When I was a student at the Institute for Eastern European Studies during the years 1989-1994, I caught interest for nationalities questions in the (former) Soviet Union. While preparing a paper on Polish-Ukrainian relations, I accidentally stumbled upon a small nation living in the north of Russia, the Hats, a people I had never heard of before. I got fascinated immediately, not only by their very existence, but also, in particular, by their language.
Although I was never educated as a professional linguist, I became a professional Polish translator. Scientific linguistics, however, were always a major hobby of mine, which allowed me to make a study of the Hattic language. Modesty commands me to warn anyone who reads this text, that it is the work of a devoted amateur, not of a professional. Besides, I feel I should make it clear, that I am not at all a fluent speaker of the Hattic language. Therefore, my notes are merely based upon the works of such outstanding scientists like Gustav Bauer, Vadim Barskij, Gennadij Voznesenskij, and Igor Lãkelma.
The first thing that caught my interest was the fact, that the Hattic language forms an entirely independent branch of the Indo-European language family, which ought to be sufficient to attract the attention of linguistic circles. Surprisingly, this happened only in a few cases. I hope that my short sketch of the language, probably the first time it ever appears on the Internet, will contribute to a broader recognition of the Hattic people and its needs; it is my sincere conviction, that they deserve it.
Not much is known about the early history of the Hats. Most scientists identify them with a tribe mentioned by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, the ’Ωσκάρoι, who must have lived somewhere north of contemporary Ukraine, and who were frequently at war with their southern neighbours, the Scyths. According to this theory, the name ’Ωσκάρoι has survived in the name of another people, related to the Hats, the Askai.
Others place them further to the east, in the vicinity of Lake Aral, the territory of Saks and Sarmats.
A third theory considers them as an offspring of the Hatti, a non-Indo-European people that lived in Asia Minor in the 2nd millennium B.C., and later heavily influenced the culture of the Hettites. This idea, however, is based upon nothing but the similarity of the name, which in the opinion of many is just a mere coincidence; if it were true, the Hats would have borrowed from their ancestors nothing but their very name. It is safer to believe, that earlier theorists, who erroneously linked them with the Hatti, called them Hats, and that this name later became customary in wider circles. The misunderstanding could be due to a resemblance to the name of the Hats in their own language, Chadeš. This word has actually been derived from the old Hattic word for mountain, chardura; literally, Hats means “mountaineers”.
There is a fourth theory that sees the Hats as “a lost Tocharian tribe”. It is true that certain similarities cannot be denied, but the differences between the languages, both lexically and morphologically, are too huge to give credibility to the hypothesis of common roots with the Tocharians or their ancestors. It is possible, however, that the Hats and the Tocharians have shared a portion of common history.
Personally I believe, that the first theory makes most sense. It even appears, that the Hats must have lived in the territory north of Ukraine for a considerably long period. This would explain both certain phonological similarities with the Iranian languages and, through the long-time presence of Gothic and other East Germanic tribes in those territories, the unmistakable influence of the Germanic languages at the Hattic sound system. It would also explain why, despite the Hats’ inhabiting a territory belonging mostly to Uralic peoples, the latter's influence on the Hattic language is rather insignificant. From this point of view, it is the only theory for which there is any linguistic evidence whatsoever.
The first written evidence of a Hattic state dates back only to the second half of the thirteenth century, when the existence of a “Hattic prince, fierce and courageous” was mentioned in the chronicles of Vasilij Nesmejanov. Except for being “fierce and courageous” the prince was also known for his cruelty towards his enemies. Unfortunately, very little written material has been left to us about the period the Hattic princes; all we know for certain is, that they were regularly at war with their North Slavonic neighbours. The only thing that we know for certain, is that the Hattic princedom was subjuged by the Moscovian tsar between 1488 and 1507, and that subsequently the Hattic nobility lost all its privileges and fell back into peasantry within decades.
The Hattic Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in 1918, shortly after the Bolsheviks took over in Russia. It was the beginning of a cultural revival during the 1920s. The leftist writer Konstantin Vurak, who took the position of 1st secretary of the Communist Party in the HASSR, made an enormous contribution to this. After centuries of different orthographies, Hattic spelling was finally standardized. Literature, music and other forms of art flourished; there was also a major increase in Hattic education. Later, all these things were considered by the Stalinist regime as forms of nationalism, and in the thirties, most of them were put to an end. The Cyrillic alphabet was imposed to replace the original Latin alphabet in the same year when Vurak died in a Siberian camp.
