with comment and illustrations
based upon linguistic and historical analysis
to Yusuf B. Gürsey for reviewing this web page
and providing many valuable remarks and corrections at sci.lang
(first online) > 10/2009 (major update) > 11/2010
(classification rearranged) >
10-12/2011 (minor corrections) > 03-04/2012 (corrections, fonts
changed, classification update, English transcription remarks,
songs, references added) > 05/2012 (Chulym, Khwarezmian, Nogai,
Kumyk, Karaim, Sibir Tatar, Baraba added or rewritten)
> 07/2012 (corrections, Sakha maps added) >
02/2013 (spelling and editing corrections) >
(paragraphs added, font and layout adjusted to increase readability,
some controversial parts removed, editing corrections)
of the Bulgaro-Turkic languages
A draft of the
Bulgaric and Turkic migration
from 1000 BCE to 1000 CE,
an older version (2008)
later migrations of Turkic peoples
between 500 and 1200 CE (2012)
The Turkiclanguages is a closely related phylogenetic language
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)].
languages is a generally-accepted term, another correct name
for a taxon 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
branches, even though this terminology is far less common.
According to the
present glottochronological study,
the Bulgaric languages apparently branched off from Turkic 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 lexicostatistical fluctuations.
The location of
the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic Urheimat is still controversial, however
there may be reasons to believe that it may be confined to an area
in northern Kazakhstan southwest 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, though
an alternative and a more traditional hypothesis places it near
analysis based on the materials collected in SIGTY, Lexis
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 cart.
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.
of Turkic languages (2012) (clickable)
of Turkic languages (2012)
present classification of Bulgaro-Turkic languages
Turkology 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 has been
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).
The classical Baskakov's
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 any lexicostatistical studies, however, 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]
The present taxonomic
system has been rebuilt nearly from scratch, and is not directly
based on any previous classifications, consequently, it may differ
from earlier works in several aspects. It attempts to take a closer
look at the phonolgical, grammatical, and lexical features of the
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 build a taxonomic
system based on shared innovations.
The present taxonomic
description hardly address any 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 may exceed 50, especially
if all the large dialect-languages and notable historical 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
The 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
mutual proximity of Turkic languages
of Turkic languages (2012) (clickable)
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 is 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 more geographically distant,
still share lots of familiar Old Turkic, Persian and Arabic words
with Turkish and can be learned with some effort as any two comparable
in-group languages, cf. for instance English
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 instance, speaking
just one of the Oghuz languages, it is hardly possible to understand
anything but a few words in Kazakh 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.
Using the meticulous
lexicostatistical study of 215-word Swadesh lists,
it is possible to make certain 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 known 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 may at times contribute
to the intelligibility in formal speech even between distant languages.
on the Silk Road and the Central Asian Bridge
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 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.
on clan societies
The social 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.
Until the 20th
century and sometimes even later, the 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 brand (tamga),
which apparently is historically similar to the coats of arms used
in European families. 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.
Naturally, a clan
members were considered brothers and sisters who had many social
responsibilities and could not intermarry either entirely (e.g.
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 more 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 still 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.
The names of Turkic
languages and clan names often seem to be connected. As it has been
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
family name 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 sweeping 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
usually they should not contain any more information than, say,
such English surnames as Archer, Hawkins or Green,
so unreasonable ethnonymic guessing is a constant source of errors
and folk etymologies.
As 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, awul /ah-(W)OOL/
(a village) that used a similar geographic pattern of migration
throughout the year. The head of the awul was usually the
oldest and the richest man, and most of the other members were personally
related to him. At a winter camp (qïshlïq), several
awuls 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 (ordu) "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".
The UTF encoding,
let alone the IPA signs, have been avoided herein right from the
beginning, for reasons of compatibility, consequently the present
system of transcription and transliteration may initially seem slightly
/ü/, /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
the sound in cut or done. This vowel does not exist
in English and it cannot be directly compared to a shwa in about,
ago, since a schwa is a middle-middle vowel, and the /ï/
phoneme 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,
/ê/ is mostly
a schwa as in about, but in some languages it may denote
a different sound.
/N/ is the
/x/ is usually
a velar <kh> similar to the Russian <x> or the Spanish
as in treasure but usually less palatalized.
Bashkir, Turkmen) as in this; /ß/ as in thump.
Chuvash) is a palatalized form of /s/ similar to a soft /s/ in Russian.
a palatalized /d/ in Altay Turkic similar to the very light pronunciation
of <j> in English.
/J/ or /j/
is a sound similar to the <j> in Jack in Englsh.
/G/ are respectively voiceless and voiced deep velars (or even
that <q> is the traditional way to denote the voiceless "throaty"
velar 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 have been falling out of use throughout the Turkic history, being
slowly replaced by /k/ and /g/ from Russian, Greek and other Indo-European
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 is moved forward allophonically in /ke/ and /ki/.
Moreover, the younger Russian-influenced speakers may replace /q/
by /k/ entirely or attenuate it in all these cases.
/*P/, /*B/ (in
Tuvan, Tofa, Proto-Turkic) is a way to denote reconstructed phonemes
probably intermediate between /p/ and /b/ as in Mandarin or some
Yugur, Tuvan) is a phoneme usually intermediate between /t/ and
/d/ as in Mandarin.
Old Turkic, intervocal) is a reconstructed phoneme that was probably
similar either to the Spanish intervocal -d- or the interdental
English /ð/ [uncertain].
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 soft Russian /sch'/ or even
the English /j/.
Proto-Turkic) is a reconstructed trill, probably a mixture of /r/
and /z/ as in Czech.
Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic) is a reconstructed palatalized lateral fricative
apparently similar to the one in modern Khalkha
Mongolian, essentially a mixture of /l/ and /s/.
intense aspiration or a similar reconstructed phoneme.
/ ' / after
vowels (in Chuvash) marks stress; after consonants it marks softeness.
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, so the stress seems to vary depending
on the intonation, but separate Turkic words are normally pronounced
stressed on the final syllable,
e.g. usually Tatar /tah-TAR/ not /TAH-ter/ as in English.
at the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic reconstruction
Any 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 has been performed to the best of
our knowledge and according to the guidelines in the introduction
to the main article.
peoples were first attested west of the Southern Ural /YOO-ral,
near the lower and middle course of the Volga River and in the
Ponto-Caspian Steppes during the fall of the Roman Empire, but
the details of their origin are still obscure.
In any case and
for all practical purposes, one should keep in mind that the difference
between Bulgaric and Turkic is fairly 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
a subgroup of Turkic-related nomads that first appeared near the
Caucasus mountains c. 350 AD and then c. 475 AD, on the Danube /DAN-yoob/.
They seem to have contributed to the creation of several medieval
kingdoms: (0) the short-lived Old Great Bulgaria (632-671 AD),
founded by Khan Kubrat in the Pontic Steppe which led
to the formation of the other three affiliate states, ruled by Khan
(1) Volga Bulgaria(670-1236 AD) along the middle
course of the Volga River, which finally gave rise to present-day
Chuvashia /choo-VUSH-eeya, chuh-VUSH-eeya/;
(2) Danube Bulgaria (670 -864 AD), which gave rise to the
modern Slavic-speaking Bulgaria;
and finally (3) the Khazar Khagante /hah-ZAR, kah-ZAR/
(650-969 AD) near the Caspian Sea, which was famous for its
Judaism but which finally vanished almost entirely.
The Bulgaric languages
are only poorly attested in historical records. The Volga Bulgar
and Danube Bulgar languages are only known from a few inscriptions
written with Greek and Arabic characters or Old Turkic runes. Khazar
is only known from the inscription oqurum "I have read"
and the name of the city of Sar-kel "The White Home
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. Russophone pronunciation /choo-VUSH/,
is still spoken in the Chuvash Republic (capital: Cheboksary
/chebok-SAH-reh/, cf. the Chuvash original: Shupashkar /shoo-pahsh-KAR/)
and is believed to be a direct descendant of the language of Volga
Bulgaria (ancient capitals: Bolghar and Bilar,
the latter was a large city of about 2 miles across).
was founded c. 670, near the confluence of the Volga and Kama /KAH-ma/.
It consisted of many small towns found by archaeologists. 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 (Dniepr) River /NEE-per/.
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
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
(left fig. below) is one of the few standing remnants of this long
gone civilization, although the later buildings in Bolghar from
the 13th and 14th centuries (right fig. below) also preserve its
spirit. In 1552, the Russians seized Kazan /kuh-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 Chuvash lexical core is quite archaic, and
it can be seen as a valuable data source for the purposes of Bulgaro-Turkic
There are 1.04
million speakers of Chuvash (2010),[24d]
but most of them are bilingual in Russian.
As an example,
listen to this very lovely
folk song (mp3) in Chuvash with an English
translation note certain Slavic features in music and
Note that most
of the music clips below have been chosen because of their unusual,
enthralling or typically local tunes and lyrics and are recommended
for listening as part of this ethnographic study.
Chuvash traditional dress (left);
(2) the reconstruction of the Bolghar City (right);
(3) the original Volga Bulgar tower in Yelabuga near the Kama river
(4) the restored buildings dating from the Golden Horde period (right
topographic map of
the Altai-Sayan Mountains,
based on maps from
that excludes any Bulgaric languages is named herein Turkic (Proper).
It is also sometimes confusingly known as Common Turkic,
which may have misleading associations with Proto-Turkic or even
certain modern Turkic conlangs.
The late homeland
of Proto-Turkic Proper was evidently located near the Altai-Sayan
likely near northwestern ridges of the Altaibetween 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 of the maximum language diversification
area. The date above is inferred from a meticulous glottochronological
Similar hypotheses about the Altai localization of the Proto-Turkic
peoples were suggested, in fact, at least as early as the 19th century.
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, c. 400 AD) but more or less similar to that
It seems that initially
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.
(1) Eastern Turkic
Possible reconstructed migrations
of Proto-Yakutic (clickable)
The Eastern Turkic
Languages is a major grouping that includes only two known representatives:
Sakha (Yakut) and Dolgan (the northern offshoot of
Sakha), which can also 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
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 Turkic
stem, though the exact date is not very clear (somewhere between
c. 200-300 and 900 BC).
On the other hand,
there seem to be certain common features that the Yakutic supertaxon
shares with the Altai-Sayan languages. After a thorough consideration
in this work, these features have been attributed to the secondary
contact between the Proto-Altai-Sayan and Proto-Yakutic languages,
that must have occurred along the Yenisei River soon after the initial
The Lena migrants
Yakuts are a Turkic group that formed as an outcome of migration
along the Lena River (Anglophone: /LEE-nah/, Russophone:
hence also the pseudonym of Lenin). This Lena migration has
led to a large-scale distribution of Yakutic settlers that presently
spread from the area of Yakutsk City all the way to the Arctic Ocean.
