A draft of the Bulgaric and Turkic migration from 1000 BCE to 1000 CE,
an older version (2008)
Historically attested later migrations of Turkic peoples between 500
and 1200 CE (2012)
Turkiclanguages is a closely related phylogenetic group further related
to Mongolic and Tungusic languages [see, for instance, Hugjiltu (1995)
and herein (2009-12)(2012)[5a]]
within the proposed Altaic family [e.g. Starostin (1991)].
Whereas Turkic languages is a generally-accepted
term, another correct name for a grouping comprising the Turkic and Bulagric languages
could be Bulgaro-Turkic because of the early separation of the Bulgaric
branch from the rest of the stem; consequently, Bulgaric and Turkic
can rather be used as names of the two sibling taxons, even though this usage
is far less common. According to the present glottochronological study,
the Bulgaric languages apparently branched off from the Turkic languages at a
rather early period of time, most likely c. 1100-900 BC, which is considerably
earlier than normally cited elsewhere.[10a][10b]
The discrepancy can be attributed to the use of apparently incorrect Starostin's
glottochronological formulas in other studies, although the exact date cannot
be calculated with precision due the taxonomical uniqueness of Chuvash and possible
The location of the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic
homeland is still controversial, however the present study sugests
that it was most likely confined to the area in northern Kazakhstan
south of the Irtysh River /eer-TISH/, including its tributaries
Tobol /taw-BAWL/ and Ishim /ee-SHIM/. This conclusion can be drawn
from the position of the Bulgaro-Turkic center-of-gravity and the
corroborative geolexical analysis [see herein (2009-2013)].
The combined results of this investigation and the archaeological
evidence suggest that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic people inhabited
the forested steppeland of West Siberia during the classical Bronze
Age period (c. 2000-1000 BCE), thus apparently matching certain
cultures from the Andronovo archaeological horizon.
geolexical analysis based on the materials collected in SIGTY, Lexis (2002)
suggests that the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic people lived in the open habitat
with deciduous groves (birch, willow, aspen, linden); occasional marshland; freshwater
and saline lakes with various fish, waterfowl and small mammal fauna, particularly
beavers. Terms denoting taiga or desert ecozone have not been preserved. The Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic
people were well familiar with crop cultivation (millet, barley, Spelt, possibly
flax), cattle and horse breeding, dairy products, metal working (bronze, copper
and precious metals), horse harnessing and riding, as well as probably the wheeled
The active spread and diversificational
migration of Proto-Bulgaric and Proto-Turkic apparently began between 900 and
200 BCE, which matches the onset of the Iron Age in West Siberia and could be
connected with the widespread introduction of equestrianism and iron weapons, though most details of this process are still hypothetical.
geographical tree of Turkic languages (2012)
glottochronological tree of Turkic languages (2012)
the present classification of Bulgaro-Turkic languages
is probably one of the oldest branches of historical linguistics, given that the
earliest sketch of Turkic dialects was drawn by Mahmud al-Kashgari c. 1073,
years before the first Crusade. There were many previous attempts to build
a consistent classification of Turkic languages [see for instance, Baskakov's
review (1969) for historiographic
details]. The most prominent classifications were those of Rémusat
(1820), Balbi (1847), Berezin (1848, 1857), Ilminskiy (1861), Vámbéry
(1885), Radloff (1882), Katanov (1894), Aristov (1896), Müller (1896), Foy
(1903), Korsh (1910), Winkler (1921), Samoylovich (1922), Rahmati (1922), Bogoroditskiy
(1934), Ligeti (1934), Batmanov (1947), Räsänen (1949), Malov (1951), Baskakov
(1952, 1969, 1988), Benzing (1959), Menges (1959), Tekin (1980), Johanson (1998),
Schoening (1999), Dyachok (2001), Anna Dybo (2006), Mudrak (2002, 2009),
ASJP (2009). Accordingly, a slightly different version was published about every
five years for the past two centuries or so. Whereas some of these classifications
were just superficial attempts without much justification, others were part of
a lifetime work (e.g. Radloff, Baskakov).
classical Baskakov's classification,
first presented in 1952 (then republished in 1969, 1988), was widely accepted
in the Soviet/Russian Turkology at least until the 2000's, and seems to have affected
even some of the western approaches. It did not include, however, any lexicostatistical
study, and most of its conclusions were based upon phonological and some grammatical
observations alone. In his books, Baskakov used expressions like "a complex
system isogloss" by which he apparently understood a vague conglomeration
of lingustic traits, which marks his classification as rather phenetic in nature.
As to other recent works, Anna Dybo's research (2006)[10a]
is purely lexicostatistical, based on Swadesh-100, whereas Oleg Mudrak's classification
(2002, 2009)[10b] is phono-morphostatistical.
present taxonomic system was rebuilt nearly from scratch, and is not directly
based on any previous classification system, consequently, it may differ from
earlier works in several aspects. It tries to take a look into phonolgical, grammatical,
and lexical features of Turkic languages, as well as their known geography, history
and archaeology. Speaking in biological terms, it can also be seen as an attempt
at a cladistic phylogeny which tries to differentiate between plesiomorphies
and shared innovations.
present taxonomic description does not address any rare or obsolete languages,
for which no lexical data were found either because of access difficulties or
the nearly complete absence of historical evidence (e.g. "Hunnic"),
therefore by no means should this study be viewed as exhaustive. The total
number of modern Turkic ethnicities exceeds 50, especially if all the large dialect-languages
and notable ethnic groups with individual self-appellations are counted, so it
is difficult to mention and describe all of them. Consequently, the present series
of articles has mostly been focused on getting all the major subgroups together
in the proper order, something that was particularly hard to accomplish considering
the close proximity of most Turkic sub-branches and their posterior interaction.
It should also be noted that this
particular page was inspired by the comprehensive work on the numerals of the
world conducted by Mark Rosenfelder.
nine nouns listed below were carefully chosen to visually demonstrate the maximum
phonological differences across the Turkic languages, unlike the numbers which
simply run from 1 to 10. Font colors tend to mark phonologically similar lexemes,
except the black color that stands for "unclassified", or gray that
marks an "internal lexical replacement or borrowing". One should not
pay much attention to the colors, these are mostly auxiliary and were used to
analyze the material at the initial stage, but were not removed afterwards, since
they still help to visually pick up similar phonetic elements.
the mutual proximity of Turkic languages
lexicostatistical proximity map of Turkic languages (2012)
A frequently asked question concerns
the mutual intelligibility between Turkish and other Turkic languages. The question
has been explored, for instance, by Talat Tekin (1979).
Of course, no two languages can be entirely "mutually intelligible",
let alone the subjectivity of this concept, so by mutual intelligibility we understand
mutual lexical proximity under standardized conditions. In any case, it turns
out that Turkish is pretty much a western language and therefore is rather distant
from other Turkic subgroups. Of the major Turkic languages, it exhibits close
proximity only to Azeri and some of the lesser Seljuk languages (such as Gagauz,
to which it is particularly close), sharing with them most grammar and vocabulary
(cf., say, the relatedness between Spanish and Portuguese). There's much less
mutual intelligibility with Turkmen than one could expect from their common Oghuz
descent. On the other hand, Uzbek and Uyghur, despite being even further geographically,
still share lots of familiar Old Turkic, Persian and Arabic words with Turkish
and can be learned with some effort as any two comparale in-group languages, cf.
for instance English
and Danish. The intelligibility of Turkish with the languages that had limited
contact with Oghuz tribes and the Perso-Arabic world, such as Kazakh and Kyrgyz,
let alone the languages located east of the Irtysh River line or beyond the Altay
Mountains, is extremely poor or zero. For isntance, speaking kust one of the Oghuz
languages, it is hardly possible to understand anything but a few words in Kazakh
or vice versa without preparation. However, many similar words and typical idioms
for instance, such as the local variants of var/bar/pur "there
is" and yok/jok/s'uk "there is not", to name just one of
the most frequently used ones can be picked up even as far as Sakha and
Chuvash, whereas the fundamentals of basic grammatical structure and many mophological
suffixes are largely similar in all the Turkic languages.
the meticulous lexicostatistical study of 215-word Swadesh lists,
we can now make precise conclusions concerning the actual mutual proximity of
the Turkic languages (see the clickable map above). Outside of (1) Chuvash
and (2) Sakha, which have been notorious for centuries for their independent
positions, there are several internal lexical clusters or intelligibility islands:
(3) Oghuz-Seljuk, (4) Great-Steppe, (5) Altay-Khakas, (6)
Tuvan, (7) Yugur (Yugur is not measured herein because of the scarcity
of lexical materials but it is clearly different), although (3a) Turkmen
and (4a) Karachay-Balkar likewise seem to be rather detached from the rest.
Note that in real speech, the value
for the subjective intelligibility will normally be much lower than the
figures in the map obtained for the standardized lexical lists. For instance,
50% in the diagram will approach zero in a real idiomatic fluent speech of a native
speaker, because of many additional effects. On the other hand, the abundance
of shared Arabic, Persian or Russian borrowings will contribute to the intelligibility
in formal speech even between distant languages.
A note on the Silk Road and the Central
One can better understand
the migration of Turkic languages after familiarizing with the geography of the
Silk Road and the concept of the *Central
Asian Bridge. During the Middle Ages, people could not use flying carpets.
Any kind of travel or ethnic migration could only proceed along narrow, geographically
suitable pathways extending between deserts and mountain ranges and forming a
natural, permanent network of migration routes. Basically, in Central Asia, a
considerable part of this network became known as the Silk Road. The Silk Road
is often considered merely from the economic perspective, although it also played
a critical military, cultural, demographic, and linguistic role being a unique,
vital artery which conveyed and maintained life in Eurasia for many generations.
The Huns, the Turks, the Mongols, the Gipsies, whoever passed through Central
Asia, could only travel along this natural migratory system; consequently, the
distribution and classification of peoples in Asia is in fact nearly predetermined
by the geographical structure of its routes and adjacent areas. That is especially
true of the Turkic, Mongolic, and Iranian peoples who have lived by and off the
Silk Road for hundreds of years. The Silk Road was also a streaming jet of genes
running in the opposite directions that contributed to the exchange of the human
DNA in Eurasia. It also carried infections, such as plague, in both directions,
and brought tea, paper, compass, gunpowder, and other inventions to Europe causing
it to rise from the Middle Ages into the era of art, reason, technology, as well
as fierce firearm warfare.
note on clan societies
structure of Turkic (and other Eurasian) tribes has been based on the system of
patrilineal clans. In Europe, the clan structure has been well-known for
the Celtic tribes [cf. Scottish Gaelic clann, Old Irish cland "tribe,
offspring", also cf. semantically similar English kin, Old English
cynn "relatives, family"]. In many ways, clans and their names
worked in the same way as modern European surnames, which are apparently nothing
but remnants of the Indo-European clan structure.
the 20th century and sometimes even later, the Turkic clans dictated many rules
and laws of social living. Each man was supposed to know his family tree down
to the 7th generation (as in the case of the Bashkirs and Kazakh) or at least
to the 4th (Altayans?). Each clan had a guardian spirit that could be interacted
with through a shaman (kam) and some specific sacrifices and practices.
A clan often had a legendary progenitor, whose story had been passed down in oral
tradition, and who had often been connected to a totem animal.[23b]
Moreover, a clan often possessed a cattle tamga
(Mong. "brand"), which apparently is historically similar to the European
coats of arms. We assume herein that the Turkic clan structure can be seen as
a model for many societies of the Bronze and Iron Age, including Indo-European.
a clan members were considered brothers and sisters who had many social responsibilities
and could not intermarry either entirely (Altayans) or until a certain generation.
Even today many Turkic society members often regard themselves as part of a large
social family as opposed to the Western much individualistic worldview. Marriages
were often arranged by parents at a very early age sometimes even at the
cradle with a member of a specific neighboring clan. The memory of cradle
or children's marriages seems to be reflected in modern life when we say that
"people are destined for each other". Though generally the marriage
customs varied. For instance, in other cases, the young man could choose his bride,
and the marriage was accompanied by paying the bride price (qalïn)
to the bride's family. Furthermore, at least judging by Genghis Khan's story,[23a]
in the case of the Mongols, wives and concubines could be obtained by force as
war trophies. Alien clans could also be integrated into a local society, which
explains why we find, for instance, Kipchak clans as far apart as the Altai Mountains
and the Black Sea, and which also explains why people with different DNA haplogroups
could be part of a society speaking the same language.
names of Turkic languages and clan names often seem to be connected. As it was
shown in [On the origins of Turkic ethnonymy],
the name of the strongest and richest clan was often passed to the confederacy
of clans, and sometimes, after a thousand years or so, to the name of a language.
Taking the example of the Smiths in English, we could make a reconstruction of
a certain male, apparently a blacksmith, that lived in England during a certain
unknown period before the 10th century, and if the English clan structure were
fully developed, the English language could presently be called something like
"Smithish" or "Smithonian". Sometimes, such language naming
was done almost deliberately in the course of the 20th century, for instance the
failure to realize that the word Kypchak functioned basically in the same way
as a family clan name, resulted in its rather unfounded extrapolation in Baskakov's
classification [see below]. Moreover, and in practice, the Smith family name was
probably reinvented and readopted many times, so not all the Smiths are related
to each other; by the same token, this analogy explains that not anyone who is
called a Tatar or Kypchak has in fact anything to do with the original progenitor
of the Tatars or Kypchaks. In many cases, trying to find the original meanings
of Turkic ethnonyms seems to be quite pointless, since they often do not contain
any more meaning than, say, such English surnames as Archer, Hawkins or Green,
so unreasonable ethnonymic guessing is a constant source of errors and folk etymologies.
Radloff explained in the 1860's,[23b]
the 19th century's Kazakh social structure, which is apparently a typical representation
of early Turkic societies in general, was built in the following way. At the basement
of the social pyramid, there were 6-10 families forming an aul (a village)
that used the same geographic pattern of migration throughout the year. The head
of the aul was usually the oldest and the richest man, and most of the other aul
members were personally related to him. At winter camps (qïshlïq),
several auls formed a larger gathering, where the judicial power belonged to a
bey, the richest alderman that was able to settle any conflicts or disputes
between different auls. Several clan subdivisions of this type formed a full clan,
where the internal matters were usually settled by a council of beys. At times,
a group could branch off from the rest of the old clan and receive the name of
its new ruling bey leader, thus forming a new clan. Finally, to defend from external
enemies or to invade them and capture their pastures, cattle or slaves, a number
of clans could be united into a horde (an army) headed by an electable
khan. The rulers and the ruling clans were known as ak sök "white
bone", whereas the common people were called kara kalk "black
people" or kara sök "black bone".
Notes on transcription
encoding, let alone the IPA signs, were avoided right from the beginning for reasons
of compatibility, consequently the present system of transcription and transliteration
may initially seem slightly unusual.
