Altaic languages

Altaic (/ælˈteɪ.ɪk/) is a hypothetical language family that was once proposed to include the Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic language families; and possibly also the Japonic and Koreanic families, and the Ainu language.[1]:73 Speakers of those languages are currently scattered over most of Asia north of 35 °N and in some eastern parts of Europe, extending in longitude from Turkey to Japan.[2] The group is named after the Altai mountain range in the center of Asia.

The Altaic family was first proposed in the 18th century. It was widely accepted until the 1960s, and is still listed in many encyclopedias and handbooks.[1] However, in recent decades the proposal has been rejected by many comparative linguists, after supposed cognates were found not to be valid, and Turkic and Mongolic languages were found to be converging rather than diverging over the centuries. Opponents of the theory proposed that the similarities are due to mutual linguistic influences between the groups concerned.[3][4][5][6]

The original hypothesis unified only the Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic groups. Later proposals to include the Korean and Japanese languages into a "Macro-Altaic" family have always been controversial. (The original proposal was sometimes called "Micro-Altaic" by retronymy.) Most proponents of Altaic continue to support the inclusion of Korean.[7] A common ancestral Proto-Altaic language for the "Macro" family has been tentatively reconstructed by Sergei Starostin and others.[8]

Micro-Altaic includes about 66 living languages,[9] to which Macro-Altaic would add Korean, Japanese and the Ryukyuan languages, for a total of 74 (depending on what is considered a language and what is considered a dialect). These numbers do not include earlier states of languages, such as Middle Mongol, Old Korean or Old Japanese.

(largely discredited)
North, Central, and West Asia, and Eastern Europe
Linguistic classificationFormerly proposed as a major language family; now usually considered as a Sprachbund
ISO 639-2 / 5tut
Lenguas altaicas
  Turkic languages
  Mongolic languages
  Tungusic languages
  Koreanic languages
(sometimes included)
  Japonic languages
(sometimes included)
  Ainu language
(rarely included)

Earliest attestations of the languages

The earliest known texts in a Turkic language are the Orkhon inscriptions, 720–735 AD.[10]:3 They were deciphered in 1893 by the Danish linguist Vilhelm Thomsen in a scholarly race with his rival, the German–Russian linguist Wilhelm Radloff. However, Radloff was the first to publish the inscriptions.

The first Tungusic language to be attested is Jurchen, the language of the ancestors of the Manchus. A writing system for it was devised in 1119 AD and an inscription using this system is known from 1185 (see List of Jurchen inscriptions).

The earliest Mongolic language of which we have written evidence is known as Middle Mongol. It is first attested by an inscription dated to 1224 or 1225 AD, the Stele of Yisüngge, and by the Secret History of the Mongols, written in 1228 (see Mongolic languages). The earliest Para-Mongolic text is the Memorial for Yelü Yanning, written in the Khitan large script and dated to 986 AD. However, the Inscription of Hüis Tolgoi, discovered in 1975 and analysed as being in an early form of Mongolic, has been dated to 604-620 AD. The Bugut inscription dates back to 584 AD.

Japanese is first attested in the form of names contained in a few short inscriptions in Classical Chinese from the 5th century AD, such as found on the Inariyama Sword. The first substantial text in Japanese, however, is the Kojiki, which dates from 712 AD. It is followed by the Nihon shoki, completed in 720, and that by the Man'yōshū, which dates from c. 771–785, but includes material that is from about 400 years earlier.[10]:4

The most important text for the study of early Korean is the Hyangga, a collection of 25 poems, of which some go back to the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC–668 AD), but are preserved in an orthography that only goes back to the 9th century AD.[11]:60 Korean is copiously attested from the mid-15th century on in the phonetically precise Hangul system of writing.[11]:61

History of the Altaic family concept

2006-07 altaj belucha
The Altai Mountains in East-Central Asia give their name to the proposed language family.


A proposed grouping of the Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages was published in 1730 by Philip Johan von Strahlenberg, a Swedish officer who traveled in the eastern Russian Empire while a prisoner of war after the Great Northern War.[12]:page 125 However, he may not have intended to imply a closer relationship among those languages.[13]

Uralo-Altaic hypothesis

In 1844, the Finnish philologist Matthias Castrén proposed a broader grouping, that later came to be called the Ural–Altaic family, which included Turkic, Mongolian, and Manchu-Tungus (=Tungusic) as an "Altaic" branch, and also the Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic languages as the "Uralic" branch.[12]:126–127 The name referred to the Altai Mountains in East-Central Asia, which are approximately the center of the geographic range of the three main families.

While the Ural-Altaic family hypothesis can still be found in some encyclopedias, atlases, and similar general references, after the 1960s it has been heavily criticized. Even linguists who accept the basic Altaic family, like Sergei Starostin, completely discard the inclusion of the "Uralic" branch.[8]:8–9

Korean and Japanese languages

In 1857, the Austrian scholar Anton Boller suggested adding Japanese to the Ural–Altaic family.[14]:34

In the 1920s, G.J. Ramstedt and E.D. Polivanov advocated the inclusion of Korean. Decades later, in his 1952 book, Ramstedt rejected the Ural–Altaic hypothesis but again included Korean in Altaic, an inclusion followed by most leading Altaicists (supporters of the theory) to date.[15] His book contained the first comprehensive attempt to identify regular correspondences among the sound systems within the Altaic language families.

