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Vađđaa ceeli, maa ceeli
Spoken in Russia
Region Ingria
Total speakers 20 (or fewer)[1]
Language family Uralic
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 vot
ISO 639-3 vot

Votic or Votian (Vađđaa ceeli or maa ceeli – also written Vaďďa tšeeli, maatšeeli[2]) is the language spoken by the Votes of Ingria. It is closely related to Estonian and belongs to the Balto-Finnic subgroup of Finno-Ugric languages. Votic is spoken only in Krakolye and Luzhitsy, two villages in the Kingisepp district, and is close to extinction. In 1989 there were 62 speakers left, the youngest born in 1938. In its 24 December 2005 issue, The Economist wrote that there are only approximately 20 speakers left.[3]

A map of Votic and neighbouring Ingrian-Finnish and Izhorian villages 1848-2007.

In the 19th century it was already declining in favour of Russian (there were around 1,000 speakers of the language by the start of the World War I), but its decline was accelerated under Soviet rule, when the Vote population diminished by 90% between 1926 and 1959. Since then, the Votes have, as far as possible, concealed their Votic identity, pretending to be Russians in the predominantly Russian environment. Votic originally had several dialects: Western, Eastern, Kukkusi and Kreevin (Krevin) (an enclave in Latvia, where Votic was spoken by descendants of Votic POWs who were brought to the Bauska area, Latvia in the 15th century by the Teutonic order[4]). Of these, Kreevin became extinct in the 19th century and Eastern in the 1960s.



No official orthography exists for Votic, rather many unofficial orthographies. Some use a modified Cyrillic alphabet, and some Latin. The orthographies based on Latin have many similarities with closely related Balto-Finnic languages, such as the use of č for /t͡ʃ/. At the least, a couple of ways exist for indicating short versus long vowels in Votic; firstly to place a macron over the vowel (such as ā), or secondly to double the vowel (aa). Geminate consonants are generally represented with two characters. The representation of central vowels varies, and in some cases the practice is to use the Finno-Ugric transcription of , and in other cases the letter õ (which is somewhat similar to the Estonian sound) is used.

Phonetics and phonology



Votic has 10 vowels, which are loosely represented by the following chart. The Votic /e̮/, however, is known to be a bit higher than the Estonian õ, but the rest of the vowels generally correspond to Estonian.

Front Central Back
High i y
i ü
High-mid e ø
e ö
Low æ

All of the vowels may occur short or long, however in some eastern dialects the long mid vowels /ē ō ȫ/ have been diphthongized to /ie uo üö/. Thus, tee 'road' is pronounced as tie. Votic also has a large inventory of diphthongs.

Votic vowel harmony is rather similar to Finnish, in that most words may only have front or back vowels (while /i e/ are neutral), however there are some exceptions with the behavior of /o ö/. Some suffixes including the vowel /o/ do not harmonize (as the occurrence of /ö/ in non-initial syllables is generally a result of Finnish or Ingrian loan words), and similarly onomatopoetic words and loanwords are not necessarily subject to conforming to rules of vowel harmony.


Bilabial Labiodental Dental Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p, b t, d k, ɡ
Affricate ts
Fricative f, v s, z ʃ, ʒ ʝ x h
trill r
lateral l ʎ

Nearly all Votic consonants may occur as geminates. Also, Votic also has a system of consonant gradation, which is discussed in further detail in the consonant gradation article, although a large amount of alternations involve voicing alternations. Two important differences in Votic phonetics as compared to Estonian and Finnish is that the sounds /ʝ/ and /v/ are actually fully fricatives, unlike Estonian and Finnish, in which they are approximants. Also, one possible allophone of /h/ is [ɸ], ühsi is thus pronounced as IPA: [yɸsi].

The Votic voiced stops (FUT) /b d g/ may undergo devoicing which are then similar to Estonian voiceless lenis stops.


Votic is an agglutinating language much like the nearly related Balto-Finnic languages. In terms of inflection on nouns, Votic has two numbers (singular, plural), and 16 cases: nominative, genitive, accusative (distinct for pronouns), partitive, illative, inessive, elative, allative, adessive, ablative, translative, essive, excessive, abessive, comitative, terminative.

Unlike Livonian language, which has been influenced to a great extent by Latvian, Votic retained its Finnic characteristics. There are many loan words from Russian, but not a phonological and grammatical influence comparable with the Latvian influence to Livonian.

In terms of verbs, Votic has six tenses, two of which are basic: present, imperfect; and the rest of which are compound tenses: present perfect, past perfect, future and future perfect. Votic has three moods (conditional, imperative, potential), and two 'voices' (active and passive). Caution however should be used with the term 'passive', with Baltic-Finnic languages though as a result of the fact that it is more active and 'impersonal' (it has an oblique 3rd person marker, and so is not really 'passive').


Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

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Votic (uncountable)

  1. A nearly extinct Finno-Ugric language spoken in Ingria.


External links


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