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Tartu professor publishes first ever Votic language textbook

The "Vad'd'a Sõnakopittõja", a collection of Votic texts complete with a dictionary, was put together by Heinike Heinsoo, professor of Finno-Ungric languages at the University of Tartu.

The 188-page book includes texts in the Luuditsa-Liivtšülä dialect, a few fairy-tales, a quintilingual (Votic-Finnish-Estonian-Russian-English) dictionary, and illustrations by Virge Jõekalda.

The book is first of its kind in the world. It is based on the materials used by Heinsoo during her 2010-2014 summer courses at Jõgõperä (Krakolye) and Luuditsa (Luzhitsy) villages in old Votic heartland in Ingria, part of modern-day northwestern Russia, that were attended by a few dozen 50-80-year-old locals, who can still understand spoken Votic.

Votic, or Votian, is the closes relative of the Estonian language. It's the language spoken by the Votes of Ingria, belonging to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. Being very close to extinction, it is nowadays only spoken in a few villages in Kingiseppsky District, Russia. According to the latest Russian census from 2010, there are only 64 native speakers left, plus four more in Estonia. It has never been a written language, although linguists have done their best to record as much as possible for the future generations.

However, there was no textbook or reader available to the general public until now.

"The textbook is suitable for people of all ages and linguistic backgrounds, but aimed above all to Votes who still more or less understand the language, so that they could preserve it," Heinsoo said. "There is not one family left that speaks Votic at home, but there are Votes who still remember it, want revitalize it and teach it to younger generations."

„Vad’d’a tšeeli tšäüb ühte viro i soomõ i ižora tšeeleka. Miltäin tšeeli vad’d’a on? Tõisiz tšeeliz jutõlla külä või küla, a vad’d’assi on tšülä, ižorad i virolaizõd pajatõta kivi, a vad’alaizõd jutõlla tšivi,” Heinoo writes in the introduction. (Translation: Votic language is similar to Estonia, Finnish and Izhorian. What is Votic like? In other languages you say külä or küla (village in Engish), in Votic it's tšülä, when Izhorians and Estonians say kivi (stone), the Votes say tšivi.)

The book has been published with the help of the Estonian government's Kindred Peoples Program, the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, the Mooses Putro Foundation and the Ingrian Cultural Association in Finland.

Editor: M. Oll

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