Ket: The Chinese language that is on the verge of extinction

Is it possible for 2 languages spoken in opposite sides of the globe to be related? For a long time, scientists were unable to find a language that was identical to the Ket language, spoken in Siberia, China. Ket was totally different from the other languages that were spoken in the region. This led to the Ket language being referred to as a language Isolate. A language Isolate is a language that is not related to other languages. This was until 2008 when a historical linguist at the Washington University, Edward Vajda, suggested and provided evidence that Ket was related to the Na Dene group of languages, spoken by native Americans in North America, which is thousands of miles away from Siberia.

Ket is spoken by about 550 people in Central Siberia and is on the verge of extinction. Not all these people can speak the language fluently. Ket is related to the Yug, Arin, Baikot, Kot and Pumpokol languages which are now extinct. The language has been in contact with other languages such as Evenki, Russian, Enet and Yug. There are 3 distinct dialects of the language. This includes Southern Ket, Northern Ket and Middle Ket. The dialectical differences are minor, even though speakers tend to distinguish their own dialect from others. The first Ket alphabet used Latin graphics. In the 1980s, an alphabet based on the Cyrillic system was developed. When Ket began to be taught in Primary schools as a subject , Russian Ket and a Ket Russian dictionary was published. Ket is mainly used in schools but Russian is mainly used in other public domains.

The ket language is used for various social roles. Generally, the youngest speakers of the language are in their 30s and 40s therefore, it is rare to hear people speaking the language in public. Most parents do not even speak the language to their children as they cannot speak the language well themselves. Most children only know a couple of Ket words, which they may have been taught by their grandparents. Most Kets speak Russian, while others speak Ket, Russian and Selkup.

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