In 1960, Nicholas Poppe published what was in effect a heavily revised version of Ramstedt's volume on phonology[16][17] that has since set the standard in Altaic studies. Poppe considered the issue of the relationship of Korean to Turkic-Mongolic-Tungusic not settled.[12]:148 In his view, there were three possibilities: (1) Korean did not belong with the other three genealogically, but had been influenced by an Altaic substratum; (2) Korean was related to the other three at the same level they were related to each other; (3) Korean had split off from the other three before they underwent a series of characteristic changes.

Roy Andrew Miller's 1971 book Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages convinced most Altaicists that Japanese also belonged to Altaic.[18][10] Since then, the "Macro-Altaic" has been generally assumed to include Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Korean, and Japanese.

In 1990, Unger advocated a family consisting of Tungusic, Korean, and Japonic languages, but not Turkic or Mongolic.[19]

However, many linguists dispute the alleged affinities of Korean and Japanese to the other three groups. Some authors instead tried to connect Japanese to the Austronesian languages.[8]:8–9

In 2017 Martine Robbeets proposed that Japanese (and possibly Korean) originated as a hybrid language. She proposed that the ancestral home of the Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages was somewhere in northwestern Manchuria. A group of those proto-Altaic ("Transeurasian") speakers would have migrated south into the modern Liaoning province, where they would have been mostly assimilated by an agricultural community with an Austronesian-like language. The fusion of the two languages would have resulted in proto-Japanese and proto-Korean.[20][21]

The Ainu language

In 1962 John C. Street proposed an alternative classification, with Turkic-Mongolic-Tungusic in one grouping and Korean-Japanese-Ainu in another, joined in what he designated as the "North Asiatic" family.[22] The inclusion if Ainu was adopted also by James Patrie in 1982.[23][24]

The Turkic-Mongolic-Tungusic and Korean-Japanese-Ainu groupings were also posited in 2000–2002 by Joseph Greenberg. However, he treated them as independent members of a larger family, which he termed Eurasiatic.[25]

The inclusion of Ainu is not widely accepted by Altaicists. In fact, no convincing genealogical relationship between Ainu and any other language family has been demonstrated, and it is generally regarded as a language isolate. It is sometimes grouped with the Paleosiberian languages, but this is only a geographic blanket term for several unrelated language families that were present in Siberia before the advances of Turkic and Tungusic languages there.

Early criticism and rejection

Starting in the late 1950s, some linguists became increasingly critical of even the mininmal Altaic family hypothesis, disputing the alleged evidence of generic connection between Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic languages.

Among the earlier critics were Gerard Clauson (1956), Gerhard Doerfer (1963), and Alexander Shcherbak. They claimed that the words and features shared by Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages were for the most part borrowings and that the rest could be attributed to chance resemblances.[26][27][28] In 1988, Doerfer again rejected all the genetic claims over these major groups.[29]

Modern controversy

A major continuing suporter of the Altaic hypothsis has been S. Starostin, who published a comparative lexical analysis of the Altaic languages in (1991). He concluded that the analysis supported the Altaic grouping, although it was "older than most other language families in Eurasia, such as Indo-European or Finno-Ugric, and this is the reason why the modern Altaic languages preserve few common elements".[30]

In 1991 and again in 1996, Roy Miller defended the Altaic hypothesis and claimed that the criticisms of Clauson and Doerfer apply exclusively to the lexical correspondences, whereas the most pressing evidence for the theory is the similarities in verbal morphology.[31] [11]

In 2003, Claus Schönig published a critical overview of the history of the Altaic hypothesis up to that time, siding with the earlier criticisms of Clauson, Doerfer, and Shcherbak.[32]

In 2003, Starostin and other published an Etymological dictionary of the Altaic Languages, that expanded the 1991 lexical lists and added other phonological and grammatical arguments.[8].

Starostin's book was citicized by Stefan Georg in 2004 and 2005,[33][34] and by Alexander Vovin in 2005.[35]

Other defenses of the theory, in response to the criticisms of Georg and Vovin, were published by Starostin in 2005,[36] Blažek in 2006,[37] Robbeets in 2007,[38] and Dybo and G. Starostin in 2008[39]

In 2010, Lars Johanson echoed Miller's 1996 rebuttal to the critics, and called for a muting of the polemic.[40]

List of supporters and critics of the Altaic hypothesis

The list below comprises linguists who have worked specifically on the Altaic problem since the publication of the first volume of Ramstedt's Einführung in 1952. The dates given are those of works concerning Altaic. For supporters of the theory, the version of Altaic they favor is given at the end of the entry, if other than the prevailing one of Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic–Korean–Japanese.

Major supporters

  • Pentti Aalto (1955). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic–Korean.
  • Anna V. Dybo (S. Starostin et al. 2003, A. Dybo and G. Starostin 2008).
  • Karl H. Menges (1975). Common ancestor of Korean, Japanese and traditional Altaic dated back to the 7th or 8th millennium BC (1975: 125).
  • Roy Andrew Miller (1971, 1980, 1986, 1996). Supported the inclusion of Korean and Japanese.
  • Oleg A. Mudrak (S. Starostin et al. 2003).
  • Nicholas Poppe (1965). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic and perhaps Korean.
  • Alexis Manaster Ramer.
  • Martine Robbeets (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008) (in the form of "Transeurasian").
  • G. J. Ramstedt (1952–1957). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic–Korean.
  • George Starostin (A. Dybo and G. Starostin 2008).
  • Sergei Starostin (1991, S. Starostin et al. 2003).
  • John C. Street (1962). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic and Korean–Japanese–Ainu, grouped as "North Asiatic".
  • Talat Tekin (1994). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic–Korean.

