The Khanty (Ostyak) language belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family. Together with Mansi and Hungarian, they make up the so-called Ugric sub-branch of the language family. Within this sub-branch, Mansi and Khanty constitute a separate group. Due to their speakers' dwelling site along the Ob river, the two are called the Ob-Ugric languages.
The Khanty people live in West Siberia, Russia, along the central and lower courses of the Ob and its affluents. Administratively, their living areas belong to the Tyumen and Tomsk Provinces. The majority of Khanty inhabit the territory of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District ‒ Yugra within the Tyumen Province. Others, fewer in number, live north of this area, namely in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, while yet another group, the most distant Eastern group of Khanty, live in the province of Tomsk (Honti 1984; Csepregi 2011: 6). According to the census data from 2010, the Khanty population was 30,943 people in that year (PEREPIS 2010). Among those surveyed, 9,584 said they spoke Khanty. Supposedly, their nationality was also Khanty, but this is not inferable from the statistical data. Based on this data, one can conclude that about one third of Khanty can speak the Khanty language (cf. Lewis et al. 2015).
Khanty people live in minor groups over a large territory, at a considerable distance from each other. Therefore, their dialects display such significant differences on the phonetic, morphological and syntactic level that mutual understanding between remote dialects is rather limited. Khanty dialects are generally divided into three groups: Northern, Southern and Eastern. The Northern group extends from the mouth of the Ob river by and large to the confluence of the Ob and Irtis. The Southern dialects, now extinct, were spoken along the river Irtis and its affluents, Demyanka and Konda. The Eastern dialects are spoken along the middle course of Ob and its affluents. These are the Vakh, Vasyugan and Salim dialects.
The Surgut dialect is spoken in the broader area of the town of Surgut, along the following affluents of the Ob river: Pim, Tromyogan, Agan, Big and Small Yugan (Csepregi 2011). There are no exact data concerning the number of Surgut Khanty people. According to calculations by local researchers, the number of native speakers could amount to about 3000. A writing system was developed for the Khanty dialects in the 1930s, first based on the Latin alphabet, and later, from 1937 on, adopting Cyrillic. Four Northern dialects (Obdorsk, Kazym, Shuryshkar and Sherkal) as well as two Eastern ones (Vakh, Surgut) are used in written form, i.e. these are the dialects in which primers, teaching materials, belletristic literature and newspapers are published. The first Surgut Khanty primer was published in 1959. Nowadays, with the development of printing technology, a mostly stable, phonematic orthography has come into being. (For information on the transcription used in our database, see the menu point “Instructions”.)