ö is used as in Turkish or German; ï is a back high vowel similar to
the Russian <bI> letter or the Turkish <I> vowel; [A special note
should be made on the pronunciation of /ï/ for English speakers, since the
information in en.wikipedia.org tends to be misleading. The closest match of /ï/
is the short English /i/ in kit, din, however /ï/ is a back
vowel with the tongue being pushed much further into the throat, which creates
a rather peculiar acoustic effect, distantly similar to cut or dun.
this vowel does not exist in English and it cannot be directly compared to a shwa
in about, ago, since the schwa is a middle-middle vowel, and the /ï/
is supposed to be high-back. This sound seems to be a Eurasian areal phenomenon,
so in addition to Turkic, it also exists in Mongolic, Korean, Slavic and many
other neighboring languages. In the English spelling, it is usually denoted as
<y>, e.g. Kyrgyz /kir-GIZ, keh-r-GEHZ/.]
is mostly schwa as in about, but in some languages may denote a different
sound; N is the nasal /ng/; x is usually a velar <kh> similar
to the Russian <x> or the Spanish <j> ; sh as in English; zh
as in treasure but usually less palatalized; ð (in Bashkir, Turkmen)
as in this; ß as in thump; s' (in Chuvash) is
a palatalized form of /s/ similar to the Russian <Cb>
letters (an S with the soft sign at the end) or just a soft /s/ to some extent
similar to the Japanese <sh>; d' is a palatalized /d/ in Altay Turkic
similar to the very light pronunciation of <J> in English; /J/ and /j/ is a sound similar to the <j> in Jack or a strongly palatalized
q and G are respectively
voiceless and voiced deep velars (or even uvulars). [Note
that <q> is the traditional way to denote the voiceless "throaty"
velar sound in English, usually of Arabic, cf. "Quran", or Turkic origin,
cf. "Nissan Qashqai". Even though this sound must have been the original
Proto-Turkic phoneme, it seems to be falling out of use throughout the Turkic
history, being slowly replaced by /k/ and /g/ from Russian, Greek and other western
languages. In other words, the /k/:/q/ distinction is in fact often non-phonemic:
the /q/ is usually pronounced in /qa/, /qu/, /qo/, /qï/, but moved forward
allophonically in /ke/, /ki/. Moreover, the younger Russian-influenced speakers
may replace it by /k/ or attenuate it in all the cases.];
(in Tuvan, Tofa, Proto-Turkic) is a way to denote reconstructed phonemes probably
intermediate between /p/ and /b/ as in Mandarin or some Mongolic languages;
D- (in Yugur, Tuvan) is a reconstructed phoneme probably intermediate between
/t/ and /d/ as in Mandarin; -D- (in Old Turkic, intervocal) is a reconstructed
phoneme that was probably similar either to the Spanish intervocal -d-
or the interdental English /ð/; *S (in Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic) is a reconstructed
phoneme with much surrounding controversy, probably similar either to the palatalized
/s'/ as in Chuvash or the Japanese /sh/ or the Russian /sch/ or even the English
/j/; *R (in Proto-Turkic) is a reconstructed trill, probably a mixture
of /r/ and /z/ as in Czech; *L (in Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic) is a reconstructed
palatalized lateral fricative similar to the one in modern Khalkha
Mongolian, essentially a mixture of /l/ and /s/; *H marks intense aspiration
or a similar reconstructed phoneme; ' after vowels (in Chuvash) marks stress;
the pronunciation of certain other phonemes may in fact be unconfirmed, unattested
The Turkic languages do
not have any clearly defined rules for the dynamic stress as the European languages
do, and the stress seems to vary depending on the intonation, but separate words
are normally pronounced with the stress on the final syllable, e.g. usually Tatar
at the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic reconstructionm
kind of reconstruction of a proto-language is more of an art than an exact science,
so inevitably it should be taken with a grain of salt. As one should understand
perfectly well, there is no such thing as the correct or generally-accepted reconstruction,
they all are merely artificial approximations that normally cause much unsubstantiated
argument among different authors, and in many cases are unfalsifiable. Consequently,
Starostin's team's work typically cited for Proto-Turkic cannot be viewed as ultimate
reality, either. For the same reason, there was some disagreement between Yusuf
Gürsey and me (2009-10) on a number of issues in Proto-Turkic, e.g. the problem
of the initial S*- vs. y*, the initial t-/d-, b-/m- controversy,
the final -q in Chuvash, etc. In any case, the following brief reconstruction
was performed to the best of our knowledge and according to the outlines in the
introduction to the main article.
The present study
suggests that the Bulgaric peoples must have migrated around the Southern Ural
/YOO-ral/ towards the middle
course of the Volga River somewhere during the Sarmatian period and the beginning
of the Iron Age, that is c. 7th-3rd century BC. In any case and for all practical
purposes, one should keep in mind that the difference between Bulgaric and Turkic
is very significant, and they should rather be viewed as separate taxonomic groupings.
Herein, we consistently reserve the term Turkic (Proper) to refer only
to the languages outside Bulgaric, using Bulgaro-Turkic as the most general
Subgroup: Volga Bulgaric
/BOOL-gars/ were a subgroup
of Turkic nomads that first appeared in the Caucasus c. 350 and then on the Danube
c. 475. They seem to have contributed to the creation of several medieval kingdoms:
(0) the short-lived Old Great Bulgaria (632-671) founded by Khan Kubrat
in the Pontic Steppe that led to the formation of the other three affiliate states,
ruled by his sons: (1) Volga Bulgaria(670-1236) along the
middle course of the Volga River, which finally gave rise to present-day Chuvashia
/chu-VUSH-iya/; (2) Danube Bulgaria (670 -864), which gave rise to
the modern Slavic-speaking Bulgaria; and finally (3) the Khazar
Khagante /ha-ZAR, ka-ZAR/ (650-969) near the Caspian Sea, which
was famous for its Judaism butfinally disappeared. The Bulgaric languages
are only poorly attested in historical records. Volga Bulgar and Danube Bulgar
are only known from a few inscriptions written with Greek and Arabic characters
or Old Turkic runes. Khazar is only known from the inscription "oqurüm"
(I have read) and the name of the city of Sar-kel (=White House or Tower).
Therefore, the only surviving remnant of Bulgaric languages is Modern Chuvash
descending from the language of Volga Bulgaria.
A Danube Bulgarian
/chah-VAHSH, chuh-VUSH/, cf. Russified pronunciation /choo-VUSH/ is still spoken
in the Chuvash Republic (capital: Cheboksary /chehbok-SAH-reh/)
and is believed to be the direct descendant of the language of Volga
Bulgaria (ancient capitals: Bolghar and Bilar;
the latter was a large city about 2 miles across). Volga Bulgaria was founded
c. 670, near the confluence of the Volga and Kama /KAH-ma/
River. Commanding the middle Volga, this state controlled trade between the northern
Europe and Persia, and was similar in this respect to the Kievan Rus that controlled
the Dnepr /NEE-per/ River. Volga
Bulgaria was Islamized in 922 after being visited by an Arab writer and diplomat
Ibn-Fadlan. Curiously, his
famous account inspired a modern book, whose plot was used to make The 13th
Warrior movie starring Antonio Banderas. Volga Bulgaria was destroyed during
the Tatar-Mongol invasion in 1236. Consequently, Middle Chuvash has been strongly
affected by Tatar. Today, the "Devil's Tower" in the Yelabuga /ye-LAH-booga/
town on the Kama River (see left fig. below) is one of the few standing remnants
of this long gone civilization, although the 13th-14th century buildings in Bolghar
(see right fig. below) also preserve its spirit. In 1552, the Russians seized
Kazan /ka-ZAN/ further affecting
the Chuvash language and culture. In any case, the standalone position of Chuvash
among other Turkic languages is rather indisputable, much of its lexical core
is quite archaic, and it can be seen as a valuable data source for the purposes
of Bulgaro-Turkic reconstruction. There are 1.04 million speakers (2010),[24d]
most of them bilingual in Russian. As an example, here's a very lovely
folk song (mp3) in Chuvash with an English
translation note certain Slavic features in music and phonology.
music clips below are chosen to have unusual or enthralling tunes, so we recommend
them as part of this ethnography study.
traditional dress (left); the reconstruction of the Bolghar City (right) the
original Volga Bulgar tower in Yelabuga near the Kama river (left below) the
restored buildings dating from the Golden Horde period (right below)
topographic map of the Altay-Sayan Mountains (clickable), based on maps
supertaxon that excludes any Bulgaric languages is named herein as Turkic (Proper).
It is also sometimes confusingly known as common Turkic, which may have
misleading associations with Proto-Turkic or even certain Turkic conlangs.
late homeland of Proto-Turkic Proper was evidently located near the Altai-Sayan
Mountains /al-TY, sah-YAHN/,
most likely nearnorthwestern ridges of the Altai between 900
BC and 300 BC. This conclusion
can be drawn from the following evidence: (1) the historical distribution of the
early Turkic tribes and the result of backtracking their migration vectors; (2)
the location of the center-of-gravity point of the maximum language diversification
area; (3) archaeological estimations. The date is inferred from a meticulous glottochronological
analysis. Similar hypotheses
were suggested, in fact, at least as early as the 19th century.
This Proto-Turkic period seems to match the onset of the Iron Age in West Siberia,
when iron weapons and horse riding became very common, which might have contributed
to the active spread of the early Turkic dialects. The glottochronologically determined
time depth of the Proto-Turkic split, therefore, seems to be greater than that
of Slavic or Romance (c. 1600 years ago) but more or less similar to that of Germanic.
Apparently, there existed three main
early Proto-Turkic dialects: (1) Eastern, that moved towards Lake Baikal
thus forming Proto-Yakutic, (2) Central, that initially stayed near the
Altai, and (3) Southern, that migrated into Dzungaria
separation between these earliest branches, some of the Turkic languages within
the internal subgroups may still retain a great deal of mutual intelligibility
due to their recent diversification, common borrowings or posterior contacts.
Proto-Turkic to "Siberian Scythians"
the beginning of the Iron Age in West Siberia somewhere between 700 BC and 300
BC, rich archaeological sites in the region of the Tian Shan, Altai and Sayan
Mountains mark the presence of the so called "Siberian Scythians"
see the Pazyryk
/pah-zeh-RIK/ archaeological culture in the Altai Mountains, the Tagar
/tah-GAR/ culture along the upper Yenisei /YEH-ne-SEY/,
and the Uyuk /oo-YOOK/ culture in Tyva. These cultures include burial mounds,
horse burials (usually regarded as typically Turkic trait by archaeologists),
gold bead clothing (in the Arzhan kurgan, part of the Uyuk culture), iron weapons,
horse harness, chariots, petroglyphs, mummies in permafrost, remnants of clothing
including well-preserved carpets, and other exceptional finds. Despite the name,
no direct relatedness to the true Scythians of the Black Sea described by Herodotus
could be demonstrated in any possible way. The term "Scythian" as used
in this context should be regarded as a purely archaeological designation describing
the mutual resemblance of the Iron Age cultures of Central Eurasia that used similar
iron weaponry, horse harness, and particularly, the very specific artistic style
with dynamic gold and bronze animal figurines. Therefore, based on the temporal
and geographic coincidence, we can infer
that these archaeologically attested ethnic groupscould in fact have formed
the basis for late Proto-Turkic (Proper) and the early Turkic dialects after their
initial spilt, although this hypothesis is still controversial.
Additionally, both the early Chinese records and the anthropological and
genetic studies point to the presence of "European invaders" including
an unusually high concentration of the Proto-Indo-European R1a1 haplogroup in
the Altay-Sayan area, which matches the high R1a1 concentration in modern Altay
and Kyrgyz people and other easternmost ethnic groups of Central Asia. These findings
may lead to the representation of the early Turks as people of European (Caucasian)
rather than Mongoloid descent.
Eastern Turkic Languages
Possible reconstructed migrations of Proto-Yakutic (clickable)
This major grouping includes only two
known representatives: Sakha (Yakut) and Dolgan (the northern offshoot
of Sakha), which can be collectively named Yakutic. Note that the name Sakha
/sah-KAH, SAH-kah/ is the original self-appellation, whereas Yakut /ya-KOOT/)
seems to be a Russophone exonym, but the two words are often used interchangeably.
The drastic discrepancy, that set
Yakutic aside from any other Turkic languages, has been well recognized since
the 19th century. Generally, there isn't much doubt that the Yakutic subgroup
should be viewed as an important, early-splitting branch of the Turkic languages.
Most glottochronological studies [e.g. Dyachok (2001)
and herein (2009-12)]
imply a very early separation of Proto-Yakutic from the main stem (somewhere between
c. 200-300 and 900 BC). However, there seem to be certain common features that
the Yakutic supertaxon shares with the Altay-Sayan languages. After a thorough
consideration in this work, these features have been attributed to the secondary
contact between the two supertaxa occurring along the Yenisei River soon after
the initial Proto Turkic split.
Essentially, the Yakuts are a Turkic group that
formed as an outcome of migration along the Lena River (Anglophone: /LEE-nah/,
Russophone: /LEH-nah/). This
has led to a large distribution of Yakutic settlers spreading from the area of
Yakutsk City all the way to the Arctic Ocean.
Yakutic branch seems to be highly deviant in many respects, having little to do
with its closest neighbors, Tuvan or Khakas. Sakha and Dolgan share many Russian
and Mongolic cultural lexical borrowings, and much of their vocabulary seems to
come from an unknown source, though they still retain many important archaic Turkic
features, just as well.
Sakha warriors (staged)
A village along the Lena
details concerning the early Proto-Yakutic migration are inevitably hypothetical,
however the present study
can provide a general outline. Before the beginning of the common era, Proto-Yakutic
must have moved from the Minusinsk Depression in the Altai Mountains towards Lake
Baikal by following the upper reaches of the Yenisei River that takes source in
Mongolia near Lake Khövsgöl. Then, Proto-Yakutic tribes must have continued
down the Irkut River until they reached the western shore of Lake Baikal /by-KAHL/,
where the sources of Lena are located. There on the western and southern shores
of Baikal the Proto-Yakuts apparently must have formed a tribal confederacy, known
as Kurykan /koo-reh-KAHN/, that existed between the 6th and 10th centuries,
according to archaeological evidence and some scanty Chinese and Görkturk historical
The further migration down
the Lena was a much later event, most likely (but not necessarily) connected with
the notorious upheaval of the 13th century, when the Proto-Sakha could have been
expelled from their Baikal habitat by the invading Buryats or other Mongolic tribes.
This is supported by the evidence of a genetic bottleneck that most Proto-Sakha
must have gone through[12a],
and which may document an ancient holocaust, implying that most of them were largely
exterminated during that period. Survivors fled along the Upper Lena towards the
present-day area of Yakutsk. This downstream migration along the Lena must have
been relatively effortless in terms of geographic constraints. The remote
corners of the Lena basin were reached only after the introduction of firearms
in the 17th century, though many distant areas of the taiga are still uninhabited
up to this day.
/yah-KOOT/ (the usual name in Russian), or Sakha /sah-KHAH, sa-HA/ (self-appellation)
is spoken along the Lena basin in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic of Russia
(capital: Yakutsk /yah-KOOTSK/), which is the largest in the world subnational
governing body by area. Though looking large on the map, the region is in fact
covered with dense taiga,
and is scarcely populated, while most life is concentrated along rivers. Historically,
the northern Yakuts were largely hunters, fishermen and reindeer herders, while
the southern Yakuts raised cattle and horses. The city of Yakutsk (originally
Lensky Ostrog "The Lena Fortess") was founded in 1632, when this territory
was annexed by Russia. Religion: originally, Tengriism. C. 450 000 speakers (2010),[24d]
but most are bilingual in Russian.