After Stalin's death improvement came, be it slowly and step-by-step. In the sixties, as a result of the relative freedom enjoyed under Khrushchev’s regime, a group of writers within the communist party, the so-called “sfešmetakeš”, including Valentin Vurak, Konstantin's grandson, advocated an upgrade of the status of the Hattic language. They made Hattic literature flourish again and succeeded in a small-scale reappearance of Hattic education; however, their efforts to change the Hattic ASSR's status into that of a union republic, failed. Part of their accomplishments were undone under Brezhnev's rule, but this was only a temporary setback. In the second half of the eighties, the period of perestroika, a large national movment emerged, cumulating into the People's Front for Freedom and Perestroika (Sejser Front az Ajšadej ha Darmichazuj, SFAD), the Hattic equivalent of the Baltic People's Fronts. It's leader became Igor Lãkelma, long-time professor of Hattic linguistics at the University of Bazor-Hel, and a prolific writer, who had earlier belonged to the sfešmetakeš.
The Hattic Republic, as it is called now, was founded in the year 1993. Lãkelma was elected its president, and the Hattic language soon received the status of its first official language, next to Russian. Lãkelma still enjoys great popularity, and among Hats he enjoys an almost legendary, heroic status, though it must be said, that his political activities clearly had a negative influence on his writing.
Currently, the republic is facing similar problems as other post-Sovjet multinational entites, in particular the bad economic situation and the nationalities issue. There is much tension between the Hats and the Askai on one hand, and the Russians and other Slavonic minorities on the other.
The Russians constitute 32 % of the republic's population, thus outnumbering the Hats (24,6 %), the Askai (17,1 %), and the Dolans (1,3 %). There has always been a huge amount of Russians on Hattic territory, but their number increased steadily under communist rule as a result of its policy of russification. Almost all of them have Russian as their native language, and only 16,6 % are able to speak Hattic. Similar figures apply also to other Slavic minorities on Hattic territory, mainly Ukrainians, Belorussians, Motyaks and Vozgai. Of the Hats, on the other hand, only 60,4 % consider Hattic as their first language, while the vast majority of the others have Russian as its native language; 7,5 % of them do not even speak Hattic. Only the Solybians, an autochtonous people of North-Slavonic origin, who consitute 11,1 % of the republic's population, tend to assimilate rather with the Hats than with the Russians.
The Indo-European language tree can be divided into two subcategories: kentum and satem languages. Traditionally, this division was paralleled with a division into north-western and south-eastern languages. However, the discovery of the two ancient Tocharian languages near the Chinese border, at the beginning of the 20th century, prompted scientists to the conclusion that one could rather speak of a division between the more innovative satem languages in the centre, and the kentum languages, which more or less preserved ancient Indo-European phonology, in the periphery. This seemed to confirm J. Schmidt's gulf theory.
Hattic belongs to a group known as the “Khadurian languages”. It can be classified as a kentum language and is located in the northern periphery. Thus, it fills the gap between Tocharian and the Germanic languages. However, it underwent its own typical soundshifts that distinguish it from the other kentum languages. Characteric for the Hattic language is the spirantisation of Indo-European alveolars. Through this fact, the language is richer in spirants than other kentum languages, and it might easily be mistaken for a satem language. Besides, like the Germanic languages, Hattic shows a tendency towards devoicing the voiced Indo-European consonants unvoiced and vice versa. Its vowel system, on the other hand, is especially rich in nasal vowels. Due to its location the Hattic language has been subject to strong influences from both the Slavonic and the Iranian languages over the centuries.
The Khadurian group of languages contains four languages:
Though the differences between the languages are not extremely large, it would go much too far to speak of dialects of one language. Only Askaic and Dolan, which are closely related to each other, are mutually understandable. It is said that with some effort the Dolans and the Hats can understand each other as well, though I was never given the opportunity to verify this for myself. This could, of course, just be the result of the geographical position of the Dolans, roughly between the Hats and the Askai; more probable, however, is the explanation, that the Dolan language is closest to the Proto-Khadurian language, in the way that mountaineers' languages usually show some sort of innate conservatism, due to their relative isolation.
