Tatar Language
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Tatar Language

?, tatar tele,
Borongi bolgarlar Gaziz cover.jpg
RegionVolga region
EthnicityVolga Tatars
Native speakers
5.2 million (2015)[1]
(may include some L2 speakers)
Early form
Tatar alphabet (Cyrillic, Latin, formerly Arabic)
Official status
Official language in
Tatarstan (Russia)
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byInstitute of Language, Literature and Arts of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Tatar language ( ?, tatar tele or ?, tatarça) is a Turkic language spoken by Tatars mainly located in modern Tatarstan (European Russia), as well as Siberia. It should not be confused with the Crimean Tatar or Siberian Tatar, which are closely related but belong to different subgroups of the Kipchak languages.

Geographic distribution

The Tatar language is spoken in Russia (about 5.3 million people), Ukraine, China, Finland, Turkey, Uzbekistan, the United States of America, Romania, Azerbaijan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and other countries. There are more than 7 million speakers of Tatar in the world.

Tatar is also native for several thousand Maris. Mordva's Qaratay group also speak a variant of Kazan Tatar.

In the 2010 census, 69% of Russian Tatars who responded to the question about language ability claimed a knowledge of the Tatar language.[3] In Tatarstan, 93% of Tatars and 3.6% of Russians did so. In neighbouring Bashkortostan, 67% of Tatars, 27% of Bashkirs, and 1.3% of Russians did.[4]

Official status

The word Qazan - is written in Arabic script in the semblance of a Zilant
Bilingual guide in Kazan Metro
A subway sign in Tatar (top) and Russian

Tatar, along with Russian, is the official language of the Republic of Tatarstan. The official script of Tatar language is based on the Cyrillic script with some additional letters. The Republic of Tatarstan passed a law in 1999, which came into force in 2001, establishing an official Tatar Latin alphabet. A Russian federal law overrode it in 2002, making Cyrillic the sole official script in Tatarstan since. Unofficially, other scripts are used as well, mostly Latin and Arabic. All official sources in Tatarstan must use Cyrillic on their websites and in publishing. In other cases, where Tatar has no official status, the use of a specific alphabet depends on the preference of the author.

The Tatar language was made a de facto official language in Russia in 1917, but only within the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Tatar is also considered to have been the official language in the short-lived Idel-Ural State, briefly formed during the Russian Civil War.

The usage of Tatar declined from during the 20th century. By the 1980s, the study and teaching of Tatar in the public education system was limited to rural schools. However, Tatar-speaking pupils had little chance of entering university because higher education was available in Russian almost exclusively.

As of 2001 Tatar was considered a potentially endangered language while Siberian Tatar received "endangered" and "seriously endangered" statuses, respectively.[5] Higher education in Tatar can only be found in Tatarstan, and is restricted to the humanities. In other regions Tatar is primarily a spoken language and the number of speakers as well as their proficiency tends to decrease. Tatar is popular as a written language only in Tatar-speaking areas where schools with Tatar language lessons are situated. On the other hand, Tatar is the only language in use in rural districts of Tatarstan.

Since 2017, Tatar language classes are no longer mandatory in the schools of Tatarstan.[6] According to the opponents of this change, it will further endanger the Tatar language and is a violation of the Tatarstan Constitution which stipulates the equality of Russian and Tatar languages in the republic.[7][8]

Dialects of Tatar

There are two main dialects of Tatar:

  • Central or Middle (Kazan)
  • Western (Mi?är or Mishar)

All of these dialects also have subdivisions. Significant contributions to the study of the Tatar language and its dialects, were made by a scientist Gabdulkhay Akhatov, who is considered to be the founder of the modern Tatar dialectological school.

Spoken idioms of Siberian Tatars, which differ significantly from the above two, are often considered as the third dialect group of Tatar by some, but as an independent language on its own by others.

Central or Middle

The Central or Middle dialectal group is spoken in Kazan and most of Tatarstan and is the basis of the standard literary Tatar language.


