Institute of Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences 

А. Syuryun


Tozhu Tuvan 

I. Sociolinguistic data

General characteristics

Speakers of Tozhu Tuvan, like other Tuvans, call themselves ty'va , tu'va ; some older people use the phonetic versions tu'ga , tu'kha . It is known that the ethnonym dubo/tuba gave birth to the self-names of a number of peoples: Tofalars ( to'fa, to'va ), Northern Altaians and the Kachinsky clan of the Khakass ( tuba ), Tuvans of the Tsengel somon of Mongolia, Kök-Monchak of Mongolia and China ( dy'va ), Tsaatan Uyghurs ( dukha ) and the Uyghur-Uryankhay ( tukha ) of Mongolia. The peculiarities of the speech of the Tozhu are explained, first of all, by the geographical isolation of the Tozhu people from the bulk of the Tuvans. Until 1949, their population had been divided into reindeer herders and cattle breeders. The cattle breeders were also involved in fur trade. In terms of language, significant differences were observed between the two groups. This is explained by the complex ethnogenesis of the Tozhu people, which consisted of various tribes. Later, the taiga and river Tozhu were united by the Toora-Khem state farm and engaged in reindeer husbandry, cattle breeding, hunting and fishing. The word Tozhu (district) in the Tozhu dialect sounds like Todyu , while the other Tuvans say Tozhu . The Tuvans from other regions call the Tozhu people Tozhu Tyvalars . The Tofa call the Tuvans Adash , Choodu or Choody , and the Tozhu Tuvans call them taiga choodylar “the taiga Tuvans”.

The Tuvan language has four dialects: central (Dzun-Khemchik, Ovur, Sut-Khol, Ulug-Khem, Piy-Khem districts), western (Barun-Khemchik, Bai-Taiga, Mongun-Taiga districts), southeastern ( Erzinsky, Tes-Khem, Tandinsky districts) and northeastern (Todzhinsky), as well as two transitional sub-dialects: Kaa-Khemsky and Tere-Kholsky. Following the updated classification of 2018, Mira Bavuu-Syuryun unites dialects of foreign Tuvans with the dialects of the Tuvan language: Central dialect (Dzun-Khemchik, Erzin-Tes-Khem, Ulug-Khem, Ovur and Tandy sub-dialects); Western dialect (Bai-Taiga-Barun-Khemchik, Mongun-Taiga, Kara-Khol dialects; Tere-Khol, Tozhu, Tsagaan-Nur sub-dialects); Altai dialect (Kobdo, Tsengel and Chinese sub-dialects).

Map 1. Dialects of the Tuvan language

Number of native speakers and the corresponding ethnic group

According to the results of the All-Russian Population Census of 2010, the number of Tuvans in the Republic of Tyva is 249,299 people. The number of Tozhu Tuvans is 5% of the total number of Tuvans. In the census of 1931, there were 2,115 Tozhu; according to the census of 2002, this number increased to 4,335. According to the census of 2010, the number of respondents who indicated their ethnicity as Tozhu Tuvans was 1,856 people. There is no statistical data on native speakers of the Tozhu Tuvans due to lack of such monitoring. In 1974, according to experts, there were more than 5 thousand speakers of the Tozhu dialect. Currently, their approximate number is indicated at around 1,500 people.

Sociolinguistic characteristics: degree of threat of extinction, use in various communicative areas

The Tozhu dialect of the Tuvan language is on the verge of extinction. Tozhu residents can speak their dialect, literary Tuvan and the state language, Russian. The speech of the Tozhu people is characterized by a drawn-out, melodious intonation, however, when communicating with speakers of other dialects, the Tozhu people switch to standard Tuvan. Over the past few years, the influx of Tuvans from the other parts of the Republic to the Tozhu district has increased, which inevitably resulted in a transition of the Tozhu to the standard Tuvan and the disappearance of the peculiarities of the Tozhu dialect.

The main area of use of the Tozhu Tuvan is family and everyday communication and even this mainly happens in the families with elderly people.

The literary version of the Tuvan language is taught in schools in the Todzhinsky district of the Republic of Tyva. The teachers of Tuvan, who speak Tozhu, routinely give comparative examples from Tozhu during classes. Tozhu is not taught in secondary school and above.