The Sakha Beauty Contest
Oymyakon [OY-meh-KON], the
Pole of Cold
Yakutsk in winter
/dol-GAHN/ is the northernmost offshoot of Yakutic, spoken near the Taymyr /ty-MIR/
Peninsula and other extremely sparsely populated areas of the northern tundra.
It exposes evident Evenk influence and can be regarded as Sakha over the local
Evenk substratum. According to Ubryatova (1985), Dolgan separated from Sakha before
the end of the 16th century. There are c. 7000 Dolgans (2002), of which less than
80% are actual native speakers.
Central Turkic Languages
This hypothetical major grouping includes about
the 70% of all the present-day Turkic languages that extend from the upper Yenisei
basin in the east all the way across the Great Steppe until the Black Sea in the
west. The supergrouping consists of the two main subtaxa: (1) Altay-Sayan(Turkic) and (2) Great-Steppe(Turkic).
most of the ethnic groups included into the Central supertaxon have been
historically known as either Kyrgyz or Tatar. In some cases, these
names were just faulty exonyms, but in other they seem to be authentic. At any
rate, Kyrgyz and Tatar appear among the oldest clan names used by
the Turkic peoples.
Most ethnic groups
in this supertaxon have been part of the Russian Empire since the 16th-17th centuries,
so naturally most of these languages exhibit pronounced Russian influence particularly
in the cultural and technical vocabulary.
2: ALTAY-SAYAN (YENISEI KYRGYZ)
approximate distribution of the Altay-Sayan languages circa the beginning
of the 20th century (clickable), based on maps from the 1940-60's[12b][12c][12d]
The Altay-Sayan subgroup includes Altay,
Khakas, Tuvan and the closely-related languages. This subgroup probably corresponds
to the descendants of the so called Yenisei
Kyrgyz, a historically important cluster of eastern Turkic tribes that
were attested under various names in Chinese chronicles between 200-900 AD, but
which dissolved after the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. The territory of
the Yenisei Kyrgyz in Khakassia was mentioned under the name Kirgizskaya Zemlitsa
"The Kirgiz Land" during the clashes with the Russians in the 17th century.
Yenisei Kyrgyz are said to have destroyed the Uyghur (= Gökturk) Empire in
Mongolia and its capital Ordu-Baliq /or-DOO bah-LIK/ in 840 AD, which caused
the final dissipation of the Orkhon /or-HON/ Turkic peoples, but led to the rise
of the Yenisei Kyrgyz Kaganate (840-1207).
the Yenisei Kyrgyz seem to have inhabited the Minusinsk Depression in
Khakassia [Minusinsk /mee-noo-SINSK/ is a city near Abakan, the capital of Khakassia].The
Minusinsk Depression is a geographically suitable plane with steppes, lakes, and
valleys located along the upper Yenisei between the Kuznetsk Alatau /kooz-NETSK
AH-lah-TOU/, Western, and Eastern Sayan Ridge. Protected by these mountains, the
Minusinsk Depression has relatively mild climate convenient for agriculture, to
the extent that even cherry and apricot orchards have been grown there at least
since the 19th century.
south, up the Yenisei River, and after crossing the Western Sayan Ridge, one can
arrive into the interconnected Tuva Depression, where the Tyva Republic
is located. By following further along the uppermost reaches of the Yenisei, one
can get into northern Mongolia originally inhabited by two very remote and frequently
omitted Tuvan-related ethnicities, the Tsaatan /tsah-TAHN/ and the Soyot /saw-YOT/.
A Genghis Khan movie filmed
in Tuva and Khakassia (2007)
Shor people processing
traditional Anglophone spelling and pronunciation of Kirg(h)iz is /keer-GEEZ/,
which is based on the Russified variant with an /ee/, but the original Turkic
phonology is rather shorter and harder, therefore /kr-GEZ, ker-GIZ/ is also acceptable.
Anglophone pronunciation of Tuva is /TOO-vah/, however the name of the country
itself has been formally changed in the 1990's to Tyva /tuh-VAH/, which
is supposed to be closer to the Turkic original, whence the modern-day spelling
and pronuciation discrepancy.
Tuvans often still live in classical yurts, many Khakas and Altay peoples seem
to have lived in dugout log huts, leading semi-settled lifestyle, suitable for
fishing, crop cultivation and metal working. It is in fact these types of permanent
dwellings that are typically found in archaeological sites across West Siberia
in the layers corresponding to the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Proto-Altay-Sayan, or Proto-Yenisei-Kyrgyz settleents seem to be identifiable
with the Tashtyk
/tash-TIK/ archaeological culture (2nd BC-5th AD) famous for their stunning, poignant
funerary masks showing rather European features.
striking trait is the odd ethnological resemblance of Altay and Tuvan shamans
to the North American Indians, which may be far from coincidental, judging by
the geographical proximity of Yeniseian
tribes, which have recently been shown to be linguistically related to Na-Dene
superfamily). The genetic studies conducted since 1997 too demonstrate high concentration
of Native American mtDNA lineages in Tuvan, Soyot, Khakas, Altay, and Buryat population
[e.g. Zakharov (2003)].
and Khakas languages and dialects seem to be rather archaic, and contain relatively
few non-Turkic loanwords in their basic vocabulary, except for abundant cultural
borrowings from Russian. Generally speaking, because of the smallest number of
Arabic and Mongolic loanwords, as well as the purity and archaism of their lexicon,
languages like Khakas, Altay, and Kyrgyz can be regarded among the most typical
Turkic languages, preserving the maximum number of late Proto-Turkic features,
so they may provide an idea of what the late Proto-Central or even late Proto-Turkic
Proper may have actually sounded like. Note that Tuvan, on the otherhand, contains
too many Mongolic borrowings.
Altay and Khakas population has been historically subdivided into moe than a hundred
patrilneal clans, known as seoks (sö:k "bone").
the origins of the ethnonym Kyrgyz:(Note: any ethnonymic
remarks are unavoidably hypothetical.) The word "Kyrgyz"
probably originates from the name or alias of a patrilineal clan's progenitor.
Many centuries later, this name must have spread to several other neighboring
clans or clan confederecies, finally becoming overused and ambiguously applied
to many ethnic groups of various descent. It is supposed herein that the word
by itself seems to have the same root as in *kork- "to fear"
or as in *kyr- "to break" and may contain a reduplication of
*kyr-kyr > *kyr-kyz with the first -r retained before the consonant.
Moreover, words of the same phonological shape in Turkic of West Siberia seem
to allude to terror and force, cf. Tuvan korgysh, Khakas xorGïs,
Kyrgyz korkush "fear, terror"; Kazakh qurtu "exterminate",
qïrqu "shearing, cutting"; Altai kïr "erase",
kïrkïsh "shearing", Sakha kïrgïs "fight, destroy
each other", etc.
A more popular
but less likely and less meaningful etymological version (apparently first mentioned
in the History of the Yuan Dynasty) is that the Kyrgyz ethnonym originates
from a juxtaposition qïrq + qïz "the forty girls" or "forty + an unknown
The outdated ethnonym "Karagas"
for Tofa(lar) may too be just another way to pronounce "Kyrgyz"; moreover,
note the direct retention of this ethnonym in Fuyu Kyrgyz in China.
curiously and quite confusingly, the modern generic self-appellation of Khakas
and Altay peoples is in fact Tadarlar (Tatars), probably because of the
widespread usage of this name in the Russian Empire of the 18-19th century.
Yenisei Kyrgyz migrants to the Sayan Mountains
The Tuvan-Tofa subgroup includes Tuvan (proper),
Todzin, Tofa, Tsaatan and Soyot. It represents those ethnic groups
that settled in the south of the region — along the uppermost reaches of the
Yenisei in the Western and Eastern Sayan Mountains. In
other words, from the geographic perspective, the Tuvans and their siblings can
be seen as the Yenisei Kyrgyz tribes that migrated along the Yenisei from the
Minusinsk Depression first into the Tuvan Depression and then into the nearby
regions near the Mongolian border. For this reason, the Tuvan subtaxon may also
be called the Sayan subgroup.
the Tuvan subgroup must have separated from Proto-Khakas and Proto-Altay by about
Tuvan languages and dialects are rather peculiar and exhibit many unusual words,
including Mongolic borrowings, so for the most part, they cannot be understood
not only by the Turks of Central Asia but even by their closest Khakas-Altay neighbors.
The self-appellation Tofa or Tïva might in some way be related to
the name of the Tuba /too-BAH/ River (allegedly originally known as Ul)
in the Minusinsk Depression near Abakan, though this suggestion is controversial.
The Tuvan archaeological sites of
the Uyuk culture reveal striking round burials under kurgans with unique gold
artifacts (Arzhan-1, Arzhan-2)
dating to 800-600 BCE, but usually identified with the rather chimerical "Siberian
Note that the Tuvan
and Tofa(lar) spelling systems may contain voiced symbols, such as <b>,
<d>, <g>, which in practice denote the so called "weak"
consonants that are normally pronounced as unvoiced in the beginning or as semi-voiced
in the intervocal position, as opposed to <p>, <t>, <k> which
always denote aspirated consonants.
is spoken in the Tyva /teh-VAH/ (outdated: Tuva /TOO-va/) Republic
(the capital city: Kyzyl /keh-ZEL, kuh-ZUL/), which is suitably located
in the Tuvan Depression along the upper Yenisei between the Western Sayan
Ridge and the Tannu-Ola
Ridge near the Mongolian border. Tuvan has also been historically known under
the ambiguous name Uriankhai/oo-run-HI/. Tyva was a de jure
independent state between 1920 and 1944, when it was finally fully annexed by
the USSR. Traditional economy: nomadic horse
and cattle breeding; sedentary life in towns since the 19th-20th century. Religion:
Tibetan Buddhism and still some Tengriism. About
253.000 speakers (2010),[24d] of
which at least 60% are bilingual in Russian.
Karagas people were thought to be extinct in the 19th century, yet the Tofa(lar)s
/taw-FAH, taw-fah-LAR/ in the forests of the Eastern Sayan mountains seem to be
their direct continuation. Tofa(lar) [the -lar ending is just a Turkic
plural suffix] probably separated from Tuvan by migrating along the Greater Yenisei
towards its source in the East Sayan. They were recently studied in detail by
Rassadin (1980's-2000's). Reindeer breeding and hunting in the taiga; Tengriistic
shamanism and nomadism before the 1930s. About 760 persons, but only 93 formally
listed as Tofa speakers (2010),[24d]
and just 15 as active speakers (2002). There are c. 1900 Todzin people (2010).
migrants along the Yenisei
Khakas subgroup includes at least the following representatives: (Standard Literary)
Khakas /hhah-KAHS/, which is basically a rather artificial 20th century's
literary koine based on Sagai, and several more true-to-life vernacular languages,
such as Sagai /sah-GY/ (presently, the most commonly spoken vernacular
dialect of Khakas, situated to the east of the Kuznetsk Alatau Mountains), Kach(a)
(Russian "kAchinskiy"; actually from the old self-appellation /qa:sh/;
now rare, though still active in the beginning of the 20th century), Kyzyl
(almost extinct), Koibal, Beltir (extinct); Mras-Su Shor, Kondom Shor (meaning
the Shor people living along the Mrassu and Kondom Rivers near the Kuznetsk Alatau
west of Sagai); finally Middle Chulym /choo-LIM/ (spoken in a couple of
villages, in remote northern areas along the middle course of the Chulym River),
and possibly Lower Chulym (acc. to a local researcher, the last speaker died in
2010). According to Baskakov's classification (1960-80's), the Khakas subgroup
may even include some of the northern Altay dialects.
modern ethnonym "Khakas" was created only in 1918, patterned
on the then-supposed reading of Chinese chronicles [see the discussion in the
published correspondence by Yakhontov, Butanayev (1992)].
Except for formal occasions, this word is still out of use in Khakas communities,
with the main self-appellation "Tadar(lar)" being used instead. (The
"Tadarlar" ethnonym is also accepted among the Altay people.) The reason
why the original generic name for Khakas appears to be lost in history must stem
from the long-standing differentiation of the Khakas subgroup into many unconnected
dialects and languages.
peoples had traditionally practiced nomadic herding, agriculture, hunting, and
fishing, but were mostly Russified and Westernized in the course of the 20th century.
/hhuh-KAHS/ is spoken in the Republic of Khakassia /ha-KAHS-iya/ (capital:
Abakan /abah-KAHN/), that was annexed by Russia in 1727. It is rather
a collection of dialect-languages originally dispersed along the upper Yenisei
in the Minusinsk Depression, but presently mostly extinct, except for Sagai
in villages along the Abakan River. Formally, there are 72.950 persons who consider
themselves "Khakas" and c. 42.000 Khakas speakers (2010),[24d]
but most of them are still proficient in Russian.
A traditional Khakas wedding
located further in the Kuznetsk Alatau, is a small ethnic group closely related
to Khakas people. Population: 2840 speakers (2010)[24d].
The Shor people that lived in forested areas between the Altai and Kuznetsk Alatau
created peculiar songs, such as Pörü
"The wolf", so skillfully performed by singer Chiltis Tannagasheva.
[It sounds like this song really doesn't go along with the modern studio, being
associated with an entirely different story of prehistoric survival.]
is an often omitted and oddly located, and presently nearly extinct variant of
Khakas in northeastern China. It is now remembered only by the elderly
and only to a very small extent. It was originally distributed northwest of Harbin
along the Nenjiang River near a town called Fuyü, hence the odd exonym;
the self-appellation is in fact Gyrgys or Xyrgys. The Fuyü Kyrgyz
seem to have been exiled form Khakssia to Dzungaria in 1703-06 and then resettled
to China in 1761 after the conquest of Dzungaria by the Qing Empire. They apparently
belongs to the Khakas subtaxon (cf. namir < Khakas nanmïr "rain";
and suG "water"). They were studied by Hu, Zheng-Hua (1982),
and recently revisited by Butanayev (2005) from Khakassia, but no detailed description
is available (in Mandarin only?). Religion: originally shamanism, then Lamaism.
/choo-LIM/ river, the tributary of the Ob, flows through the taiga a very long
way from any areas populated by the Khakas or Altay peoples. [Note that there
exists another Chulym River, the tributary of Lake Chany]. The local Chulym villages
seem to be situated at the very edge of the world: there are basically hardly
any human settlements to the north of them for a good thousand miles nothing
but forests and marshland. In the 20th century, Chulym was studied by Dulzon (1940-60's)
and Biryukovich (1970's). After their formal recognition in 2001 as a separate
ethnicity, the Chulym people managed to set up their own village festivals and
teach some language lessons. Precontact way of living: fishing, millet and
barley cultivation, dug-out dwellings. Religion: shamanism before the 18th century,
presently atheism or Orthodox. 355 persons, only 45 speakers (2010)[24d]
(cf. 380 speakers in the 1970's).
Pasechnoye Village at the middle Chulym (2010): almost a one-village country;
(2) Horsemen at the Chulym festival
existence of Melet and Tutgal variants in Middle Chulym, which are spoken
in different villages, indicate at least several hundred years of linguistic differentiation.
