Moksha Language
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Moksha Language
mok?enj kälj
? ?
Native toRussia
RegionEuropean Russia
Native speakers
430,000 Mordvin (2010 census)[1]
The 1926 census found that approximately 1/3 of ethnic Mordvins were Moksha, and the figure might be similar today[2]
Official status
Official language in
Mordovia (Russia)
Regulated byMordovian Research Institute of Language, Literature, History and Economics
Language codes
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The Moksha language (Moksha: ? ?, romanized: mok?enj kälj, [?m?k?en? kæl?]) is a member of the Mordvinic branch of the Uralic languages, with around 2,000 native speakers (2010 Russian census). Moksha is the majority language in the western part of Mordovia.[4] Its closest relative is the Erzya language, with which it is not mutually intelligible. Moksha is also considered to be closely related to the extinct Meshcherian and Muromian languages.[5]

Official status

Moksha is one of the three official languages in Mordovia (the others being Erzya and Russian). The right to one's own language is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Mordovia Republic.[6] The republican law of Mordovia N 19-3 issued in 1998[7] declares Moksha one of its state languages and regulates its usage in various spheres: in state bodies such as Mordovian Parliament, official documents and seals, education, mass-media, information about goods, geographical names, road signs. However, the actual usage of Moksha and Erzya is rather limited.


The first few Moksha schools were devised in the 19th century by Russian Christian missionaries. Since 1973 Moksha language was allowed to be used as language of instruction in first 3 grades of elementary school in rural areas and as a subject on a voluntary basis.[8] The medium in universities of Mordovia is Russian, but the philological faculties of Mordovian State University and Mordovian State Pedagogical Institute offer a teacher course of Moksha.[9][10] Mordovian State University also provides a course of Moksha for other humanitarian and some technical specialities.[10] According to the annual statistics of the Russian Ministry of Education in 2014-2015 year there were 48 Moksha-medium schools (all in rural areas) where 644 students were taught, and 202 schools (152 in rural areas) where Moksha was studied as a subject by 15,783 students (5,412 in rural areas).[11] Since 2010, study of Moksha in schools of Mordovia is not compulsory, but can be chosen only by parents.[12]



The Moksha languages is divided into three dialects:

  • Central group (M-I)
  • Western group (M-II)
  • South-Eastern group (M-III)

The dialects may be divided with another principle depending on their vowel system:

  • ä-dialect: Proto-Moksha *ä /æ/ is retained: ?e?mä /s?el?mæ/ "eye", t?ä?mä /t?æl?mæ/ "broom", ?äj /l?æj/ "river".
  • e-dialect: Proto-Moksha *ä is raised and merged with *e: ?e?me /s?el?me/ "eye", t?e?me /t?el?me/ "broom", ?ej /l?ej/ "river".
  • i-dialect: Proto-Moksha *ä is raised to /e/, while Proto-Moksha *e is raised to /i/ and merged with *i: ?i?me /s?il?me/ "eye", t?e?me /t?el?me/ "broom", ?ej /l?ej/ "river".

The standard literary Moksha language is based on the central group with ä (particularly the dialect of Krasnoslobodsk).



There are eight vowels with limited allophony and reduction of unstressed vowels. Moksha has lost the original Uralic system of vowel harmony but maintains consonant-vowel harmony (palatalized consonants go with front vowels, non-palatalized with non-front).

Front Central Back
Close /i/
⟨i⟩ ⟨?⟩
⟨?⟩ ⟨?⟩
⟨u⟩ ⟨?, ?⟩
Mid /e/
⟨e⟩ ⟨?, ?⟩
⟨?⟩ ⟨?, ?, ?⟩
⟨o⟩ ⟨?⟩
Open /æ/
⟨ä⟩ ⟨?, ?, ?⟩
⟨a⟩ ⟨?⟩

There are some restrictions for the occurrence of vowels within a word:[13]

