
Table 4 (Continued)
(Proto-)Nivkh Proto-Chukotian/CK Proto-CKA
ES ru-/nu- ‘what’)
‘what kind’)
‘go up on land’ It. tekej- ‘get up’ *tek(a)-?
t’om(s) ‘smokehole in old It. temes ‘roof’ (tem- ‘cover’), *tem-?
style house’ Kamen Koryak tomŋe- ‘stop up
t’ә(lf) ‘far’ tel(әŋ), It. t’al-
rˇuv-/-t’uv- ‘burn’ tәlvә- *tәlvә-?
rˇә ‘door’ ðәl- ‘crawl into (sleeping compart-ment)‘(E.It. sˇolo-nacˇ ‘lower door’)
si-/-c’i- ‘put’
ðәððil- ‘put (down)’ *tә(n)t’i(l)-?
c’ev- ‘spear, pierce’ cәvi- ‘cut, chop’ *t’ev-?
c’evc’ev- ‘wet’ It. cufcuf ‘rain’ *t’ev(t’ev)?
c’avr- ‘grey’ cevaro *t’evar-?
c’oγ- ‘melt’ tәlγә- (It. co-)
c’uz-/ES c’ir- ‘new’ tur- ‘new’ *t’ur-?
u- ‘burn (intr.)’ uji- ‘make fire’ *u(ji)-?
uiγi- ‘disappear, not be ujŋæ ‘(there is) no –’ *ujŋ(L)?
vic, ES ut ‘body’ uviki *uvi-?
vukvuku- ‘get dark’
vulqә- ‘dark’ *vul-?
wal- ‘cut, chop’ (and wa wala(-) ‘knife, carve’ *wa(la)-?
‘sword, sabre’)
avlәx ‘lip’
wæmәlkæ(t) *wLmәlkL-?
pan’x ‘soup’ әpa(ŋә) ‘(drink) soup’
n’in/ES n’en(ŋ) ‘one (person)’
әnnæn *әn’-?
әt(ә)k ‘father’ әtlәγ(әn), It. isx *әtlәγ?
Containing -f (CK-nvә) ‘place of’; also reduplicated rˇәvrˇәv- in ES as a verb. Note that initial /t’/ becomes /rˇ/ after a vowel in certaincircumstances in Nivkh
(/rˇ/ – as all fricatives – is rare as the initial segment of non-derived nouns – cf. Jakobson, 1971:93).
The -rˇ (A -s) in Nivkh is a nominalizer (Saveljeva and Taksami, 1970:532), and the -u in CK is ‘acquire, consume’.
(h)erq is ‘side, direction’.
Note also CK javal(a) ‘back, behind’ and ajval- ‘lee(side)’ (metathesis?).
also perhaps Amur ar, ES arŋa ‘male’ (the latter with ŋa ‘animal’); but note also әs/әzŋ ‘master, owner’ (and the CK /æ/ Nivkh /ә/ correspondence
discussed in the section on sound correspondences).
For the s-/sˇ in It. (via /ð/) compare under*tæ(q) further down in this table – this is not regular, but note that /s/ is the usual reflex of */t/ next to another
voiceless consonant.
Perhaps with metathesis (and influence from ŋun ‘(that) over there’?) – cf. ‘‘lative’’ -ŋ. Note also Sedanka W. It ti’n, E. It tyj ‘this’.
-ra- is ‘house’ and -lRәn ‘one who has/lives in –‘. Compare also Alutor ina-ra-k ‘in a neighbouring house’ with Amur Nivkh ena-dәv-uin ‘in another house’
(-dәv- is ‘house’).
With suffix -æv; note that Nivkh medial /nt/ is sometimes reduced to /t/, as in nominalizer -nt/t/d’ (cf. Gruzdeva, 1998:11).
Originally in Nivkh mythology there were four ‘‘spirit masters’’ (of the sea, the sky, the fire and the mountains) referred to by this term (cf. Shternberg,
1999:158,165). The CK form is a personal name, not the common noun for ‘raven’.