Major critics

  • Gerard Clauson (1956, 1959, 1962).
  • Gerhard Doerfer (1963, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1985, 1988, 1993).
  • Susumu Ōno (1970, 2000)
  • Juha Janhunen (1992, 1995) (tentative support of Mongolic-Tungusic).
  • Claus Schönig (2003).
  • Stefan Georg (2004, 2005).
  • Alexander Vovin (2005, 2010). Formerly an advocate of Altaic (1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001), now a critic.
  • Alexander Shcherbak.
  • Alexander B. M. Stiven (2008, 2010).

Advocates of alternative hypotheses

  • James Patrie (1982). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic and Korean–Japanese–Ainu, grouped in a common taxon (cf. John C. Street 1962).
  • J. Marshall Unger (1990). Tungusic–Korean–Japanese ("Macro-Tungusic"), with Turkic and Mongolic as separate language families.
  • Joseph Greenberg (2000–2002). Turkic–Mongolic–Tungusic and Korean–Japanese–Ainu, grouped in Eurasiatic.
  • Lars Johanson (2010). Agnostic, proponent of a "Transeurasian" verbal morphology not necessarily genealogically linked.


For the Altaic grouping

Phonological and grammatical features

The original arguments for grouping the "micro-Altaic" languages as a Uralo-Altaic family were based on such shared features as vowel harmony and agglutination.

According to Roy Miller, the most pressing evidence for the theory is the similarities in verbal morphology.[11]

The Etymological Dictionary by Starostin and others (2003) proposes a set of sound change laws that would explain the evolution from Proto-Altaic to the descendant languages. For example, although most of today's Altaic languages have vowel harmony, Proto-Altaic as reconstructed by them lacked it; instead, various vowel assimilations between the first and second syllables of words occurred in Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Korean, and Japonic. They also included a number of grammatical correspondences between the languages.[8]

Shared lexicon

Starostin claimed in 1991 that the members of the proposed Altaic group shared about 15–20% of apparent cognates within a 110-word Swadesh-Yakhontov list; in particular, Turkic–Mongolic 20%, Turkic–Tungusic 18%, Turkic–Korean 17%, Mongolic–Tungusic 22%, Mongolic–Korean 16%, and Tungusic–Korean 21%. [30] The 2003 Etymological Dictionary includes a list of 2,800 proposed cognate sets, as well as a few important changes to the reconstruction of Proto-Altaic. The authors tried hard to distinguish loans between Turkic and Mongolic and between Mongolic and Tungusic from cognates; and suggest words that occur in Turkic and Tungusic but not in Mongolic. All other combinations between the five branches also occur in the book. It lists 144 items of shared basic vocabulary, including words for such items as 'eye', 'ear', 'neck', 'bone', 'blood', 'water', 'stone', 'sun', and 'two'.[8]

Against the grouping

Weakness of lexical and typological data

According to G. Clauson (1956), G. Doerfer (1963), and A. Shcherbak (1963), many of the typological features of the supposed Altaic languages, such as agglutinative morphology and subject–object–verb (SOV) word order, usually occur together in languages. [26][27][28]

Those critics also argued that the words and features shared by Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages were for the most part borrowings and that the rest could be attributed to chance resemblances. They noted that there was little vocabulary shared by Turkic and Tungusic languages, though more shared with Mongolic languages. They reasoned that, if all three families had a common ancestor, we should expect losses to happen at random, and not only at the geographical margins of the family; and that the observed pattern is consistent with borrowing.[26][27][28]

According to C. Schönig (2003), after accounting for areal effects, the shared lexicon that could have a common genetic origin was reduced to a small number of monosyllabic lexical roots, including the personal pronouns and a few other deictic and auxiliary items, whose sharing could be explained in other ways; not the kind of sharing expected in cases of genetic relationship.[32]

The Sprachbund hypothesis

Instead of a common genetic origin, Clauson, Doerfer, and Shcherbak proposed (in 1956-1966) that Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages form a Sprachbund: a set of languages with similarities due to convergence through intensive borrowing and long contact, rather than common origin.[26][27][28]

Asya Pereltsvaig further observed in 2001 that, in general, genetically related languages and families tend to diverge over time: the earlier forms are more similar than modern forms. However, she claims that an analysis of the earliest written records of Mongolic and Turkic languages shows the opposite; suggesting that they do not share a common ancestor, but rather have become more similar through language contact and areal effects.[6][41]

Hypothesis about the original homeland

The prehistory of the peoples speaking the "Altaic" languages is largely unknown. Whereas for certain other language families, such as the speakers of Indo-European, Uralic, and Austronesian, it is possible to frame substantial hypotheses, in the case of the proposed Altaic family much remains to be done.[42]

Some scholars have conjectured a possible Uralic and Altaic homeland in the Central Asian steppes.[43][44]

According to Juha Janhunen, the ancestral languages of Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Korean, and Japanese were spoken in a relatively small area comprising present-day North Korea, Southern Manchuria, and Southeastern Mongolia.[45] However Janhunen is sceptical about an affiliation of Japanese to Altaic,[46] while András Róna-Tas remarked that a relationship between Altaic and Japanese, if it ever existed, must be more remote than the relationship of any two of the Indo-European languages.[47]:77 Ramsey stated that "the genetic relationship between Korean and Japanese, if it in fact exists, is probably more complex and distant than we can imagine on the basis of our present state of knowledge".[48]

Supporters of the Altaic hypothesis formerly set the date of the Proto-Altaic language at around 4000 BC, but today at around 5000 BC[8] or 6000 BC.[49] This would make Altaic a language family about as old as Indo-European (4000 to 7,000 BC according to several hypotheses[50]) but considerably younger than Afroasiatic (c. 10,000 BC[51]:33 or 11,000 to 16,000 BC[52]:35–36 according to different sources).

