Chelkan language


Spelling variants: the Chalkan language. The old name: the language of Lebed Tatars (the ethnic group got its name from living along the coasts of the river Lebed), Nikolay A. Baskakov used a compound name: the dialect of Lebed Chalkan Tatars (kuu-kizhi). The people’s endonyms are shalgannu/shalgandu, also kuu-kizhi (from the Chelkan kuu – swan, hence the ethnonym Lebed Tatars or Lebedins (lebed means swan in Russian), a calque from the Turkic kuu, and the river name Lebed), the name the group uses for the language is shchalgan til / shalgan til, shalganug.

General characteristics

Previously, Chelkans were considered to be part of the Altai people, and their language was classified as a northern dialect of Altai. In 2000, Chelkans were recognized as a separate ethnic group and listed among the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the Russian Federation. The 2002 Census was the first Census to record Chelkans as a separate ethnic group.

A delegation of Chelkans at the festival of indigenous peoples of the world. Turochak village, 2017.
Sociolinguistic characteristics

When surveyed in 2000, 81.6% of ethnic Chelkans in the Turochak district called Chelkan their native tongue, and 9.9% said their native tongue is Russian. A sociolinguistic study conducted in the same year showed that the overwhelming majority of Chelkans (73%) speak Chelkan, although 25.6% prefer Russian. Mostly Chelkans speak Chelkan and Russian since they live in a close contact with Russians. The 2014–2017 field studies show that most Chelkans use Russian when communicating among themselves.

Interactive atlas of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East