Cf. perhaps CK qal(a) ‘area around or beside’, also lative ending -ŋ.
This presupposes an intermediate stage *qәlγәla in Nivkh. Saveljeva and Taksami (1965) also have qalγala-/kalRala- – there appears to be metathesis of a
kind in the second form; the -la- is a suffix indicating a permanent property (cf. Mattissen, 2003:18), which may in turn have affected the */ð/in the first
And Amur havahavad’ ‘have breathing difficulty (with mouth open)’; cf. also perhaps havaf ‘lung’ (only North Sakhalin has attested/w/here, so there is
some doubt about whether /w/ or /v/ is original).
Note also k’e- ‘upstream’, going perhaps with CK kәrγol(a) ‘on top, upstream’ (Chukchi γәrγoca) – for the ending compare CK kәnγәlo ‘high’.
The second form is with prefix and metathesis – compare old South Itelmen form emgatyzˇ ‘I take’. For the seemingly contradictory semantics of ‘give’
and ‘take’ compare the situation in Indo-European discussed by Buck (1988:748) under ‘give’ in terms of a common meaning ‘stretch out the hand’.
But also kelm ‘raspberry (bush)’.
The -rˇ (A -s) is a suffix typical of animates acc. Taksami (1983:286); the -n in CK is a ‘‘singulative’’ suffix.
cf. -f from *-nvә ‘place of-ing’, so perhaps from a verbal root *l(i)ŋi-.
Also maγn ‘very’.
And E. It. ki-msˇevi-in ‘big breasted’; the Chukotian may have dominant /a/ due to original dominant singulative -lŋәn, still found in the Koryak.
And Ch. muul?әn ‘(reindeer) caravan’.
SS mu-/mo-.
West Sakhalin medlan acc. Glehn (in Schrenck, 1892–1900).
West It/n/corresponds to East (and sometimes South) Itelmen /d/.
The following uvular perhaps causing the change of */u/ to /o/ (there are parallels in the modern language); but note also n’en’eq ‘a little’.
Reduplication of *ŋæt.
Austerlitz (1984:40) relates this to Nivkh stem pa-/fa- ‘put on shoes, socks, footgear’.
Takahashi (1942) has SS kavrnt/kavrˇ (for qavrnt/qavrˇ) – from *qarv- or *qarm- by metathesis?.
A oRla, ES eRlaŋ (the -ŋ is the suffix lost on the mainland discussed above); cf. q’o-/eR- ‘give birth to’.
*tæ(q)- appears to be weakened in most forms to *ðæq- in Chukotian (jaq in Koryak, taq in Alutor, saq in It.) and (in some forms) to rˇa- in Nivkh.
Jakobson (1971:92) sees the ‘‘prepositive’’ indefinite pronoun i-/j- as lying behind this t’a- > rˇa- alternation (so perhaps also behind A si- ‘what’?).
Also ES t’amd’id ‘how’. The ‘what’ forms are problematical, but note that /s/ alternates with palatal/c/in Nivkh.; the forms with /u/ could be influenced
by demonstrative root tu- ‘this, here’. The nu- form in ES is described by Krejnovicˇ (1979:306) as specifically ‘‘completely indefinite’’ and thus may contain
nә- ‘thing’ – cf. E. It nike/nakc ‘what, something’.
The form given by Gruzdeva (2008:187) for ES – compare A teγa- ‘run up on sandbank (boat)’.
Chukotian top- ‘cover, close’ - compare also Nivkh to(rәf) ‘semi-subterranean house’.
The Chukotian contains dominant allative suffix -(ә)ŋ (and the Nivkh contains spatial suffix -f).
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1372
*kLwji-, *kәt-, *kәl-, *gLm-, *gәRuð-, *-tkә(n), *kәr(vi)-, *(L)kәmi(t)-, and *dәk-. And for the uvulars: *qәjv(a)-, *Geðγә-, *Ga(l)-,
*tL(q)-, *qela-, and *qaðә(m).
