The Uralic languages are a family of 39 languages that are spoken across parts of northeastern Europe and northern Asia. Estimates suggest that there are approximately 25 million speakers of Uralic languages in the world. Of the 39 Uralic languages, Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian have the largest number of native speakers.
The Uralic languages descended from the Proto-Uralic language that was spoken about 7,000 to 10,000 years ago on both sides of the Ural Mountains that divide Asia and Europe. Some of the earliest written records of Uralic languages dates back to the early 13th century. Linguists are unable to trace the origins of these languages with any measure of certainty due to the lack of written records and varied cultural influences.
- Over the centuries as the Uralic people moved towards Western Siberia and Russia, Finno-Ugric languages such as Hungarian started to evolve.
- The migration of people towards the Baltic region and Scandinavia gave birth to Estonian, Finnish, Karelian and other languages.
- Further migration towards the Volga valley gave birth to the Mari languages and the Mordvin (Eezya and Moksha) languages.
- The movement of the Uralic people towards Western Russia gave birth to the Komi-Permyak, Komi Zyrian and Udmurt languages.
- Similarly, Uralic evolved into Saami languages in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and parts of Russia.
- Nenets, Selkup, Khanty, and Mansi are the Samoyed Uralic languages that evolved in Siberia and northwestern Russia.
Of the Uralic languages, the languages with the most number of speakers – Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian – are the official languages of Hungary, Finland, and Estonia respectively. Several others such as Erzya, Moksha, Mari, Nenets, and Udmurt are widely spoken in parts of Russia. The evolution of various Uralic languages has led to significant changes in these languages over time; Hungarian and Finnish, for example are very different from each other. A number of Uralic languages have also given rise to regional dialects that differ sharply from each other.
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