Monday, September 19, 2022

Tatar Language has Changed Radically both Lexically and Even Grammatically Over Last 50 Years, Safina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 22 – Because most Tatars are bilingual, their native language has changed radically in terms of both its lexical base and its grammatical structure, with the importation of many words and phrases and the loss of some verb forms, according to Liliana Safina, head of a Tatar language school and former host of the ‘Let’s Speak Tatar’ on Ekho Moskvy.

            Many worry about the declining number of Tatars who speak Tatar, she says. That is a real problem, but equal in concern is the fact that the Tatar language is being undermined by the importation of foreign and most often Russian words and the loss of its traditional grammatical structures (

            When one language borrows from another, that is usually a good thing because it is a sign that the language is alive; but in the case of Tatar, the borrowing is both massive and mostly in one direction, something that can threaten the future of the language and of the nation which speaks it, Safina says.

            She says reversing the longstanding trend in which Tatars have adopted Russian words within their own language because they reflect new developments is not going to be possible. But Tatars should be selective; and they should even more concerned about the loss of certain verb forms which all Tatars knew a century ago but which only isolated Siberians ones do now.

            Safina says she is pleased that so many Tatars who may not have spoken their national language in the past are now doing so, using schools like her own to acquire or better reacquire the language. Learning about one’s language, culture and history is a requirement not only for development but for survival.

            She notes in passing that every Tatar family should acquire the recent reprint of Karl Fuch’s Kazan Tatars in Statistical and Ethnographic Terms. This 1844 study by the rector of the Kazan Imperial University remains perhaps the best introduction to Tatars that any Tatar or indeed anyone interested in Tatars could possibly have.

            All around the world at the present time, Safina concludes, “languages and cultures are disappearing before our eyes. Such is life; and if in our century of globalization and unification a people does not have a striving to the preservation and development of them, this means that it has no future.”

            “Peoples who do not have their own national systems of education and a national part of the Internet will ceases their existence before the end of the 21st century,” Safina says. Kazan understands this and is doing all it can to prevent the Tatars from being among those who will pass from the scene.

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