As regards the corresponding voiced fricatives, compare: *dәvanvә-, *dәvi-, *qev-, *vul-, *әv-, *t’ev-, *t’evar-, *LlvL-,
*dәvi-, *uvi-, *dәr-, *Geðγә-, *qәðәm, *lәRiγ(ә), *lәγi, *mәγu(l)-, *әtlәγ, *ŋәlγ(әr), *qola, and *t’әγ-. And the corresponding
nasals: *matәv, *mәt’Ral, *mәlu-, *mәγu(l)-, *mәq-, *mLjŋ-, *mLt’v-, *mәl-, *tem-, *d’әm(i), *him-, *nun(L), *ena-, *nuγ-,
*n’u-, *na(n)-, *әn’, *ŋal-, *ŋәra-, *ŋLt, *ŋoj(ŋә), *duŋ-, *ŋLlγ-, *qәŋal-, and *liŋ-. And the semi-vowels and liquids (including *
/r/): *wLt’u, *wi-, *wa(la)-, *hawa(ŋ)-,*ŋoj(ŋә),*ujŋ(L), *lәRiγ(ә), *mәt’Ral, *diwlә-, *mәl-, *tel-, *vul-, *wa(la)-, *qәŋal-, *LlvL-,
*bәl-, *bәla(ŋ), *hilә, *t’avar, *dәr-, *kәrv(i)-, *Lr-, and *ilur(i).
There remains more to say about the problematical /h/. By far the most important root withthis initial segment in Nivkh is
demonstrative hә-/ES huŋ- ‘that’ and related proverb/auxiliary ha- ‘do thus’
, whichappear to go somehowwith CKiγәn(ŋin)
‘such’ (< *hiγәn-?). Compare also Alutor iγәn’ŋa ‘over there’, Itelmen xe(j)nŋin ‘such’ and (em)xenŋin ‘the same’. The
reconstructed CK form is related to CK iγәð ‘now’ and the ending -ŋin goes with demonstratives like ŋan(in) ‘that’ and ŋun
‘over there’ – compare the latter with ES huŋ- ‘that’, parallel with tuŋ ‘this’ going with CK ŋut from *duŋ on Table 4. Itelmen
forms like xejnŋin show a ‘‘new’’ voiceless fricative deriving from /γ/ in initial position (after loss of initial vowel). In Nivkh
initial /x/ – as opposed to /h/ – is also innovative, deriving from /k’/ under sandhi/transitivizing conditions, but this is
obviously not the source of /h/ here.
This leaves two possibilities (if the correlation is genuine): either the proto-form was
*hiγәn-, the initial being preserved in Nivkh and lost in CK, or the/h/in Nivkh derives from *iγ- before a vowel with loss of /i/
and an idiosyncratic reflex of /γ/.
To decide which of these possibilities (if either) is correct we need to consider other examples of correspondences in CK
with Nivkh /h/ in Table 4 above, namely hup- ‘tie’, hawa- ‘open mouth wide’, hilx ‘tongue’, him ‘cedar thicket’, and hiγr
‘stomach’. There is no obvious way the CK equivalents could come from *iγ- here (there are plenty of words beginning with
this sequence, though it is rare in Nivkh), so we are left with the first possibility: CK probably lost (initial) /h/, a very common
phenomenon in the world’s languages (it is also dropped in Nivkh following prefixes). Another possible h-initial transitive
verb in Nivkh corresponding to a CK vowel-initial one is hupu-/jupu- ‘dip or plunge into’ – compare Chukotian up-/jup-
‘push (in), stick in’ (also related ojpә- ‘stick through’). As regards the ‘tongue’ word (which always occurs reduplicated –
jilәjil – or with a suffix in Chukchi), compare the Itelmen cognate łcel (and other older forms in Fortescue, 2005:115), which
lacks the usual reflex of initial */j/ (/s/ or /z/), so this could be secondary, due to the reduplicated formonce the initial */h/ was
lost. The ‘stomach’ word hiγr ‘stomach of animal’ (with suffix -r) corresponds to Chukotian jiγ(jiγ) ‘gut’, which is also
reduplicating but does have the regular reflex of */j/ in initial position in Itelmen (zives/siγis). This is problematical, but it
could reflect original *hәjiγ or the like, just as ‘tongue’ could be from *hәjil (and note helel-/jelel- ‘lick’, suggestive of
reduplication also in Nivkh).