The 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
Sakha warriors (staged)
A village along
Any details concerning
the early Proto-Yakutic migration are inevitably hypothetical, however
the present study
attempted to create a general outline of the subject. 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 records.
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 the Proto-Yakuts 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, whereas many distant areas of the taiga remain
uninhabited up to this day.
(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
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, then Orthodoxy. C. 450 000
but most are bilingual in Russian.
The Sakha Beauty Contest
the Pole of Cold
Yakutsk City 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. Dolgan exposes evident Evenk
influence and can apparently be regarded as Sakha that wandered over
the local Evenk substratum. According to Ubryatova (1985), the main
researcher of Dolgan, it 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.
(2) Central Turkic
is large hypothetical grouping that 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 major supergrouping consists of the two
main subtaxa: (1) Altai-Sayan(Turkic) and (2) Great-Steppe(Turkic).
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 that were added
afterwards, but in other they seem to be authentic, going back to
a very early period of time. At any rate, Kyrgyz and Tatar
appear among the oldest clan names used by the Turkic peoples.
Most ethnic groups
in the Central Turkic supertaxon have been part of the Russian Empire
since the 16th-17th centuries, so naturally most of the Central
Turkic languages exhibit pronounced Russian influence particularly
in the cultural and technical vocabulary.
ALTAI-SAYAN (YENISEI KYRGYZ)
of the Altai-Sayan languages
circa the beginning of the 20th century
(clickable), based on maps
from the 1940-60's[12b][12c][12d]
subgroup [the name is introduced herein] includes Altay,
Khakas, Tuvan and other closely-related languages. It has been
named in this way herein, because it is distributed in the Altai
and Sayan mountains (see the map).
subgroup probably corresponds to the descendants of the so called
Kyrgyz, a historically important cluster of eastern Turkic
tribes that were attested under various names in Chinese chronicles
between 200-900 AD, but 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
(Little) Land" during the clashes with the Russians in the
The Yenisei Kyrgyz
are said to have destroyed the Uyghur (= Gökturk) Empire in
Mongolia and its capital Ordu-Balïq/or-DOO bah-LIK/
in 840 AD (see below), which caused the final dissipation
of the Orkhon /or-HON/ Turkic peoples, but led to the rise of the
Yenisei Kyrgyz Kaganate (840-1207).
Yenisei Kyrgyz seem to have inhabited the Minusinsk Depression
in Khakassia [Minusinsk /mee-noo-SINSK/ is a city near
Abakan /ah-bah-KAHN/, the capital of Khakassia]. The Minusinsk
Depression is a geographically suitable plane with steppes, lakes,
and valleys located along the upper Yenisei River between
the Kuznetsk Alatau /kooz-NETSK AH-lah-TOU/, and 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 [perhaps even
forever because cherry pits have been found in archaeological excavations
in nearby Tuva].
By proceeding south,
up the Yenisei, and after crossing the Western Sayan Ridge, one
can arrive into the interconnected Tuva Depression, where
the Tyva Republic is located.
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.
By following even
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/.
Genghis Khan movie
filmed in Tuva and Khakassia (2007)
people processing leather (1913)
often still live in classical yurts,
many other Khakas and Altay peoples seem to have lived in
semi-subterranean 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, so it is not really clear which one
of the two came first.
or Proto-Yenisei-Kyrgyz settlements seem to be identifiable with
/tash-TIK/ archaeological culture (2nd BC-5th AD) famous for their
stunning, poignant funerary asks showing rather European features.
trait found among the local population 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
tribes, which have recently been shown to be linguistically related
to Na-Dene (see Dene-Yeniseian
superfamily). The genetic studies conducted since 1997 too demonstrate
a high concentration of Native American mtDNA lineages in Tuvan,
Soyot, Khakas, Altay, and Buryat population [e.g. Zakharov (2003)].
As the name of
the Yeniseian peoples implies, they have inhabited almost the same
area as the Altai-Sayan Turkic, along the middle and upper course
of Yenisei north of Tuva, approximately until the 17-19th century,
and may possibly have transmitted certain ethnological and genetic
characteristics to the Turkic immigrants.
The Altay and Khakas
languages and dialects seem to be rather archaic, and contain relatively
few non-Turkic loanwords in their basic vocabulary (except for the
abundant cultural borrowings from Russian that have been coming
along since the 17th century onward)). As a result, because of the
smallest number of Arabic and Mongolic loanwords, as well as the
purity and archaism of lexicon, Khakas,
Altay, and Kyrgyz can be regarded among the most typical Turkic
languages, preserving the maximum number of late Proto-Turkic
features, so perhaps they may provide a rather good idea of what
the late Proto-Central-Turkic or even late Proto-Turkic-Proper may
have actually sounded like when it still existed. Note that Tuvan,
on the otherhand, contains too many Mongolic borrowings.
The Altay and Khakas
population has been historically subdivided into more than a hundred
patrilneal clans, known as seoks (sö:k "bone").
The modern generic
self-appellation of both Khakas and Altay peoples is in fact Tadarlar
(Tatars), perhaps originally from a Russian exonym, because
of the widespread usage of this name in the Russian Empire of the
18-19th century for any Turkic peoples.
The Yenisei-Kyrgyz migrants
to the Sayan Mountains
subgroup [the name is introduced herein] includes Tuvan (proper),
Todzhin, Tofa, Tsaatan and Soyot. The Tuvan-Tofa subgroup
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 those Proto-Altai-Sayan tribes that migrated along the
Yenisei from the Minusinsk Depression first into the Tuvan Depression
and then into the nearby regions along the Mongolian border. For
this reason, this Tuvan-Tofa subtaxon may also be referred as the
the Tuvan-Tofa subgroup must have separated from Proto-Khakas and
Proto-Altay by about 250 AD.
The 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 neighbors, the Khakas and Altay people.
Tofa or Tïva might in some way be related to the name
of the Tuba /too-BAH/ River in the Minusinsk Depression near Abakan,
though this suggestion is controversial.
Note that the Tuvan
and Tofa(lar) Cyrillic spelling systems may contain voiced symbols,
such as <b>, <d>, <g>, which in practice denote
the so called "weak" consonants that are normally pronounced
Chinese-style: as unvoiced in the beginning and as semi-voiced in
the intervocal position, as opposed to the <p>, <t>,
and <k> that always denote aspirated consonants (as in the
is spoken in the Tyva Republic /teh-VAH/
(outdated: Tuva /TOO-vah/)(capital
city: Kyzyl /keh-ZEL, kuh-ZUL/, lit. "Red"). The
Tyva Republic is suitably located in the
Tuvan Depression along theupper 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.
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. Still there seems
to be a large number of monolinguals and true native speakers, evidently
because of the isolated geographic position of Tuva.
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 mountains. The Tofa(lar)s have
recently been 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).
are c. 1900 Todzhin people (2010).
and in the beginning of the 20th century
The Yenisei-Kyrgyz migrants
along the Yenisei
The Khakas subgroup
includes at least the following languages and major dialects: (0)
(Standard Literary) Khakas /hhah-KAHS/, which is basically
a rather artificial 20th century's literary koine based on Sagai;
(1) Sagai /sah-GUY/ (presently, the most commonly spoken
vernacular dialect of Khakas, situated to the east of the Kuznetsk
Alatau Mountains), (2) Kach(a) (Russian káchinskiy;
actually from the old self-appellation /qa:sh/; now rare,
though still active in the beginning of the 20th century), (3) Kyzyl
(almost extinct), (4) Koibal, (5) Beltir (both extinct); (6) Mras-Su
Shor, (7) Kondom Shor (meaning the Shor people living
along the Mras-Su and Kondom Rivers near the Kuznetsk Alatau west
of the Sagai area); and finally (8) Middle Chulym /choo-LIM/
(spoken in a couple of villages, in remote northern areas along
the middle course of the Chulym River), and possibly (9) 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
also include some of the northern Altay dialects.
ethnonym Khakas is an entirely modern invention created
only in 1918; it was patterned on the then-supposed reading of Chinese
chronicles [see the discussion in the published correspondence by
Yakhontov, Butanayev (1992)].
Except for formal occasions, the word Khakas 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 clans appears to be lost in history is perhaps the
long-standing differentiation of the Khakas subgroup into many unconnected
dialects and languages.
The Khakas peoples
had traditionally practiced nomadic herding, agriculture, hunting,
and fishing, but were mostly Russified and Westernized in the course
of the 20th century.
is spoken in the Republic of Khakassia /ha-KAHS-iya/ (capital:
Abakan /abah-KAHN/), that was annexed by Russia in 1727.
As explained above, Khakas is rather a
collection of vernacular dialect-languages originally dispersed
along the upper Yenisei in the Minusinsk Depression, but presently
mostly extinct, except for Sagai, which is spoken in villages
along the Abakan River. Textbook Khakas exists mostly as a poorly-known
standard that may differ from Sagai.
are 72.950 persons who consider themselves "Khakas" but
no more than about 42.000 Khakas speakers (2010),[24d],
most of which being proficient in Russian.
A traditional Khakas
wedding (c. 1915)
a small ethnic group closely related to Khakas and located further
west, in the forested areas of the Kuznetsk
Alatau. Dialects: Mras-Su and Kondom Shor. Population: 2840
The Shor people
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, rather being associated with an entirely different
story of a 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 spoken northwest
of Harbin along the Nenjiang River near a town called Fuyü,
hence the odd exonym; the self-appellation is in fact Gïrgïs
or Xïrgïs. The Fuyu 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").
The Fuyu Kyrgyz were studied by Hu, Zheng-Hua (1982), and recently
revisited by Butanayev (2005) from Khakassia, but no detailed description
is available (in Chinese only?).
shamanism, then Lamaism. Population: only a few elderly speakers
left, acc. to Butanayev (2005)
The Chulym River
/choo-LIM/, the tributary of the Ob, flows through the taiga a very
long way from any areas populated by the Khakas or Altay peoples.
As a result, the local Chulym villages seem to be situated at
the very edge of the inhabited world: there are virtually
hardly any human settlements to the north of that area for a good
thousand miles nothing but forests and marshland. [Note that
there also exists another Chulym River, the tributary of Lake Chany,
which is not connected to the Chulym of the Ob].
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 began to set up their own village festivals and
teach some language lessons.
of living: fishing, millet and barley cultivation, semi-subterranean
dwellings. Religion: shamanism before the 18th century, presently
atheist or Orthodox. 355 persons, only 45 speakers
(2010)[24d] (cf. 380
speakers in the 1970's).