  1. [?] is an allophone of the phoneme /i/ after phonemically non-palatalized ("hard") consonants.[14]
  2. /e/ does not occur after non-palatalized consonants, only after their palatalized ("soft") counterparts.
  3. /a/ and /æ/ do not fully contrast after phonemically palatalized or non-palatalized consonants.[clarification needed]
    • Similar to /e/, /æ/ does not occur after non-palatalized consonants either, only after their palatalized counterparts.
    • After palatalized consonants, /æ/ occurs at the end of words, and when followed by another palatalized consonant.
    • /a/ after palatalized consonants occurs only before non-palatalized consonants, i.e. in the environment /C?aC/.
  4. The mid vowels' occurrence varies by the position within the word:
    • In native words, /e, o/ are rare in the second syllable, but common in borrowings from e.g. Russian.
    • /e, o/ are never found in the third and following syllables, where only /?/ occurs.
    • /e/ at the end of words is only found in one-syllable words (e.g. /ve/ "night", /pe/ "end"). In longer words, word-final ⟨?⟩ always stands for /æ/ (e.g. ? /vel?æ/ "village", /pilæ/ "foot, leg").[15]

Unstressed /?/ and /æ/ are slightly reduced and shortened [?] and [æ?].


There are 33 consonants in Moksha.

Labial Dental Post-
Palatal Velar
plain palat.
Nasal m
Stop p
Affricate ts
Fricative f
Approximant l?
Trill r?

/ç/ is realized as a sibilant [?] before the plural suffix /-t/ in south-east dialects.[16]

Palatalization, characteristic of Uralic languages, is contrastive only for dental consonants, which can be either "soft" or " hard". In Moksha Cyrillic alphabet the palatalization is designated like in Russian: either by a "soft sign" ⟨?⟩ after a "soft" consonant or by writing "soft" vowels ⟨?, ?, ?, ?, ?⟩ after a "soft" consonant. In scientific transliteration the acute accent or apostrophe are used.

All other consonants have palatalized allophones before the front vowels /æ, i, e/ as well. The alveolo-palatal affricate /t?/ lacks non-palatalized counterpart, while postalveolar fricatives /?~?, ?~?/ lack palatalized counterparts.


Unusually for a Uralic language, there is also a series of voiceless liquid consonants: /l? , l, r? , r/ ⟨?, , ?, ⟩. These have arisen from Proto-Mordvinic consonant clusters of a sonorant followed by a voiceless stop or affricate: *p, *t, *t?, *ts, *k.

Before certain inflectional and derivational endings, devoicing continues to exist as a phonological process in Moksha. This affects all other voiced consonants as well, including the nasal consonants and semivowels. No voiceless nasals are however found in Moksha: the devoicing of nasals produces voiceless oral stops. Altogether the following devoicing processes apply:

Plain b m d n d? n? ? l l? r r? v z z? ? j
Devoiced p t t? k l? l r? r f s s? ? ç

E.g. before the nominative plural /-t/:

  • /kal/ "fish" : /kal?t/ "fish"
  • /l?em/ "name" : /l?ept?/ "names"
  • ? /mar?/ "apple" : ? /mart?/ "apples"

Devoicing is however morphological rather than phonological, due to the loss of earlier voiceless stops from some consonant clusters, and due to the creation of new consonant clusters of voiced liquid + voiceless stop. Compare the following oppositions:

  • /kaln?æ/ "little fish" : /kal?n?æ/ (< *kal-t?-n?æ) "these fish"
  • /mar?n?æ/ "my apples" : ? /marn?æ/ ( < *mar?-t?-n?æ) "these apples"
  • /kun'dajn?æ/ "I caught it" : /kun'daçn?æ/ ( < *kun'daj-t?-n?æ) "these catchers"


Non-high vowels are inherently longer than high vowels /i, u, ?/ and tend to draw the stress. If a high vowel appears in the first syllable which follow the syllable with non-high vowels (especially /a/ and /æ/), then the stress moves to that second or third syllable. If all the vowels of a word are either non-high or high, then the stress falls on the first syllable.[17]

Stressed vowels are longer than unstressed ones in the same position like in Russian. Unstressed vowels undergo some degree of vowel reduction.



