The Structure of the Dictionary
How to Use
The Speakers

Some Pictures from the Expedition




The Nganasan language belongs to the Northern branch of the Samoyedic group of languages, which in its turn forms the part of the Uralic language family. It is the northernmost language of Eurasia, spoken in the central and northern parts of the Taymyr Peninsula. There are two dialects of Nganasan (Avam and Vadey), which are very close to each other. The present dictionary is based on the Avam dialect, spoken by 75 % of the Nganasan speakers.
Until recently, the Nganasans led the nomadic life of wild reindeer hunters, domestic reindeer breeders and fishermen. In the 1960s the majority of them concentrated in three villages - Volochanka, Ust'-Avam and Novaya, which are situated beyond the traditional ethnic territory. This sudden transition to the settled way of life in multi-ethnic villages led to a quick decline of the Nganasan language and culture as a whole. While people aged fifty years and more (i.e. those who grew up in the tundra) are fluent and often monolingual speakers, those under forty have only very fragmentary knowledge of Nganasan. The situation is aggravated by the disastrous economic condition in most villages of Taymyr, which is typical of the whole Siberian North.
According to the date of the last Census in 1989 the number of Nganasans was 1278 persons. Only 50 % of them speak their language fluently (Helimski 1994a: 38); only a few of them are literate in their language. In the last years, Nganasan began to be taught in primary schools as a second obligatory language for the Nganasan children, which now speak only Russian. However, the teaching process is often interrupted because of the lack of teachers.
Most of the Nganasan speakers are multilingual. Primarily they speak Russian as a second language. Most of them know Dolgan, which is a Turkic language. The Dolgans live together with the Nganasans in all three villages. Some of them also speak Enets, which is close to Nganasan.
There are only few published texts in Nganasan. The most important editions are (Machkinis 1980) and two collections of the Nganasan folklore published by the Taymyr Regional Centre of Folklore in Dudinka: a collection of prosaic folklore (Nganasanskij folklor 1992) and that of songs (Pesni nganasan 1995). In 1994 a text of a shaman seance was published by E. Helimski and N. Kosterkina (Helimski, E. and N. Kosterkina 1994). The local newspaper Taymyr publishes a page in Nganasan approximately once a month.
The first published dictionary of Nganasan appeared in 2001 in the Prosveschenie publishers in St. Petersburg (Kosterkina et al. 2001). It was the School Nganasan-Russian and Russian-Nganasan dictionary of about 3500 words in each part, which includes also a short grammatical introduction written by Tatiana Zhdanova. More detailed descriptions of the Nganasan grammar appeared in (Tereschenko 1979), (Helimski 1994), both published in Russian, and (Helimski 1998), published in English and containing the further references.


The dictionary contains more than 3600 words. It reflects rather well the Nganasan traditional culture and the way of life, which are now almost unknown to the younger generation. The dictionary does not contain the new Russian loan words, as they were not influenced by the phonological system of Nganasan and preserve the Russian pronunciation. The dictionary includes all the known Nganasan idioms. Some of the entries are accompanied by the phrase or context examples. All words, idioms and phrases are provided with the sounding examples.
Inflection forms. All inflective words are provided with their inflexion forms. Though there are practically no morpheme-phonemic irregular forms in Nganasan, an extreme intricacy of its morpheme-phonemic rules makes it useless to introduce them at school. Inflection forms, on the contrary, allow readers to build any form of a paradigm simply substituting the ending. These inflection forms are: Nominative Plural, Genitive Plural and 3Sg Possessive form for nouns (which are given in the Nominative Singular); Nominative Plural and Genitive Plural for adjectives; 3Sg of the Present tense and Connegative form for verbs (given in the infinitive). With the help of tables, which were recently published in the School Dictionary, mentioned above, the readers will be able to construct any form of any word from our Dictionary. These forms are summarised in the table below:

Nouns and Adjectives

Form given in the dictionary

Ending dropped

Forms built on the base of it

Ending added




































Possessive forms except those listed below

Possessive endings



zero /




zero /



(a free variant)



Possessive forms for Nom/AccPl of possessed objects

Possessive endings



Shows the synharmonic class of the stem


Form given in the dictionary

Ending dropped

Forms built on the base of it

Ending added


All except those listed below

3Sg Present of the subjectless conjugation
(for imperfective verbs)

shows the synharmonic class of the stem

3Sg Present of the subjectless conjugation
(for perfective verbs)

Perfective verbal noun


Shows the variation of the last consonant of the stem

Orthography. Though a small quantity of books have been published in Nganasan by now (or maybe because of this) there exist several modes of writing in Nganasan, which differ in the shape of some letters. In our dictionary we used the most recent system, which was officially introduced in 1997. It was also used in the ABC-book by S. Zhovnickaya-Turdagina published in 1999 and it the School Dictionary by N. Kosterkina et al. 2001. The latter contains the comparison between the former orthography, which is still in use, and the new one.