Let us return nowto hypothetical *hiγәn-. When dealing with demonstrative/pronominal items like this which have high
frequency reflexes in all the languages being compared, it is important to look at a whole range of related forms to see what is
going on. Thus Krejnovicˇ (1979) has for Nivkh, besides the forms given, Amur ho(ŋ)-/hoRo-, NS hәprә-, and ES hәmci-/hәmra-
‘do thus’. Further, Nivkh root hә-/ES huŋ- actually appears as hәd’/hud
when functioning as an independent demonstrative,
and this should also not be seen in isolation, for there is also tә(d’)/ES tuŋ-/tud ‘this’, which is comparable with CK ŋut ‘this’
under *duŋ- above (contrasting with ŋun ‘(that) over there’). Note also Nivkh hur-/ES hus- as the ‘‘dummy’’ object of certain
verbs like hur-tov- ‘tie to’ and hur-t’iv- ‘sit somewhere’ (cf. Gruzdeva, 1998:29), also reduplicated hurur ‘everywhere’,
hurmiin, ES huzmi ‘inside’ (from mi- ‘inside’), Amur huin, hug/hur, ES hunx/huz ‘there’, Amur tur/tuin/tug, ES tus/tunk/turŋ
‘here’. The same locative base may be involved in verb stem hum-/ES hunv- ‘be, live’.
Moreover, there is Amur aehәd’, ES
Secondary way out of the semi-subterranean house. It is the second element that means ‘entrance’ (traditionally through the roof) in Itelmen. Note
Chukotian tәllә (< reduplicated *tәltәl) ‘door’, but also Nivkh rˇә-/-t’ә- ‘push in or through’. Otherwise Jakobson (1971:94), who suggests a possible earlier
form of the word *k’rˇә.
si- is the regular fricative-initial form of this transitive stem (and c’i- = *t’i- the form occurring with suitable incorporated direct objects) – whereas CK
ðәððil- contains transitivizing prefix *tә(n)- discussed in the section on verbal morphology.
The Chukotian presupposes intermediate *tәγlә- or the like. Note that the Nivkh formwith -γ- rather than -R as in Saveljeva and Taksami (1965) is from
Austerlitz for SS (1984:45).
But wәlwәl- ‘dark, black’. There seems to be entanglement between two stems here (both reduplicated).
ES also amγavli.
And әpa(t)- ‘boil, cook’; also CK pәγә(pγæt)- ‘boil’, It. p’axp’aŋ ‘boiled fish’.
The final -n may, as discussed above, represent an earlier animate class marker, whereas the -næn of the Chukotian could be fromlәγæn ‘simply, only’.
There is little else obviously in common between the numerals of Nivkh and CK, but nor is there between Aleut and Eskimo (just ‘one’ and ‘four’), which are
known to be related. Possibly Nivkh ca-qr ‘three’ and nә-kr ‘four’ (the forms used for ‘‘various objects’’) could be related to CK ŋәro(q) (It. c’oq) ‘three’ and ŋәra
(q) (It. c’aq) ‘four’ – the classifier -qr in the Nivkh forms could have undergone metathesis after loss of the medial vowel. The Chukotian roots are actually
ŋәro- and ŋәra- (compare also Nivkh co-r and nu-r of animals, with an ‘‘animate’’ classifier -r – Panfilov, 1962:202f.).
Note also -hagin, ES -ziŋ ‘any (one/thing)‘, haŋan (Taksami, 1983 has hoRar) ‘then’ (ES haŋә), with recognizable converb endings.