See also



  1. ^ a b Stefan Georg, Peter A. Michalove, Alexis Manaster Ramer, and Paul J. Sidwell (1999): "Telling general linguists about Altaic". Journal of Linguistics, volume 35, issue 1, pages 65–98.
  2. ^ "Interactive Maps The Altaic Family from The Tower of Babel". Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  3. ^ Lyle Campbell and Mauricio J. Mixco (2007): A Glossary of Historical Linguistics; University of Utah Press. Page 7: "While 'Altaic' is repeated in encyclopedias and handbooks most specialists in these languages no longer believe that the three traditional supposed Altaic groups, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic, are related."
  4. ^ Johanna Nichols (1992) Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. Chicago University Press. Page 4: "When cognates proved not to be valid, Altaic was abandoned, and the received view now is that Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic are unrelated."
  5. ^ R. M. W. Dixon (1997): The Rise and Fall of Languages. Cambridge University Press. Page 32: "Careful examination indicates that the established families, Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic, form a linguistic area (called Altaic)...Sufficient criteria have not been given that would justify talking of a genetic relationship here."
  6. ^ a b Asya Pereltsvaig (2012) Languages of the World, An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. Pages 211–216: "[...T]his selection of features does not provide good evidence for common descent" [...] "we can observe convergence rather than divergence between Turkic and Mongolic languages—a pattern than is easily explainable by borrowing and diffusion rather than common descent"
  7. ^ Roger Blench and Mallam Dendo (2008): "Stratification in the peopling of China: how far does the linguistic evidence match genetics and archaeology?" In Alicia Sanchez-Mazas et al., eds. Human migrations in continental East Asia and Taiwan: genetic, linguistic and archaeological evidence, chapter 4. Taylor & Francis.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Sergei Starostin, Anna V. Dybo, and Oleg A. Mudrak (2003): Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, 3 volumes. ISBN 90-04-13153-1.
  9. ^ "Browse by Language Family". Ethnologue. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Roy Andrew Miller (1971): Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-52719-0.
  11. ^ a b c d Roy Andrew Miller (1996): Languages and History: Japanese, Korean and Altaic. Oslo: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture. ISBN 974-8299-69-4. Pages 98–99
  12. ^ a b c Nicholas Poppe (1965): Introduction to Altaic Linguistics. Volume 14 of Ural-altaische Bibliothek. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden.
  13. ^ Alexis Manaster Ramer and Paul Sidwell (1997): "The truth about Strahlenberg's classification of the languages of Northeastern Eurasia." Journal de la Société finno-ougrienne, volume 87, pages 139–160.
  14. ^ Roy Andrew Miller (1986): Nihongo: In Defence of Japanese. ISBN 0-485-11251-5.
  15. ^ Gustaf John Ramstedt (1952): Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft ("Introduction to Altaic Linguistics"). Volume I, Lautlehre ("Phonology").
  16. ^ Nicholas Poppe (1960): Vergleichende Grammatik der altaischen Sprachen. Teil I. Vergleichende Lautlehre, ('Comparative Grammar of the Altaic Languages, Part 1: Comparative Phonology'). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. (Only part to appear of a projected larger work.)
  17. ^ Roy Andrew Miller (1991): "Genetic connections among the Altaic languages." In Sydney M. Lamb and E. Douglas Mitchell (editors), Sprung from Some Common Source: Investigations into the Prehistory of Languages, 1991, 293–327. ISBN 0-8047-1897-0.
  18. ^ Nicholas Poppe (1976): "Review of Karl H. Menges, Altajische Studien II. Japanisch und Altajisch (1975)". In The Journal of Japanese Studies, volume 2, issue 2, pages 470–474.
  19. ^ Unger (1990)J. Marshall Unger (1990) "Summary report of the Altaic panel." In Philip Baldi, ed., Linguistic Change and Reconstruction Methodology, pages 479–482. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin.
  20. ^ Martine Irma Robbeets (2017): "Austronesian influence and Transeurasian ancestry in Japanese: A case of farming/language dispersal". Language Dynamics and Change, volume 7, issue 2, pages 201–251, doi:10.1163/22105832-00702005
  21. ^ Martine Irma Robbeets (2015): Diachrony of verb morphology – Japanese and the Transeurasian languages. Mouton de Gruyter.
  22. ^ John C. Street (1962): "Review of N. Poppe, Vergleichende Grammatik der altaischen Sprachen, Teil I (1960)". Language, volume 38, pages 92–98.
  23. ^ James Tyrone Patrie (1978): The genetic relationship of the Ainu language. Ph. D. thesis, University of Hawaii.
  24. ^ James Tyrone Patrie (1982): The Genetic Relationship of the Ainu Language. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-0724-3
  25. ^ Joseph Greenberg (2000–2002): Indo-European and Its Closest Relatives: The Eurasiatic Language Family, 2 volumes. Stanford University Press.
  26. ^ a b c d Gerard Clauson (1956). "The case against the Altaic theory". Central Asiatic Journal volume 2, pages 181–187
  27. ^ a b c d Gerhard Doerfer (1963): "Bemerkungen zur Verwandtschaft der sog. altaische Sprachen" ('Remarks on the relationship of the so-called Altaic languages') In Gerhard Doerfer ed.: Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, Bd. I: Mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, pages 51–105. Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden
  28. ^ a b c d Alexander Shcherbak (1963).
  29. ^ Gerhard Doerfer (1988): Grundwort und Sprachmischung: Eine Untersuchung an Hand von Körperteilbezeichnungen. Franz Steiner. Wiesbaden:
  30. ^ a b Sergei A. Starostin (1991): Altajskaja problema i proisxoždenie japonskogo jazyka ('The Altaic Problem and the Origin of the Japanese Language'). Nauka, Moscow.
  31. ^ Roy Andrew Miller (1991), page page 298
  32. ^ a b Schönig (2003): "Turko-Mongolic Relations." In The Mongolic Languages, edited by Juha Janhunen, pages 403–419. Routledge.
  33. ^ Stefan Georg (2004): "[Review of Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages (2003)]". Diachronica volume 21, issue 2, pages 445–450. doi:10.1075/dia.21.2.12geo
  34. ^ Stefan Georg (2005): "Reply (to Starostin response, 2005)". Diachronica volume 22, issue 2, pages 455–457.
  35. ^ Alexander Vovin (2005): "The end of the Altaic controversy" [review of Starostin et al. (2003)]. Central Asiatic Journal volume 49, issue 1, pages 71–132.
  36. ^ Sergei A. Starostin (2005): "Response to Stefan Georg's review of the Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages". Diachronica volume 22, issue 2, pages 451–454. doi:10.1075/dia.22.2.09sta
  37. ^ Václav Blažek (2006): "Current progress in Altaic etymology." Linguistica Online, 30 January 2006. Accessed on 2019-03-22.
  38. ^ Martine Robbeets (2007): "How the actional suffix chain connects Japanese to Altaic." In Turkic Languages, volume 11, issue 1, pages 3–58.
  39. ^ Anna V. Dybo and Georgiy S. Starostin (2008): "In defense of the comparative method, or the end of the Vovin controversy." Aspects of Comparative Linguistics, volume 3, pages 109–258. RSUH Publishers, Moscow
  40. ^ Lars Johanson (2010): "The high and low spirits of Transeurasian language studies" in Johanson and Robbeets, eds. Transeurasian Verbal Morphology in a Comparative Perspective: Genealogy, Contact, Chance., pages 7–20. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. Quote: "The dark age of pro and contra slogans, unfair polemics, and humiliations is not yet completely over and done with, but there seems to be some hope for a more constructive discussion."
  41. ^ Asya Pereltsvaig (2011): "The Altaic family controversy". Languages Of The World website, published on 2011-02-16. Accessed on 2017-02-14.
  42. ^ Miller (1991), page 319–320
  43. ^ Nikoloz Silagadze, "The Homeland Problem of Indo-European Language-Speaking Peoples", 2010. Faculty of Humanities at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. ISSN 1987-8583.
  44. ^ Y.N. Matyuishin (2003), pages 368–372.
  45. ^ Lars Johanson and Martine Irma Robbeets (2010): Transeurasian Verbal Morphology in a Comparative Perspective: Genealogy, Contact, Chance.. Introduction to the book, pages 1–5.
  46. ^ Juha Janhunen (1992): "Das Japanische in vergleichender Sicht". Journal de la Société finno-ougrienne, volume 84, pages 145–161.
  47. ^ András Róna-Tas (1988).
  48. ^ S. Robert Ramsey (2004): "Accent, Liquids, and the Search for a Common Origin for Korean and Japanese". Japanese Language and Literature, volume 38, issue 2, page 340. American Association of Teachers of Japanese.
  49. ^ Elena E. Kuz'mina (2007): The Origin of the Indo-Iranians, page 364. Brill. ISBN 978-9004160-54-5
  50. ^ Mallory (1997): Page 106
  51. ^ Igor M. Diakonoff (1988): Afrasian Languages. Nauka, Moscow.
  52. ^ Ehret (2002)