In the Western (Mi?är) dialect ç is pronounced (southern or Lambir Mi?ärs) and as (northern Mi?ärs or Nizhgars). C is pronounced . There are no differences between v and w, q and k, g and ? in the Mi?är dialect. (The Cyrillic alphabet doesn't have special letters for q, ? and w, so Mi?är speakers have no difficulty reading Tatar written in Cyrillic.)

This is the dialect spoken by the Tatar minority of Finland.

Siberian Tatar

Two main isoglosses that characterize Siberian Tatar are ç as and c as , corresponding to standard and . There are also grammatical differences within the dialect, scattered across Siberia.[9]

Many linguists claim the origins of Siberian Tatar dialects are actually independent of Volga-Ural Tatar; these dialects are quite remote both from Standard Tatar and from each other, often preventing mutual comprehension. The claim that this language is part of the modern Tatar language is typically supported by linguists in Kazan, Moscow[10] and by Siberian Tatars linguists[11][12][13] and denounced by some Russian and Tatar[14] ethnographs.

Over time, some of these dialects were given distinct names and recognized as separate languages (e.g. the Chulym language) after detailed linguistic study. However, the Chulym language was never classified as a dialect of Tatar language. Confusion arose because of the endoethnonym "Tatars" used by the Chulyms. The question of classifying the Chulym language as a dialect of the Khakass language was debatable. A brief linguistic analysis shows that many of these dialects exhibit features which are quite different from the Volga-Ural Tatar varieties, and should be classified as Turkic varieties belonging to several sub-groups of the Turkic languages, distinct from Kipchak languages to which Volga-Ural Tatar belongs.[]



Tatar vowel formants F1 and F2

There exist several interpretations of the Tatar vowel phonemic inventory. In total Tatar has nine or ten native vowels, and three or four loaned vowels (mainly in Russian loanwords).[15][16]

According to Baskakov (1988) Tatar has only two vowel heights, high and low. There are two low vowels, front and back, while there are eight high vowels: front and back, round (R+) and unround (R-), normal and short (or reduced).[15]

Front Back
R- R+ R- R+
High Normal i ü ï u
Short e ö ë o
Low ä a

Poppe (1963) proposed a similar yet slightly different scheme with a third, higher mid, height, and with nine vowels.[15]

Front Back
R- R+ R- R+
High i ü u
Higher Mid e ö ï o
Low ä a

According to Makhmutova (1969) Tatar has three vowel heights: high, mid and low, and four tongue positions: front, front-central, front-back and back.[15]

Front Central Back
Front Back
R- R+ R- R+ R- R+ R- R+
High i ü ï u
Mid e ö ë o
Low ä a

The mid back unrounded vowel ''ë is usually transcribed as ?, though it differs from the corresponding Turkish vowel.

The tenth vowel ï is realized as the diphthong ëy (IPA: []), which only occurs word-finally, but it has been argued to be an independent phoneme.[15][16]

Phonetically, the native vowels are approximately thus (with the Cyrillic letters and the usual Latin romanization in angle brackets):

Front Back
R- R+ R- R+
High ??i?
Mid ?,??e?
Low ??ä?

In polysyllabic words, the front-back distinction is lost in reduced vowels: all become mid-central.[15] The mid reduced vowels in an unstressed position are frequently elided, as in ? ke?e [k?'] > [k] 'person', or ? q [q'] > [q] '(his) winter'.[16] Low back is rounded in the first syllable and after , but not in the last, as in ? bala [b?'l?] 'child', balalar?a [b?l?l?r'] 'to children'.[16] In Russian loans there are also , , , and , written the same as the native vowels: ?, ?/?, ?, ? respectively.[16]

Historical shifts

Historically, the Old Turkic mid vowels have raised from mid to high, whereas the Old Turkic high vowels have become the Tatar reduced mid series. (The same shifts have also happened in Bashkir.)[17]