Village located at the middle course of the Chulym River (3): almost
a one-village country;
(2) Horsemen at the local Chulym festival (2010);
The existence of
Melet and Tutgal variants in Middle Chulym, which are spoken
in different villages, indicate at least several hundred years of
linguistic differentiation within Chulym.
has been traditionally described as a "dialect of Chulym",
despite its many differences, the influence from Tomsk
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
These facts suggest
that Chulym was in fact a small subgroup of closely-related languages.
the Altai Mountains
The Altay (Turkic)
subgroup is a complex assortment of rather poorly studied dialect-languages
with an 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.
There are presently
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:
The 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
(3) Tuba /too-BAH/ (rather intermediate between North and
South); population: 1965 persons, 230 speakers (2010);
The 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, even though Radloff in
the 1860's had 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
(phonologically, it is probably pretty close to what late Proto-Turkic
(3) Telengit /teh-len-GIT/is situated further in the mountains,
thus is less affected by external influence; population: 3710
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 Altai-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-Altai-Sayan
features in Altay Turkic as a result of secondary interaction with
Note that the difference
between the spelling of Altai Mountains and Altay (Turkic)
languages; the names ending in -ai reflect an older historical
spelling, whereas -ay is a modern English transliteration.
Also note that
Republic (capital: Gorno-Altaysk, from Russian "Mountain
Altaysk") and the Altai
Krai /al-TY KRY/(from Russian Krai "country",
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, isolated in the mountains, whereas Altai
Krai, situated on the plain, presently is almost entirely Russian-speaking.
North Altay (Turkic)
ük, uk, uu
is spoken by less than about 1000 speakers living along the
Biya river in the Altai mountains.
The Kumandy language was described by Baskakov (1972). The suffix
-dï in Kumandï is a Turkic suffix marking an
adjective, therefore the original meaning was apparently "of
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" as in Khakas cheti; (2) the word-initial
n'- in nïmïrtka "egg" as in Khakas
nïmïrxa; (3) the word-final -G in sug "water,
river" just as in Khakas; (4) the archaic -dï-bïs, -dï-vïs
ending in verbs in the 1st person, plural, past tense, instead of
-d-uk, -d-ïk as in most western Turkic languages, and other
A Kumandy fisherman
Standard (South) Altay
The official literary
standard of the Altai Republic is based on the language of the Altay-kizhi
people (from kizhi "person").
In phonology, the
South Altay subgroup is characterized by the word-initial palatalized,
lightly tapped /d'-/ or /j'/ as in /d'ok, j'ok/ "there is not",
/d'ol, j'ol/ "way", etc. About 56.000 speakers
Listen to the Altay
throat singing by Altai Kai in Batïrïs
jurtaGan, literally "Bigman-our yurted"
"Once upon a time there lived our warrior (strongman, batïr)".
Most Turkic languages
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 apparently containing
the following subdivisions:
(3a) the Kyrgyz-Kazakhsubgroup, including Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Karakalpak and
hypothetically, the unattested dialect of the Karluk tribes;
(3b) the Chagatai subgroup, including early medieval Chagatai,
modern Uzbek, Uyghur and their dialects; (3c) 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,
Note that the former
two groups, Kyrgyz-Kazakh and Chagatai, are apparently more closely
related to each other than to Kimak.
normally refer to the Great-Steppe Turkic subtaxon as Kypchak
/kip-CHAHK/, a term popularized by the Baskakov's classification
generally-accepted in the USSR during the 1950's-1980's. However,
because the specific composition of the two concepts may be interpreted
in different ways, and because the original Kypchak clans had a
more modest historical reality (not necessarily overextended to
include all the tribes of the Great Steppe (also see discussion
below)), we decided to introduce a different term.
The Great Steppe
languages must stem from a rather archaic segment of late Proto-Turkic-Proper
apparently originally dispersed in the Kulunda Steppe /koo-loon-DAH/
and along the nearby-located middle and upper course of the Irtysh
This Proto-Tukic segment does not seem to have been involved in
the earliest migrations right after the initial Proto-Turkic split,
so the Great-Steppe branches began to advance in the western direction
only after about 600-700 AD.
languages of the Great Steppe retain many
archaic Proto-Turkic features, on one hand, and are quite
newly-formed and closely-related, on the other,
sharing good mutual intellegibility, especially within each
subgroup, subjectively up to about 70-80% in real speech, according
to reports of proficient speakers.
Turkic languages also have fewer innovations and borrowings from
other languages, such as Persian and Arabic a classical source
of basic vocabulary loanwords in the west. However, they may include
many cultural and technical borrowings from Russian.
The Karluk and
Kyrgyz tribes that migrated to the Tian Shan
The earliest migrations
in the Great-Steppe taxon were probably connected with the settlements
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 (heavenly, blue) mountain(s)"
may merely be a reinterpretation of a Turkic or Mongolic original.
of the Karluk Confederacy It should
be explained that the exact origins and dialectal affiliation of
the Karluks is quite obscure. Herein they are viewed as an ethnic
group closely related to the Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan, 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
(rather Jeti-Su / jeh-tee-SOO/)("the Seven Waters/Rivers"),
a historical region with arable land and multiple rivers
between the Tian Shan mountains and Lake Balkhash /bahl-KAHSH,
bal-HUSH/ near present-day Kyrgyzstan.
Karluks must have been a clan from the Altai Mountains that had
migrated towards the Irtysh River c. 665, finally reaching the Jeti-Su
by c. 700 AD [wiki]. 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 secondary migration wave of the Yenisei
Kyrgyz (from the Altai Mountains?)[uncertain]. By 940, the Karluk
Kaganate was captured by the Karakhanids.
It 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
Tian Shan Kyrgyz
/KIR-giz-STAN/(capital: Bishkek /bish-KEK/) is a small mountainous
country in the Tian Shan near Lake Issyk Kul /EE-sek KOOL/
(lit. "Hot Lake"), 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
epic poem (essentially similar in spirit to the Greek Iliad
and Odyssey) first mentioned in the 16th century and written
down in 1885.
The ample narrative
tradition reflected in the Manas makes Kyrgyz an elaborate
and full-blooded literary language. It is also famous for the works
of Kyrgyz writer Chingiz
Aytmatov /chin-GIZ uyt-MAH-tov/ mostly created during
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 in the 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
18 from the 1960's performed by Zhanetta Bobkova (2009)
a nice voice, poetry and the girl (and the numerals)
and an older and qainter version of the same song by Zeynep
Shagieva (1960's?), seen as Kyrgyz music classics, as well
as another old dramatic song: Ömür
daira or Ömür
daira (mirror, youtube) "The River of Life" by
On the origins
and pronunciation of the ethnonym Kyrgyz:(Note:
any ethnonymic remarks are unavoidably hypothetical.)
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 includes the /ï/ back vowel and therefore
is rather shorter and harder: Qïrgïz /kr-GEZ, ker-GIZ/.
outdated ethnonym "Karagas" for Tofa(lar)[or another local
tribe?] may too be just another way to pronounce "Kyrgyz";
moreover, note the direct retention of this ethnonym in Fuyu
Kyrgyz in China.
The ethnonym Kyrgyz
may be listed among the oldest known Turkic ethnonyms, and just
like in ther similar cases, it probably originates from a
name or alias of a patrilineal clan's progenitor [herein].
Many centuries after its creation, the name must have spread to
several other neighboring clans or clan confederecies, finally becoming
overused and ambiguously applied to many ethnic groups of various
It may also be
assumed 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
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 suffix".
of Kazakhstan /KAH-zak-STAN/ (capital: Astana /AHS-tuh-NAH/)
is just that big, 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 north along the border with Russia or in the south near the
Tian Shan Mountains. Note the former capital and the second largest
city Almaty /AHL-muh-TEH, Russified: ahl-mah-TAH/ (probably
from Kyrgyz Alma To: "Apple Mountain", but the
exact etymology is controversial).
kuh-ZAHH/ people seem to be just those Kyrgyz nomads that had begun
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,
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) [e.g. see Melioranskiy (1894).]
Cf. an old Kazakh saying, /qazaq qïrGïz bir tuGan, sart
shirkindi kim tuGan/ "Kazakh and Kyrgyz are one kin, but who
in the world made Sart? (=a Chagatai city dweller, trader, an Uzbek)."
There are circa 12 million speakers.
Listen to the Jalgan
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 voice.
in Astana (upper row):
(1) The Pyramid of Peace;
(2) The Khan Shatyry Entertainment Center;
(3) The Bayterek in the distance (the tower with the golden ball)
literally means "black calpacks, hats" (= brave warriors).
Karakalpak has been spoken in the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan
in Uzbekistan (capital: Nukus /noo-KOOS/) located near the southwestern
coasts of the Aral Sea and is often considered nearly
(but not quite) a dialect of Kazakh.
Since the period
when the Oxus River, or Amu Darya inflow /ah-MOO DAR-ya/
(from Persian daryá "sea, river", therefore
originally /ah-MOO dah-RYAH/, had been diverted for irrigation,
the Aral Sea shrunk and almost disappeared between the 1950's and
the 1990's causing terrible deterioration in the whole region.
even more Nogai-Tatar influence than Kazakh. 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.
between Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Nogai
The current lexicostatistical study
and Kazakh 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
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 subgroup 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 situated 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 herein they
are rather attributed to a seconday mutual influence [uncertain].
Kazakh, which occupies
the vast steppes of Kazakhstan, must have separated from the Kyrgyz
stem in the Jeti-Su region by the 15th century. According to
the present study,Kazakh seems to have been affected by a
dialect of the Nogai Horde and acquired certain new features
which finally 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, at least in theory, could have become intermixed with the
early Kazakhs somewhere near the Ural
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 that must have come with
the invading Dzungarians [uncertain].
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 City along the Volga, in each town
on the way, he would find a dialect only slightly different from
the one in the previous town.
The Karluk tribes that
crossed the Tian-Shan
of the Chagatai Khanate
The patchwork of
Central Asian languages gets particularly complex at this point.
the murky turmoil days of the Mongol invasion of the 13th-14th century,
a certain segment of Proto-Karluk-Kyrgyz-Kazakh speakers at the
foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains with the Karluks being
a particularly likely example must have
spread over the Tian Shan mountain ridges into the destabilized
by squirmishes and partly devasteted territory of the Karakhanid
Khanate /kuh-RAH-huh-NEED/[uncertain]. These Proto-Kyrgyz-Kazakh
tribes must have largely displaced the local Karakhanid population
and become intermingled 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
Whereas the spoken
Chagatai must have split up into western and eastern dialect by
about the 14th-15th century, finally transforming into the modern
ooz-BEK/ and Uyghur /ooy-GOOR/ languages of today,
the written Chagatai continued to be used as a common medieval Turkic
lingua franca in literature and written correspondence until
about the 19th century.
yapurGan yapurGaq yapurGaG
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, given
that Chagatai Khan was actually the second son of Genghis Khan.