Lower Chulym has been traditionally described as a "dialect of Chulym",
despite its many differences, the influence from Tomsk
Tatar and its distant location, all of
which set it rathe apart. Lower Chulym apparently became extinct in 2010. Küärik,
a third main dialect of Chulym along the lower course of the Kiya river (a tributary
of Chulym), had disappeared in the beginning of the 20th century.[16a]
These facts suggest that Chulym was a small subgroup of languages.
Subgroup 2c: Altay (Turkic)
to the Altai Mountains
The Altay (Turkic) subgroup
is a complex assortment of rather poorly studied dialect-languages with ambiguous
classification, some of which may exhibit proximity to Khakas, while others to
the Kyrgyz language of Kyrgyzstan. The peculiarities of the lesser Altay languages
are frequently underestimated or completely ignored.
are now 65.500 nominal speakers of the Altay languages (2002), though the local
dialects quickly fall out of use. According to Baskakov (1969),
who studied some of the Altay dialects in vivo after the WWII, the Altay subgroup
may have the following taxonomic structure:
North Altay Turkic subtaxon includes: (1) Kumandy /koo-MAHN-deh,
koo-mahn-DEE/; population: 2890 persons, c. 740 speakers (2010);[24d] (2) Chalkan /chal-KAHN/ or Kuu /KOO/; population: 1180 persons,
all bilingual in Russian; named after the Kuu ("Swan") River; (3)
Tuba /too-BAH/ (rather intermediate between North and South); population:
1965 persons, 230 speakers (2010);
South Altay Turkic subtaxon includes: (1) Standard (Literary) Altay,
or Altay-kizhi /al-TY kee-ZHEE/ from kizhi "person", or
Altay (Proper). There are 74.230
persons formally listed as "Altayans", and circa 56.000 speakers (2010).[24d]
Before 1948, the Altay people were confusingly named "Oyrots" after
the subgroup of Mongolic languages due to their interaction with the Dzungarians
in the 18th century, though Radloff in the 1860's called them just "Altayans".
(2) Teleut /te-leh-OOT/ was used as
a standard before 1917; population: 2640 persons, 975 speakers (2010); for a typical
example of the Teleut speech, see this
clip (phonologically, it is probably
pretty close to what late Proto-Turkic sounded like); (3) Telengit /teh-len-GIT/is
situated further in the mountains, thus is less affected by external influence;
population: 3710 persons (2010).
Altay (Turkic) is sometimes viewed as rather intermediate between Khakas and Kyrgyzlanguages. However, much of the Altay vocabulary seems to match Khakas,
and to a lesser extent, Tuvan, therefore, according to the present study,Altay (Turkic) should be seen aspart of the Altay-Sayan subgroup, being
closely related to the Khakassubgrouping. Also, note that much of
the southern Altai Mountains are located in eastern Kazakhstan, which may explain
certain non-Altay-Sayan features in Altay Turkic as a result of secondary interaction
Note that the difference
between the spelling of Altai Mountains and Altay (Turkic) languages; the names
ending in -ai reflect an older spelling, whereas -ay is a modern
that the Altai Republic
(capital: Gorno-Altaysk) and the Altai
Krai /al-TY KRY/(administrative center: Barnaul /bar-na-OOL/) are geographically
connected but politically different federal subjects of the Russian Federation
that should not be conflated. The Altay people mostly live in the Altay Republic
in the mountains, whereas Altai Krai is situated on the plane and presently is
almost entirely Russian-speaking.
ük, uk, uu
is spoken by merely 1000 speakers living along the Biya river. In the word Kumandï,
-dï is a Turkic suffix marking an adjective, therefore the original meaning
was "of Cumans, Cumanic". The Kumandy language was described by Baskakov
(1972). Just like the other North Altay languages, Kumandy seem to share many
common elements with Khakas, Chulym and Shor, cf. (1) *S- > ch- in cheti
"seven" and n'- as in nimïrtka "egg", cf. Khakas
cheti, nïmïrxa ; (2) sug with the final -G "water, river",
just as in Khakas; (3) the archaic -dï-bïs, -dï-vïs ending in the 1st person,
plural, past tense, instead of -d-uk, -d-ïk, as in most western Turkic
A Kumandy fisherman
South Altay (Turkic)
Standard (South) Altay
bür, büri, pür(i)
official literary language of the Altai Republic is based on the language of the
Altay-kizhi people. In phonology, the South Altay subgroup is characterized by
the word-initial palatalized light /d'-/ or /j'/ as in /d'ok, j'ok/ "there
is not", /d'ol, j'ol/ "way", etc. About 56.000 speakers (2010).
to the Altay throat singing by Altai Kai in Batïrïs
jurtaGan literally "Bigman-our yurted" "Once upon
a time there lived our warrior (strongman)".
Most Turkic languages that are distributed over
the enormous area of the Great Steppe extending from the Irtysh River all the
way to the Black Sea, have been shown
to belong to a single major genetic taxon containing the following subdivisions:
(3a) the Kyrgyz-Kazakhsubgroup, including Kyrgyz, Kazakh,
Karakalpak and hypothetically, the unattested dialect of the Karluks; (3b)
the Chagatai subgroup, including early medieval Chagatai, modern Uzbek, Uyghur
and their dialects; (3b) the Kimak subgroup (or Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar
subgroup), which includes multiple languages stemming from the expansion
of the Kimak Confederacy and the Golden Horde, such as Kazan Tatar, Bashkir, Sibir
Tatar, North Crimean Tatar, Nogai, Kumyk, Karachay-Balkar, etc.
that the former two groups, Kyrgyz-Kazakh and Chagatai, are more closely related
to each other than to Kimak.
of the Great-Steppe subtaxon explains why most of these distantly located languages
usually share good mutual intelligibility with each other, subjectively up to
70-80% in real speech, according to reports of proficient speakers.
Great Steppe languages must stem from a rather archaic segment of late Proto-Turkic
apparently originally dispersed in the Kulunda /koo-loon-DAH/ Steppe and near
the Middle and Upper Irtysh /eer-TISH/
River. This segment had not been involved in the earliest Turkic migrations occurring
right after the initial Proto-Turkic split, so its representatives began to advance
in the western direction only after about 600-700 AD. Consequently, the languages
of the Great Steppe exhibit more archaic features, but fewer innovations or borrowings
from other languages.
Subgroup 3a: Kyrgyz-(Karluk)
Karluks and Kyrgyz that migrated to the Tian Shan
earliest migrations in this taxon were probably connected with the settlement
in the vicinity of the Tian Shan Mountains. The Tian Shan is known as Tanrï
da: in Turkish, Tengri taG in Uyghur and Te:nger U:l
in Mongolian meaning "Heavenly (or God's) Mountains", which suggests
that the Chinese name tien shang "sky mountains" may merely be
a reinterpretation of a Turkic or Mongolic original.
descendants of the Karluk Confederacy It should be explained that the exact
origins and dialectal affiliation of Karluks is quite obscure. Herein they are
viewed as an ethnic group closely related to Kyrgyz, which is more of an educated
guess than a well-supported hypothesis. The Karluk/kar-LOOK/ Confederacy (766 –840) was a medieval state located in the
Zhetysu (Jeti-Su) ("the
Seven Waters/Rivers"), a historical region between the Tian Shan and Lake
Balkhash /bahl-KAHSH, bal-HUSH/
near the present-day Kyrgyzstan. Originally, the Karluks seem to be a clan from
the Altai Mountains that had migrated towards the Irtysh River c. 665, finally
reaching the Jeti-Su by c. 700 AD. After the famous Battle of Talas /tah-LAHS/
in 751, when the Chinese forces were defeated by the Arabs, the Karluks were able
to occupy Suyab, the capital of the Western Gökturk Kaganate, and beginning of
766, gained control over the northern part of the Silk Road and the whole Jeti-Su
area. They were partly converted to Islam c. 780. In 840, the Karluk Kaganate
was subdued by a migration wave of the Yenisei Kyrgyz (from the Altai Mountains?).
By 940, the Karluk Kaganate was captured by the Karakhanids.
seems that after the disappearance of the Karluks, the region was occupied by
the Kyrgyz tribes, though it is entirely uncertain when and why the Kyrgyz people
first appeared in Kyrgyzstan, with different sources citing various opinions on
the matter. At any rate, a Turkic tribe named Kyrgyz, apparently located
in the vicinity of the Tian Shan region, was mentioned by Mahmud al-Kashgari at
least as early as 1073.
/KIR-giz-STAN/(capital: Bishkek /bish-KEK/) is a small mountainous country
in the Tian Shan Mountains near Lake Issyk Kul /EE-sek KOOL/,
originally situated along the northeastern part of the Silk Road. The legendary
history of the Kyrgyz people, including battles against the Khitans and Dzungarians,
are described in the Epic
of Manas /mah-NAHS/, an extremely long, orally transmitted poem first
mentioned in the 16th century and written down in 1885.
was integrated into Russia in 1876, but eventually became independent in 1991.
Youngsters often no longer speak Russian. The Kyrgyz people and language were
known as "Kara-Kyrgyz" before the 1920's. Religion: formally Muslims,
though, as Radloff attested (1860's)[23b],
Islam did not take much root among the Kazakhs, and even less so, among the Kyrgyz
tribes of the 19th century, so both languages are relatively free of Arabic borrowings.
There are circa 4 million speakers of Kyrgyz. Listen to the song Aged
18 from the 1960's performed by Zhanetta Bobkova (2009) a nice
voice, poetry and the girl (and the numerals) as well as to another old
daira or Ömür
daira (mirror) "The River of LIfe" by Kochkoro.
The Republic of Kazakhstan /KAH-zak-STAN/
(capital: Astana /AHS-ta-NAH/) is just that giant, eye-catching spot on
the map of Central Asia. Despite its large size, much of central Kazakhstan's
territory is in fact semi-desert continental steppe with most population concentrated
in the northern area along the border with Russia or near the Tian Shan Mountains.
Note the former capital Almaty /AHL-ma-TEE/, probably from Kyrgyz Alma
To: "Apple Mountain". Historically, the Kazakh /ka-ZAHK,
ka-ZAHH/ people seem to be just those Kyrgyz nomads that began to spread beyond
their original Jeti-Su and the Chu river homeland near the Tian-Shan after the
1460's, and whose language was afterwards strongly affected by the Nogai and Tatar
dialects of the dissolved Golden Horde.
In the 17th-18th centuries the country was divided into the three zhüz
(jüzes) (= large confederacies of Kazakh tribes). Since the 1820's, the
Russians in Kazakhstan began to use the Kazakh territory for coal mining,
agriculture, nuclear tests, and launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Kazakhstan
became independent in 1990, emerging as a huge Central Asian power with rapidly
growing economy and relatively high level of urbanization. Kazakh and Kyrgyz are
mutually intelligible, and the Kazakhs were even named Kazak-Kyrgyz or
Kaisak-Kyrgyz or just Kyrgyz in the Russian sources between the
1730's and 1920's (the self-appellation was still Kazakh, though) [see e.g. Melioranskiy
(1894).] Cf. an old Kazakh
saying, "Kazakh and Kyrgyz are one kin, but who in the world made Sart? (=a
Chagatai city dweller, trader, an Uzbek)." (/qazaq qyrGyz bir tuGan, sart
shirkindi kim tuGan/) There are circa 12 million speakers. Listen to the
ay folk song by Asemkhan from the Xinjiang autonomous region of China where
Kazakh is also spoken a nice and clear eastern pronunciation and admirable
Modern buildings in Astana
(upper row): (1) The Pyramid of Peace; (2) The Khan Shatyry Entertainment
Center; (3) The Bayterek in the distance
/KAH-rah-kal-PAHK/ from the
autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan (capital: Nukus /noo-KOOS/)
is nearly (but not quite) a dialect of Kazakh located near the southwestern
coasts of the Aral Sea. Since the period when the Amu Darya /ah-MOO DAR-ya/
(the Oxus) inflow had been diverted for irrigation, the Aral Sea shrunk and almost
disappeared by the 1990's causing terrible deterioration in the region. Karakalpak
exhibits even more Nogai-Tatar influence than Kazakh. The ethnonym literally means
"black hats" (= brave warriors). As to the status of Karakalpak, Poppe
(1965)[18a] noted the following, "Menges
has correctly stated that Karakalpak is a dialect of Kazakh but not an independent
language as the Soviet scholars believe." Nevertheless, there exist separate
dictionaries of the Karakalpak language.
relationship between Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Nogai
The current lexicostatistical study
demonstrates thatmodernKyrgyz (of Kyrgyzstan) and Kazakh (of
Kazakhstan) are surprisingly close circa 91-92% in Swadesh-215
probably even constituting a single dialectical continuum at their geographic
extremes. As mentioned above, both ethnic groups were commonly known as Kirgiz
until the 1920's.
The classical Baskakov's
classification (1952) used
to group Kazakh and Nogai together along with and the other "Kipchak"
/keep-CHAHK/ languages, whereas Kyrgyz in that classification was locked away
into a special subgrouping along with South Altay. Being an
author and coauthor of Nogai dictionaries and textbooks during the postwar 1940-50's,
Baskakov seemed to view Nogai as particularly close to Kazakh, however an examination
of his classification reveals that he did not differentiate between shared archaisms
and innovations. Consequently, there turns out to be little evidence relating
modern Nogai in the North Caucasus, a rather typical Kimak language, directly
to the Kazakh stem, whereas most shared features between the two languages seem
to be archaic retentions present in many other languages of the Great Steppe.
This does not mean, however, that Kazakh and Nogai have nothing in common, and
certain features, such as the /ch/ > /s/ mutation, indeed seem to be recent
innovations (also present in Sibir Tatar and other languages), but they should
rather be attributed to a seconday mutual influence.
which occupies the vast steppe of Kazakhstan, must have separated from the Kyrgyz
stem in the Jeti-Su region by the 15th century. According to the present
study, it seems
to have been affected by a Tatar dialect of the Nogai Horde and acquired certain
new features which differentiated it from the Kyrgyz foundation. This seems quite
logical, considering that the period of dispersal of the Nogai Horde during the
2nd half of the 16th century matches the early formative days of Kazakh, and some
of the stray Nogai clans could have intermixed with the early Kazakhs somewhere
near the Ural (Yaik) River,
at least in theory.
On the other
hand, the Kyrgyz language of Kyrgyzstan, isolated in the Tian Shan mountains,
retained more archaisms of the Altay type and probably even acquired new
Altay borrowings during the Dzungarian invasion of the Oyrots in the 17th century.
There is good phonological correspondence between Kyrgyz and South Altay, including
some shared isolexemes, such as Kyrgyz and Standard Altay but "leg",
Kyrgyz chong, Standard Altay d'a:n "big", etc. As a result,
Kyrgyz speakers may find Altay languages rather intelligible. This leads to a
conclusion that Kyrgyz may have been affected by the recent (17th-18th centuries)
migration from the the Altai Mountains.
relatedness among Altay, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Nogai and Kazan Tatar is a typical example
of Turkic languages forming a dialectal continuum with many secondary seams.
