Amur Nivkh

The alternative name of the language, based on an endoethnonym, is Gilyak. It was used in the national literature until the middle of the 20 th century and even later in some foreign research. Nivkh were called Gilyak mostly by their Tungusic-speaking neighbors, c.f. Neghidal гилаха , Oroch, Ulcha, Nanai (dialect) гилэми , Orok гилэ or гилэɣэ.  Based on historical sources, it can be assumed that the гиляк exonym was brought into Russian via the Ewenki language, in which Nivkh are called гилэкэ , even though the form of this word is not very typical for Manchu-Tungus languages. 


The name Nivkh comes from the Amur ethnonym, which means “man”. In Sakhalin-Nivkh this word is pronounced as nigvng , plural nigvngun . A more complete version includes the possessive pronoun of the 1st person plural: min + nigvngun “our people”. In folklore texts, the protagonist is usually introduced as min + ngafk “our comrade”, “one of us/ours”. The contemporary Nivkh call their language nigvng + dugs “the Nivkh word”.