At their 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
large-scale distibution and acceptance of the Chagatai language.
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
a result, between 1400 and 1920, Chagatai was transformed into a
sophisticated Central Asian koine written with the Perso-Arabic
alphabet and having many local variations. These Chagatai varieties
are usually known asTürki /tyoor-KEE, tur-KEE/.
As much as the
Arabic script created difficulties in phonetic interpretation, it
provided laxness for dialectal variation and cross-cultural usage.
Each Türki dialect user could write and reinterpret other people's
writtings in his own Turkic dialect, still using the same writing
system understandable to anyone. Because of the wide-spread Persian
bilingualism and the knowledge of Arabic, he could also add a generally-accepted
Persian or Arabic word when he thought a local Turkic expression
would not do, which finally resulted in a high percentage of Perso-Arabic
borrowings. Therefore Chagatai-Türki can also be seen as a
written communication system rather than a real spoken language.
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.
Uzbek, which is in fact the modern-day descendant of Chagatai, is
still the most widely spoken Turkic language apart from Turkish
Look for Qaro
ko'zlar (Urgelai) "(Your) black eyes (My beloved one)"
sung by Uzbek singer/actress Ziyoda and styled as Babur's
/bah-BOOR/ 16th century's Chagatai poetry this exquisite
and refined music clip may catch your fancy.
of Uzbekistan (capital Tashkent)
is mostly desert territory, with life historically concentrated
only in the fertile Fergana
Valleyand 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
Russophone: boo-ha-RAH, Uzbek: boo-haw-RAW/(known 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
The invasion of
the Karakhanid Khanate by the Mongols in 1219 led to the establishment
of the Chagatai Ulus and the diffusion of the newly-formed
Chagatai language over the Persian substratum. Because of the interaction
with Persian, among the most typical features of Uzbek are the Perso-Arabic
borrowings and the loss of the vowel
who was born near Samarkand, was a conqueror of Central Asia, who
founded the Timurid
dynasty (1370-1585) and was famous for his brutality.
Left to right:
(1) Chai-khana (tea house) visitors and (2) the Emir of Bukhara
(both images areearly true color photography by Prokudin-Gorski,
(3) downtown Samarqand today;
(4) a pilafdish;
(5) Uzbeks as excellent market traders (present-day)
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 even known as Sart tili.
is a robust, significant Central Asian language with several internal
dialects and about 25 million speakers (40% non-Russophone).
modern Uzbek Latin alphabet (introduced in 1993) allows to use only
the ASCII (=American) characters, for instance <o'> instead
of <ö>; it may be used along with the older Cyrillic
Look for a modern
blissful love song Chegaralar bormu, qaysarliklaringä?
"Are there any limits to your stubborness?" by
Bojalar & Ruhshona, made in the 1970's style, humorously recreating
life in the Soviet Union. Moreover, watch a clip about an
Uzbek family near the Zeravshan Mountains still living in the
old ways (in English).
[/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. Khwarezm was located in the
lower course of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, on the p/d border of
Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Karakalpakstan (=the autonomous republic
The rise and demise
of Khwarezm have been connected to the instability of the Amu Darya
(Oxus) riverbed that flows through theKara
Kum /kuh-RAH KOOM/ ("Black Sand") and Kyzyl
Kum /kuh-ZIL KOOM/ ("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.
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 then-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 supplanted the Iranic substratum, but was itself gradually
replaced 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, look for
görgende yurek tik-tik urmei-mi? literally "At
every glance the-heart, tick-tick, doesn't-beat-does-it?"
(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
(7) The ruines of Old Urgench in the desert,
where al-Biruni and Avicenna could have met;
the image shows the exceptionally tall 60-m minaret (from the 1320's)
and the Tekesh Mausoleum (from the 13th century)
is the eastern descendant of Chagatai spoken in the Xinjiang
/sin-JANG/ Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (capital:
oo-room-CHEE/). Essentially, Uyghur is distributed along the edges
of the Takla-MakanDesert /tak-LAH mah-KAHN/(most
likely from Uygur taglï makan "mountain dwelling").
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 most scholars
would agree that it cannot be seen as a direct continuation of Old
(1) A street in Kashgar /kush-GAR/;
(2) Uyghur women at the mosque
Outside the peculiar
use of the Arabic alphabet (mostly
dropped in other Turkic countries during the 1920's), the Uyghur
language is typically characterized by
long vowels and the dropping of the final -r (karGa
> ka:Ga "crow"), as in British English; otherwise
it is mostly similar to Uzbek.
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 ethnonym
of "Uyghur" was artificially created (or rather
restored) only in 1921. Population: c. 9 million speakers.
Both Uyghur and
Uzbek are languages with pronounced dialectal differentiation that
is poorly researched. 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.
of the Kimak Confederacy
Kimak dialects of the Golden Horde (clickable)
The Kimak subgroup
includes at least Kazan Tatar, Mishar Tatar, Crimean Tatar, Astrakhan
Tatar, Sibir Tatar, Bashkir, Nogai, Kumyk, Urum, Crimean Karaim,
Lithuanian Karaim, Karachai-Balkar, Kypchak/Cuman/Polovtsian
(extinct) and possibly other major dialects and languages. There
are good reasons to believe that all of them stem from the Kimak
/kee-MAHK, kee-MAK/ Confederacy (later Kaganate)
that formed along the upper course of the
Irtysh River by about 700-800 AD.
exact position of Baraba and Tomsk Tatars is much
less obvious, though.
According to the
well-known legend, attested by Gardezi
in his work Zayn-al-Akhbar c. 1030, where he actually cites
another older book by Ibn
Khordadbeh (820-912), the
Kimak 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.
Kimek was also called Yemek or Imek in Arabic
sources, but the difference between the two is rather obscure. It
is assumed herein that it may most likely have arisen due to an
error in copying the letters of Arabic alphabet, though Kumekov,
one of the main scholars of the early Kimak history, cites different
opinions. The lack of vowel harmony in Kimak also indicates
that the word has been distorted after going through Chinese and
Arabic renderings: the original pronunciation was perhaps Qumuq
(cf. qum "sand") as still reflected in the
self-appellation of Kumyks distributed near the Caspian Sea.
Kaganate was a great pastoral nomadic Tengriistic confederacy
of local clans that existed near the southern edge of the Altai
Mountains, especially around Lake Zaysan /zy-SAHN/ and the
upper course of the Irtysh River between 743 and 1210 AD,
also see [Kumekov (1972)]
The Kimak Kaganate
had initially been part of the Göktürk-Uyghur Empire, but must have
become free after its collapse in 840. 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 prepared
by the Arab geographer Al
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 system. 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 migrational analysis suggest that somewhere after 850
AD, the Kimak tribes began to spread northwest down the Irtysh towards
the Tobol River /teh-BAWL/, and finally all the way to the
Southern Ural. By the 900's AD, the Kimaks must have reached the
Volga River, known as Itil /ee-TEEL/ in local
Turkic languages (originally from Bulgaric), where the Kimaks were
vividly described by Ibn-Fadlan in 922 as "al-Bashkird".
By 1068, the Kimak
clans 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, kip-CHAHK/ 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
Because 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),[23a]
but only as a vague nickname. Therefore the term "Kypchak"
as used for all of the clans and tribes that once inhabited the
Great Steppe seems to be an overextrapolation promoted by Baskakov's
classification beginning of the 1960's. Nearly nowhere in his late
booklet about the Kypchak languages (1987),[15a]
which was supposed to cover the whole subject in detail, did Baskakov
address the issue of the origin, early development and migration
of the original Kypchaks; apparently, to him "Kypchak"
was just a suitable name for the Turkic languages of the Soviet
Union in general, except for Oghuz, Khakas and a few other strongly
differentiated branches. This is the reason why we tried to abandon
the term in the present classification by differentiating between
the orignal Kimak Confederacy at the Irtysh and the languages of
the Great Steppe, in general. The terms Kimak and Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar
are used as interchangeably synonyms herein, the latter being just
a self-explanatory expansion of the former.
statues near Izyum, Ukraine
In any case the
Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar ethnic groups left large geographic traces on
the map of Eurasia, so the whole Great Steppe (Ponto-Kazakh steppe)
was once designated as Cumania (in Latin), Desht-i-Qipchaq
(in Persian), Kipchak steppe or Polovtsian Land (in
are also remembered for their stone statues (known as bábas
in Russian), a very typical sign of their early culture.
After the Mongol
invasion of the 13th century, the descendants of the original Kimak
migrants were apparently integrated into theUlus of Jochi.
Jochi was actually the eldest, and therefore the most important
son of Genghis 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 because of his achievements.
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
(1240-1502) in European historiography.
The Golden Horde
was a predominantly Kimak-Kypchak-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 tribes and families,
and many local rulers were or claimed to be genetically Mongolic
on their paternal lineage. However, the use of the Mongolian language
in the Golden Horde 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.
By 1500, after
the 250 years of rule by Mongolian dynasties, the
Golden Horde Empire broke up into several important "Tatar"
khanates, including the Khanate of Kazan /kuh-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, kuh-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 suitable term for the
majority of Kimak languages 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.
During the 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
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 part of the
Irtysh River (where it meets the Tobol) and ruled by Kuchum Khan
/koo-CHOOM/. The task of annexing the Khanate of Sibir was accomplished
/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 an
interesting 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 Yermak finally came back with an army
from Ivan the Terrible [also see Sibir Tatar below].
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 supertaxon, the Kimak languages
are also closely related to Kyrgyz-Kazakh (80% in Swadesh-215, borrowings
excluded) and Uzbek-Uyghur (78%).
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",
etc. but the partial retention of *S- in /Ji-/ as
for instance, in Kazan Tatar Jir "earth", Jil
"wind", often with an allophonic distribution across
(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 ukta-.
battlefield of Igor Svyatoslavich with the Polovtsians (Cumans)
in 1185, painting by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880)
siege 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 (1895)
On the origins of the ethnonym Polovtsian:
The word Polovstian
may be distantly familiar through the theme song Polovtsian Dances
(here is an engaging modern rock
version) [note that the wiki ogg files may block any other sound
files from being played in the back/foreground]. The music originates
from the 1890's opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin /baw-raw-DEEN/,
which was then remade into the Stranger in Paradise (1953).