Note that verb stems in Nivkh that begin with /h/ quite regularly replace this by /j/ (the ‘‘undergoer’’ prefix) when used transitively - except when the
undergoer is an incorporated noun (Mattissen, 2003:124f.).
Krejnovicˇ (1979:305) has ES hәnt, hunt ‘that’, with what looks like the same ‘‘indicative/ nominalizer’’ suffix -d’/nt seen on verbs.
Though the suffix may be -m-/-nv-, which derives verbs from local roots. The -v- could reflect p’i- ‘be’ if not jiv- ‘have, be’.
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1373
aixnt ‘that over there (distant)’ (with a deictic prefix a-) – Krejnovicˇ (1979:305) has ES exәnt, ehәd, ahәd ‘that (a bit further off)’
(=Amur ad’), exnt (Amur ahәd’) (still further off), and aixnt (Amur aehәd’) ‘that far away’, all of which need to be compared
with *hә-/huŋ. There is ample scope for explanation of the interrelated forms here (e.g. by way of metathesis, assimilation
and analogy), but this is a complicated matter and calls for detailed research, which I can only sketch here (see Panfilov,
1962:240ff for a discussion of the relevant forms). The same applies to the interrogative forms listed in Table 4 (see Panfilov,
One important outcome of this discussion of /h/ is corroboration of the suggestion that CK 3rd person demonstrative
әn could be from *hәn, going with Nivkh hә-/huŋ-, as discussed briefly in the section on verbal morphology. Note that the
Chukchi forms that go with CK iγәn(ŋin) are actually әnŋin, әnŋot ‘thus’. In fact it is only Koryak and Alutor that have the
full reflex iγәn’ŋin (from – or influenced by – iγәð ‘now’). Koryak also has әnno’he, she, it’ (< *әn-ŋot, with an expressive
variant of ŋut ‘there’) alongside әn’ŋәRan ‘thus’, and Alutor has pronoun әnno besides demonstrative әn-ŋin(a) ‘that’
(=Koryak әnnin, It. әnnu), which further appears to contain possessive ending *-inæ. So the forms to compare with Nivkh
hә-/huŋ may well be CK әnŋin and әnŋut. This (reflecting a common root *hәn-) would better explain the forms like Nivkh
hu-g/ES hun-x, CK әn-kә ‘there’ mentioned under nominal morphology in connection with the old CK locative case
6. Conclusion: the relationship between Chukotian, Itelmen and Nivkh
Given the lingering doubts among Russian scholars as to the exact nature of the relation between Itelmen and Chukotian
plus the cultural parallels between Kamchatka and the Amur/Sakhalin area unearthed by archaeologists (e.g. Vasil’evskii,
1969:152), it is worth considering whether the evidence presented above might point in the direction of a more direct link
between Nivkh and Itelmen rather than between the former and Chukotko-Kamchatkan as a whole. One could easily
envisage, for example, an intrusive Chukotian superstrate above a common Nivkh-Itelmen basis on Kamchatka. The
traditional Itelmen and Nivkh had rather similar ways of life as sedentary fishermen and hunters close to major waterways,
building similar winter and summer dwellings (the former with distinctive roof entrances), whereas Chukotians have
apparently lived for centuries in interior Chukotka as reindeer herders employing more mobile tent-like dwellings (for
further details on the relevant archaeological evidence see Fortescue, 1998:183ff).