Vowel Old Turkic Turkish Kazakh Tatar Bashkir Gloss
*e *et et et it it 'meat'
*söz söz söz süz hü? [hy?] 'word'
*o *sol sol sol sul hul 'left'
*i *it it it et et 'dog'
*qïz k?z q?z qëz [qz] që? [q] 'girl'
*u *qum kum qum qom qom 'sand'
*kül kül kül köl köl 'ash'


The consonants of Tatar[16]
Labial Labio-
Dental Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasals ??m?
Plosives Voiceless ??p?
Voiced ??b?
Affricates Voiceless ??ts?
Voiced ??c?
Fricatives Voiceless ??f?
Voiced ??v?
Trill ??r?
Approximants ?/?/??w?
^* The phonemes , , , , , are only found in loanwords. occurs more commonly in loanwords, but is also found in native words, e.g. yafraq 'leaf'.[16] , , , may be substituted with the corresponding native consonants , , , by some Tatars.
^+ and are the dialectal Western (Mi?är) pronunciations of ??c? and ??ç?, the latter are in the literary standard and in the Central (Kazan) dialect. is the variant of ??ç? as pronounced in the Eastern (Siberian) dialects and some Western (Mi?är) dialects. Both and are also used in Russian loanwords (the latter written ?).
^? and are usually considered allophones of and in the environment of back vowels, so they never written in the Tatar Cyrillic orthography in native words, and only rarely in loanwords with and . However, and also appear before front in Perso-Arabic loanwords which may indicate the phonemic status of these uvular consonants.


Tatar consonants usually undergo slight palatalization before front vowels. However, this allophony is not significant and does not constitute a phonemic status. This differs from Russian where palatalized consonants are not allophones but phonemes on their own. There are a number of Russian loanwords which have a palatalized consonants in Russian and thus written the same in Tatar (often with the "soft sign" ?). The Tatar standard pronunciation also requires palatalization in such loanwords, however, some Tatar may pronounce them non-palatalized.


In native words there are six types of syllables (Consonant, Vowel, Sonorant):

  • V (?-l?s, u-ra, ö-rä)
  • VC (at-law, el-geç, ir-kä)
  • CV (qa-la, ki-ä, su-la)
  • CVC (bar-sa, s?z-law, köç-le, qo?-ç?q)
  • VSC (ant-lar, äyt-te, ilt-kän)
  • CVSC (tört-te, qart-lar, qayt-qan)

Loanwords allow other types: CSV (gra-mota), CSVC (käs-trül), etc.


Stress is usually on the final syllable. However, some suffixes cannot be stressed, so the stress shifts to the syllable before that suffix, even if the stressed syllable is the third or fourth from the end. A number of Tatar words and grammatical forms have the natural stress on the first syllable. Loanwords, mainly from Russian, usually preserve their original stress (unless the original stress is on the last syllable, in such a case the stress in Tatar shifts to suffixes as usual, e.g. sovét > sovetlár > sovetlar?á).

Phonetic alterations

Tatar phonotactics dictate many pronunciation changes which are not reflected in the orthography.

  • Unrounded vowels ? and e become rounded after o or ö:
?/qor? > [qoro]
/bor?n > [boron]
/közge > [közgö]
?/sor? > [soro]
/unber > [umber]
/mengeç > [meñgeç]
  • Stops are assimilated to the preceding nasals (this is reflected in writing):
/urmannar ( < urman + lar)
/komnar ( < kom + lar)
/küzsez > [küssez]
/ur?n?> [urn?]
/kilene > [kilne]
? /qara urman > [qarurman]
? /kilä ide > [kiläyde]
? ?/tur? uram > [tururam]
? /bula alm?ym > [bulalm?ym]
?/bank > [bañq?]
/artist > [artis]
/tabib > [tabip]


Like other Turkic languages, Tatar is an agglutinative language. Here is the grammar of Tatar:[18]


Tatar nouns are inflected for cases and numbers. Case suffixes change depending on last consonants of the noun, while nouns ending in ?/? are voiced to ?/? (??) when an possessive suffix was added. Suffixes below are in back vowel, with front variant can be seen at #Phonology section.