Like other Uralic languages, Moksha is an agglutinating language with elaborate systems of case-marking and conjugation, postpositions, no grammatical gender, and no articles [18].


Moksha has 13 productive cases, many of which are primarily locative cases. Locative cases in Moksha express ideas that Indo-European languages such as English normally code by prepositions (in, at, toward, on, etc.).

However, also similarly to Indo-European prepositions, many of the uses of locative cases convey ideas other than simple motion or location. These include such expressions of time (e.g. on the table/Monday, in Europe/a few hours, by the river/the end of the summer, etc. ), purpose (to China/keep things simple), or beneficiary relations. Some of the functions of Moksha cases are listed below:

  • Nominative, used for subjects, predicatives and for other grammatical functions.
  • Genitive, used to code possession.
  • Allative, used to express the motion onto a point.
  • Elative, used to code motion off from a place.
  • Inessive, used to code a stationary state, in a place.
  • Ablative, used to code motion away from a point or a point of origin.
  • Illative, used to code motion into a place.
  • Translative, used to express a change into a state.
  • Prolative, used to express the idea of "by way" or "via" an action or instrument.
  • Lative, used to code motion towards a place.

There is controversy about the status of the three remaining cases in Moksha. Some researchers see the following three cases as borderline derivational affixes.

  • Comparative, used to express a likeness to something.
  • Caritive (or abessive), used to code the absence of something.
  • Causal, used to express that an entity is the cause of something else.
Case function Case Name[18] Suffix Vowel stem

( mo?a /'mod?/ 'land')

Plain consonant stem

( ky? /kud/ 'house')

Palatalized consonant stem

( ? /'vel?æ/ 'town')

/'mod?-/ land /kut-/ house /vel?-/ town
Grammatical Nominative 'mod? a land kud a house 'vel?æ a town
Genitive -n? 'mod?n? of a land / a land's 'kudn? of a house / a house's 'veln? of a town / a town's
Locative Allative -n?d?i 'mod?n?d?i onto a land 'kud?n?d?i onto a house 'veln?d?i onto a town
Elative -st? 'mod?st? off from a land kut'st? off from a house 'velst? off from a town
Inessive -s? 'mod?s? in a land kut's? in a house 'vels? in a town
Ablative -d?/-t? 'mod?d? from a land kut't? from the house 'veld? from the town
Illative -s 'mod?s into a land kuts into a house 'vels into a town
Prolative -v?/- 'mod?v? through/alongside a land kud' through/alongside a house 'velv? through/alongside a town
Lative -v/-u/-i 'mod?v towards a land 'kudu towards a house 'vel?i towards a town
Other Translative -ks 'mod?ks becoming/as a land 'kud?ks becoming/as a house 'velks becoming a town / as a town
Comparative -?k? 'modk? the size of a land kud'k? the size of a house 'velk? the size of a town
Caritive -ft?m? 'mod?ft?m? without a land / landless kutft?'m? without a house / houseless 'velft?ma without a town / townless
Causal -?ks? 'modks? because of a land kudk's? because of a house 'velks? because of a town
Relationships between locative cases

As in other Uralic languages, locative cases in Moksha can be classified according to three criteria: the spatial position (interior, surface, or exterior), the motion status (stationary or moving), and within the latter, the direction of the movement (approaching or departing). The table below shows these relationships schematically:

Schematic Summary of Locative Cases
Spatial Position Motion Status
Stationary Moving
approaching departing
Interior inessive ('in')


illative ('into')


ablative ('from')


Surface NA allative ('onto')


elative ('off from')


Exterior prolative ('by')


lative ('towards')




Personal pronouns [18]
Case Singular Plural
First (I) Second (you) Third (s/he or it) First (we) Second (you all) Third (they)
nominative mon ton son mi?






genitive mo?






allative mo?d'?j?ä or t'ejnä

/mon?djn?æ/ /t?ejnæ/

to?d'?jt' or t'ejt'