We have no written evidence of a Proto-Khadurian language, but it is very probable, that the ancestors of Hats, Askai, Megans and Dolans once spoke a common language, that divided into its daughter language relatively late. In his “Versuch einer Rekonstruktion des Proto-Chadurischen” Gustav Bauer made an attempt to reconstruct it. His reconstruction of Proto-Khadurian is still used as a standard, though in my opinion he leans too heavily on Hattic. Besides, what he could not have foreseen, was that in 1930 the German scientist Friedwald von Kipping would discover an old manuscript from the North-East of the peninsula Kola in what appears to be a fifth Khadurian language, now long extinct.
I am not entirely sure about the dialects, but so far a I know, a general distinction could be made between a north-eastern dialect (the “standard” dialect) and a south-western dialect.
Vadim Barskij, “Malenkij slovar’ chadskogo jazyka” (Moskva, 1959)
There is also an interesting link (unfortunately, it is currently dead; let’s hope it will be revived soon): http://www.bazor-hel.ru/univ/hatistika.html
Traditionally, the Hattic language is written in Latin script. In 1936 the Cyrillic script was imposed for political reasons, while the Latin script was banned. After the fall of the USSR, Latin script was restored in 1992. However, many people, especially the older generation, still prefer to use the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Hattic Latin alphabet contains 29 letters and one combination of two letters.
The Hattic vowel system is relatively easy. It makes no difference between long vowels and short vowels, nor is there a difference between open vowels and closed vowels. Thus, it corresponds more or less with the vowel system of most Slavonic languages. The only important difference is the frequent presence in Hattic of nasal vowels.
The SAMPA transcription is given between square brackets.
In sophisticated speech the nasal vowels (ã, ĩ, õ) are always pronouned in the above way. However, especially among younger people – and in cases when someone speaks rather quickly – there is a strong tendency towards assimilation of the nasal with the subsequent consonant, even if the latter is at the beginning of the next word. At the end of a word, the nasal is sometimes not pronounced at all. Thus:
Hattic knows only three diphtongs, and they appear not very frequently.
The Indo-European vowel system remains largely unchanged in Hattic. The letter ä usually takes over the place of IE short e or @ (schwa). The nasal vowels ã, ĩ, and õ exist only in Hattic proper; they replace Proto-Hattic am/an, em/en, om/on.
Typical for Hattic is the combination of two factors: the spirantization of Indo-European unaspirated alveolars, and a soundshift slightly reminiscent of the Germanic languages. This soundshift can be described as follows:
The Hattic sound shift is represented in the following (simplified) scheme:
Accent is usually placed on the first syllable of the word root; this is, however, not a rule. In verbs with a prefix it is often the prefix that is stressed, but not always. Stress is never affected by inflection. In foreign words, stress usually corresponds with the original language.
The Hattic language has three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), three numbers (singular, dual, plural), and six cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative).
There is no article; “bäig” can be translated as “fish”, “a fish”, and “the fish”, depending on the context of a sentence. For example:
There are six declensions. Good examples of each declension are: kjär “animal”, präk “mountain”, suraj “tree”, rajsa “rose”, bäig “fish”, and aulu “apple”.
Nouns can be derived in several ways, mostly from adjectives, verbs, and other nouns. The most obvious way to derive a noun from an adjective, is the latter's mere substantivation. In this cases the adjective does not change its form; it still behaves like an adjective. Example:
Ajr õs as feluš “Deliver us from evil”
Belonging to the same category are those cases, where the adjective is actually a participle form of a verb. This can be either the present participle, the perfect particple, or the gerund (future participle). In the first case the noun is the person or object performing the action denoted by the verb in question, in the latter two cases it is its direct object. Examples:
gänuz “to begin” > gänunder “beginning, beginner”
Another type of substantivized adjective is a noun that denotes the characteric expressed by it. In English, this is done by suffixes like -ness (brightness, happiness), -ship (friendship), or -ty (in Latin/French loanwords: infinity, stupidity). In Hattic, this effect is usually achieved by adding one of the following suffixes to the root of the adjective: -šad when the root ends in an unvoiced consonant; -žad when the root ends in a voiced consonant; -ščad when the root ends in an unvoiced spirant, where š replaces s; -ždžad when the root ends in a voiced spirant, where ž replaces z; -ešad when the root ends in three (or more) consonants, or when the root ends in two consonants, where the latter is l, r, m, or n. All words ending on -šad, -žad, and -čad are female in gender and are inflected according to the fifth declination. Examples:
sefer “friendly” > sefšad “friendliness, friendship”
A third category of substantivized adjectives can be observed, when a characteristic is applied to a person. This can be done in two ways: by adding the suffix -ak for a male or -(a)ka for a female person to express a positive or neutral attitude towards him/her, and by adding the suffix -och (always male) to give it an explicitly negative connotation. Examples:
häder “grey” > hädak “aged person, old-timer”
This does not happen automatically, even when the adjective explicitly describes the person's character, look or state; a dead person is a “muder”, not a “mudak”, although the latter form is sometimes used jokingly.