The 19th century's opera created by Borodin had in turn been based
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 Old Russian word Pólovtsy
should most likely be interpreted as "the field inhabitants,
those who come from the steppe" (from Russian and Slavic pól'e
"field"), though the traditional interpretation from Vasmer's
Etymological Dictionary [referenced to Sobolevsky (1886)] is apparently
incorrectly based on the Old Russian adjective polóvïy
"light yellow", which does not seem to have any meaningful
connection to Turkic tribes.
On the origins
and development of the ethnonym Tatar:
The name Tatar
originally: tah-TAR/ was first firmly attested in 732 AD on the
Kül-Tegin monument and then mentioned again by Mahmud al-Kashgari
in 1073 AD. Just like Kyrgyz, the name Tatar seems
to be among the earliest-attested names of Turkic clans, and perhaps
the most widely-known throughout the world. It may be understood
that originally the word Tatar referred to the name or alias
of a patrilineal clan founder, in other words, it worked like a
modern male surname [suggested herein].
the expansion of the Tatar clan, the name Tatar was frequently
applied to various, external parties that had very little or absolutely
nothing to do with the genetic or linguistic core of the original
living in northeastern Mongolia east of Lake Baikal c. 1200 AD are
mentioned in the Secret History of the Mongols[23a]
(apparently authored by Genghis Khan himself). Whoever was the author,
he says almost nothing about the language of these Mongolian Tatars,
except that at a few occasions they seem to be able to make themselves
understood in Middle Mongolian. Whether they originally were a stray
Turkic clan integrated into the loose Mongolian society, or a different
social phenomenon, is hard to say for sure.
After the expansion
of the Mongols, the term Tatar seems to become ubiquitous.
The famous report by Plano de Carpini (1245)
indiscriminately refers to all of the Mongols of Mongolia as Tatars,
which apparently was a common trend throughout Europe and the Kievan
Rus: the Tatars just became confused with the army of invaders coming
from the east. The coincidental association with the Tartarus
of the Ancient Greeks by European historians must have only added
fuel to the flame, cf. for instance English tartar meaning
"fierce", "brutal", etc.
By the 19th century,
Tatar became an erroneous misnomer heavily overused in the
Russian Empire's ethnographic tradition. The Russian exonym Tatary
/tah-TAH-ree/ or Latin Tartari was ambiguously applied
not only to all the Turkic speaking population of the Tsarist Russia,
even including Azerbaijanis, who are of Oghuz origin, but even to
the Tungusic and Mongolic peoples in East Siberia. This persistent
overuse of this word with a vague, ambiguous meaning finally resulted
in its ostracization by the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently,
it fell out of ethnographic use as an umbrella term and is now largely
being avoided both by Turkologists and Turkic population alike,
except for the direct formal reference to Kazan Tatars, Sibir
Tatars, Crimean Tatars, Mishar Tatars, Tomsk Tatars and some
of the other, lesser-known ethnicities of Kimak-Kipchak origin.
term Tatars as a standalone word usually refers to Kazan
Tatar people, in the first place, which is still one of the
largest and the most influential of the modern Kimak ethnicities.
During the Soviet period many of the lesser-known Kimak communities
(such as Sibir Tatar, Baraba) were indiscriminately taught Kazan
Tatar as a common standard, which might have resulted in the contamination
of local Kimak dialects and languages by Kazan Tatar borrowings.
between Kimak and Oghuz
Even though the
Kimak languages are closely related to the Karluk-Kyrgyz-Kazakh
subgroup and Chagatai subgroup as part of the Great-Steppe unity,
they furthermore seem to share certain features with the Oghuz
/aw-GOOZ/ languages, also named Oghuz-Seljuk /sel-JOOK/
is the persistent use of the innovative *tüGel instead
of the more archaic e(r)mes "not (after nouns and adjectives)"
in both Kimak and Oghuz subtaxons. Another typical feature is a
tendency to use the *y semi-vowel, especially before /a/,
/o/, /u/, where more archaic Turkic languages have sibilants
or affricates formed from the Proto-Bulgaro-Turkic *S, cf.
Kazan Tatar yoldïz "star", yafraq "leaf",
yuk "there is not" and Turkish yïldïz,
of mutual interaction between generally only distantly-related Oghuz
and Kimak languages can possibly be explained
as a result of the Oghuz-Kimak linguistic
exchange near Lake Zaysan. It can be surmised that the Kimaks
had originally been part of the Proto-Great-Steppe clans distributed
near the southern edge of the Altai Mountains. Circa 600-700 AD,
these early Proto-Kimak clans must have been linguistically and
culturally affected by the expansion of early Oghuz confederacies
(such as Toquz Oghuz, Üch Oghuz and others) situated
somewhere in Dzungaria, in the vicinity of the established Kimak
settlements. Taken that the Oghuz clans must have participated at
the time in the Silk Road migrations of the Gökturk-Uyghur
Kaganate that exerted stong military and cultural control over the
whole western part of the Silk Road, potential Oghuz influence in
Proto-Kimak seems very plausible [herein].
Moreover, a few
centuries later, during the 800-900's, the subsequent linguistic
exchange between the Aral Oghuz and the Kimaks near the Southern
Ural mountains could have led to a further stabilization of the
acquired Oghuz features [uncertain].
some mutual exchange between Kimak and Oghuz, there is a shared
average of only 68% in Swadesh-215 (borrowings excluded),
which makes them very far from "mutually intelligible"
in practical situations. Therefore learning, say, just Turkish or
Azeri is not sufficient to understand Kazan Tatar or Bashkir, and
The Kimaks that stayed near the Irtysh River
/bah-rah-BAH [?]/ are just a tiny spot of several villages east
of the Irtysh River. Originally, they inhabited the area around
large Lake Chany /chah-NEE, chah-NEH/ and the adjacent Baraba
Steppe, apparently named after the population [uncertain].
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, as mentioned in local
The Baraba people
were first attested in Russian records in 1595, and then described
in more detail by the Messerschmidtand Strahlenberg
during their famous Sberian expedition which, among other significant
discoveries, led to the establishment of the main Ural-Altaic language
groups in Strahlenberg's work.[5a]
The Baraba legends
mention their relatedness to the Khanate
of Sibir (1495-1582)[16d] as well as the neighboring Samoyedic
which seems quite reasonable, and some specific linguistic features
may indeed relate the Tobol-Irtysh Tatars to Baraba. However, the
unique grammatical differences (e.g. the bara-tï-n ("you
go now") type of the present tense in Baraba, as in Altay)
and the lack of certain Kimak characteristics (e.g. the -ar
future in Baraba instead of the -achaq future in Kimak and
Oghuz-Seljuk)[16d] lead to a hypothesis that the Baraba
people might be the remnants of the early
Proto-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. The
Baraba language was also contaminated by Kazan Tatar during the
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 (if any) actual native speakers.
A Baraba woman
Map of the Sibir-Tatar-related
based on an ethnographic atlas (1964)[12b]
The Kimaks that spread
into the Great Steppe
The rest of the
Kimak clans have spread west towards the Ural mountains and finally
formed the languages and dialects of the
Bashkir (essentially "Ural Tatar"), Kazan Tatar,
and Mishar Tatar form the four Kimak languages in mainland
Russia around the Ural mountains and the middle Volga. A few varieties
of Astrakhan Tatar and Nogai, originally distributed
south of the Urals and along the lower Volga (presently also near
the northern Caucasus) share similarities with Kazakh and Karakalpak.
North Crimean Tatar, Krymchak, Crimean Karaim, Lithuanian
Karaim, and Urum (originally based on Greek population)
form the Kimak-Kypchak continuation around the Crimean peninsula.
Kumyk, situated along the western coast of the Caspian Sea,
is adjacent to Azerbaijan.
is the most deviant Kimak languages located in the northern Caucasus,
perhaps unrelated to the original Golden Horde continuum.
or rather just Sibir Tatars, live near the cities of
/tyoo-MEN/ and Tobolsk, along the confluence of the Tobol
and Irtysh rivers, east of the Ural mountains in West Siberia.
The Sibir Tatars
are the remnants of the Khanate
of Sibir (1468-1607) and the Tyumen Khanate, its
predecessor, which 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,
making the then-ruling Kuchum Khan and his people flee to
the steppe. The Sibir settlement soon became depopulated, so in
1587 the fortress of Tobolsk was founded instead, about 10 miles
away from Sibir, being one of the earliest Russian outposts beyond
the Ural mountains.
20th century, Sibir Tatar was considered to be as merely a "dialect"
of Kazan Tatar, so apart from a couple of dissertations,[16b][16c]
there are no textvooks or detailed publications, even though the
phonological, grammatical and lexical differences of Sibir Tatar
clearly require separate description. The /ch/ > /ts/ and /sh/
> /s/ mutation is among the immediately notable features, which
reminds of the /sh/ > /s/ mutation in Kazakh and Nogai.
(1) The Russian
fortress of Tobolsk
(2) The Siber town found
on a European map (1562);
(3-4) At the Isker Festival of Sibir Tatars (2010)
6700 persons (2010)[24d](probably
counted including Baraba and Tomsk Tatars, since many sources do
not differentiate them).
On the origins
of the toponym Siberia:
The word Siberia
as a general name for all of the northeastern Eurasia seems to be
an 18th century's extrapolation from "the town of Siber"
> "Sibir Khanate" > "West Siberia" (which
is presently defined as a plain located between the Ural Mountains
and the Yenisei River) > all of northeastern Eurasia to the Pacific
The word Siberia
replaced the older and just as vague designation of (Great)
Tartary used during 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,
as mentioned above, until about the middle of the 19th century,
Ta(r)tars meant nearly any of the Siberian
aborigines, and were initially associated with the
demons of Tartarus, especially in connection with the turmoil of
the 13th-14th centuries.
Before that, in
the antiquity and the Middle Ages, the equally vague name of Scythia
had been in use, and West Siberia had been associated with the Scythians,
described by Herodotus in the 5th century BC.
of Tatarstan (capital: Kazan
a federal subject of Russia, historically situated near
the confluence of the Volga and Kama River, essentially in
the same area as Volga Bulgaria (see above).