Step 1. On the index page of the Web-site click "Dictionary".
Step 2. Select the initial letter. Please note that the DEMO-version contains the audio examples only for the words, starting with the letters, marked by the orange frame. The words, marked by the purple frame, are available only in the full version of the Dictionary.
Technical comments
1. To use this site you do not need neither to install any additional fonts or to customize the settings of your browser, because all Nganasan words and phrases are given as the strings of gif-pictures. The drawback of this approach is that HTML-pages become larger and take more time for uploading (up to several minutes).
2. To listen to the audio samples you need an MP3-player to be installed. Audio files in the raw (WAV) format are available in the full version.
The structure of the entry

The main fields for the entry are the following:
[1] Number of the entry
[2] Database number of the entry
[3] Nganasan word
[4] Inflection forms (if any)
[5] Grammatical comments (if any)
[6] Russian translation
[7] Link to the audio sample of the word
The additional fields are the following
[8] Indicator of the phrase example
[9] Nganasan phrase example
[10] Russian translation of the phrase example
[11] Link to the audio sample of the phrase example
[12] Indicator of the idiomatic expression
[13] Nganasan idiomatic expression
[14] Russian translation of the idiomatic expression
[15] Link to the audio sample of the idiomatic expression



The speakers recorded for the audio samples of the Dictionary were Nadezhda Kosterkina and Anna Momde.
Nadezhda Kosterkina (born in 1958, native of Ust'-Avam) belongs to the famous Nganasan clan of Kosterkins. Her Grandfather, father and uncles were the powerful shamans. She has graduated from 2 universities. Nadezhda Kosterkina worked much together with Galina Nikolayevna Gratcheva - the famous ethnographer and the researcher of the Nganasan culture. She is one of the authors of the Nganasan-Russian and Russian-Nganasan School Dictionary (School Dictionary 2001).
Anna Momde (1949-2001, native of Novaya) has graduated from the pedagogic college. Together with her husband Alexander Momde she helped much the scientists (among which we can mentioned first of all N.M.Tereschenko and E. Helimski) to describe and research the Nganasan language. Alexander Momde was the other author of the Nganasan-Russian and Russian-Nganasan Dictionary and the old assistant and consultant of N.M.Tereschenko in the process of her writing the grammer of the Nganasan language. Unfortunately, Alexander couldn't articulate well when the recordings were made because of his serious disease and could not be our speaker, but he helped us much with the editorial work. To our great regret the married couple of Momde died in 2001.

Nadezhda Kosterkina

Anna Momde



The compilers of the dictionary express their deep gratitude to our speakers - Nadezhda Kosterkina and the late Anna Momde; to the late Alexander Momde, the remarkable expert in the Nganasan language and culture, for his valuable comments and his important help in the process of preparation of the dictionary. The studio for recording was provided by the Regional Radio and Television Committee in Dudinka. The Russian Foundation for Humanitarian Research covered the travelling expenses for our scientific expedition in 2000, which allowed us to make the recordings.

    The compiling of the audio dictionary was supported by
     The Endangered Language Fund.


The pictures used for decoration of the dictionary were taken from the journal "Severnye Prostory" and the School Encyclopedia "Arctica - moy dom".



  • Helimski, E. A. 1994. Ocherk morfonologii o slovoizmenitel'noj morfologii nganasanskogo yazyka (Sketch of the morphophonology and inflectional morphology of Nganasan). In: Tajmyrskij etnolingvisticheskij sbornik. Moscow: RGGU.
  • Helimski, E. A. 1994a. Nganasanskij yazyk (The Nganasan language). In: Krasnaya kniga yazykov narodov Rossii. Moscow: Academia.
  • Helimski, E. 1998. Nganasan. In: D. Abondolo (ed.). The Uralic Languages. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Helimski, E. and N. Kosterkina. 1994. Malye kamlanija bol'shogo shamana (Small seances with a great Nganasan shaman. In: Tajmyrskij etnolingvisticheskij sbornik. Moscow: RGGU.
  • Machkinis, E. I. 1980. Nganasanskie teksty. Skazki (Nganasan texts. Tales). In.: Skazki narodov Sibirskogo Severa. Vol. 3. Tomsk: Tomsk University Press.
  • Nganasanskij folklor (Nganasan Folklore). 1992. Dudinka.
  • Pesni nganasan (Songs of Nganasans). 1995. Krasnoyarsk.
  • School Dictionary 2001 - Kosterkina, N. T., A. Ch. Momde and T. Yu. Zhdanova. Nganasansko-russkij i russko-nganasanskij slovar' (Nganasan-Russian and Russian-Nganasan dictionary). St.-Petersburg: Prosveschenie.
  • Tereschenko, N. M. 1979. Nganasanskij yazyk (The Nganasan language). Leningrad: Nauka.
  • Zhovnickaya-Turdagina S. N. 1999. Nya" bukvar' (Nganasan ABC book). St. Petersburg: Prosveschenie.


Here are some pictures of our expedition to Dudinka in July, 2000.

Valentine Goussev and Nadezhda Kosterkina making editorial work for the Dictionary

Marina Lublinskaya (right) and Nadezhda Kosterkina (left) at the door of the hotel in Dudinka

Anna and Alexander Momde making editorial work for the Dictionary

Our speakers and helpers: Alexander Momde (left), Dialamte Yarotsky (right), his wife Ekatherine Yarotsky - the sister of Alexander Momde (top), and Anna Momde (in front)

Tamara Chor, the editor of the national page in the regional newspaper Taymyr

Galina Porotova could not graduate even from the elementary school, as her parents needed her to keep the house (chum)

Djalamte Yarotsky is the last speaker of the Nganasan "govorka"


Marina Lublinskaya (Institute of Linguistic Research, Russian Academy of Science) the dictionary compilation, audio recordings, segmentation and database inputting
Valentine Goussev (Moscow State University) the editor of the Dictionary
Tatiana Sherstinova (Department of Phonetics, St. Petersburg State University) database development, technical support, design and programming

For the information about the full version of the Dictionary please contact the ELF or
Marina Lublinskaya

©  All rights reserved.


Last updated March 10, 2003.