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  • Menges, Karl. H. 1975. Altajische Studien II. Japanisch und Altajisch. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. 1980. Origins of the Japanese Language: Lectures in Japan during the Academic Year 1977–1978. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95766-2.
  • Ramstedt, G.J. 1952. Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft I. Lautlehre, 'Introduction to Altaic Linguistics, Volume 1: Phonology', edited and published by Pentti Aalto. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Ramstedt, G.J. 1957. Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft II. Formenlehre, 'Introduction to Altaic Linguistics, Volume 2: Morphology', edited and published by Pentti Aalto. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Ramstedt, G.J. 1966. Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft III. Register, 'Introduction to Altaic Linguistics, Volume 3: Index', edited and published by Pentti Aalto. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2004. "Swadesh 100 on Japanese, Korean and Altaic." Tokyo University Linguistic Papers, TULIP 23, 99–118.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2005. Is Japanese related to Korean, Tungusic, Mongolic and Turkic? Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Strahlenberg, P.J.T. von. 1730. Das nord- und ostliche Theil von Europa und Asia.... Stockholm. (Reprint: 1975. Studia Uralo-Altaica. Szeged and Amsterdam.)
  • Strahlenberg, P.J.T. von. 1738. Russia, Siberia and Great Tartary, an Historico-geographical Description of the North and Eastern Parts of Europe and Asia.... (Reprint: 1970. New York: Arno Press.) English translation of the previous.
  • Tekin, Talat. 1994. "Altaic languages." In The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Vol. 1, edited by R.E. Asher. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 1993. "About the phonetic value of the Middle Korean grapheme ᅀ." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 56(2), 247–259.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 1994. "Genetic affiliation of Japanese and methodology of linguistic comparison." Journal de la Société finno-ougrienne 85, 241–256.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2001. "Japanese, Korean, and Tungusic: evidence for genetic relationship from verbal morphology." Altaic Affinities (Proceedings of the 40th Meeting of PIAC, Provo, Utah, 1997), edited by David B. Honey and David C. Wright, 83–202. Indiana University, Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2010. Koreo-Japonica: A Re-Evaluation of a Common Genetic Origin. University of Hawaii Press.
  • Whitney Coolidge, Jennifer. 2005. Southern Turkmenistan in the Neolithic: A Petrographic Case Study. Oxbow Books.