It is not correct
to say that the Tatars displaced the Volga Bulgars as soon as they
arrived at the Volga, because according to the report of Ibn-Fadlan,
some sort of the Kimak tribes were already attested in that area
at least as early as 922 AD, showing peacful coexistence with the
Volga Bulgars. But the later events of the Mongol invasion seem
to have turned the tables against the Chuvash, when the Mongol armies,
possibly with some participation of the local Kimak-Kypchak-Tatar
tribes [uncertain], destroyed the towns of Volga Bulgaria between
1232-36, including the siege
of the Bilar city. The devastation of Volga Bulgaria must have
presumably caused an intense dispersal of Chuvash population that
was either driven towards the forestland on the right bank of the
Volga or just remained there in a natural refugium.
The Kazan Kremlin, today as if 500 years ago;
(4) The Qolsharif Mosque (inaugurated in 2005) (above) is the largest
mosque in Russia;
(5) A view of Kazan
The Kazan Khanate
(1438-1552) emerged in history only after the dissolution of
the Golden Horde. The Kazan Khanate was soon 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
The Tatar participation
in the Mongol invasion is still remembered in the Russian language
and culture, cf. such sayings as "An uninvited guest is worse
than a Tatar"; "Mamai/the Tatars went over it" as
about raising havoc; "the Tataro-Mongol Yoke", etc. Consequently,
the Tatar appellation and language seems to, unfortunately enough,
have a rather low social status.
Bolgar, Kazanlï. Religion: Sunni Islam.
4.2 million formally listed as speakers of Tatar (2010),[24d]
but more than 70-90% are in fact Russian speakers.
spoken in the Republic of Bashkortostan (capital: Ufa
west of Tatarstan in the Southern Ural Mountains. Self-appellation:
Between 1220 and
1234, the Bashkirs were fighting the Mongols, preventing their expansion
to the west, but then voluntary joined the Moscovy in 1557.
There are 95% of
matches between Kazan Tatar and Bashkir in Swadesh-215. So essentially,
Bashkir is just a sort of Ural
variety of Kazan Tatar.
Also note some
of the following Kazan-Bashkir shared innovations in vowels typical
only of these languges: ber < *bir; dürt < *tört; un <
million speakers (2010).
The deviant Bashkir
phonology exhibits many unusual mutations,
such as ch > s, s > h, z > ð, for instance Bashkir
hïu instead of the normally-occurring Turkic su
"water" seems very far-fetched. These mutations are sometimes
explained by an absorption of an unknown local substratum.
Bashkir population may at least be partly descended from Proto-Hungarians
(or Magyars /mah-JARS/) of the Hungaria
Magnaor perhaps the other closely-related Ugric
tribes, as well as possibly from the Bulgaric tribes. Proto-Hungarians
were mentioned as still speaking Hungarian along Ak-Itil, the main
river of Bashkortostan, c. 1235 by Friar
They were apparently 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.
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 later 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 than the Tatar population along the Volga.
animal husbandry until the 18th century. Religion: Islam since the
950s, but mostly non-religious since the Soviet period. Population:
1.15 million speakers (2010), most of them bilingual in Russian.
Being isolated in the Ural mountains, Bashkir is probably a little
more alive and active than Kazan Tatar.
The ethnonym "al-Bashkïrt"
had appeared very early on, being first mentioned in the Arab sources
c. 840 and then clearly attested by Ibn-Fadlan near the Emba River
/EHM-bah/ 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 its historical attestation 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-RY/ lit. "The Garden Palace", rightmost
image) was a Kypchak post-Golden-Horde state situated in the Crimean
Peninsula and the adjacent Pontic Steppe. The Crimean Khanate maintained
massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire making raids into the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russia.
Crimean Tatar dialects should not be confused with Crimean
Turkish in the south of the peninsula and the Middle Crimean
dialect, which is a dialectal seam between the two. After the 1920's
there were attempts to build a mutually intelligible "literary
language" that could be understood by all the Crimean Tatars,
however, the actual dialectical situation in the Crimea is more
complicated. And although the pure dialects may still survive in
vivo, not enough field work on them has been done.
A battle of Crimean Tatars
in the 17th century
a painting by Kossak,
of the Crimean Khans
are also famous for being persecuted by Stalin as "Nazi collaborators"
and resettled to Uzbekistan, though they mostly returned by the
population: circa 260.000 persons in the Crimea, 170.000
are a rather odd and presently very small branch of adherents to
Karaite Judaism, a teaching based on reading the Tora itself
rather than its interpretations.
means in Hebrew "those who read (the scriptures)", so
it refers to the name of the population, though the terms Karaite
and Karaim are frequently conflated. Self-appellations: Qïrïm
qaraylar, Qaray, etc.
The exact origin
of Karaim is obscure. The connection with the Khazars has been speculated
as early as the 19th century but is poorly corroborated. In any
case, the Karaites seem to descend from a Jewish sect, that could
have come from the Ottoman Empire [uncertain] and switched to the
Polovtsian dialect spoken in the Crimea after the 13th century.
Being socially and religiously detached from the rest of the Turkic
communities, the Karaim language must have branched off from the
Kimak main stem in the same way as Ladino, Yiddish and other Judaic
languages from Indo-European.
During the WWII,
the Karaites were saved from extermination after managing to demonstrate
their formal dissociation from mainstream Judaism. Karaites have
always been literate and many were quite influential despite their
1392, a part of the Crimean Karaites were relocated to Lithuania
thus forming a different branch of Trakai
c. 600 persons in the Crimea (2002), 257 in Lithuania
(1997), and c. 1000 in other countries.
people /koo-MIK, koo-MEK/, self-appellation: qumuq,
occupy the steppeland
along the northwestern coast of the Caspian Sea north of
Azerbaijan, in Dagestan, which is probably one of the most ethnically
complex areas in the world. Neither Kumyk nor Nogai have their own
The exact origins
of Kumyk are unclear, though their geographical position and notable
dialectal differentiation suggest they had arrived in the area of
the Caspian Sea before the Nogai people, that is before the mid-16th
century, which is supported by the fact of the foundation of Tarki
Shamkhalate in the 1440's. The direct descent from Khazars has also
been claimed, considering that Tarki
Village near Makhachkala
(the capital of Dagestan) has often been associated with the legendary
city of Samandar,
founded by the Khazars but destroyed in 969 AD.
agriculture, fishing, settled living in villages. Religion: Sunni
Islam. Printed books since the mid-19th century.
(6) An approximate map of the region:
Nogai (light blue),
Kumyk (dark blue)
/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 Middle Mongolian *noqai, the alias of Nogai Khan, a
Mongol general, literally meaning "dog" in most Mongolic
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, sometime during
this turmoil, about 1552-1554, part of the Nogai tribes began migrating
towards the steppes near the Northern Caucasus, particularly the
area of the Kuban
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 (= essentially, Kalmyks) and then by the army of general
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
are 103.000 persons, 87.000 Nogai speakers (2010)[24d]
[see the map above].
Because of its
historical proximity to nothern Kazakhstan, Nogai seems to share
more Kazakh-related features than other Kimak languages.
(1) An artist's
reconstruction of Saray-Juk;
(2) The actual Saray-Juk archaeological site;
(3) Nogai men (2012); (4) Nogai girls (1881);
(5) A German map from 1549 with the inscription "Nogai Tartars"
placed along the Lower Volga;
the inscription Saraichek can be read
near the bottom, though it should rather be
near the estuary of the Iaick Fl (Yaik River)
on the right;
Watch a very dramatic
song (=dombra, the name of the musical instrument) with Nogai-Turkish
subtitles and some bloody battle scenes added later 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" and Ne
kaldï? "What is left?" (the latter one performed
by Rasul Beyseev): a poignant story about the 17th century's Dzungarian
invasion into the lands of Nogais and Kazakhs with the background
from "The Nomads", a Kazakh movie.
/KAH-ruh-CHY bahl-KAR/ is spoken in the confusingly named 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 Cherkess and Kabardins, are of unrelated North Caucasian origin
(but distantly related to each other).
has many mutations at several levels, and a few Kabardino-Cherkes
borrowings in the basic vocabulary, so it seems to stand aside from
the typical languages of the Golden Horde that usually maintain
certain mutual intellegibility.
It seems that Karachay-Balkar
may be an early offshoot of Kimak that must have been present in
the Northern Caucasus at least since the Mongol invasion of the
1220's, but perhaps having settled there a few centuries earlier
c. 900-1000 AD [uncertain], when the Kimaks/Kypchaks/Cumans/Polovtsians
were just moving into the Ponto-Caspian steppe.
settled population; Islamized only by the 18th century. In 1943,
the Karachay-Balkars have been forcibly resettled to Kazakhstan
by Stalin, which led to mass starvation, but returned after 1956-57.
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-/,
persons listed as Karachay and 113.000 as Balkar (2010);[24d]
80% are bilingual in Russian.
(3) Southern Turkic
Turkic Languages is a supertaxon that includes the Turkic
languages that have formed south of the mountain system that can
be collectively named as the Great Eurasian Barrier, comprising
the Altai, Tian-Shan, Pamir, Kopet Dag, Caucasus, and other mountain
Southern Turkic tribes had occupied Mongolia, Dzungaria and the
oases of the Takla-Makan Desert (Tarim Basin), but then spread
westwards into other adjacent regions.
Turkic languages seem to include the two main subgroups:
(1) The Oghuz-Orkhon-Karakhanid subgroup, which comprises
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)The Yugur-Salar subgroup, which herein
is considered separately from the rest of the Turkic languages,
its precise genetic position still being a matter of controversy.
The Turks that migrated
to West China
and Salar are the two peculiar Turkic languages located
near the Tibet, in a historical region known as the Hexi
Corridor /heh-SEE/, where the Silk Road enters 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.
The exact linguistic
origin of the Yugurs and Salars 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.
The 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 (another one!)), 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 Genghis 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.
people are a small ethnic group, which are assumed to have
migrated into western China (Sunan Yugur Autonomous County)
after c. 850 AD from undefined Uyghur oases probably to avoid
Islamization [uncertain]. There, on the outskirts of China, the
Yugurs 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).
is Sarïg Yogïr "Yellow Uyghur". The Oilyg Yugurs
are nomadic cattle breeders in the steppes, the Taglyg
in the mountains. 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
like to wear their traditional red hats. Religion: Tibetan
Buddhism, traces of shamanism. Population: circa 4500 speakers
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 ambigous evidence has been preserved here for later consideration.
is another 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.
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) influence.
Population: circa 100.000 ethnic Salar people, but the language
is now mostly spoken only by the elder.
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 continuuminfiltrated beyond
the Tian-Shan-Altai-Sayan mountain barrier into Dzungaria, following
the upper reaches of the Kara-Irtysh River.