Case After voiced consonants After nasals After unvoiced consonants Special endings
Nominative ( ) -
Accusative ( ) - -n? -? -n
Genitive ( ) - -n?ñ
Dative ( ) - -?a - -qa -?, - -a, -na
Locative (?- ) - -da - -ta - -nda
Ablative ( ) - -dan - -nan - -tan -? -nnan
Nominative - -lar - -nar - -lar
Accusative - -larn? - -narn? - -larn?
Genitive - -larn?ñ - -narn?ñ - -larn?ñ
Dative - -lar?a - -nar?a - -lar?a
Locative - -larda - -narda - -lardan
Ablative - -lardan - -nardan - -lardan

The declension of possessive suffixes is even more irregular, with the dative suffix -? used in 1st singular and 2nd singular suffixes, and the accusative, dative, locative, and ablative endings -?, -, -, -? is used after 3rd person possessive suffix.

Person After consonants After vowels
1st singular - -?m -? -m
2nd singular - -?ñ -?
3rd -? -? - -s?
1st plural -? -?b?z - -b?z
2nd plural -? -z - -z

Declension of pronouns

Declension of personal and demonstrative pronouns tends to be irregular. Irregular forms are in bold.

Personal pronouns
Case Singular Plural
Nominative min sin ul bez sez ? alar
Accusative ? mine ? sine an? bezne sezne alarn?
Genitive minem sineñ ? an?ñ bezneñ sezneñ ? alarn?ñ
Dative ? miña ? siña aña bezgä sezgä alar?a
Locative mindä sindä ? anda bezdä sezdä alarda
Ablative minnän sinnän annan bezdän sezdän ? alardan
Demonstrative pronouns
Case Singular Plural
Case "This" "That" "These" "Those"
Nominative bu ?ul bolar ?ular
Accusative ? mon? ? ?un? ? bolarn? ? ?ularn?
Genitive mon?ñ ?un?ñ bolarn?ñ ?ularn?ñ
Dative ? moña ? ?uña ? bolar?a ? ?ular?a
Locative monda ?unda ? bolarda ? ?ularda
Ablative monnan ?unnan bolardan ?ulardan
Interrogative pronouns
Case Who? What?
Nominative kem närsä
Accusative kemne ? närsäne
Genitive kemneñ närsäneñ
Dative kemgä ? närsägä
Locative kemdä ? närsädä
Ablative kemnän närsädän


Tense After voiced consonants After unvoiced consonants After vowels
Present -? -a - -?y
Definite past - -d? - -t? - -d?
Indefinite past - -?an - -qan - -?an
Definite future -? -açaq
Indefinite future -/ -ar/-?r -? -r
Conditional - -sa
Non-finite tenses
Present participle - -uç?
Past participle - -?an - -qan - -?an
Future participle - -as? -? -?ys?
Definite future participle -? -açaq
Indefinite future participle -/- -ar/?r -? -r
Verbal participle - -?p -? -p
Gerund preceding the action - -?anç? - -qanç? - -?anç?
Post-action gerund - -?aç - -qaç - -?aç
Verbal noun -?
Infinitive - -maq
-?/-? -ar?a/?r?a - -r?a

The distribution of present tense suffix is complicated, with the former (also with vowel harmony) is used with verb stems ending in consonants, and latter is used with verb stem ending in vowels (with the last vowel being deleted, -- ?, compare Turkish i?lemek -- continuous i?liyor). The distribution of indefinite future tense is more complicated in consonant-ending stems, it is resolved by -?/-? infinitives ( -- ). However, because some have verb citation forms in verbal noun (-?), this rule becomes somewhat unpredictable.