So, to rephrase the old quote, if one could take a ride in the early 19th century from
the Altai Mountains to Kazan, in each town on the way, he would find a dialect
only slightly different from the one in the previous town.
tribes that crossed the Tian-Shan
The descendants of
the Chagatai Khanate
of Central Asian languages gets particularly complex at this point. Somewhere
during the turmoil of the Mongol invasion in the 13th-14th century or shortly
before that, a certain segment of Proto-Kyrgyz-Kazakh speakers at the foothills
of the Tian Shan Mountains, such as Karluks, must have spread over the mountain
ridges into the Karakhanid /ka-RAH-ha-NEED/ Khanate territory, largely displacing
the local Karakhanid language and intermingling with it, thus creating the basis
for what soon became known as the medieval literary Chagatai language.
As a result, the present-day Kazakh and Kyrgyz are particularly close to Uzbek
and Uyghur, sharing
with them about 83% of lexemes in the 215-word Swadesh list (borrowings excluded).
the spoken Chagatai must have split up into western and eastern dialect by about
the 14th-15th century and finally transformed into the modern Uzbek /OOZ-bek,
ooz-BEK/ and Uyghur /ooy-GOOR/ languages of today, the written Chagatai
was used as a common medieval Turkic lingua franca in literature and written correspondence
until about the 19th century.
yapurGan yapurGaq yapurGaG
Chagatai /chah-gah-TUY/ is essentially a Proto-Uzbek-Uyghur,
and an indirect continuation of Karakhanid. Originally, it was the language
of the Chagatai Khanate
(c. 1230-1700) established by the Mongols to replace the Karakhanid dynasty in
the Tian Shan and the Tarim Basin — Chagatai Khan was actually the second son
of Genghis Khan. At its greatest extent, the Chagatai Khanate domains spread from
the Irtysh River in Siberia down to Ghazni in Afghanistan, and from Transoxiana
to the Tarim Basin, which obviously contributed to the acceptance of the Chagatai
The period of the classical
Chagatai literature starts with the publication of Navai's
/NAH-vah-EE/ (1441-1501) poetry. After that, Chagatai lived its heyday during
the Timurid Empire.
As a result, between 1400 and 1920, Chagatai transformed
into a sophisticated Central Asian koine written with the Perso-Arabic alphabet
and having many local variations. The latter are often known as Türki /tur-KEE/
variants. As much as the Arabic script created difficulties in phonetic interpretation,
it provided laxness for dialectal variation and cross-cultural usage. Each dialect
user could write and reinterpret the written text in his own Turkic dialect using
the same writing system, therefore Chagatai-Türki can also be seen as a written
communication system rather than a real spoken language.
mentioned above, the early spoken Chagatai seems to have developed as a dialect
similar to Kyrgyz but strongly affected by Karakhanid.
The number of Persian and Arabic loanwordsin Chagataiwas particularly
high due two the widespread Turkic-Persian bilingualism at the time. Consequently,
one may assume that the emergence of the early Chagatai was very similar to the
rise of Middle English from the Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon linguistic exchange
with multiple French and Latin borrowings. Finally, the four different medieval
cultures (Karluk/Kyrgyz, Karakhanid/Old-Uyghur, Persian, and Arabic) mixed and
blended, creating the variety of today's Uzbek and Uyghur dialects with their
distinct local flavor, as well as the strong recent Russian or Chinese influence.
Unsurprisingly, Uzbek, which is in fact
the modern-day Chagatai descendant, is still the most widely spoken Turkic language
apart from Turkish and Azeri.
to Qaro ko'zlar (Urgelai)
"(Your) black eyes (My beloved one)" sung by Uzbek singer/actress Ziyoda
and styled as Babur's /bah-BOOR/
poetry of the 16th century this exquisite and refined music clip may catch
The Republic of Uzbekistan (capital Tashkent)
is mostly desert territory, with life historically concentrated only in the fertile
the southern oases of arable land along the Zeravshan River known as Sogdiana,
which includes such prominent, large, ancient cities as Khujand
(founded by Alexander the Great in 329 BC), Bukhara
/Anglophone boo-KAH-rah,Russophone boo-ha-RAH, Uzbek boo-haw-RAW/(since 500 BC) and Samarkand
(since 700 BC). The Arabic name for the region was "Mawaran-nahr", meaning
"beyond the river (Oxus)", hence also Transoxiana in Latin. The
invasion of the Karakhanid Khanate by the Mongols in 1219 led to the establishment
of the Chagatai Ulus and the diffusion of the Chagatai language over the Persian
substratum. Timur/ Tamerlane/tee-MOOR, TAH-mer-layn/
who was born near Samarkand, was a conqueror of Central Asia, who founded the
Timurid dynasty (1370-1585)
and was famous for his brutality. Presently, Uzbek is a robust, significant Central
Asian language with several internal dialects and about 25 million speakers
(40% non-Russophone). Among its most typical features is the loss of the vowel
harmony. Before 1924, the Uzbeks used to be known as "Sarts" (originally,
townspeople, or city dwellers as seen by the nomads in the north)
and the Uzbek language was known as Sart tili.
to right: (1) Chai-khana (tea house) visitors (an early true color photo, c. 1911!,
true color photography by Prokudin-Gorski);
(2) downtown Samarqand today; (3) a pilaf
dish (4) The Emir of Bukhara (c. 1911, true color!); (5) Uzbeks as excellent
market traders (present-day)
Curiously, the modern Uzbek Latin alphabet (introduced in 1993) allows to use
only the ASCII characters. Here is a modern blissful love song Chegaralar
bormu qaysarliklaringä? "Are there any limits to your
stubborness? " The song is performed in the 1970's style, humorously
recreating life in the Soviet Union. Moreover, watch a clip with an
Uzbek family near the Zeravshan Mountains still living in the old ways (in
Khwarezm [/haw-REZM/; the odd English
spelling comes from Persian, so Khorezm seems more appropriate] is a historical
oasis civilization in Central Asia that deserves special mention. It was located
in the lower course of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, on the border of Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan, and Karakalpakstan (=the autonomous republic of Uzbekistan). The
rise and demise of Khwarezm have been connected to the instability of the Amu
Darya (Oxus) riverbed that flows through the Kara
Kum ("Black Sand") and Kyzyl
Kum ("Red Sand") deserts in its upper course. In 1598, the Amu Darya
had turned off to the north from the Caspian Sea thus leading to the formation
of the Aral Sea as it was known until the 1990's, when it dried up again, partly
due to another bend of the Amu Darya that turned to Lake
Sary-Kamysh ("Yellow Reed"). The dry Amu Darya riverbed is now known
as the Uzboy. The Khwarezmian
language of East Iranian stock had been spoken in the area until the 8th-13th
century, but was mostly eradicated by the Arab, and then finally, the Mongol invasion.
At the time, Khwarezm was famous for a number of early scholars. Muhammed Al-Khwarezmi
(=from Khwarezm) (780-850) was a famous Arabic-writing mathematician, who introduced
the decimal numbers to the Western world and whose name is commemorated in the
word "algorithm". Al-Biruni (973-1048) was a polymath, known as the
founder of Indology, and a contemporary of Avicenna
(980-1037) from Bukhara. Avicenna, too, visited Köhne-Urgench
(Turkmen: "Old Urgench" /oor-GENCH/), the capital of Khwarezm, established
as early as about the 5th century BC. During the Karakhanid rule in the 12th-13th
centuries, the main language in the area was the Khwarezmian dialect of Karakhanid
that used the Arabic script and that must have been gradually supplanted by Uzbek
Chagatai. After the bloody massacres of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane invasions and
the drying of the Uzboy, the capital was transferred from Old Urgench to Khiva
/hee-VAH/. Khiva was taken by the Russian troops in 1873, which led to the abolition
of slave trade, though Khwarezm still retained some independence until 1924. Presently,
Khiva, with its beautiful old town, is turned into pretty much an open-air museum.
A Khwarezmian (Oghuzic) dialect of Uzbek is spoken in the area. As a sample,
listen to Här
görgende yurek tik-tik urmei-mi? literally "At every
glance the-heart, tick-tick, doesn't-beat-does-it?" by Feruza.
(1) The Kunya Arka City Wall, Khiva (founded in 1688, restored in the 19th century);
(2) Al-Khwarezmi monument; (3) The unfinished Kalta-Minar minaret (1855), Khiva;
(4) A street in Khiva; (5) Khiva in the 19th century, unknown artist; (6) The
capture of Khiva, a fragment of painting by Vereschagin (1870's); (6) the ruines
of Old Urgench, where al-Biruni and Avicenna could have met; the image shows the
60-m minaret (from the 1320's) and the Tekesh Mausoleum (from the 13th century)
/ooy-GOOR/ is the eastern descendant of Chagatai spoken in the Xinjiang /sin-JANG/
Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (capital: Urumchi /oo-ROOM-chee,
oo-room-CHEE/) situated along the edges of the Taklamakan /tak-LAH mah-KAHN/ Desert.
The Silk Road here has always been ethnic running water, and Chagatai was blended
into the earlier 9th century's Kara-Khoja (Old Uyghur), as well as into Persian
and Chinese adstrata, yet scholars agree that it cannot be seen as a direct continuation
of Old Uyghur. Uyghur is typically characterized by long vowels and the dropping
of the final -r (karGa > ka:Ga "crow"). Before
the 1920s, all Chagatai-speaking Muslims in the region were known under different
names, such as Kashgar (in the west), Moghols (the ruling class),
Sarts (merchants and townspeople), Taranchis (farmers), etc., whereas
the name of "Uyghur" was artificially created only in 1921. C.
9 million speakers.
(1) A street in Kashgar /kush-GAR/; (2) Uyghur women at the mosque
Uyghur and Uzbek are languages with pronounced dialectal differentiation. Uyghur,
for instance, seems to embrace several closely related dialect-languages, such
as Ili /ee-LEE/ in the northeast, Lop (Luobu, Lobnor, Lopnur) in
the east, the central dialect (Turfan, Kashgar), the southern Khotan (Hotan)
dialect; a special position belongs to Äynu.
The descendants of the Kimak Kaganate
dialects of the Golden Horde (clickable)
to the well-attested historiographic legend, described by Gardezi
in his work Zayn-al-Akhbar c. 1030 (where he seems to cite another older
book by Ibn
Khordadbeh (820-912)), the Kimak /keeh-MAHK/ Confederacy initially
consisted of the seven original clans, including Kimak (Proper), Tatar,
Kypchak, Bayandur, Imi, Lanikaz, and Ajlad. Hence, the expression The
snake has the seven heads cited by Mahmud al-Kashgari in 1073. These seven
tribes must have inhabited areas near the southern edge of the Altai Mountains
around Lake Zaysan /zy-SAHN/ and the upper course of the Irtysh River.
Kimak or Kimek was also called Yemek or Imek in Arabic sources, but the difference
between the two type of usage is rather obscure, for instance it may have arisen
due to an error in copying the Arabic script, though Kumekov
cites different opinions.
(743-1210) [see for instance, Kumekov (1972)
for other details] was a great pastoral nomadic Tengriistic clan confederacy near
the upper course of the Irtysh River. This Kaganate had initially been part of
the Göktürk-Uyghur Empire. The Kimak population was semi-nomadic and relatively
urbanized, with over a dozen towns scattered along the upper Irtysh River, such
asImakiya /ee-mah-KEE-ya/, which is probably an Arabic misspelling
for the adjective "Kimak (Imak)" [City]. These towns were marked on
the map produced by the Arab geographer Al
Idrisi (1099-1165). The towns had
markets and temples, and were visited by Chinese merchants taking part in the
Silk road trade; their inhabitants used the Orkhon script writing. This Kimak
civilization is now rarely mentioned by historians, albeit it seems to be an influential
cultural and political formation in Southwest Siberia.
evidence and geomigrational analysis suggest that somewhere after 850 AD, the
Kimak tribes began to spread down the Irtysh towards the Tobol River /teh-BAWL/,
and finally all the way to the Southern Ural. By the 900's AD, they must have
reached the Volga River (called Itil /ee-TEEL/ in local Turkic languages,
originally from Bulgaric), where they were vividly described by Ibn-Fadlan in
922 as "al-Bashkird". By 1068, the Kypchak tribes began to migrate further
into the fecund Pontic pastures robbing the Kievan Rus towns. Here, they became
known as the Polovtsy /PAW-lov-tsee/or Polovtsians to Kievan
Russians, Cumans /koo-MAHNS/ to Byzantine Greeks and Hungarians,
and Kifchak < Qypchaq /kep-CHUK/ to Arabs. During the 12th-14th
centuries, this westernmost Kypchak dialect was recorded along the Black Sea coast
in a medieval textbook known as the Codex
On the origins
of the ethnonym Polovtsian: The
word Polovstian is mostly familiar through the theme song Polovtsian
Dances (here is an engaging modern rock
version) from the 1890's opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, which
was remade into the Stranger in Paradise (1953) [note that the wiki ogg
files may block any other sound files from being played in the back/foreground].
The 19th century's opera had in turn been based on The
Tale of Igor's Campaign (of 1185), one of the most famous works of
the early East Slavic literature that integrates many Turkic motifs. The etymology
of the word should probably be interpreted as "the field inhabitants"
(from Russian po'le "field"), though the traditional interpretation
from Vasmer's etymological dictionary [referenced to Sobolevsky (1886)] is apparently
incorrectly based on the Old Russian and presently unknown word polovê
"light yellow", which has no meaningful connection to Turkic tribes.
Polovtsian statues near Izyum,
Kimak-Kypchak ethnic groups left large geographic traces on the map of Eurasia,
so the whole giant Ponto-Kazakh steppe was once designated as Cumania (in
Latin), Desht-i-Qipchaq (in Persian), Kipchak steppe or Polovtsian
Land (in Russian), etc. The Kipchaks are also remembered for their stone
statues, very typical of their culture.
the westernmost Kimak descendants were addressed as "Kifchak" in Arabic
sources, the name Kipchak was passed into the 20th century's classifications,
however it seems to be poorly founded in other respects. Despite the fact that
Kypchak is a frequent clan name among many Turkic peoples, it looks like the Kypchaks
constituted only a relatively small part of the original Kimak confederacy and
were attested mostly in the area adjacent to the Kievan Rus. They are briefly
mentioned, for instance, in the Secret History of the Mongols (1240), but
only as a vague nickname. Therefore the term "Kypchak" for all of the
Great-Steppe tribes seems to be an overextrapolation promoted by Baskakov's classification.
Nearly nowhere in his late booklet (1987),[15a]
which was supposed to cover the subject in detail, did Baskakov address the issue
of the origin, early development and migration of the Kypchaks; apparently, to
him "Kypchak" was just a suitable name for Turkic languages of the Soviet
Union in general, except for Oghuz, Khakas and other strongly differentiated branches,
which is the reason why we tried to abandon the term in the present classification
by differentiating between the Kimaks and the languages of the Great-Steppe. The
terms Kimak and Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar are used interchangeably as
The name Tatar /TAH-ter,
tah-TAR/ was first firmly attested in 732 on the Kül-Tegin monument and then mentioned
by al-Kashgari (1073). However, by the 19th
century, Tatar became an erroneous misnomer, heavily overused in the Russian
Empire's ethnographic tradition and further associated with the Tartarus of the
Ancient Greeks by European historians. The Russian exonym Tatary /tah-TAH-reh/
or Latin Tartari was ambiguously applied not only to all the Turkic speaking
population of the Tsarist Russia, including Azerbaijanis, but even to the Tungusic
and Mongolic peoples. This persistent vague overuse of this term resulted in ostracization
of this word by the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently, it fell out of
ethnographic use as an all-embracing term and is now largely being avoided both
by Turkologists and Turkic population, except for the reference to Kazan Tatars,
Sibir Tatars, Crimean Tatars, Mishar Tatars and some of the lesser ethnic
groups of Kimak origin.
