Kildin Sami language

Kildin Sami
Кӣллт са̄мь кӣлл (Kiillt saam' kiill)
Native to Russia
Region Kola Peninsula (Murmansk Oblast)
Native speakers
ca. 340 (2010 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sjd
Glottolog kild1236[2]

Kildin Sami is 8 on this map.

Kildin Sami (also spelled Sámi or Saami; formerly Lappish) is a Sami language spoken by approximately 600 people on the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia. Kildin Sami is written using an official Cyrillic script.

Geographic distribution

Sami dialects and settlements in Russia:
(K-5 is Lovozero)

The area around Lovozero has the highest concentration of speakers. It is the largest of the Eastern Sami languages by number of speakers. Its future, however, appears to be not as bright as that of Skolt Sami or Inari Sami because the language is used actively by only very few people today. The Sami languages closest to Kildin are Ter Sami and Akkala Sami. The latter is sometimes considered to be a dialect of Kildin Sami.

Writing system

Kildin Sami is written in an extended version of Cyrillic since the 1980s. The alphabet has three variants with some minor differences in certain letters, mostly in Ҋ vs. Ј and (apostrophe) vs. Һ. Whereas the dictionary of Sammallahti/Khvorostukhina(1991) uses Ҋ and (apostrophe), Kuruč at al. 1985 uses Ј and Һ. The third orthographic variant, used, e.g. by Kert (1986), has neither of these letters.

Note that the letters Ӓ, Ҋ/Ј, Һ/ (apostrophe), Ӆ, Ӎ, Ӊ, Ӈ, Ҏ, Ъ, Ь, Ҍ and Ӭ do not occur word initially, either because the letters mark features of preceding consonants or the sounds they represent do not occur word initially. So these letters do not normally occur in uppercase, except for all caps text.

The letter Щ occurs only in Russian loanwords.

А а Ӓ ӓ Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з Һ һ '
/a/ /ʲa/ /b/ /v/ /a/ /d/ /je/ or /ʲe/ /jo/ or /ʲo/ /ʒ/ /z/ /ʰ/
И и Й й Ҋ ҋ Ј ј К к Л л Ӆ ӆ М м Ӎ ӎ Н н Ӊ ӊ
/i/ or /ji/ or /ʲi/ /j/ /j̊/ /k/ /l/ /l̥/ /m/ /m̥/ /n/ /n̥/
Ӈ ӈ О о П п Р р Ҏ ҏ С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц
/ŋ/ /о/ /p/ /r/ /r̥/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /f/ /x/ /ts/
Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ыы Ь ь Ҍ ҍ Э э Ӭ ӭ Ю ю Я я
/tʃ/ /ʃ/ /ç/ /ɨ/ /ʲ/ /ʲ/ /e/ /ʲe/ /ju/ or /ʲu/ /ja/ or /ʲa/

The orthographic principles are more or less similar to Russian, but note the following special features.


Similar to Russian, palatalization of a consonant in Kildin Sami is marked by the letter Ь or one of the vowel letters Е, Ё, И, Ю, and Я following the consonant. Palatalized Д, Т, Н, however, are marked by ҍ or one of the vowel letters Ӓ and Ӭ. Note also that the consonant letter Н before Ь or one of the vowel letters Е, Ё, И, Ю, and Я does not represent palatalization but the palatal nasal /r/.

Long vowels

Long vowels are marked with a macron (¯) over the vowel letter (and above the diaeresis in the cases of Ё).


The letter Һ occurs before the letters П, Т, К, Ц and Ч, and marks (historical) preaspiration. The actual pronunciation, however, varies between true preaspiration [ʰ] or the fricative sounds [h], [ç], or [x].

Voiceless sonorants

Voiceless sonorants are represented by the letters Ҋ/Ј, Ӆ, Ӎ, Ӊ, and Ҏ.

Velar nasal

The velar nasal is written as Ӈ.


Below are all of the consonants in Kildin Sami. The symbols in parenthesis are minimal sounds.

Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n (ɲ) ŋ̊ŋ
Stop pb td kg
Affricate tsdz
Fricative fv sz ʃʒ ç x
l (ʎ)
Trill ɲ

Rimma Kuruch's dictionary presents the following vowels for Kildin Sami:

Monophthongs in Kildin Sami
Front Central Back
long short long short long short
Close /iː/ [ӣ] /i/ [и] /ɨː/ [ы̄] /ɨ/ [ы] /uː/ [ӯ] /u/ [у]
Mid /eː/ [э̄] /e/ [э] /oː/ [о̄] /o/ [о]
Open /aː/ [а̄] /a~ɐ/ [а]

Loanwords to English

The word tundra has been borrowed to English, via Russian. In Kildin Sami, tūndâr means "treeless plain", but its genitive case is tūndra.


  1. Kildin Sami at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kildin Sami". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
Kildin Sami language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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