Proto-Oghuz-Orkhon-Karakhanid must have soon split up into the
three main branches: (1) the tribes that stayed near Dzungaria
apparently forming the basis of Proto-Oghuz; (2) 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; (3) finally, the tribes that spread
to the west towards the Tarim Basin initially forming Kara-Khoja
(= Old Uyghur) and Karakhanid, and then contributing
to the formation of Khalaj. Hence, the subgroup's tripartite
name used in this publication.
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 the 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 power, and seems to have been inherited or adopted by several
Turkic 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 their ethnonymic
history may be difficult to reconstruct.
The Turks that moved to Mongolia
descendants of the Göktürk Kaganate
Long 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 GUEN-gis/. It was known as the
(552-744 AD), and it controlled the western stretch of the Silk
Road even 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 very profound.
(Gökturk) Kaganate (capital: Ordu-Balïq
/or-DOO bah-LIK/ lit. "Army city [?]" with the population
of about 100.000) had been centered in the sacred and fertileOrkhon Valley
/OR-kon, or-HON/ in Mongolia. Curiously, Genghis Khan's capital
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.
(Gökturk) Kaganate, which existed until 659, was ruled
from the Silk Road outpost city Suyab
in today's Kyrgyzstan.
a Genghis Khan film (2007)
ruins of Ordu-Balïq
Orkhon River in Mongolia
a Genghis Khan film (2007)
The Göktürk Empire
was overrun first by the Chinese (659-681), and then by the Old
Uyghurs (not to confuse with the present-day Uyghurs) who founded
the Uyghur Kaganate that existed between 744-840. However,
these seem to be changes just in the ruling dynasties and maybe
religious affiliation (the spread of Manichaeism), not the language.
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 peoples,
pushing them further to the west.
The name Orkhon
Old Turkic has been introduced herein to describe the language
of the Orkhon-Yenisei inscriptions found in Mongolia and connected
with activities of the Eastern Gökturk-Uyghur Kaganate, even
though in reality, the Orkhon inscriptions were not just limited
to the basin of the Orkhon River but are scattered all over the
steppes and mountains of western Mongolia.
do not discriminate among different variants of Old Turkic, so it
must be noted that Orkhon Old Turkic, Old Uyghur, and Karakhanid
were altogether different linguistic entities separated by hundreds
of miles, several hundred years of time and different writing systems,
so their common origin, no matter how obvious, may require
additional proof and consideration.
The Turks that moved
to the Tarim Basin
After the downfall
of the Göktürk-Uyghur Kaganate in 840 AD or even earlier [uncertain],
some of the Turkic tribes migrated towards the oases of the Takla-Makan
Desert and Tarim Basin /tah-REEM/
where they created the Kara-Khoja and Kara-Khanid Kaganates.
/kuh-RAH haw-JAH/ (Kocho) (capital: Besh-Balik lit. "Five
city [?]") was a confederacy of decentralized Buddhist states
in the eastern Takla-Makan oases, where Old Uyghur, self-appellation
türk uyGur tili, was spoken. It mostly used its own Old
Uyghur alphabet with vowel based on the Sogdian alphabet, but
rather polyphonic and requiring many efforts in phonetic reconctruction.[18b]
It was finally displaced by the Arabic script.
Khanate (845-1212 AD) was located further to the west in
the Tian Shan Mountains, and used the Karakhanid dialect of Old
Turkic. The first capital of the Karakhanid Khanate was established
in the city of Balasagun
/bah-LAH-sah-GOON/ near Lake Issyk-Kul (present-day Kyrgyzstan),
in the same region as the Western Turkic Kaganate with its capital
Suyab, which again 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 wesetrn part
of the Takla-Makan.
Figs: left to right,
examples of the Karakhanid architecture:
(1) A decoration with swastikas;
(2) Burana Tower, ruins of Balasagun;
(3) Aisha Bibi Mausoleum in Taraz (p/d Kazakhstan);
(4) Mausoleum in Uzgen
(p/d western Kyrgyzstan);
(5) a Karakhanid Minaret in Bukhara (1127 AD)
Khanate was converted to Islam in 934. The Karakhanid and Old Uyghur
languages were eventually displaced by
spoken Chagatai, and its descendents, modern Uzbek and Uyghur
dialects, after the 13th century.
A meritable mention
must be given to
Mahmud al-Kashgari ( = "Mohammed of Kashgar")
(c. 1029-1102?), 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 Old Turkic including notes on of the nearby Turkic
dialects, such as Oghuz, and even describing regular phonological
correspondences between Oghuz and Karakhanid. The Diwan Lughat
at-Turk was a very, very professional and illustrative work
of its time.
is a poorly classified Turkic language situated in western Iran
about a 100 miles south of Tehran.
Khalaj is famous
for several unusual features, such as (1) the presence of the initial
h- where other languages have only vowels, (2) the retention
of the intervocal -d- as in hadaq "foot"
and (3) the retention of long vowels as in Turkmen, which suggest
an early divergence from the rest of Turkic languages.
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 to be one of the most basic and early-diversified Turkic
to other studies, such as Mudrak (2002-08)[10b]
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 extinct Iranian language spoken along the southern
part of the Takla-Makan oases.
it was suggested as early as Minorsky (1906), Khalaj seems to be
just the living continuation of a southern
dialect of Karakhanid perhaps as used in towns near Khotan,
and its peculiar archaic features can therefore be explained by
the early separation of Oghuz-Orkhon-Karakhanid substem as a whole
with a later Khotanese influence. Their later migration to the west
may be connected with the perturbations of the Mongol invasion period
[uncertain] and must have proceeded along the Silk Road, as in other
similar long-distance migration cases (the Salars, the Moghols in
the Hindu-Kush, the Xibe (Manchurian) at the Ili River, etc.)
Khalaj has also
been strongly affected by Azeri or other local Seljuk languages,
as well as the Iranian adstratum. Economy: agriculture, nomadic
sheep breeding. Population:
presumably, c. 42 000 speakers, mostly bilingual in Farsi.
Khalaj must not
to be confused with a poorly-known Northwest Iranian language of
the same name.
The Turks that migrated
to the Aral-Caspian region
subgroup /aw-GOOZ sel-JOOK/, which includes languages closely
related to Turkmen, Azeri and Turkish, has
been usually known as just Oghuz. It has been renamed herein
with the double name to stress the significance of the Great Seljuk
Empire and its linguistic descendants.
languages are characterized at least by the following typical features:
(1) a number of specific voicing
patterns as in *tört > Oghuz-Seljuk dört; *yetti >
Oghuz-Seljuk yedi; *qïzïl > Turkmen Gïzïl,
especially in the initial consonants;
(2) the m-
> b- mutation as in müNüz > *büNüz >
(3) the loss of the final -G
as in *quruG > Guru, kuru and the prevocalic
-G- in the morphological suffixes -Gan > -an (participle),
-Ga > -a (dative);
(4) the tendency to form a contracted -yor-/yar-
present tense, as in Turkish bil-i-yor-um "I
(5) the active use of the -mïsh past
participle, including the use of i-mish to produce
an audative mood in nouns and adjectives (even though -mïsh
is an archaism occasionally found here and there in Turkic languages
(e.g. in Sakha, in Uzbek perhaps from Karakhanid/Old Uyghur, in
Cuman/Polovtsian perhaps from Oghuz), it is presently actively used
only in Seljuk languages);
Some of these features
were actually mentioned as early as 1072 by Mahmud
al-Kashgari as part of his brief description of the Oghuz language.
This 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 the diversification of Proto-Oghuz-Orkhon-Karakhanid
must have occurred at least by 400-500 AD or even earlier (a glottochronological
rule of thumb stating that a language takes about 700-800 years
clan confederacy was first attested circa 600 AD in Mongolia. In
the 8th century, the Oghuz tribes 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 migration to the Western Göktürk Kaganate.
Eventually, they seem to have traveled along the Syr-Darya
or 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
clans. 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 a few words and phrases. By the 12th century, the Transoxanian
Oghuz tribes apparently migrated towards the Kopet-Dag Mountains
or partly 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
On the origins of the ethnonym Oghuz:
The ethnonym Oghuz
was first attested as Altï Oghuz (The Six Oghuz) in a Yenisei
inscription, and then as Toquz Oghuz (The Nine Oghuz), Sekkiz
Oghuz (The Eight Oghuz) in another Orkhon inscription from 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 situation.
Oghuz 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. Presumably, this name or alias may have
originally meant öqüz "bull, ox" implying force
The remnants of Juvara,
an Oghuz city discovered by archaeologists near the Aral Sea in
(capital Ashgabad /ush-gah-BAHD/, built from a village in
1918) is in fact a thin strip of arable land situated between the
Karakum (Qaraqum) Desert /kah-RAH KOOM/
lit. "Black Sand" and the Kopet-Dag mountain range.
When Russia took
control of Turkmenistan in the 1880's, the Transcaspian Railway
was built along the northern stretch of the Silk Road. In 1948,
Ashgabad was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt anew, now
making a beautiful city in the desert. In the 1950s, the Qaraqum
Channel, the largest in the world irrigation system, was established
diverting the waters of the Amu Darya towards Ashgabad.
A Turkmen bride, c. 2005
Ashgabad Trade Center
The Turkmen people:
man and wife, c. 1905
The Seljuk Monument
A Turkmen girl
The Arch of Independence,
Oil & Gas
A choban (shephard)
A Turkmen village
Seljuk Sultan Sanjar
Mausoleum, 1157 AD, Merv (today's Mary)
One 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, also found at least in Khalaj, is known as
the primary long vowels and presumably
it 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).
7 million Turkmen people, of which 2 million live in Afghanistan
and Iran. Of all the ex-Soviet republics, Turkmenistan seems to
have the highest percentage of non-Russophone popultaion (80%) [wiki].
The Turks that migrated
into Iran and Anatolia
The Seljuk Empire descendants
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 and Kopet-Dag region
southward towards Persia. This period marks the divergence of modern
Turkish and Azeri (Seljuk languages) from Turkmen (Oghuz languages).
grandson Togrul Beg, the Seljuk people migrated into eastern
Persia, and by 1055 expanded their control all the way to Baghdad.
impression of the Battle of Manzikert (1071)
The Entry of Mehmed
II into Constantinople (1453), painting by Benjamin Constant (1876)
The advance of
the Turkic armies caused the Byzantine emperors to desperately seek
protection in Europe, thus contributing to the initiation of European
Crusades that started in 1095. It seems that the first Crusades
did not really fight against Muslims, rather they were directed
against the Seljuk threat from the East. The fact that Mahmud al-Kashgari
composed his famous Turkic dictionary by 1073 is also connected
with the significance of the Oghuz language in the newly formed
the Seljuk Turks won the decisive 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].