Kazan Tatar people are still the
largest and the most influential of the Kimak ethnicities. During the Soviet period
many of the non-Kazan Kimak communities were taught Kazan Tatar as a common standard,
which might have resulted in the contamination of local Kimak languages.
the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, the descendants of the original Kimak
migrants were apparently integrated into the Ulus of Jochi. Jochi was actually
the eldest, and therefore the most important son of Genghiz Khan, who had participated
in the invasion of "the forest peoples" of Siberia c. 1207 and thus
inherited the western part of Genghis Khan's empire in 1226. However, he died
just months later, so the name of his empire was purely formal, and the Ulus of
Jochi rather became known as the Golden
Horde (1240-1502) in European historiography.
Golden Horde was a predominantly Tatar Khanate ruled by a nominally Mongol elite
that was formally Islamized only in the 14th century.
At the time when being a Mongol signified power, the original Mongolian descent
was probably claimed by many local families, and many rulers were genetically
Mongolic on the paternal lineage. However, the participation of the Mongolian
language was rather limited, so it is reasonable to assume that most local clans
were in fact of purely Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar linguistic background. It should be
noted, on the other hand, that the Mongolian presence is evidenced in a thin layer
of Mongolic borrowings in many Kimak languages.
the 250 years of rule by Mongolian dynasties, this Golden Horde Empire broke up
into several important "Tatar" khanates, including the Khanate of
Kazan /ka-ZAHN/ (hence Kazan Tatars), the Khanate of Crimea /kry-MEE-ah/
(hence Crimean Tatars), the Khanate of Astrakhan /AHS-trah-kan/ (hence
Astrakhan Tatars), the Qasim /kah-SIM/ Khanate (hence Mishar /mee-SHAR/
Tatars), and the Uzbek Khanate (hence the modern name of Uzbeks). This
diversification process finally contributed to the crystallization of modern Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar
languages and dialects. As a result, another acceptable term for this Kimak linguistic
subgroup in general could be the languages of the Golden Horde, taken that
it were the Kimak descendants rather than pure Mongols who actually inhabited
the Golden Horde area.
reign of the Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584), the Russian armies defeated and annexed
the Kazan and Astrakhan Khanates and moved eastward beyond the Urals, where they
attacked another Tatar state, the Tengriistic Khanate
of Sibir /see-BIR/(1495-1582) (capital Siber, or Qashlyk
/kush-LIK/, the latter evidently from qïsh-lïq "the winter
camp") located on the lower Irtysh River and ruled by Kuchum Khan. This task
was accomplished by Yermak
/yer-MAHK/, a Cossack leader, sometimes depicted in the Russian historiography
as something of a Siberian Columbus. Curiously, Irmak means "river"
or yermek "to scorn" in Turkish and some other Turkic languages,
which implies that Yermak himself might have been of Turkic origin. This is supported
by a local Baraba legend, recorded by Dmitriyeva in the 1950-60's,[16d]
which says that Yermak had grazed the cattle for Kuchum Khan before they had a
quarrel, and so he came back with an army from Ivan the Terrible [also see Sibir
All the Kimak languages
exhibit considerable mutual intelligibility among themselves, for instance Kazan
Tatar and Bashkir are still strikingly close (95% in Swadesh-215, borrowings excluded).
Moreover, being part of the Great-Steppe subgroup, the Kimak languages are also
closely related to Kyrgyz-Kazakh (80% in Swadesh-215, borrowings excluded) and
The typical phonological
features shared by Kimak members include: (1) the partial loss of the original
*S- as in Kazan Tatar yoldïz, Nogai yuldïz, Bashkir yondoð
"star";Kazan Tatar yafraq "leaf", yul
road, yïlan " snake", yörek "heart", but the
partial retention of *S- in /Ji-/ as for instance, in Kazan Tatar
Jir "earth", Jil "wind", often with an allophonic
distribution across different dialects; (2) the presence of the semi-vowel /-w-/,
/-u/ after a vowel as in awuz "mouth", tau "mountain";
(3) the /-t-/ > /-l-/ mutation in suffixes and endings, as in Kazan Tatar yoqla-,
Nogai uykla-, Bashkir yoqla- "to sleep", as opposed to Kyrgyz
battlefield of Igor Svyatoslavich with the Polovtsians (Cumans) in 1185, painting
by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880)
of Moscow by Mongol Khan Tokhtamysh in 1382, painting by Vasily Smirnov
( the 1880's)
conquest of the Sibir Khanate by Yermak in 1582, painting by Vasily Surikov
relatedness between Kimak and Oghuz
though the Kimak languages are closely related to the Kyrgyz-Kazakh subgroup,
they furthermore share certain features with the Oghuz /aw-GOOZ/ subgroup,
also named herein Oghuz-Seljuk /sel-JOOK/. The persistent usage of the
innovative *tüGel instead of the more archaic e(r)mes "not"
in both subtaxons is particularly notable. This phenomenon of mutual interaction
in these generally unconnected languages can possibly be explained
as a result of the Oghuz-Kimak linguistic exchange near Lake Zaysan. It can even
be surmised that the Kimaks had originally been part of the Proto-Kyrgyz-Kazakh
clans located near the southern edge of the Altai Mountains and the Tarbagatai
Ridge, that must have been linguistically and culturally affected by the early
Oghuz confederacies (such as Toquz Oghuz) situated to the south of that area in
Dzungaria, approximately c. 600-700 AD. The subsequent linguistic interaction
between the Aral Oghuz and the Ural Kimaks throughout the 800-900's could have
led to a further stabilization of the acquired features.
some mutual exchange, with an average of only 68% of shared words in Swadesh-215
the present-day Kimak and Oghuz languages are far from "mutually intelligible",
therefore learning, say, Turkish or Azeri is not sufficient to understand Kazan
Tatar or vice versa.
The Kimaks that
stayed near the Irtysh River
Presently, the Baraba /bah-RAH-bah/
are just a tiny spot of villages east of the Irtysh River. Originally, they inhabited
the area around large Lake Chany /chah-NEE, chah-NEH/ and the adjacent Baraba
Steppe. The Baraba people were first attested by 1595, and then described by the
expedition in 1721, the
famous field study which, among other discoveries, led to the early establishment
of the main Ural-Altaic language groups by Strahlenberg.[5a]
The Baraba legends mention their relatedness to the Khanate
of Sibir (1495-1582)[16d] and the Samoyedic population,
which seems quite reasonable, and some specific features may indeed relate the
Tobol-Irtysh Tatars to Baraba. However, the unique grammatical differences (e.g.
the bara-tï-n ("you go") type of the present tense as in
Altay) and the lack of certain Kimak features (e.g. the -ar future instead
of the -achaq future)[16d] lead to a hypothesis that the Baraba
people might be the remnants of the early Great-Steppe tribes which had inhabited
the Baraba and Kulunda Steppe between the Ob and Irtysh Rivers before 500-700
AD and then intermingled with the Kimaks.
Also, note the possibility of the Chulym / Baraba interaction (cf. üts : üts
"three"). The Baraba language was contaminated by Kazan Tatar during
the 20th century. The ethnonym Baraba does not mean bar-ba "don't
go" or similar, as it is usually explained in folk etymology, but is probably
related to the legendary clan progenitor Baram.[16d]
Economy: settled, non-nomadic population originally living in wooden houses; crop
cultivation, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing.[16e] Religion: originally shamanism, then Islamized.
About 4000 persons are cited,[16f]
but few actual native speakers.
Baraba woman (c. 2005)
Clickable, based on an
ethnographic atlas (1964)[12b]
Tobol-Irtysh or rather just Sibir Tatars live near the cities of
Tobolsk and Tyumen
[tyoo-MEN] as well as further along the lower Irtysh River in West Siberia. They
are the remnants of the Khanate
of Sibir (1468-1607), therefore the terms "Sibir" and "Tobol-Irtysh"
may often be used interchangeably. The Tyumen Khanate, which was the predecessor
of the Sibir Khanate, first appeared in historical records in 1468, during the
decline of the Golden Horde. In 1582, the main Sibir Khanate settlement, known
as Sibir, or Sïbïr (or Isker, or Kashlyk
[=winter camp]), was taken by the Yermak's army sent by Ivan the Terrible, and
making the then-ruling Kuchum Khan and his people flee to the steppe. The Sibir
settlement soon became depopulated and the fortress of Tobolsk was founded instead
about 10 miles away in 1587, as one of the earliest Russian outposts beyond the
Urals. Throughout the 20th century, Tobol-Irtysh Tatar was considered to be as
merely a "dialect" of Kazan Tatar, so apart from a couple of dissertations,
very few publications on Sibir Tatar seem to exist,[16b][16c]
even though its phonological, grammatical and lexical differences clearly require
separate description. The /ch/ > /ts/, /sh/ > /s/ mutation is among the
immediately notable features, which reminds of the /sh/ > /s/ mutation in Kazakh
and Nogai. Population: c. 6700 persons (probably including Baraba and Tomsk tatrs)
(1) The fortress of Tobolsk
(c. 2010); (2) The Sibir town on a European map (1562); (3-4) At the Isker Festival
of Sibir Tatars (2010)
On the origins of toponym Siberia:
The word Siberia as the general name for the northeastern Eurasia seems
to be an 18th century's extrapolation from "Sibir Khanate" > "West
Siberia" (which is a plane located between the Ural Mountains and the Yenisei
River) > "all of northeastern Eurasia". The word Siberia replaced
the older and just as vague designation of (Great)
Tartary of the 17th-18th centuries. The latter was formed from Greek Tartarus,
a murky place beneath the earth, so deep that an anvil takes nine days to fall
there. Consequently, until about the middle of the 19th century, Ta(r)tarsmeant nearly any of the Siberian aborigines, and were initially associated
with the demons of Tartarus, especially during the turmoil of the 13th-14th centuries.
Before that, in antiquity and the Middle Ages, the equally vague name of Scythia
had been in use.
The Kimaks that
spread to the Great Steppe
The Republic of Tatarstan (capital: Kazan
/kah-ZAHN/) is a federal subject
of Russia located along the Middle Volga. The Kazan Khanate (1438-1552)
emerged after the dissolution of the Golden Horde, which had formed when the Mongol
armies (probably along with the local Tatar tribes) attacked
the Bilar city, thus destroying Volga Bulgaria in 1232-36, and presumably
causing an intense dispersal of the Chuvash-Bulgar population. The Kazan Khanate
was later conquered by the troops of Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and became part
of Russia in fact, the famous Saint
Basil's Cathedral on Red Square was built to commemorate the capture
of Kazan. The Tatar participation in the Mongol invasion is still remembered
in the Russian language culture (cf. sayings: "An uninvited guest is worse
than a Tatar"; "Mamai/the Tatars went over it" as about raising
havoc; "the Tataro-Mongol Yoke", etc). Moreover, cf. English "tartar"
meaning "fierce, brutal", etc. Consequently, the Tatar appellation and
language seems to, unfortunately enough, have a rather low social status. Historical
autonyms: Bolgar, Kazanlï. Religion: Sunni Islam. Over 4.2 million
formally listed speakers (2010),[24d]
but more than 70-90% bilingual in Russian.
Kazan Kremlin, today as if 500 years ago; The Qolsharif Mosque (inaugurated in
2005) (above) is the largest mosque in Russia
/bash-KIR/ is spoken in the
Republic of Bashkortostan (capital: Ufa /oo-FAH/)
situated west of Tatarstan in the Southern Ural Mountains. Essentially, Bashkir
is just a sort of Urals variety of Kazan Tatar, considering about 95%
of matches in Swadesh-215 between Kazan Tatar and Bashkir. Note some of the following
shared innovations in vowels typical only of these langugea: ber < *bir;
dürt < *tört; un < *on. 1.15 million speakers (2010)
Bashkir horsemen (staged)
A true photo c.1910
The deviant Bashkir phonology (ch > s, s
> h, z > ð) is sometimes explained by an absorption of an unknown substratum.
Curiously, Bashkirs might at least partly genetically descend from Proto-Hungarians
(or Magyars /mah-JAR/) of the Hungaria
Magna and the other closely-related Ugric tribes, as well as possibly from
Bulgaric tribes. Proto-Hungarians were mentioned as still speaking Hungarian along
Ak-Itil, the main river of Bashkortostan, c. 1235 by Friar
but apparently were later linguistically assimilated by the local Kimak tribes
during the expansion of the Golden Horde. That seems to date the emergence of
the Bashkir dialect to after the 13th century. Between 1220 and 1234, the Bashkirs
were fighting the Mongols, preventing their expansion to the west, but then voluntary
joined the Moscovy in 1557. Judging by the rather unreasonable proximity of
literary Bashkir and Kazan Tatar languages, which must have almost necessarily
involved some secondary interaction, Bashkir may have been afterwards affected
by the Kazan Tatar immigration to the Ural Mountains, especially taken that the
Ural Bashkir people had certain historical freedoms and suffered less feudal opression.
Economy: nomadic animal husbandry
until the 18th century. Population: 1.3 million speakers, most of them
bilingual in Russian. Religion: Islam since the 950s, but mostly non-religious
since the Soviet period. Listen to Kiler
keshe, kemder bar "Someone's coming, someone's there (at the
gate)" with the typical sights of the Southern Urals.
the origins of ethnonym Bashkir:
The ethnonym "al-Bashkïrt" by
itself had appeared very early on, being first mentioned in the Arab sources c.
840 and then clearly attested by Ibn-Fadlan near the Emba /EHM-bah/ River and
then the confluence of the Volga and Kama in 922. Therefore, there is some terminological
discrepancy: as a language similar to Kazan Tatar, Bashkir seems to be a relatively
recent phenomenon, whereas the historical attestation of this ethnonym in reference
to the Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar tribes of the Urals and the Middle Volga seems to be
going further back in time.
Crimean Khanate(1441-1783) (capital: Bakhchy-Saray /bahh-CHEE
sah-RUY/ ("The Garden Palace"), rightmost figure) was a Kypchak post-Golden-Horde
state situated in the Crimean Peninsula and the Pontic Steppe. The Khanate maintained
massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire making raids into the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth and Russia. The northern Crimean dialects should not be confused
with Crimean Turkish in the south of the peninsula and Middle Crimean,
which is a dialectal seam between of the two of them. After the 1920's there were
attempts to build a mutually intelligible "literary language", however,
the actual dialectical situation in the Crimea is rather complicated. And although
the pure dialects may still survive in vivo, not enough field work on them has
been done. Crimean Tatars are famous for being persecuted by Stalin as "Nazi
collaborators" and resettled to Uzbekistan, though they mostly returned by
the mid-1980's; C. 260.000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea, 170.000 elsewhere.