/'ton?djt?/ /tjt?/

so?d'?jza or t'ejnza

/'son?djz?/ /'t?ejnz?/







ablative mo?d'?d?n












Writing system

Mokshan Latin alphabet 1932
Mokshan Cyrillic alphabet 1924-1927

Moksha has been written using Cyrillic with spelling rules identical to those of Russian since the 18th century and as a consequence of that vowels /e, ?, ?/ are not differentiated in a straightforward way,[19] however they can be predicted more or less from Moksha phonotactics. The 1993 spelling reform defines that /?/ in the first (either stressed or unstressed) syllable must be written with the "hard" sign ⟨?⟩ (e.g. mrdms "to return", formerly ?). The version of the Moksha Cyrillic alphabet used in 1924-1927 had several extra letters, either digraphs or single letters with diacritics.[20] Although the use of the Latin script for Moksha was officially approved by the CIK VCKNA (General Executive Committee of the All Union New Alphabet Central Committee) on June 25, 1932, it was never implemented.

From letters to sounds
IPA a b v ? d ?e, je, , ?o, jo ? z i j k l m n o, ?
ScTr a b v g d ?e, je, ?ä, ?o, jo ? z i j k l m n o, ?
IPA p r s t u f x ts t? ? ?t? ? ? ? e, ? ?u, ju ?a, æ, ja
ScTr p r s t u f ? c ? ? ? i? ? e, ä ?u, ju ?a, ?ä, ja
From sounds to letters
IPA a ?a ja ? b v ? d d? e ?e je ?o jo ? z z? ? j k l l? l? l
Cyr ? ? ? ? ?, ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
ScTr a ?a ja ä b v g d d? e ?e je ?o jo ? z ? i i? j k l ? ?
IPA m n o p r r? r? r s s? t t? u ?u ju f x ts ts? t? ? ?t? ?
Cyr ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?, ?,* a,* ?*
ScTr m n o p r ? ? s ? t t? u ?u ju f ? c ? ? ? ?


Before 1917 about 100 books and pamphlets mostly of religious character were published. More than 200 manuscripts including at least 50 wordlists were not printed. In the 19th century the Russian Orthodox Missionary Society in Kazan published Moksha primers and elementary textbooks of the Russian language for the Mokshas. Among them were two fascicles with samples of Moksha folk poetry. The great native scholar Makar Evsevyev collected Moksha folk songs published in one volume in 1897. Early in the Soviet period, social and political literature predominated among published works. Printing of Moksha language books was all done in Moscow until the establishment of the Mordvinian national district in 1928. Official conferences in 1928 and 1935 decreed the northwest dialect to be the basis for the literary language.

Common expressions (Moksha-Russian-English)

Moksha Transliteration Russian English
? Ína Yes
? Éle Yes
? Para Good
Af Not
A? No
! ?umbrát! ?! Hello! (addressing one person)
! ?umbrátada! ! Hello! (addressing more than one person)
()! Sük(prä)! ! (""), ?! Hi! (Welcome!)
?! Ulyhty ?umbrá! ? ! Bless you!
! Úleda ?umbrát! ?! Bless you (to many)!
? Kóda téfne? How are your things getting on/How are you?
Kóda érät? ? How do you do?
! ?! Lac! Cébärysta! ?! ! Fine! Very good!
?! Näjemozonk! ! Good bye!
?! Vándys! ! See you tomorrow!
? ?! ?umbrásta pá?kodems! ?! Have a good trip/flight!

- !
- ?!
Para ázan
- lézdomanksa!
- sémbonksa!

