Evenki – An endangered language spoken in the remotest part of Siberia

Not much effort is currently being put towards boosting the status of Evenki, which is currently considered to be an endangered language. One of the major milestones for the language was when missionaries in Siberia translated the bible into Evenki. The Global Recordings Networks also translated various bible teaching materials into Evenki. Due to the fact that the Russian government tried to suppress the language in the 1980s, most young generation speakers of the language are not very fluent in it. About 20,000 people speak the language, out of which 45% consider it to be their mother tongue. By the late 1990s the language was taught in preschools and primary schools. You can also learn the language at Herzen University.

Evenki is spoken in the district of Evenkia in the remotest part of Siberia in Russia. It is also spoken in parts of Mongolia, United States and China. Evenki, which is part of the Atlaic languages and belongs to the Manchu Tungus subgroup is also known as Avenk, Khamnigan, Solon, Evenk, Avenki or Tungus. Evenki has many dialects which have been divided into three major subgroups of northern, eastern and southern dialects, which have been further subdivided into minor dialects. Huihe is one of the commonest dialects. The language has been greatly influenced by Russian, Buryat and Yakut. Most Evenkis are bilingual or multilingual and can also speak Mongolian, Chinese, Daur or Oroqen. Most herdsmen use Mongolian as a second language while the farmers use Chinese. In the past, Evenki was written using the Cyrillic alphabet. The Latin alphabet and traditional Mongolian script have also been used to write the language.

Evenkis have managed to maintain their traditional customs. Traditionally, most Evenkis were nomadic hunters and herded reindeer’s. Currently, even though these are still important economic activities, they have diversified into farming and agriculture. Most Evenkis are Shammanists or Buddhists. In China, they are recognized as a nationality, where they use the official name Ewenke. But they also call themselves Solon. Speakers of the language have a high literacy rate. There are radio programs that are broadcast in the language.

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