The features of the Tozhu dialect are reflected in the story “Belek”, written by the Tuvan writer Stepan Saryg-ool in 1942 and describing the life and work of the huntress Ildirma. The documentary story “Taiganyn eezi” ( Master of the Taiga ) by Mikhail Mendume (1965), describes the famous Tozhu hunter Baraan Myrlaa.

The Tozhu dialect is not represented in the media (radio, television, press) or on the Internet. In most villages there are folk ensembles: the participants perform wearing stylized national costumes, organize celebrations related to traditional culture, and participate in various competitions. Depending on the type of the competition, the language of presentation can be the standard Tuvan or Russian. In VK there is an official page of the Sambukay Cultural Center of the village of Toora-Khem, Tozhu kozhuun, Republic of Tyva. The events organized by the Center are held in both Tuvan and Russian; announcements about upcoming events, as well as news about past events, are given mainly in Russian.

Until 1930, Tuvan had been unwritten. Before the introduction of the Latin-based Tuvan alphabet in 1930 for book publishing and the press, the Old Mongolian writing system had been used in Tuva, and the official language had been Mongolian. In 1941, it was decided to introduce the Cyrillic alphabet with three additional graphemes. It is this writing system that is used nowadays.

Several variants of the Tuvan alphabet were known to exist. In October 1925, the IV Congress of the Tuvan People's Revolutionary Party decided to create a national Tuvan written language. In 1926, the Government of the Tuvan People's Republic requested the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to develop Tuvan writing. The first version of the alphabet, containing the graphemes Аа, Бб, Вв, Гг, Дд, Ёё, Жж, Ӝӝ, Зз, Ии, Йй, Кк, Лл, Мм, Нн, Ҥҥ, Оо, Ӧӧ, Пп, Рр, Сс, Тт, Уу, Ӱӱ, Хх, Чч, Шш, Ыы, was compiled by Buzykaev and Bryukhanov in 1927. The first Tuvan primer was published in this alphabet, but this project was not developed any further. In 1928, a Latin version was proposed, developed by a group of lamas led by Mongush Lopsan-Chimit. The project was rejected for political reasons. At the same time, a Latinized alphabet was developed by Alexander Palmbakh, Evgeny Polivanov and Nikolai Poppe, based on the new Turkic alphabet, “ Yañalif ”: Aa, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Ƣƣ, Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Ꞑꞑ, Oo, Өө, Pp, Rr, Ss, Şş, Tt, Uu, Vv, Xx, Yy, Zz, Ƶƶ, Ьь . On June 28, 1930, this version was officially introduced by a decree of the Government of the Republic. However, in April 1941 it was decided to transfer Tuvan writing into the Cyrillic: Аа, Бб, Вв, Гг, Дд, Ее, Ёё, Жж, Зз, Ии, Йй, Кк, Лл, Мм, Нн, Ңң, Оо, Өө, Пп, Рр, Сс, Тт, Уу, Үү, Фф, Хх, Цц, Чч, Шш, Щщ, Ъъ, Ыы, Ьь, Ээ, Юю, Яя. This project received the final approval in October 1943 by the Commission on Language and Writing.

Geographical characteristics

Tozhu Tuvans live in the native villages of Toora-Khem, Adyr-Kezhig, Iy, Systyg-Khem, Chazylary and Yrban of the Tozhu district of the Republic of Tyva. Until 1949, the Tozhu had been divided into reindeer herders and cattle breeders. The cattle breeders were also involved in the fur trade. Later, the taiga and river Tozhu were united by the Toora-Khem state farm and began to engage in re

indeer husbandry, cattle breeding, hunting and fishing.

Total number of native settlements 


List of main native settlements 

Republic of Tyva, Tozhu district: Toora-Khem, Adyr-Kezhig, Iy, Systyg-Khem, Chazylary, Yrban

Name of locality

Number of inhabitants 


Year and source  



Tozhu Tuvan

The site of the Administration of the Tozhu district, 2022



Tozhu Tuvan

The site of the Administration of the Tozhu district, 2022



Tozhu Tuvan

The site of the Administration of the Tozhu district, 2022



Tozhu Tuvan

The site of the Administration of the Tozhu district, 2022



Tozhu Tuvan

The site of the Administration of the Tozhu district, 2022



Tozhu Tuvan

The site of the Administration of the Tozhu district, 2022

II. Linguistic data

Position in the genealogy of the world's languages

According to the classification of Nikolai Baskakov, the Tozhu dialect of the Tuvan language belongs to the Uyghur-Tukuy subgroup of the Uyghur-Oguz group of the Eastern Hunnic branch of Turkic languages. In the refined classification of Valentin Rassadin, the Tuvan is combined with Tofalar, Soyot, Kök-Monchak (China), 