- !
- !
Thank you
- for help/assistance!
- for everything!
! A? mézenksa! ! Not at all!
! Prostämak! ! I'm sorry!
! Prostämasty! ! I'm sorry (to many)!
?! Tät kä?iäk?ne! ?! I didn't mean to hurt you!
! U?äly! ?! It's a pity!
? ? Kóda tony lémce? ? What is your name?
? ? ... Mony lémoze ... ? ... My name is ...
? ?a? Mâzära tejty kíza? ? ? ? How old are you?
? Mâzära teinza kíza? ? () ? How old is he (she)?
... . Téjne ... kízot. ... . I'm ... years old.
? ... . Téjnza ... kízot. () ... . He (she) is ... years old.
? Märygat suváms? ? May I come in?
? ? Märygat ozams? ? May I have a seat?
. Ózak. . Take a seat.
. Ózada. . Take a seat (to more than one person).
. U?t af lámos. ? ?. Please wait a little.
Märyk tárgams? ? May I have a smoke?
?. Tárgak. ?(). You may smoke.
. Tárgada. . You may smoke (to more than one person).
, , . Af, énälydän, tät tárga. , ?, ?. Please, don't smoke.
? (? ?). Kórhtak af lamoda säda kajgista (säda valomnä). ? (?). Please speak a bit louder (lower).
. Azk nínge vesty. ? . Repeat one more time.
. Gájftty téjne. ? . Call me.
. Gájfteda téjne. . Call me (to more than one person).
? . Gájftty téjne säda méle. . Call me later.
. Suvák. . Come in.
?. Suváda. ?. Come in (to many).
?. Jotak. ?. Enter.
. Jotada. . Enter (to many).
? ? ?! ?á?ema ?íceny márhta! ? ? ! Happy Birthday!
? ! Árysän tejty pávaz! ? ?! I wish you happiness!
? ? ?! Árysän tejty ócü satfkst! ? ? ?! I wish you great success!
? ? ! Tony ?umbra?íceny ínksa! ? ! Your health!
?! Od Kíza márhta! ? ! Happy New Year!
?! Ró?tuva márhta! ? ?! Happy Christmas!
? ! Tónyge stáne! ? ! Same to you!


  1. ^ "Population of the Russian Federation by Languages (in Russian)" (PDF). Russian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ Jack Rueter (2013) The Erzya Language. Where is it spoken? Études finno-ougriennes 45
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Moksha". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ [1] Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ Janse, Mark; Sijmen Tol; Vincent Hendriks (2000). Language Death and Language Maintenance. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. A108. ISBN 978-90-272-4752-0.
  6. ^ (in Russian) 12. ? = Article 12. Constitution of the Republic of Mordovia
  7. ^ (in Russian) «? ? »
  8. ^ Isabelle T. Kreindler, The Mordvinians: A doomed Soviet nationality? | Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique. Vol. 26 N°1. Janvier-Mars 1985. pp. 43-62
  9. ^ (in Russian) ? Archived 2015-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b (in Russian) 15 «? ? » // . 12.04.2013.
  11. ^ ? 2014.
  12. ^ (in Russian) ? ? ? ? = The Prosecutor of Mordovia prevents violations against the educational law. 02 February 2010.
  13. ^ Feoktistov 1993, p. 182.
  14. ^ Feoktistov 1966, p. 200.
  15. ^ Feoktistov 1966, p. 200-201.
  16. ^ Feoktistov 1966, p. 220.
  17. ^ Raun 1988, p. 100.
  18. ^ a b c (in Finnish) Bartens, Raija (1999). Mordvalaiskielten rakenne ja kehitys. Helsinki: Suomalais-ugrilaisen Seura. ISBN 9525150224. OCLC 41513429.
  19. ^ Raun 1988, p. 97.
  20. ^ page on the Moksha language


In Russian
  • ?. ? - ? ?. ? ? ? . -- ? ? , 1932.
  • ?. ?. - = Areal research in East Fenno-Ugric languages. -- ?., 1984.
  • ? ?. ?. -. -- ? ? , 1995.
  • ? ?. ?. ? // ? ?. -- ?.3?- ? -- ?., 1966. -- ?. 172--220.
  • ? ?. ?. ? // - . -- ?., 1975. -- ?. 248--345.
  • ? ?. ?. ? // ?: . -- ?., 1993. -- ?. 174--208.
  • ?. ?. - - ? ?. -- ?, 1933.
In Moksha
  • , ? (2002). ? [Tatyana Devyatkina. Moksha-Erzya mythology] (in Moksha). Tartu: University of Tartu. ISBN 9985-867-24-6.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes