Altai-Sayan Language and Ethnography Project

The Altai-Sayan Language and Ethnography Project [ASLEP] is a multi-media documentation project on the endangered languages and cultures of the Turkic-speaking populations of the Altai-Sayan cultural and geographic complex. The results from this project are housed under the heading ‘Tofa’ under the DoBeS Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen program funded by Volkswagen Stiftung (through a grant to Dr. K. David Harrison).

Marta Kongaraeva, primary Tofa language consultant
Marta Kongaraeva, primary Tofa language consultant

Languages investigated and recorded in annotated media include Todzhu, Dukha, Tsengel, Monchak, and Tofa, the latter with fewer than 30 speakers now.

The Altai-Sayan Language and Ethnography Project has several facets. One is the documentation of the endangered languages and traditional knowledge of the Altai-Sayan region, in particular that of the Tofa, and to a lesser extent those of the Todzhu, Dukha, Tsengel Tuvan, and Monchak.

In addition to hours of annotated video sessions in multiple languages housed in the DoBeS archive at Nijmegen, Netherlands, ASLEP has produced a children’s reader, a Talking Online Tuvan Dictionary, numerous papers on a range of topics, and data from ASLEP has figured prominently in books such as When Languages Die by David Harrison, and Auxiliary Verb Constructions by Greg Anderson.

Map of Altai-Sayan Languages

Tuvan Talking Dictionary

ASLEP Project Photos + Videos

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Frankfurt Symposium 2003 paper

Old Turkic symposium paper

Auxiliary Verb Constructions in Altai-Sayan Turkic 2004
  Auxiliary Verb Constructions 2006


The Kyzyl or Xyzyl are classified as a northern Xakas (Khakas) variety. The speech of the Kyzyl variety is as divergent from Xakas as Chulym Turkic varieties, thus the language must be considered to be a separate tongue of the Northern Altai-Sayan type. It is spoken along the upper reaches of the Ijus [Üüs] River in northern Khakasia and Krasnoyarsk Kray. It is to be considered either as a seriously endangered or moribund language. Read our field report here.

EV_Xyzyl_1030868-600x400Denis Tokmashev and Dr. Gregory DS Anderson interview Mikhail M. Tabatkin, a language activist for the Xyzyl language in Sarala, Xakasia. Photo by Jeremy Fahringer / Enduring Voices Project

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We are a non-profit research institute dedicated to documenting endangered languages around the world.