Tsaatan Uyghur ( dukha ), Uyghur-Uryankhay ( tukha )

and the language of Tsengel Tuvans (Mongolia) into a separate Sayan subgroup of Turkic languages. The Sayan subgroup is divided into Steppe and Taiga languages. The Tozhu dialect of the Tuvan language, together with the Tofalar, Soyot, Tsaatan Uyghur and Uyghur-Uryankhay, belongs to the Taiga group.

Dialectal situation.

Tozhu is a northeastern dialect of the Tuvan language.

The dialects of the Tuvan language are distinguished, first of all, geographically.  The differences are primarily lexical, and to a lesser extent morphological. Tozhu dialect has been divided by some into the river and taiga sub-dialects.

Brief history of academic research of the language

The ethnographic study of the Tuvans, including the Tozhu, began in the 17 th century with the Russian ambassadors to Altyn Khan, Vasily Tyuments and Ivan Petlin, and in the 18th century with the travelers Peter Pallas and Johann Georgi. The famous researcher of the peoples of Siberia Grigory Spassky, and (somewhat later) the Finnish scientist Matthias Castren, were the first to study the language of Tozhu Tuvans and determined that it belonged to the Turkic language family. Pyotr Ostrovskikh, who traveled to Tozhu in 1897, conducted anthropological and linguistic research and published short articles on the subject.

A historical and ethnographic study of the economics, life and culture of the Tozhu Tuvans, as well as their origin, was carried out by Sevian Vainshtein.  His publication is of great linguistic interest, since it contains a large number of Tozhu common words.

In 1955, a folklore expedition of the Tuva Research Institute of Language, Literature and History, headed by Anton Kalzan, worked with the Tozhu. The expedition recorded a large number of samples of various genres of oral folklore. These texts were subsequently published in a number of folklore collections.

A special study of the Tozhu dialect was started by Tatiana Artsybasheva. In 1933, she described the lexical, morphological and phonetic features of the Tozhu dialect. In the vocabulary section, she noted that the distinguishing characteristic of the Tozhu vocabulary, which is mostly Turkic, lay in the presence of names of objects and actions characteristic of the Tozhu and determined by the specificity of their occupations: hunting and reindeer herding. Tatiana Artsybasheva was the first scholar to attempt to describe phonetics, vocabulary and grammar of the Tozhu dialect.  She proved that the speech of the Tozhu people is a dialect of the Tuvan language.

Since 1958, the Section of Language and Writing of the Tuvan Research Institute for Language, Literature and History organized regular dialectological expeditions to various regions of Tuva. At the beginning of the 1960s, the Department of Tuvan Language of the Kyzyl State Pedagogical Institute joined in. A dialectological survey was carried out in all the regions of Tuva and its results published.

The only monographic description of the Tozhu dialect at the moment is the work of Zoya Chadamba, which was based on her Ph.D. dissertation (1970). The work describes phonetic, grammatical and lexical features of Tozhu. The data had been collected by the author during the dialectological expeditions to the Tozhu district in 1959, 1960 and 1968.

Linguistic characteristics from a typological and areal perspective

The Tozhu dialect has not been fully described yet. The identification of the salient typological and areal linguistic characteristics remains to be done. As regards word-formation, one feature of the Tozhu dialect is the suffixes that form some adjectives: -yn // -in // -un // -yun , suffixes that form some cardinal numerals of the first ten digits adding a restrictive connotation: -kyya (-kyyna ), -kyye (-kiyne ), the suffix of the dividing numeral -ar : changyzar “one by one”, the adverb-forming word shylai .

In the area of inflection, similar features include the directive case with its suffixes -kydy /-kidi , the conditional ( barsam “if I go” cf. the literary barzymza ) and the limitative ( kelgishemge “before my arrival” cf. the literary kelgizhemche ) moods, as well as adding plural and genitive suffixes to the gerundial participle in - kash ( Uruglar badinga kirip kelgeshternin yyt chok turgannar ‘The children entered the house and stood silently’).