Further reading

  • Greenberg, Joseph H. 1997. "Does Altaic exist?" In Irén Hegedus, Peter A. Michalove, and Alexis Manaster Ramer (editors), Indo-European, Nostratic and Beyond: A Festschrift for Vitaly V. Shevoroshkin, Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man, 1997, 88–93. (Reprinted in Joseph H. Greenberg, Genetic Linguistics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 325–330.)
  • Hahn, Reinhard F. 1994. LINGUIST List 5.908, 18 August 1994.
  • Janhune, Juha. 1995. "Prolegomena to a Comparative Analysis of Mongolic and Tungusic". Proceedings of the 38th Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC), 209–218. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Johanson, Lars. 1999. "Cognates and copies in Altaic verb derivation." Language and Literature – Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages: Studies in Honour of Roy Andrew Miller on His 75th Birthday, edited by Karl H. Menges and Nelly Naumann, 1–13. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. (Also: HTML version.)
  • Johanson, Lars. 1999. "Attractiveness and relatedness: Notes on Turkic language contacts." Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: Special Session on Caucasian, Dravidian, and Turkic Linguistics, edited by Jeff Good and Alan C.L. Yu, 87–94. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.
  • Johanson, Lars. 2002. Structural Factors in Turkic Language Contacts, translated by Vanessa Karam. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press.
  • Kortlandt, Frederik. 1993. "The origin of the Japanese and Korean accent systems." Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 26, 57–65.
  • Martin, Samuel E. 1966. "Lexical evidence relating Korean to Japanese." Language 12.2, 185–251.
  • Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2004. "Belief or argument? The classification of the Japanese language." Eurasia Newsletter 8. Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University.
  • Ruhlen, Merritt. 1987. A Guide to the World's Languages. Stanford University Press.
  • Sinor, Denis. 1990. Essays in Comparative Altaic Linguistics. Bloomington: Indiana University, Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies. ISBN 0-933070-26-8.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2009. Japanese, Korean, and other ‘non-Altaic’ languages. Central Asiatic Journal 53 (1): 105–147.

External links

Alexis Manaster Ramer

Alexis Manaster Ramer (born 1956) is a Polish-born American linguist (PhD 1981, University of Chicago).

András Róna-Tas

András Róna-Tas (born 30 December 1931) is a Hungarian historian and linguist. He was born in 1931 in Budapest. Róna-Tas studied under such preeminent professors as Gyula Ortutay and Lajos Ligeti, and received a degree in folklore and eastern linguistics (Tibetan, Mongol, and Turkish.)

In 1957-58, Róna-Tas conducted anthropological fieldwork in Mongolia, studying the culture, language, and folklore of the nomadic tribes in that country. During the mid-1960s Róna-Tas focused his fieldwork on the Chuvash people of the middle Volga River basin. In 1964, Róna-Tas defended his candidates (CSc) degree, and finally in 1971 he earned a doctorate from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (DSc) with his thesis "The Theory of Linguistic Affinity and the Linguistic Relations between the Chuvash and Mongol Languages", published as Linguistic Affinity in 1978.From 1968-2002, Róna-Tas was professor of Altaic Studies and Early Hungarian History at József Attila University in Szeged, where he is now a distinguished professor emeritus. He has published over 450 papers, monographs and reviews. His magnum opus, The Landtaking Hungarians, was published in 1996 and an extended translated version appeared in English in 1999.In addition to his work on the early Magyars, Róna-Tas has published numerous works on other Eurasian societies such as the Tibetans, Kipchaks, Khazars, Oghuz Turks and Alans. He was awarded the prestigious Humboldt Prize in 1996.

Anna Vladimirovna Dybo

Anna Vladimirovna Dybo (Russian: Анна Владимировна Дыбо, born June 4, 1959) is a Russian linguist, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and co-author of the Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages (2003). She is the daughter of Vladimir Dybo.

Colin Masica

Colin P. Masica (born 1931) is professor emeritus in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. Although ostensibly a specialist in Indo-Aryan languages, his real interest has been in the typological convergence of languages belonging to different linguistic stocks in the South Asian area and beyond (see below), more broadly in this phenomenon in general, and in possible explanations for it and implications of it in connection with both linguistic and cultural history.

At the University of Chicago, he taught Hindi at all levels, and occasionally other South Asian languages, along with North Indian cultural history and literature, for three decades, and published on both Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages. His magna opera are Defining a Linguistic Area: South Asia and The Indo-Aryan Languages. The latter surveyed more than a century of linguistic research on the many Indo-Aryan languages and dialects of North India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It was written as part of the University of Cambridge's surveys of the language families of the world. The former has had a profound influence on the study of India as a linguistic area.

In his seminal Defining a Linguistic Area: South Asia and other writings, Masica has drawn on studies and grammars of both South Asian and non-South Asian languages by various European (especially Russian), British, American, Indian and other Asian scholars, to demonstrate the typological parallels among the Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Munda, Tibeto-Burman languages of South Asia and with the Iranian and Altaic languages (including Korean and Japanese) of Central and Northeast Asia, in comparison with types prevalent beyond this zone.