Tenses are negated with -, however in indefinite future it becomes -. Alongside with vowel-ending stems, the suffix also becomes - when negates the present tense. To form interrogatives, the suffix - is used.

Personal inflections
Type 1st singular 2nd singular 3rd singular 1st plural 2nd plural 3rd plural
I -/-? -m?n/-m - -s?ñ -? - -b?z - -s?z -/- -lar/-nar
II -? -m -? -? -? -q, -k - -z -/- -lar/-nar
Imperative - -?ym -? - -s?n - -?yq -(?) -z - -s?nnar

Past and conditional tenses use type II personal inflections instead. When in the case of present tense, short ending (-?) is used.


After voiced consonants After unvoiced consonants
1st singular - -m?ñ
2nd singular - -s?ñ
3rd - -d?r - -t?r
1st plural - -b?z
2nd plural - -s?z

These predicative suffixes now fallen into disuse, or rarely used.[19]

Writing system

Tatar Latin (Ja?alif) and Arabic scripts, 1927
Some guides in Kazan are in Latin script, especially in fashion boutiques
Tatar sign on a madrasah in Nizhny Novgorod, written in both Arabic and Cyrilic Tatar scripts

During its history, Tatar has been written in Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic scripts.

Before 1928, Tatar was mostly written with in Arabic script (? ?/?ske imlâ, "Old orthography", to 1920; ?/Yaña imlâ, "New orthography", 1920-1928).

During the 19th century Russian Christian missionary Nikolay Ilminsky devised the first Cyrillic alphabet for Tatar. This alphabet is still used by Christian Tatars (Kryashens).

In the Soviet Union after 1928, Tatar was written with a Latin alphabet called Ja?alif.

In 1939, in Tatarstan and all other parts of the Soviet Union, a Cyrillic script was adopted and is still used to write Tatar. It is also used in Kazakhstan.

The Republic of Tatarstan passed a law in 1999 that came into force in 2001 establishing an official Tatar Latin alphabet. A Russian federal law overrode it in 2002, making Cyrillic the sole official script in Tatarstan since. In 2004, an attempt to introduce a Latin-based alphabet for Tatar was further abandoned when the Constitutional Court ruled that the federal law of 15 November 2002 mandating the use of Cyrillic for the state languages of the republics of the Russian Federation[20] does not contradict the Russian constitution.[21] In accordance with this Constitutional Court ruling, on 28 December 2004, the Tatar Supreme Court overturned the Tatarstani law that made the Latin alphabet official.[22]

In 2012 the Tatarstan government adopted a new Latin alphabet but with the limited usage (mostly for Romanization).

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ?
  • Tatar Old Latin (Ja?alif) alphabet (1928 to 1940), including a digraph in the last position:
A a B b C c Ç ç D d E e ? ? F f
G g ? ? H h I i J j K k L l M m
N n ? ? O o ? ? P p Q q R r S s
? ? T t U u V v X x ? y Z z ? ?
? ? ?j ?j
  • Tatar Old Cyrillic alphabet (by Nikolay Ilminsky, 1861; the letters in parenthesis are not used in modern publications):
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? () ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? () ? ? ? ? ? ? ()
  • Tatar Cyrillic alphabet (1939; the letter order adopted in 1997):
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
  • 1999 Tatar Latin alphabet, made official by a law adopted by Tatarstani authorities but annulled by the Tatar Supreme Court in 2004:[22]
A a ? ? B b C c Ç ç D d E e F f
G g ? ? H h I ? ? i J j K k Q q
L l M m N n ? ? O o ? ? P p R r
S s ? ? T t U u Ü ü V v W w X x
Y y Z z '
  • 2012 Tatar Latin alphabet
A a Ä ä B b C c Ç ç D d E e F f
G g ? ? H h I ? ? i J j K k Q q
L l M m N n Ñ ñ O o Ö ö P p R r
S s ? ? T t U u Ü ü V v W w X x
Y y Z z '


First printed Tatar alphabet book (1778)

Tatar's ancestors are the extinct Bulgar and Kipchak languages.

