According to the genealogical classification of languages Karaim and some closely related languages of the western Kipchak group (Karachai, Kumyk, the Crimean Tartar) belong to a Turkic subfamily, which, in its turn, is considered as a part of the larger Altaic family. The Karaim language exists in three historically established dialects - those of Trakai, Halich-Lutsk and of the Crimea.
Still functioning in family live and liturgical ceremonies, the Karaim language has well preserved up to our days its specific structural features and many old Turkic words, no more extant in the other languages. The archaism of its vocabulary and some other linguistic features as well as its relative purity are conditioned by the fact that being surrounded by other languages (Slavic and Lithuanian) and having lost contacts with its cognate Turkic languages, it could so longer share the changes which took place in them and developing independently, it remained unchanged in certain respects.
On the other hand, everyday contacts with the neighbouring languages could not help leaving their imprint. Slavic and Lithuanian loan-words began to appear in Karaim, especially in its spoken variety, e.g. šukia - Lith. šukė 'fragment, splinter'; varškia - Lith. varškė 'curds'; tikri - Lith. tikras, giminingas 'real, genuine'; burak - Pol. burak 'beet-root'; salam - Rus. soloma 'straw', etc. The loan words are assimilated according to the structure of Karaim phonetically as well as morphologically. Karaim, as a Turkic language, is typically agglutinative - there words and their forms are built up by addition of standard monosemantic derivational and grammatical affixes, which never merge with the stem or with one another, for example:
Vowel harmony, prevailing in the Turkic languages, is a phenomenon, conditioning the vowel alternation in the formative or inflectional suffixes depending on the vowels. The stress of the words usually falls on the last syllable.
Many turkologists actively investigate the written Karaim language using plenty of printed and manuscript sources for their work. And the spoken Karaim has newly invoked a vivid interest for it (http://www3.aa.tufs.ac.jp/~djn/karaim/karaimCD.htm). There is also a painful need in modern multilingual situation of Lithuania for children to learn their native language. They are given the opportunity to satisfy it at a kind of Sunday schools.
© Lithuanian Karaims Culture Community