Denis Sinor

Denis Sinor (born Dénes Zsinór, April 17, 1916 in Kolozsvár (Austria-Hungary, now Cluj-Napoca, Romania) – January 12, 2011 in Bloomington, Indiana) was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Central Asian Studies at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and a tenured lecturer at Cambridge University between 1948 and 1962, and was one of the world's leading scholars for the history of Central Asia. Under his directorship, the Central Asian Studies at Indiana University became one of the world's foremost centers for Central Asian history, languages and linguistics. He grew up in Hungary and Switzerland and went to university in Budapest. During the Second World War, he was a member of the French resistance, served in the French army, and became a French citizen. Sinor wrote eight books and edited an additional thirteen. He authored more than 160 articles in several languages such as English, German, French, Hungarian, Russian and many other, more than 150 book reviews, and also contributed to Encyclopædia Britannica. Sinor also served as editor of the Journal of Asian History starting with the publication's inception in 1967.

Eurasiatic languages

Eurasiatic is a proposed language macrofamily that would include many language families historically spoken in northern, western, and southern Eurasia.

The idea of a Eurasiatic superfamily dates back more than 100 years. Joseph Greenberg's proposal, dating to the 1990s, is the most widely discussed version. In 2013, Mark Pagel and three colleagues published what they believe to be statistical evidence for a Eurasiatic language family.

The branches of Eurasiatic vary between proposals, but typically include Altaic (Mongolic, Tungusic and Turkic), Chukchi-Kamchatkan, Eskimo–Aleut, Indo-European, and Uralic—although Greenberg uses the controversial Uralic-Yukaghir classification instead. Other branches sometimes included are the Kartvelian and Dravidian families, as proposed by Pagel et al., in addition to the language isolates Nivkh, Etruscan and Greenberg's "Korean–Japanese–Ainu". Some proposals group Eurasiatic with even larger macrofamilies, such as Nostratic; again, many other professional linguists regard the methods used as invalid.

Gustaf John Ramstedt

Gustaf John Ramstedt (October 22, 1873 – November 25, 1950) was a Finnish diplomat and linguist.

Karl Heinrich Menges

Karl Heinrich Menges (April 22, 1908 – September 20, 1999) was a German linguist specializing in Altaic languages. He was a faculty member at Columbia University in New York and subsequently at the University of Vienna.

Menges was born in Frankfurt, where he was educated at the Lessing Gymnasium. He studied in Frankfurt and Munich and earned his doctorate at the University of Berlin in 1932. Politically identifying as a Catholic centrist, he resisted the Nazi regime, distributing leaflets. In 1936 he was arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated for five hours; on a tip-off from a classmate, after being released pending trial he fled to Czechoslovakia, after the annexation of the Sudetenland moving on to Turkey.Menges taught at Columbia University in New York for 36 years, from 1940 to 1976. He had been invited to teach Slavic languages; the university discovered only after his arrival that he taught the then little-studied Altaic languages. After his retirement from Columbia he taught at the University of Vienna until shortly before his death in Vienna at the age of 91. Over his career, he taught at a total of 13 institutions in seven countries.At the age of 19, Menges was one of the first Westerners to visit the Volga region and the Caucasus within the Soviet Union. He was quoted variously as saying he spoke between 24 and "over 50" languages, and said that when he came to the United States he was the only person in the country who could speak Uzbek. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972. He published numerous articles and 15 books; a revised edition of his The Turkic Languages and Peoples, first published in 1968, appeared in 1995. His articles, as well as his teaching, were characteristically interdisciplinary, and in addition to Altaic, he made important contributions to Slavic, Turkic, Tungusic, and Dravidian language studies. A complete thematically organized index of his publications appeared in 2006.

Khakas people

The Khakas, or Khakass (Khakas: Тадарлар, Tadarlar), are a Turkic people, who live in Russia, in the republic of Khakassia in southern Siberia. They speak the Khakas language.

The origin of the Khakas people is disputed. Some scholars see them as descendants of the Yenisei Kirghiz, while others believe that, at the behest of the medieval Mongol Khans, the Yenisei Kirghiz migrated to Central Asia. It is believed that the Khakas people and Fuyu Kyrgyz are closer to the ancient Yenisei Kirghiz, who are both Siberian Turkic peoples (Northeastern Turkic), rather than the Kyrgyz people of modern Kyrgyzstan, who are Kipchak Turkic people (Northwestern Turkic).

Koreanic languages

The Koreanic languages are a language family consisting of the modern Korean language together with extinct ancient relatives.

The language of Jeju Island, considered by some as a dialect of modern Korean, is distinct enough to be considered a language in its own right by other authorities. This would make Korean and Jeju a small language family.

Koreanic is suggested to have originated somewhere in Manchuria and later migrated into the Korean Peninsula.

List of rural localities in the Altai Republic

This is a list of rural localities in the Altai Republic. The Altai Republic (; Russian: Респу́блика Алта́й, romanized: Respúblika Altáj, pronounced [rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə ɐlˈtaj]; Altai: Алтай Республика, Altay Respublika) is a federal subject of Russia (a republic). Its capital is the town of Gorno-Altaysk. The area of the republic is 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 sq mi), and its population is 206,168 (2010 Census).

Nicholas Poppe

Nicholas N. Poppe (Russian: Никола́й/Ни́колас Никола́евич Поппе, Nikoláj/Níkolas Nikolájevič Poppe; July 27, 1897 – August 8, 1991) was an important Russian linguist.

He is also known as Nikolaus Poppe, with his first name in its German form. He is often cited as N.N. Poppe in academic publications.

Poppe was a leading specialist in the Mongolic languages and the larger Altaic language family to which, in the view of many linguists, the Mongolic, Turkic, and Tungusic languages belong. Poppe was open-minded toward the inclusion of Korean in Altaic, but regarded the evidence for the inclusion of Korean as less strong than that for the inclusion of Mongolic, Turkic, and Tungusic.