The literary Tatar language is based on the Middle Tatar dialect and on the Old Tatar language (?ske Tatar Tele). Both are members of the Volga-Ural subgroup of the Kipchak group of Turkic languages, although they also partly derive from the ancient Volga Bulgar language.

Most of the Uralic languages in the Volga River area have strongly influenced the Tatar language,[23] as have the Arabic, Persian and Russian languages.[24]

Crimean Tatar, although similar by name, belongs to another subgroup of the Kipchak languages, usually called Pontic, Cuman or Polovtsian. Unlike Kazan Tatar, Crimean Tatar is heavily influenced by Turkish.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1:


? ? ? . ? -? ? ? ?.


Barl?q ke?elär dä azat häm üz abruylar? häm xoquqlar? yannan tiñ bul?p tualar. Alar?a aq?l häm wöcdan birelgän häm ber-bersenä qarata tu?annarça mönasäbättä bul?r?a tiye?lär

See also


  1. ^ Tatar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Russian Census 2010. ? ? (in Russian)
  4. ^ Russian Census 2010. ? ? ? (in Russian)
  5. ^ Wurm, S; Unesco. (2001). Atlas of the world's languages in danger of disappearing. Paris: Unesco Pub. ISBN 978-92-3-103798-6.
  6. ^ BBC Russia, : ? ?, 01.12.2017
  7. ^ Online, ? ? « ?», 22.09.2017
  8. ^ Online, ? : « ? ? ?», 12.11.2017
  9. ^ Information about Siberian Tatar
  10. ^ Nikolai Baskakov / . . ?. ?. ?; ?. -- ?.: ?, 1960. -- 248 ?.
  11. ^ ?, ?. ? ? ? - . , 2006.
  12. ^ , ? . ? ? :- . , 2007.
  13. ^ ? ?. ?. - ? ? // IX ? - « -- 2006». , 2006. ?. 89-90
  14. ^ , ? -. ? XIX -- XX ?. (- ). , 1980.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Harrison, K. David; Kaun, Abigail R. (2003). "Vowels and Vowel Harmony in Namangan Tatar". In Holisky, Dee Ann; Tuite, Kevin (eds.). Current Trends in Caucasian, East European and Inner Asian Linguistics. pp. 194-198. ISBN 9789027275257.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Berta, Árpád (1998). "Tatar and Bashkir". In Johanson, Lars; Csató, Éva Á. (eds.). The Turkic languages. Routledge. pp. 283-300.
  17. ^ Johanson, Lars (1998). "The History of Turkic". In Johanson, Lars; Csató, Éva Á. (eds.). The Turkic languages. Routledge. p. 92.
  18. ^ ? ?
  19. ^ , ?.?. (2016). (PDF). 2 (2 ed.). ?. pp. 56-57.
  20. ^ Spolsky, Bernard (2004). Language Policy. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-521-01175-4.
  21. ^ "Russia court sticks to letter law". BBC News. 16 November 2004. Retrieved 2012.
  22. ^ a b "The Tatar language will continue to be written through the Cyrillic alphabet". U.S. English Foundation. February 2005. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  23. ^ Tatar language - Princeton University Archived 13 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ (in Russian) ? ? ? ? ?

Further reading

  • Bukharaev, R., & Matthews, D. J. (2000). Historical anthology of Kazan Tatar verse: voices of eternity. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1077-9
  • PEN (Organization). (1998). Tatar literature today. Kazan: Magarif Publishers.
  • Poppe, N. N. (1963). Tatar manual: descriptive grammar and texts with a Tatar-English glossary. Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • (in Russian) ?. ?. ? (? ). -- , 1984.
  • (in Russian) ?. ? 3-? ?. / . . ?. ?. . -- , 1993.
  • Gilmetdinova A, Malova I. 'Language education for glocal interaction: English and Tatar.' World Englishes 37(3) 2018;1-11.

External links

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