A battle of Crimean Tatars with Poles-Lithuanians in the 17th century
a painting by Kossak, c. the 1870's
Karaites /KA-reh-ite/ are
a rather odd and presently very small branch of adherents to Karaite Judaism,
which is based on the reading of the Tora itself rather than its interpretations.
The exact origins of Karaites are obscure, though they seem to descend from a
Jewish sect (probably originally from the Ottoman Empire) that must have switched
to a Polovtsian dialect spoken in the Crimean Peninsula by the 13th century. Being
socially and religiously detached from the rest of the Turkic community, their
language must have branched off from the Kimak main stem in the same way as Ladino,
Yiddish and other Judaic languages. It is usually known as Karaim, meaning
in Hebrew "those who read (the scriptures)", though the terms Karaite
and Karaim are frequently conflated. The connection with the Khazars has been
speculated as early as the 19th century but is poorly corroborated. In 1392, a
part of the Crimean Karaites were relocated to Lithuania thus forming the branch
of Trakai (Lithuanian)
Karaim. During the WWII, the Karaites were saved from extermination after
managing to demonstrate their formal dissociation from mainstream Judaism. Karaites
were literate and many were quite influential despite their small community. Presently,
only c. 600 persons in the Crimea (2002), 257 in Lithuania (1997), and c. 1000
in other countries. Self-appellations: Qïrïm qaraylar, Qaray,
The Kumyk /koo-MIK, koo-MEK/ people occupy the steppeland along the northwestern
coast of the Caspian Sea in Dagestan, which is probably one of the most ethnically
complex federal subjects in the world. Neither Kumyk nor Nogai have their own
formal autonomies. The Kumyk origins are unclear, though their geographical position
and notable dialectal differentiation suggest they arrived to the area of the
Caspian Sea before the Nogai people, that is before the mid-16th century, which
is supported by the foundation of Shamkhalate of Tarki in the 1440's. The direct
descent from Khazars has often been claimed, considering that Tarki
Village near Makhachkala,
the capital of Dagestan, has often been associated with the legendary Samandar
of the Khazars (destroyed in 969). Printed books since the mid-19th century. Historical
economy: agriculture, fishing, settled living in villages. Religion: Sunni Islam.
Population: 502.000 persons, 426.000 speakers (2010).[24d]
Self-appellation: qumuq. Dialects:
Hasavyurt and Buynaksk (Standard Kumyk), Kaytaksk, Podgorny, Tersk.
Nogai (Noghai) /naw-GUY, nuh-GUY/) are
presently scattered in the steppeland of the Northern Caucasus in Chechnya, Stavropol
Krai, Dagestan and Karachay-Balkaria. The name Nogai is derived from the alias
of Nogai Khan, a Mongol general, literally meaning "dog" in most Mongolic
languages. The Nogai people are the remnants of the Nogai
Horde (c. 1392-1639), a loose nomadic confederacy that was centered in
Saray-Juk (or Saraychik
"Little Palace") near the delta of the
Ural (Yaik) River. The Nogai Horde also covered the Lower Volga and probably
some of the Astrakhan
Khanate (1466-1556). The end of the Nogai Horde is connected with the
poorly documented Russo-Tatar wars during the reign of the Ivan the Terrible.
When the Russian army took Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556), Devlet Giray Khan
of the Crimean Khanate retaliated by destroying Moscow in 1571, however the local
renegade Cossacks destroyed Saray-Juk in 1580, which was the end of the Nogai
supremacy along the Yaik and the Volga River. As a result, somewhere during this
turmoil, c. 1552-1554, part of the Nogai tribes began migrating towards the steppes
near the Northern Caucasus, particularly the Kuban
area /kyoo-BAN/, which resulted
in the formation of the Lesser Nogai Horde along the Kuban River.[15b]
In 1683, these Kuban Nogais were attacked by the Dzungarians from Mongolia (=
Kalmyks) and then by the army of Suvorov in 1782-83. It is plausible to assume
that some of them were Russified becoming part of the Kuban Cossacks in the 18th-19th
century, though a good many were exiled first towards the Black Sea and then finally
deported to the Ottoman Empire.
All the details of this dispersal and exodus are now difficult to reconstruct.
Presently, there are 103.000 persons, 87.000 speakers (2010)[24d]
[see the map above]. Watch the Nogai Dombïra
song with Nogai-Turkish subtitles and some bloody battle scenes from the Mongol
movie (2007); as well as the same song in a another clip featuring its strikingly
talented performer, Arslanbek
Sultanbekov. In a similar fashion, more of his songs coming from the very
heart of the ancient strife: Menim
Nogayïm "My Nogai", Ne
kaldï? "What is left?" (the latter one is about the 17th
century's Dzungarian invasion into the lands of Nogais and Kazakhs).
The modern reconstruction of Saray-Juk; (2) The Saray-Juk archaeological site;
(3) Nogai men (2012); (4) A German map from 1549 with "Nogai Tartars"
placed along the Lower Volga; the inscription Saraicek can be read at the
bottom, though it should be at the Yaik River at the right; (5) Nogai girls (1881)
/KAH-rah-CHY bahl-KAR/ is spoken in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic (capital:
Cherkessk /chehr-KESK/) and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic (capital: Nalchik
/NAHL-chik/). The two republics were created rather artificially in 1922. The
other two ethnic groups, the Cherkeses and the Kabardins, are of unrelated North
Caucasian origin (but related to each other). The Karachay-Balkar people must
have been present in the Caucasus at least since the Mongol invasion in the 1220's,
having settled there probably a few centuries earlier, when the Kypchaks or Cuman-Polovtsians
were moving into the Pontic steppeland. Non-nomadic population; Islamized only
by the 18th century. In 1943, they have been forcibly resettled to Kazakhstan
by Stalin, which led to mass starvation, but returned after 1957. Karachay-Balkar
has many mutations at several levels, and a few Kabardino-Cherkes borrowings in
the basic vocabulary. There are two main dialects, which among other features,
differ in the pronunciation of *S as follows: (1) the Karachaylï
+ Malqar Taulu (< from tau-lu"mountain-ous") pronounce
/J-/, /ch-/ whereas (2) the rest of Malqarlï pronounce /dz-, z-/, /ts-/;
218.000 persons listed as Karachay and 113.000 as Balkar (2010);[24d]
80% bilingual in Russian.
A modern tower in Kabardino-Balkaria
A modern photo
This photo c. 1910
Southern Turkic Languages
supertaxon includes the Turkic languages that originated south of the mountain
ranges collectively named herein
as the Great Eurasian Barrier, comprosing the Altai, the Tian-Shan, the
Pamirs, the Kopet Dag, the Caucasus, etc. Initially, these tribes occupied Mongolia,
Dzungaria and Tarim Basin, and then spread west to other adjacent regions.
grouping probably consists of the two main subgroups: (1) Orkhon-Karakhanid-Oghuz,
which includes Orkhon Old Turkic of Mongolia, Old Uyghur of the eastern Tarim
Basin, Karakhanid of the western Tarim Basin, as well as any of the medieval or
modern Oghuz-Seljuk languages; and possibly (2) Yugur-Salar, which herein
is considered separately from the rest of the Turkic languages, its precise genetic
position still being a matter of controversy;
Turks that migrated to West China
Ganzhou Kingdom descendants
Yugur and Salar are the two peculiar
Turkic languages located in the historical region near the Tibet, known as the
/heh-SEE/, where the Silk Road was entering the Chinese territory. It is a thin
strip of land squeezed between the Nan-Shan (or Qilian) Mountain Ridge in the
south [from Chinese nan shan "south mountains"] and the Alashan Desert
in the north, separated by the Great Wall.
exact linguistic origin of Yugur and Salar is difficult to determine, however
most of their features either point towards the Orkhon-Karakhanid subgroup or
even set Proto-Yugur completely apart from the rest of the Turkic languages, making
them a separate major branch of Turkic Proper. In any case, the mutual relatedness
between Yugur and Salar is rather evident:
both languages share similar verbal paradigms with largely absent personal endings
as well as a system of similar innovative verbal tenses, which clearly indicates
their common descent, considering such grammatical features are rarely borrowed.
Turkic languages of the Ganzhou Kingdom are not unique in their odd classificational
isolation. Curiously, the local Mongolic languages (Baonan, Dongxian /dong-see-AN,
doon-SAN/, Monguor and Shira [Mong. "yellow"] Yugur (again!)),
usually grouped into a separate Southwestern cluster within Mongolic, share a
number of similar typological traits, such as clipped morphology. It can be hypothesized
that the Hexi Corridor was a formative area, where several language groups (Turkic,
Mongolic, Chinese, Tibetan, Iranian) merged and blended as part of the Silk Road
trade interaction, resulting in the emergence of trade pidgins and finally some
of the unique local creoles. These creole languages further interacted with each
other, as in the case of Yugur (Turkic) and Yugur (Mongolic), the latter apparently
resulting from the Mongolicization of the former after the Genghiz Khan's invasion
when Mongolic languages became ubiquitous. The study of this complex creolization
process may be interesting in the context of the English language history and
the rather obscure linguistic process that led to the rise of Middle English.
/yoo-GOOR/ people are a small ethnic group, which are sometimes said to have
migrated into southwestern China (Sunan Yugur Autonomous County) after
c. 850 AD from other Uyghur oases probably to avoid Islamization. There,
on the outskirts of China, they established the prosperous Ganzhou /gun-JOW,
kun-CHOW/ Kingdom (870-1036 AD) with the capital near present-day Zhangye
/jung-YEH/ and economy based on the Silk Road trade. The exact classification
of Yugur is unclear, but it seems to be a "mixed" language based
on the ancient Turkic substratum with some Mandarin-Mongolic-Tibetan influence.
Yugur is characterized by the loss of verbal conjugation; the presence of the
archaic ire copula; multiple loanwords; the Mandarin consonant system (which
means that <b>, <g>, <d> are pronounced as semi-voiced, whereas
<p>, <t>, <k> as pre-
or post-aspirated). Religion: Tibetan Buddhism, traces of shamanism. Circa 4500
Yugurs are nomadic cattle breeders in the steppes, the Taglyg
in the mountains. The Yugur people like to wear their traditional red hats.
The self-appellation is Sarïg Yogïr (Yellow Uyghur). Additionally,
note the most commonly accepted names in other languages: (West) Yugur
in English, sarï-jugurskij in Russian, Sarï Uygurca in Turkish.
The Yugur people are not to be confused: (1) with the Mongolic-speaking Shera-Yugurs,
or Eastern Yugurs (c. 2800 speakers), who by the way wear a different hat style;
or (2) with the Yughu (the Sinicized Yugurs losing their ethnic roots).
Yellow Uighur (?)
Uighur" is not usually mentioned as a separate language, yet some sources,
such as Tenishev (1966), cite contradictory data; these inconsistencies could
be due to a dialectal split in Yugur or even due to the existence of another Yugur
language, which would be natural considering more than the 1200 yearlong existence
of this subgroup. This evidence has been preserved here for later consideration.
Salar /sah-LAR/ is a language of controversial
classification. According to legends, the Salar people are said to have moved
into Xunhua /shoon-HWAH/ Salar Autonomous County in western China, approximately
the same location as the Yugur people. The migration is said to originate either
from Samarqand, Uzbekistan, or the Khorasan Province, occurring c. 1370, which
matches the rise of Tamerlane. The migration could have been accomplished by traveling
along the Silk Road. Traditional Turkology usually describes Salar as "Oghuz",
however there is a conspicuous absence of any typical Oghuz-Seljuk innovations.
Moreover, the striking phono-semantic mutations, the grammatical similarity to
Yugur (including the loss of conjugation), and the strong Chinese influence (e.g.
native numbers no longer in use, phonological adaptations, the sporadic use of
the "shï" copula, etc.) also tend to contradict this grouping.
By no means should Salar be mindlessly viewed as just "Oghuz"
rather it seems to be the outcome of creolized transition from the local Middle
Yugur substratum to one of the closely located Turkic languages such as the early
Chagatai or late Oghuz, additionally with some Chinese and Dongxiang (Mongolic)
Islam. C. 100.000 ethnic Salar people, but the language is now mostly spoken only
by the elder. Listen to this lovely
traditional Salar song, Usher ya maña, usher "Look at me, gather around".
languages must have separated from the rest of the Turkic stem very early on,
most likely circa 400 BC, when part of the Proto-Turkic continuum infiltrated
beyond the Tian-Shan-Altai-Sayan mountain barrier into Dzungaria, following
the upper reaches of the Kara-Irtysh River. In Dzungaria, they must have soon
split up into the three main branches: (1) the tribes that spread to the east,
towards the Gobi Desert, circumventing the Mongolian Altai and forming the
Orkhon Old Turkic of the Eastern Göktürk Kaganate; (2) the tribes that stayed
near Dzungaria apparently forming the basis of Proto-Oghuz; (3) finally,
the tribes that spread to the west towards the Tarim Basin initially forming Kara-Khoja
(= Old Uyghur) and Karakhanid, and then much later contributing to
the formation of Khalaj. Hence, the subgroup's tripartite name used in
founders of the Göktürk Kaganate, seemed to have been originally known
as Türüq or Türq(as reconstructed from the Orkhon Old Turkic
script), whereas other early Turkic
clans originally had different clan names, such as Kyrgyz, Tatar, Oghuz, to name
just a few among the earliest attested. Just like western surnames, such as John-son,
Peter-son, etc, the name Tür(ü)q most likely initially referred to the
hypothetical patrilineal clan founder, which is supported by early legends recorded
in the Oghuz-namah and a mention by Makhmud al-Kashgari.
Consequently, the males of that clan formerly traced their personal
ancestry and family histories to the clan's legendary progenitor. When the Türüq
clan became prominent by the 550 AD, the name began to spread with its political
influence and seems to have been adopted or inherited by several other peoples
in Central Asia, such as the Karakhanids of the Tarim Basin, the Oghuz Turkmen
near the Kopet Dag and the Ottoman Turks in Anatolia, though the exact details
of this ethnonymic and genetic history are difficult to reconstruct.