The Seljuk language
of this and the later period, written in Arabic script, is usually
known as Old Anatolian 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 of
the 16th to 20th century written in Arabic is called Ottoman
A 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/ "supposedly,
(he, she) could really understand (it)" or /doktor-du/
"(he, she) was a doctor". Such constructions can also
make the impression of nouns and adjectives being conjugated like
verbs. [The closest phenomenon in English would be an excessive
use of spoken contractions, e.g. "sh'could've bot'em",
when several words are stuck into a single one-word-looking phrase,
but in Seljuk languages they have long become sythesized into normal
feature of Turkish and Azeri is a rather irregular loss of b-
in *bol-mak > ol-mak "to be" and *bilen
> ile "with".
/kush-KY/ 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.
A Qashkai wedding;
(2) Old ways still prevailing among the nomads;
(3) A Qashqai child
people (an abbreviated substandard: Azeri) inhabit the territory
southwest of the Caspian Sea along the lower course of the Kura
River /koo-RAH/, and further southwest towards the Zagros mountains.
They are the descendants of the Oghuz-Seljuk tribes that entered
Persia by 1055 but did not migrate into Anatolia. These Seljuk
tribes gradually Turkicized the North Caucasian, Northwest Iranic,
Persian, and Armenian population, creating a blend of local cultures.
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.
(1-2) Aida Makhmudova
as an Azeri princess (2005)
the capital of Azerbaijan,
facing the Caspian;
(4) Urmiyye fruit market
in Iran (early 20th century)
to some extent from Turkish (80% in Swadesh-215 with borrowings
included), though both languages are still largely mutually intelligible.
Islam. Population: 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.
Empire (c.1299-1922) was named after Osman I (1258-1326)
who extended the frontiers of Seljuk settlements towards the edge
of Byzantine, although Constantinople, its capital, would finally
be captured by the Anatolian Turks only in 1453. In the 16th
century, the Ottoman Empire reached its maxium extent covering most
Middle East, northern Africa, southern Russia and southeastern Europe,
but slave trade and low literacy rate were part of its society for
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
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
Views of Istanbul,
except left below: Izmir
It should be explained,
however, that despite the effort of the language reform that succeeded
in excluding several thousand non-Turkic words, replacing them with
sometimes contrived neologisms, many Arabic, Persian and French
borrowings are still a completely normal part of the modern Turkish
In Turkish phonology,
the velar-uvular /G/ is normally entirely omitted in western dialects,
e.g. daG > da: "mountain", daGï >
daï "the mountain" (acc. or possessive nom.),
etc. The 1st person pronoun *men "I" has evolved
into ben, an almost unique feature among Turkic languages.
Religion: Islam. Population: circa 70 million Turkish speakers.
What can express
a Turkish soul better than a good old quaint Türkü
song, such as those performed by Burcin (=Burchin)[at youtube
or elsewhere]: Dane, dane (dialectal) "Your moles are
like little seeds Is there anything sweeter than the beloved
one?"; Neredesin sen? "Where are you?", and
a more dramatic one, Gönül daGï lit. "Soul
Turkish migration to the Crimean Khanate during the 15th-18th
century, 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 Ottoman Turkish".
Presently, it is probably dissolved and intermingled with Central
and Northern Crimean Tartar.
often explained as Gök Oghuz > Gökouz
in Turkish pronunciation that omits /G/, is the westernmost
Turkic language spoken mostly in Gagauzia, a small
autonomous territorial unit, formed in 1994 in Moldova, between
Romania and Ukraine. Gagauzia includes only 2 towns and 27 villages.
The Gagauz people
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 just Bulgarian Christians Turkified
during the Ottoman expansion in the 16th century and afterwards.
Even more than
Azeri, Gagauz is mutually intelligible with Turkish to a notable
Christianity. Population: c. 250.000 persons.
The Gagauz villages
1. The Internal Classification
and Migrations of the Turkic Languages (2009-2012)
2. The Lexicostatistics and
Glottochronology of the Turkic Languages (2009-2012)
3. Mongolic/Tungusic Language Cluster (2009, 2012)
Yu. V. Normanskaja, Rastitelnyj
mir. Derevja i kustarniki. Geograficheskaja lokalizatsija prarodiny
tyurkov po dannym floristicheskoj leksiki (The
plant world. Trees and shrubs. The geographical localization of
the Turkic homland based on the floristic lexis data.)
5. Hugjiltu, Sound Comparisons between Turkish and Mongolian,
Inner Mongolia University // Infosystem Mongolei (1995)
History and Bibliography of the Uralic, Altaic, and Ural-Altaic
6. Nikolay Baskakov, K voprosu o klassifikatsii tyurkskikh yazyakov(On the matter of the classification of Turkic Languages)
// Izvestiya AN SSSR, Otdeleniye yazyka i literatury, vol.
11/1, Moscow (1952)
7. Nikolay Baskakov, Vvedenije
v izuchenije tyurkskikh jazykov (An introduction into the study
of Turkic languages), Moscow (1969)
Starostin, Altajskaja problema i proiskhozhdenije
japonskogo jazyka (The Altaic Problem and the Origins of the Japanese
Language); Moscow (1991) [a dissertation that includes detailed
100-word Swadesh lists (in English) for the whole Altaic family]
grammatika tyurkskikh jazykov. Leksika. (The Comparative Historical
Grammar of the Turkic Languages. Lexis.); editorial board: E.
Tenishev et al; Moscow (2002) [many lexical examples and supposed
proto-forms reconstructing the life of Proto-Turks]
10. M. Dyachok, Glottchronologija
tyurkskikh jazykov (The Glottochronology of
the Turkic Languages), Materials of 2nd Scientific Conference,
10a. Anna Dybo, Lingvisticheskije
kontakty rannikh tyurkov. Leksicheskij fond. (Linguistic Contacts
of the Early Turks: the Lexical Fund), Moscow (2007) [the book
includes a lexicostatistical analysis with a couple of dendrograms
(in English), and a detailed analysis of early borrowings into Proto-Turkic]
10b. Oleg Mudrak, Klassifikatsija
tyurkskikh jazykov i dialektov s pomosch'ju metodov glottokhronologii
na osnove voprosov po morophologii i istoricheskoj fonetike (The
classification of the Turkic languages and dialects based on the
glottochronological methodology with a morphological and phonological
questionary); Moscow (2009) [there is also a lecture at youtube
and a brief online summary.]
12. Mike Edwards, Siberia's
Scythians, Masters of Gold // National Geographic
12a. Brigitte Pakendorf, Contact
in the Prehistory of the Sakha, Linguistic and Genetic Perspective
12b. Atlas narodov mira
(The Atlas of the Peoples of the World), Moscow (1964)
12c. Khakassko-russkij slovar,
composed by N.
Baskakov, A. Inkizhekova-Grekul (1953)
12d. Oyrotsko-russkij slovar,
composed by N.
Baskakov, Toskhakova (1947)
series of articles concerning the origins of the ethnonym "Khakas"
(in Russian) by S. Yakhontov, V. Butanayev, S. Klyashtornyij //
Ethnograficheskoje obozrenije (1992)
14. Kratkaja grammatika
kazak-kirgizskogo jazyka(The brief grammar of the Kazakh-Kirgiz
language), composed by P. Melioranskij, Sankt-Peterburg (1894)
15. Kumekov, B.E., Gosudarstvo
kimakov IX-XI vv. po arabskim istochnikam (The Kimak State of the
9th-11th century according to the Arab sources), Alma-Ata (1972)
15a. Baskakov, N.A., Sovremennyje
kypchakskije yazyki (The modern Kypchak languages), Nukus (1987)
15b. Trepavlov, V.V.,Malaja
Nogajskaja Orda. Ocherk Istorii (The Lesser Nogai Horde. A historical
essay.) // Tyurkologicheskij sbornik 2003-2004:
tyurkskije narody v drevnosti i srednevekovye, Moscow (2005)
16. Messerschmidt, D.G., Forschungreise
durch Sibirien (Dnevnik puteshestviya iz Tobolska) (The trip diary
from Tobolsk), (1721-1725)
16a. Marzhanna Pomorska,
Middle Chulym Noun Formation, Krakow (2004) (in English)
16b. Dialekty zapadnosibirskikh
tatar (The dialects of West Siberian Tatars), Akhatov G. Kh.;
avtoreferat dissertatsii [a dissertation summary], Moscow (1964)
16c. Govory sibirskikh tatar
yuga tymenskoj oblasti (The dialects of the Siberian Tatars from
South Tyumen Oblast), Alishina, Kh. Ch.; avtoreferat dissertatsii
[a dissertation summary], Kazan (1992)
16d. Dmitriyeva, L.V., Yazyk
barabinskikh tatar (materialy i issledovanija) (The language of
the Baraba Tatars (materials and studies)), Leningrad (1981)
16e. Myagkov, D. A., Traditsionnoje
khozyajstvo barabinskikh tatar vo vtoroj polovine XIX veka
pervoj polovine XX (The traditional economy of the Baraba Tatars
from the second half of the 19th to the 1st half of the 20th century),
avtoreferat dissertatsiji [a dissertation summary], Omsk (2009)
16f. Abakirov, M.Sh., Etnodemograficheskaya
situatsiya u barabinskikh tatar Novosibirskoj oblasti (The ethnic
and demographic situation of the Baraba Tatars in Novosibirsk Oblast)
Bitig [a site dedicated to Orkhon-Yenisei inscriptions
(translated into English)]
18. Lars Johanson, Eva A. Csato,
The Turkic languages, London, New York (1998)
18a. Nicholas Poppe, Introduction
to Altaic linguistics, Wiesbaden (1965)
18b. Jazyki mira: Tyurkskije
jazyki (The Languages of the World: The Turkic Languages); editorial
board: E. Tenishev, E. Potselujevskij, I. Kormushin, A. Kibrik,
et al; The Russian Academy of Sciences (1996)
19. Mahmud al-Kashgari,
The Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (c. 1073), translated
by Robert Dankoff and James Kelly, (1982)
20. Classifications of Turkic
Languages by various authors at etheo.org,
A classification of Turkic Languages by Baskakov (1969) at etheo.org
24c. Pauli, Fyodor Khristoforovich,
Description ethnographique des peuples de la Russie, Saint-Petersburg
24d. Okonchatelnyje itogi
vserosijskoj perepisi naselenija 2010 goda (The
final results of the population census of Russia (2010))
25. Brockhaus and Efron
Encyclopedic Dictionary, Saint Petersburg (1906)
26. Webster's New World
Dictionary of the American Language. Second College Edition, Editor-in-Chief:
David Guralnik, Prentice Hall Press (1986)