Proto-Altaic language

The Proto-Altaic language is a hypothetical extinct language that has been proposed as the common ancestor of the Altaic languages.

In the 18th century, some similarities between the Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic languages led to the conjecture that they would be a single language family with a common ancestral language. Starting in the 19th century, some linguists proposed to include also the Japonic and/or Koreanic languages as well as the Ainu language, forming what would later be called the "Macro-Altaic family" (the original one being then dubbed "Micro-Altaic"). Around the same time others proposed to include the Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic languages in a Ural-Altaic family.Versions of the Altaic family hypothesis were widely accepted until the 1960s, and is still listed in many encyclopedias and handbooks. However, in recent decades the proposal has received subtantial criticisms, and has been rejected by many comparative linguists.Nevertheless, "Altaicists" (supporters of the theory of a common origin for the Altaic languages) such as Václav Blažek and Sergei Starostin have endeavored to reconstruct "Proto-Altaic", the hypothetical common ancestral language of the family.

Some Altaicists have proposed that the original area where Proto-(Macro-)Altaic would have been spoken was a relatively small area comprising present-day North Korea, Southern Manchuria, and Southeastern Mongolia. The date for its split into the major recognized families was estimated at 5000 BC or 6000 BC. This would make Altaic a language family about as old as Indo-European (4000 to 7,000 BC according to several hypotheses) but considerably younger than Afroasiatic (c. 10,000 BC or 11,000 to 16,000 BC according to different sources).

Reciprocal construction

A reciprocal construction (abbreviated RECP) is a grammatical pattern in which each of the participants occupies both the role of agent and patient with respect to the other. An example is the English sentence John and Mary criticized each other: John criticized Mary, and Mary criticized John. Reciprocal constructions can be said to express mutual relationships.

Many languages, such as Semitic languages, Altaic languages or Bantu languages, have special reciprocal affixes in verbs. Other languages, including English, use reciprocal pronouns such as "each other" to indicate a mutual relation. Latin uses the preposition inter and its reflexive pronoun inter se (between themselves) when the verb is third person. Most Indo-European languages do not have special reciprocal affixes on verbs, and mutual relations are expressed through reflexive constructions or other mechanisms. For example, Russian reciprocal constructions have the suffix -sja (-ся, 'self'), which also has reflexive and passive interpretations.

Roy Andrew Miller

Roy Andrew Miller (September 5, 1924 – August 22, 2014) was an American linguist notable for his advocacy of Korean and Japanese as members of the Altaic group of languages.

Sergei Starostin

Sergei Anatolyevich Starostin (Cyrillic: Серге́й Анато́льевич Ста́ростин, March 24, 1953 – September 30, 2005) was a Russian historical linguist and philologist, perhaps best known for his reconstructions of hypothetical proto-languages, including his work on the controversial Altaic theory, the formulation of the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis, and the proposal of a Borean language of still earlier date. He was also the author of a widely respected reconstruction of Old Chinese.

Shichirō Murayama

Shichirō Murayama (村山 七郎, Murayama Shichirō, 25 December 1908 in Ibaraki Prefecture – 13 May 1995) was a Japanese linguist who started his career lecturing at Juntendo University, and went on to become full professor at Kyoto Sangyo University. One of the world’s foremost authorities on the Altaic languages, he later made important contributions to the mixed-language theory of the origins of Japanese. Denis Sinor regarded him, together with Shirō Hattori, Samuel E. Martin, and Osada Natsuki as one of the four scholars who have done most to throw light on the origins of the Japanese language.


TUT can refer to:

Tramways & Urban Transit magazine

Altaic languages (ISO 639 alpha-3, tut)

The Unquestionable Truth, 2005 Limp Bizkit album

The Unbelievable Truth, 2000s BBC radio comedy

Tulip Television, a television station in Toyama, JapanUniversitiesTainan University of Technology, Taiwan, Republic of China

Taiyuan University of Technology, Shanxi, People's Republic of China

Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

Tampere University of Technology, Finland

Tokyo University of Technology, Japan

Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan

Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Tsukuba University of Technology, Japan

Ural–Altaic languages

Ural–Altaic, Uralo-Altaic or Uraltaic is a linguistic convergence zone and former language-family proposal uniting the Uralic and the Altaic (in the narrow sense) languages. It is generally now agreed that even the Altaic languages most likely do not share a common descent: the similarities among Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic are better explained by diffusion and borrowing. Cecelia Eaton Luschnig, an expert of Ancient Greek language, has written that "this term and the kinship it implies is now considered obsolete" as a family proposal.

However, the term continues to be used for the central Eurasian typological, grammatical and lexical convergence zone.

Indeed, "Ural-Altaic" may be preferable to "Altaic" in this sense. For example, J. Janhunen states that "speaking of 'Altaic' instead of 'Ural-Altaic' is a misconception, for there are no areal or typological features that are specific to 'Altaic' without Uralic."Originally suggested in the 18th century, the genealogical and racial hypotheses remained debated into the mid-20th century, often with disagreements exacerbated by pan-nationalist agendas. It had many proponents in Britain. Since the 1960s, the proposed language family has been widely rejected. A relationship between the Altaic, Indo-European and Uralic families was revived in the context of the Nostratic hypothesis, which was popular for a time, with for example Allan Bomhard treating Uralic, Altaic and Indo-European as coordinate branches. However, Nostratic too is now mostly rejected.

Altaic Hypothesis
and Asia
New Guinea
and the Pacific
See also
Existing systems


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