The Turks that
moved to Mongolia
of the Göktürk Kaganate
before the era of Mongols, there existed a Eurasian Empire centered in Mongolia
that was nearly just as great and just as powerful as that of Genghis Khan /JEN-gis,
CHEN-gis, not GEN-gis/. It was known as the Göktürk
Kaganate (552-744 AD), and it controlled the Silk Road as far west as
the Black Sea. European historians rarely mention this empire, probably because
the Göktürks ("Blue or Celestial Turks") have not reached western Europe
directly, still their influence on Central Asia and Byzantine was profound. The
Eastern Kaganate (capital: Ordu-Balïq
/or-DOO bah-LIK/ with the population of about 100.000) was centered in the sacred
and fertileOrkhon Valley
/OR-hon, or-HON/ in Mongolia. Curiously, Genghis Khan's capital Karakorum
was afterwards located in the very same place: only 10 miles away from the Ordu-Balïq
ruins, probably because, just like the Turkic peoples, the Mongols believed in
the divine force emanating from the Orkhon Valley and mythical Mount Ötüken. The
Western Kaganate, which existed until 659, was ruled from the Silk Road
outpost city Suyab in
today's Kyrgyzstan. The Göktürk Empire was overrun first by the Chinese (659-681),
and then by the Old Uyghurs (not to confuse with the present-day ones) who founded
the Uyghur Kaganate (744-840). However, these seem to be changes just in the ruling
dynasties, not the language. Finally, after a period of political decline, Ordu-Balïq
and other eastern cities were razed by the Yenisei Kyrgyz in 840. The collapse
of this empire probably affected the spread of many Turkic languages, pushing
them further to the west. The Gökturk-Uyghur people used the Old Turkic (Okhon-Yenisei)
runiform alphabetic script
attested since the 720s. It was
carved on stone obelisks thus preserving the Old Turkic language in detail.
a Genghis Khan film (2007)
ruins of Ordu-Balïq
Turks that moved to the Tarim Basin
the downfall period of the Göktürk (Uyghur) Kaganate in 840 AD or even earlier,
some of the Turkic tribes migrated towards the Tarim /tah-REEM/
Basin where they created (1) a confederacy of decentralized Buddhist states known
as Kara-Khoja (Kocho) (capital: Besh-Balik) in the oases, where Old
Uyghur (türk uyGur tili) was spoken, and (2) the Kara-Khanid
Khanate(845-1212) located further to the west in the Tian Shan
Mountains with its Karakhanid dialect. The first capital of the Karakhanid Khanate
was established in the city of Balasagun
/bah-LAH-sah-GOON/ located near Lake Issyk-Kul (present-day Kyrgyzstan), in the
same region as the Western Turkic Kaganate with its capital Suyab, which implies
that the western Gökturk and Karakhanid population must have been closely connected.
After some time, the Kara-Khanid capital was moved to Kashgar in the Tarim Basin.
The Kara-Khanid Khanate was converted to Islam in 934. Karakhanid and Old Uyghur
languages were eventually displaced by Chagatai after the 13th century. We
should also mention
Mahmud al-Kashgari ( = "Mohammed of Kashgar") (c. 1029-1102?),
the famous Arabic-speaking Turkologist, a son of a city mayor related to the Karakhanid
dynasty, who in 1072-74 wrote the Diwan Lughat at-Turk "The
Compendium of Turkic dialects", a comprehensive 700-page dictionary of the
Karakhanid Turkic language and the nearby dialects, which was a very, very professional
and illustrative work of its time.
Figs: left to right, examples
of the Karakhanid architecture: (1) A decoration with swastikas; (2) Burana
Tower, Balasagun; (3) Aisha Bibi Mausoleum, Taraz, Kazakhstan; (4) Mausoleum
in Uzgen, western Kyrgyzstan;
(5) a Karakhanid Minaret, Bukhara (1127)
Khalaj /hah-LAHJ/ (not to be confused
with a Northwest Iranian language of the same name) is a poorly classified Turkic
language in western Iran about a 100 miles south of Tehran, which is famous for
several unusual features, such as (1) the initial h- where other languages
have only vowels, (2) the intervocal -d- as in hadaq "foot"
and (3) the retention of long vowels as in Turkmen. Khalaj had been first mentioned
in a legend recited by Mahmud al-Kashgari, and then discovered and studied in
vivo first by Minorsky (1906) and finally by Doerfer (1968-73), who nearly went
to the extent of proclaiming Khalaj as one of the most basic and early-diversified
Turkic languages ever. However, according to other studies, such as Mudrak (2002-08)[10b]
and herein, Khalaj
should be tentatively classified as a relatively late offshoot of the Karakhanid
expansion, which is supported by such features as (1) the presence of the intervocal
-D- (as in aDaq) in Orkhon-Kharakhanid; (2) the lack of profound historical
changes in Khalaj glottochronologically consistent with an earlier separation
from the main stem; (3) the presence of the prothetic h- in Khotanese,
an Iranian language spoken in the same part of the Tarim basin, etc. Consequently,
as it was suggested as early as Minorsky (1906), Khalaj seems to be just the living
continuation of southern Karakhanid, whose archaic features are easily explained
by the early separation of Orkhon-Karakhanid-Oghuz sub-stem as a whole. Khalaj
has also been strongly affected by Azeri or other local Seljuk languages, as well
as the Iranian adstratum. Economy: agriculture, nomadic sheep breeding. Presumably,
c. 42 000 speakers, mostly bilingual in Farsi.
Turks that migrated to the Aral-Caspian region
subgroup, which includes languages closely related to Turkmen, Azeri and Turkish,
has been usually known as just Oghuz. This subgroup is characterized at
least by the following typical features: (1) the specific voicing pattern as in
tört > dört; yetti > yedi especially in the initial consonants; (2)
the m- > b- mutation as in müNüz > *büNüz > buynuz
"horn" ; (3) the loss of the final -G as in *quruG > Guru
and the intervocalic -G- in the suffixes -Gan > -an, -Ga > -a;
(4) the tendency to form a contracted -yor-/yar- present tense, as in Turkish
bil-i-yor-um "I know"; (5) the use of the verb i- with
the -mïsh past participle to form the audative mood, etc. Some of these
features were mentioned as early as 1072 by Mahmud
al-Kashgari as part of his brief description of the Oghuz language, which
shows that by 1000 AD Karakhanid and Oghuz were already quite different dialects
with a notable temporal separation, therefore it is reasonable to surmise that
their diversification must have occurred at least circa 500-600 AD or even earlier.
Oghuz clan confederacy was first attested circa 600 AD in Mongolia. In the 8th
century, they waged a war with the Orkhon Göktürks and were subjugated by them,
so at the time, they were already regarded as a tribal unity clearly different
from Tür(ü)k, Tatar and Qïrgïz. By 775, the Oghuz tribes were found near
Talas in Sogdiana, assumingly having arrived there as part of a mass migrations
to the Western Göktürk Kaganate. Eventually, they seem to have traveled along
the Syr-Darya /SIR DAR-ya/ (Yaxartes)
River towards its delta in the Aral Sea where they formed the confederacy of the
Transoxanian Oghuz with a capital named Yangi-Kent and a ruler titled
yabgu (=prince). There in the Transoxanian steppeland, they were witnessed
by several Arab travelers, including a vivid description by Ibn-Fadlan in 922.
Mahmud al-Kashgari (1072) mentioned several Oghuz towns, some of which have been
rediscovered by archaeologists; he also explicitly stated that "Turkmen"
and "Oghuz" meant essentially the same, which means that the modern-day
Turkmen people must be the direct descendants of the Transoxanian Oghuz. On the
other hand, the name Turkmen apparently could initially be applied to any
Islamized Turks. The Oghuz dialect-language of the 11th century is documented
in Al-Kashgari's writings mostly as few words and phrases. By the 12th century,
the Transoxanian Oghuz tribes apparently migrated towards the Kopet-Dag Mountains
or dissipated. According to a poorly supported hypothesis, they could also be
connected to the Pecheneg
raids into the Kievan Rus, but the origins of the latter are highly controversial.
On the origins of ethnonym Oghuz:
ethnonym was first attested as Altï Oghuz (The Six Oghuz) in a Yenisei
inscription, and then as the Toquz Oghuz (The Nine Oghuz), Sekkiz Oghuz
(The Eight Oghuz) in the Orkhon inscription in Mongolia, and as the Üch
Oghuz (The Three Oghuz) near Kyrgyzstan. The numbers before the name apparently
meant just the number of tribal units participating in a military confederacy,
which could change depending on the current situation.
The ethnonym Oghuz /aw-GOOZ/
most likely goes back to a personal name of a legendary patrilineal clan progenitor,
described in oral legends collected in the Oghuz-namah ("The Oghuz
Narratives"), with the earliest written record by Rashid al-Din dating to
the end of the 13th century. The name or alias itself may presumably have meant
öqüz "bull, ox" implying force and vigor.
The remnants of Juvara, an
Oghuz city discovered by archaeologists near the Aral Sea in 2008
Turkmenistan (capital Ashgabad /ush-gah-BAHD/, built from a village
in 1918) is in fact a thin strip of arable land situated between the Karakum /kah-RAH
KOOM/ ("Black Sand")
Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range. When Russia took control of Turkmenistan
in the 1880's, the Transcaspian Railway was built along the path of the Silk Road.
In 1948, Ashgabad was destroyed by an earthquake. In the 1950s, the Qaraqum Channel,
the largest in the world irrigation system, was established diverting the waters
of the Amu Darya towards Ashgabad. There arec. 7 million Turkmen
people, of which 2 million live in Afghanistan and Iran.
A Turkmen bride
Ashgabad Trade Center
The Turkmen people: man
and wife, c. 1905
The Seljuk Monument
A Turkmen girl
The Arch of Independence, Ashgabad
Oil & Gas Ministry
A Turkmen village in Afghanistan
Seljuk Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum,
1157 AD, Merv
of the most notable phonological features of Turkmen is the pronunciation of <s>
and <z> as the interdental /ß/and /ð/ in English, as well as the retention
of long vowel, as in /ot/ "grass" vs. /o:t/ "fire". The latter
phenomenon is known as the primary long vowels which presumably goes back
to Proto-Turkic. The dialectal diversification in Aral-Caspian Oghuz has resulted
in the formation of many variants of Turkmen. Turkmen is based on the Teke
dialect. Other major dialects include Yomud (north and west of Turkmenistan),
Ersarin (along the Amu-Darya), Salyr (along the Iranian border),
Saryq (along the Murgab River), Chovdur (Dashoguz area, along the
Amu-Darya), Trukhmen (Stavropol Krai, Russia). Of all the ex-Soviet republics,
Turkmenistan seems to have the highest percentage of non-Russophone popultaion
The Turks that
migrated to Iran and Anatolia The Seljuk Empire
Great Seljuk Empire
(1037-1077) was founded by the Seljuk Dynasty that goes back to the legendary
founder Seljuk /sel-JOOK/ (c. 931-1038), whose clan had split off from
the Oghuz confederacy c. 985 and traveled from the Aral Sea region southward along
the Syr-Darya River. Under Seljuk's grandson
Togrul Beg, the Seljuk people migrated into eastern Persia and by 1055
expanded their control all the way to Baghdad. In 1071, they won the important
Battle of Manzikert,
which neutralized Byzantine and led to the foundation of the Turkic Sultanate
of Rum (1077-1307) in Anatolia [from Arabic Rum /room/ "Rome",
implying the Second (Eastern) Rome, or Byzantine].
impression of the Battle of Manzikert (1071)
Seljuk (Oghuz) archer
Entry of Mehmed II into Constantinople (1453), painting by Benjamin Constant (1876)
of the Turks caused the Byzantine emperors to desperately seek protection in Europe,
thus contributing to the initiation of Crusades. It seems that the first Crusades
did not really fight against Muslims, rather they were directed against the Seljuk
threat from the East. The Seljuk language of this and the later period, written
in Arabic script, is known as Old Anatolian Turkish. The Turkish (Ottoman)
Empire begins to rise by 1300, and to flourish with the capture of Constantinople
in 1453, the year marking the final collapse of the Byzantine Empire. The
Turkish language from the 16th to 20th century is called Ottoman Turkish.
rather typical feature of Turkish and Azeri is a particularly high level of long
synthetic agglutinating constructions exacerbated by a one-word orthography, that
can also be found in other Turkic languages but probably not to the same extent,
e.g. /anla-ya-bil-mish-tir/ "s/he could really understand" or doktordu
"s/he was a doctor", which can make the impression of nouns being conjugated.
Qashqai /kush-KUY/ people have traditionally been nomadic pastoralists who lived
around Shiraz in southern Iran and who had probably arrived there with the Seljuk
invasion. Presently, they mostly dwell in settled households. The Qashqai are
renowned for their magnificent pile carpets and other woven wool products. Population:
over 1-1.5 million.
A Qashkai wedding; (2) Old ways still prevailing among nomads; (3) A Qashqai child
people (the abbreviated substandard: Azeri) are the descendants of the
Oghuz-Seljuk tribes that conquered Persia by 1055 but did not migrate to Anatolia.
They gradually Turkicized the northwestern Persian and the South Caucasus population
near the southwest coast of the Caspian Sea. After a series of Russo-Persian wars
(1812, 1826-28) Iran lost some of its northern territories to Russia, which finally
became independent in 1991 as the Republic of Azerbaijan (capital: Baku
/bah-KOO/). The north Iranian
provinces also bear similar names (East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan), akin
to the name of Atropates, a satrap who ruled this region of ancient Persia. Azerbaijani
differs to some extent from Turkish (80% in Swadesh-215 with borrowings included),
though both languages are still largely mutually intelligible. Religion: Shi'a
Islam. 7.5 million speakers in Azerbaijan + c. 15-20 million in
Iran, though many of them now speak Russian or Persian as their 2nd language.
Here is an Azeri song Dashlï
Aida Makhmudova as an Azeri
Baku (above); Urmiyye fruit
(c.1299-1922) was named after Osman I (1258-1326) who extended the frontiers of
Seljuk settlement towards the edge of the Byzantine Empire, although Constantinople,
its capital, would finally be captured by the Anatolian Turks only in 1453.
Slave trade and low literacy rate were part of the Ottoman society for centuries.
The Ottoman Empire entered WWI through the Ottoman-German Alliance in 1914. The
occupation of Izmir in 1919 by the Greek troops promoted the establishment of
the Turkish national movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,
who is seen as the crucial historic figure and the founder of the Republic
of Turkey (capital: Ankara /AHN-karah, AN-karah/).
An admirer of the Enlightenment, he sought to transform the anachronistic
Ottoman Empire into a modern, democratic, secular nation-state. A Latin alphabet
instead of the Arabic Ottoman script was introduced to increase literacy, and
the Turkish language reform was initiated to exclude excessive Arabic and Persian
Figs.: views of Istanbul,
except left below: Izmir
reform succeeded in excluding several thousand words, though replacing them
with sometimes contrived neologisms. In phonology, the velar-uvular /G/ is normally
entirely omitted in western dialects, e.g. daG > da: "mountain".
The 1st person pronoun *men "I" has evolved into ben,
an almost unique feature among Turkic languages. C. 70 million speakers.
What can express the Turkish soul
better than a good old quaint Türkü song, such as those performed
by Burchin: Dane,
dane (dialectal) "Your mole is like a little seed Is there
anything sweeter than the beloved one?"; Neredesin
sen? "Where are you?".
Turkish migration to the Crimean Khanate during the 15th-18th c., when it was
nominally subject to the Ottoman rule (1478-1774), led to the development of the
so called southern dialect of Crimean Tartar that was essentially "Crimean
Turkish". Presently, probably dissolved and intermingled with the northern
and central Crimean Tartar.
/gah-gah-OOZ/ (often explained as Gök Oghuz > Gökouz
in Turkish pronunciation) is the westernmost Turkic language spoken mostly in
Gagauzia, a small Autonomous Territorial Unit, formed in 1994 and located
in Moldova, between Romania and Ukraine. Gagauzia includes only 2 towns
and 27 villages. The Gagauz moved to this region from Bulgaria after the Russo-Turkish
war (1806-1812), though their origins in Bulgaria are poorly understood. Presumably,
they could have been the followers of the Seljuk Sultan Kaykaus II (1236-1276)
from Anatolia or Turkified Bulgarian Christians. Even more than Azeri, Gagauz
is mutually intelligible with Turkish to a notable extent. Religion: Orthodox
Christianity. Population: c. 250.000.
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The Lexicostatistics and Glottochronology
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