Nouns can also be derived from verbs. Again, the most obvious way of doing so is just substantivizing its actual meaning, thus giving it the meaning: the act of doing something. The corresponding suffix in English is -ing (or -nce or -tion in the case of romance loanwords). In Hattic, this is done by adding -u to the infinitive; it is inflected according to the 6th declination. Example (I know it is not the most decent thing to say, but I heard this sentence literally used in a conversation between two men near a kiosk in Bazor-Hel, and it is a perfect sample of verb substantivation):
Zad moj tafazu madžã garsã du ipsazu. “Killing give me greater pleasure than fucking.”
Secondly, a verb can be substantivized by giving it the meaning of a person/thing/factor that performs a certain action, or causes it to happen. This category includes most professions; English equivalents are numerous; most frequently words ending in -er. The difference with the category of present participles used as nouns, is rather small. One could say, that in this case the nouns has a more fixed substantival meaning; it remains, however, a matter of idiom.
Such forms are created by adding the suffix -(a)k to the verbal root; -ik is used in those rare cases, when the noun is derived from a verb of the i-conjugation. Examples:
baucaz “to work” > baucak “worker”
The largest category are nouns derived from other nouns. There are numerous ways to do this, not all of which will be mentioned here. I will limit myself to the most imporant categories.
First of all, there are diminutive and augmentative forms. Diminutions are created by the infix -l- between the root of a noun and the suffix designating its gender. Augmentations are created by adding the suffix -och to the root. Often, but not always, they have a negative connotation. Examples:
1st declension: kjär “animal” > kjäral “little animal”, kjäroch “large animal, beast, monster”
Very frequently used are nouns designating a person, whose expertise is in a certain field, or who makes his business of something (English: -ist, -an). In most cases often the suffix -ar is used. Examples:
ploj “flower” > plojar “flower salesman”
In loanwords the suffix -ist can be used, to indicate a follower of an idealogy or someone with a certain profession. Examples:
The last category I feel should be mentioned, are the inhabitants of a country, a region, or a city. In English, those words are formed with suffixes like -an, -ese, -er. In Hattic, the most frequently used suffix is -an; in some cases only the root is used, or the root with the suffix -ak. Examples:
Rusia “Russia” > Rusan “Russian” (Rus, or even Rusel, has a rather pejorative connotation)
The adjective usually comes first, i.e. before the noun. In more poetic or old-fashioned constructions it can also be placed after the noun. Also in cases where the adjective forms a stable unity with the noun, it is often placed after it.
The comparative is formed by adding the suffix -ašer to the root of an adjective. The object of the comparison has the nominative and is preceded by the word du (“than”).
The superlative is formed by adding the suffix -aster to the root of the adjective. For example:
Sõs urseš ursnašeš du bärneš, ma ad uler bärnoch ursnaster as šakiš.
An adjective can be adverbialized simply by removing the suffix from the root. For example:
Fafrĩva zõ još? “Did I understand you well?”
Adjectives can be derived from verbs, nouns, and other adjectives.
When derived from a verb:
When derived from a noun:
When derived from another adjective:
Declined like normal adjectives are: all plural forms, all dual forms of the 3rd person, and the female and neuter forms of all singular persons and of the dual 1st en 2nd person. Mur, zur, šor, šar, šur, nur, and ur are irregular:
The reflexive pronoun is sfoš “myself, yourself, ourself, him-/her-/itself”. It has no gender and no nominative.
The two reciprocal pronouns are: halneš “each other” and halner “each other’s”. Halner is inflected like a regular adjective.
Hattic knows two categories of demonstrative pronouns: kir for persons or objects close to the speaker (“this, over here”), uler for persons or object further away (“that, over there”).
The first category of demonstrative pronouns, kir and its forms, are also used as relative pronouns.
Hattic has a rich inflectional system. There are four moods (indicative, conjunctive, conditional, and imperative), three tenses (present, imperfect, and future), three numbers (singular, dual, plural), and three persons. There is no pluperfect; its role is taken over by the perfect tense. Besides, there are the active voice and the passive voice.
