The Soyot language


It is sometimes called the Soyot-Tsaatan language (since Soyot is close to the language of the Tsaatan spoke in Mongolia), but the term “Soyot” is used far more frequently. The Soyot’s endonym is soyyt, the same ethnonym һоyod (logically in a different phonetic form) was used by Buryats to refer to the Soyot as the latter live among Buryats and have switched to their language.

View of the Eastern Sayans. Okinsky district, Rep. Buryatia. 2023.
The author of the photo is S. Y. Belorusova
General Characteristics

Currently, there are no native speakers fluent in Soyot. The 2020 Census put the total number of the Soyot in Russia at 4,368 persons (however, these data should probably be treated with some caution, see the section on historical dynamics). Still, 19 people indicated knowing Soyot (but it may be knowledge of merely a few words or simple phrases): what is more telling is that out of 4,368 persons, only 37 listed Soyot as their native tongue, although censuses generally provide overstated data of native speakers: people tend to list as their native language not the tongue they learned from their parents (which would be most precise in the scholarly perspective), but the language that has relatively recently (maybe in the preceding generation) been used in the community and is therefore perceived as the traditional tongue of this particular ethnic group.

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