What linguistic evidence might be adduced to support this? Actually, nothing very convincing. Certainly a number of
the Itelmen forms cited above (especially those from older sources, before Koryak inroads) have no obvious Chukotian
equivalent (e.g. Itelmen i ‘water’ and East Sakhalin i ‘river’ mentioned in connection with *Lr- in the previous section),
and there is a slightly better phonological fit with the Itelmen cognate than the Chukotian one in cases such as Itelmen
isx, Chukotian әtlәγ(әn), going with Nivkh әtәk ‘father’ (ES әtk) from assumed Proto-CKA *әtlәγ (or perhaps *әtәk if the
Chukotian actually contains a reflex of singulative ending -lәŋәn). However, this is largely due to the rather superficial
effect of greater syncope in both Itelmen and Nivkh than in Chukotian, and in other respects Itelmen is phonologically
further removed from Nivkh than is Chukotian – for example by displaying a variety of glottal elements, including
There is also the absence of ergativity in Itelmen and the possibility raised by Georg and Volodin (1999:229) that the
prefixes of Itelmen are all borrowed from Chukotian. This would certainly make Proto-Itelmen look more like Proto-Nivkh
than Proto-Chukotian does. However, in connection with the first of these points, recall the non-ergative alignment of the
verbal morphology of all CK languages and the arguably relative newness of ergativity in Chukotian. The second point is in
any case not particularly relevant (even if correct), since pre-Proto-CK probably also lacked prefixes – these arguably
represent a secondary development counterbalancing the abrasion of the old suffixes shared with Itelmen (Fortescue,
All in all, none of this would appear sufficient to undermine the status of Proto-CK as the unified basis to which Nivkh can
be directly compared. It should be added at this point that there is no evidence for massive borrowing having ever taken
place between Nivkh and either branch of CK (of the kind and degree seen in more recent times between Chukotian and
Itelmen), despite the probable proximity of the CK and Nivkh homelands along the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, as the
archaeology of the region suggests.
A possible missing link between the Lower Amur and the area at present occupied by speakers of Chukotko-Kamchatkan
does, as I mentioned already in the Introduction, present itself in the formof the Tokareva Culture of the mid-northern Sea of
Okhotsk coast, dated by Kuzmin (2000:126) from about 3500 BP (refer back to Fig. 1). It is from this that the maritime Old
Koryak Culture is believed to have developed, eventually spreading to the western shore of Kamchatka (cf. Lebedintsev,
1998). This seems to represent a mixture of people and/or cultural influences fromboth the interior (the Upper Kolyma) and
the Lower Amur region to the south. Certain tribes fromthe latter area began moving north along the Okhotsk coast starting
in the second millennium BC, a time when there would already have been Neolithic people moving down to the coast from
the interior (Lebedintsev, 1998:298). By the end of the first millennium BC two closely related groups ‘‘probably related
ethnically’’ inhabited that mid-Okhotsk shore area, the ‘‘Paleoasiatic’’ ancestors of the ‘‘foot Tungus’’ and the Old Koryak
people themselves (Lebedintsev, 1998:301, 308).
It is thus possible that the language of the Tokareva people – and all the
Actual Tungusic-speaking nomads (Evens and Evenki) only arrived in the area during the 15th to 17th century from the interior (Lebedintsev,
M. Fortescue / Lingua 121 (2011) 1359–1376 1374
Chukotian languages that may have derived from it – was not far removed from Proto-CKA, the language brought from the
Lower Amur, which would have prevailed over that of the presumably somewhat less developed people from the interior.
The early maritime adaptation these people developed allowed them to move on via the northern route to coastal
while in the south related groups from the Lower Amur (bearers of the ‘‘Okhotsk Culture’’) moved out via
Sakhalin to northern Hokkaido and the Kuriles. Eventually the Old Koryak people may well have linguistically assimilated an
earlier inland population of Kamchatka (represented by the Neolithic Tarin or Tarya culture, the earliest signs of which are
dated to 5200 BP by Kuzmin, 2000:126). The Okhotsk Culture in turn was pushed back or absorbed by the Ainu coming up to
northern Hokkaido from further south under pressure from the Japanese.
The systematic evidence presented in this paper for a genetic relationship between Nivkh and CK as a whole (including
those of Tailleur’s ‘‘correlates’’ that still look hopeful) must surely indicate an ancient commonality if they indicate anything
at all. That this commonality is not just due to the absorption of an Amuric substrate but springs from a single common
ancestor some 4000 years ago remains to be fully substantiated. I hope that I have at least reduced the likelihood of chance
being the principal factor behind the correspondences and similarities observed. Further lexical delving of the type I have
undertaken should increase the probability of a direct genetic relationship being involved.
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