Like in Ancient Greek and Sanskrit, the past tense is made by adding an augment, and the perfect tense by reduplication. It can be said, that Hattic has one of the most conservative verbal systems of the whole Indo-European family.
The perfect and conditional tenses are characterized by reduplication. It is created by adding to a word the first consonant and the first vowel of its root as a prefix. When the first consonant is an affricate (c, dz, č, dž) only the first of its two constituting sounds remains (t or d). For the vowel it should be noted, that ã and ä become a, i and ĩ become e, and õ becomes o. Examples:
kcaguz “to try” > kakcagva “I have tried”
When the first letter of a verb is a vowel, then instead of reduplication h- is added as a prefix:
äfaz “to weave” > häfava “I have woven”
As can be seen in some of the examples above, the verbal root is sometimes affected by inflexion.
When the last consonant or consonant cluster of a verbal root is unvoiced, it becomes voiced before the voiced perfect markers -va, -da etc. in the second and third conjugation. Likewise, if the root ends in a voiced consonant or consonant cluster, it becomes unvoiced in the future and conditional tenses through assimilation with the tense marker -s-.
Twelve verbs are irregular: jãz “be”, võz “have, must”, az “go”, tãz “go”, džãz “know”, vahãz “hit”, flãz “can”, jiz “know”, tänz “do”, joloz “want”, lauz “say”, and zaz “give”. Their conjugation is given below; for reasons of space only the active forms and the participles are given.
Vahãz and džãz are conjugated like tãz.
Many verbs are created by adding a prefix; the majority of those prefixes are prepositions or derivations of prepositions. Thus we have: af- “away, off”, as- “out”, az- “for”, ãch- “to”, ãsar- “between”, än- “in”, bär- “near”, chma- “along”, dar- “through”, fašchu- “behind”, fo- “after”, fros- “against”, fur- “in front of”, häl- “around”, ĩtr(e)- “under”, jel- “back”, jufar- “across”, šla- “with”, šufar- “over”, uf- “up, on”, vaj- “in two, into pieces”, vjä- “above”, zo- “to”.
(*) In West-Hattic dialects “gumt” and “gumter” are usually pronounced [gumpe] and [gumper].
The following prepositions are followed by the genitive case:
The following prepositions are followed by the dative case:
Two prepositions have the accusative case:
Two other prepositions have the instrumenal case:
Only one preposition is followed by the locative case:
bär “near, by”
Most prepositions that describe a place can have both the dative and the locative case. The latter indicates a stable position, while the dative indicates a direction toward something. Thus:
In theory, word order is free in Hattic. In contemporary speech, however, VSO (verb-subject-object) is most common, to such a degree, that any deviation would sound at least strange to Hattic ears. Only in poetry is free word order still widely used.
Other word forms, like adverbs, can be placed freely within the frames of VSO word order as long as the verb and the subject are not separated from each other. For example, the sentence “Yesterday Ivan has bought a green parrot for his girl friend” can be translated into Hattic in different ways:Hãsu gugurju Ivan az šojaj sefaj dzälã papugã.
Hãsu gugurju Ivan dzälã papugã az šojaj sefaj.
Gugurju Ivan az šojaj sefaj dzälã papugã hãsu.
Gugurju Ivan hãsu az šojaj sefaj dzälã papugã.
Stress can be achieved either by intonation, or by moving the word(s) to be stressed to the end of the sentence, without affecting VSO word order. In the first and fourth sentence of the example above, the parrot is the most important piece of information. In the second sentence, it is Ivan's girl friend draws the attention, while in the third sentence the listener's attention should be attracted mostly to the fact, that it happened yesterday.
Personal pronouns are not at all excluded from the VSO rule: nominative personal pronouns are placed after the verb. It must be noted, however, that according to the speaker’s taste, they can as well be omitted, since the meaning is clear from the verbal form anyway. The first person singular af is only used when the speaker wishes to give it a very special stress. For example:
Janaf zõ. “I love you.”
Adjectives are usually placed before a noun. This applies to genitives as well:
Ad maš sefaš papugaj dzäler. “My girl friend's parrot is green.”
Simple questions are made by a change of intonation:
Januš zu mõ? “Do you love me?”
Interrogative pronouns are almost always placed at the beginning of a sentence, thus breaking VSO rule:
Hir tatãva umnĩ papugã? “Who killed our parrot?”
© Jan van Steenbergen,
Last update: 18.06.2004