This short article introduces Tatar language, beginning with its classification according to the accepted taxonomy of Russian linguistics.  Tatar is divided into three dialects: western, middle and eastern.  Its key overall features are dated of the epoch of the ancient Turks, a number of words having remained in Tatar language since the times of the Altai original motherland of the Turks and especially of Volga Bulgharia.  As to the formation of modern Tatar, it is dated of the fifteenth – sixteenth centuries, the literary language being defined in the late nineteenth – early twentieth centuries.  The main dialect is the middle one, spoken by Kazan Tatars, the citizens of present-day Republic of Tatarstan.  Each dialect is subdivided into separate pronunciation dialects.  If the middle and the western dialects are spread among the Tatars of Siberia, it is noted that Tatar language has been influenced by borrowings from Arabic, Persian and Russian languages.  If in the eastern dialect one can come across Uzbek words, in the western one Mordvin borrowings can be found, and Finno-Ugric ones in the middle dialect.  Unfortunately the author shows almost no interest in the occurrence of Tatar language in the contact zones between Tatar and Bashkir settlements, though for decades the issue raises discussions between the scientists of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.  One remark on the language spoken by the inhabitants of western Bashkortostan, treated in different ways by linguists in Kazan and in Ufa:  Whence Tatar scientists consider it a Tatar dialect, their Bashkir counterparts see it as a dialect of Bashkir language.

Igor Kuchumov, Centre of Ethnological Studies, Ufa
CER: I-6.3.B-578