Social:Proto-Altaic language

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Short description: Proposed reconstruction of an Asian language
Reconstruction ofAltaic languages
Lower-order reconstructions

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

In the 18th century, some similarities between the Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic languages led to the conjecture that they would be a single language family with a common ancestral language.[1]:page 125 Starting in the 19th century, some linguists proposed to include also the Japonic and/or Koreanic languages as well as the Ainu language, forming what would later be called the "Macro-Altaic family" (the original one being then dubbed "Micro-Altaic").[2]:34 Around the same time, others proposed to include the Uralic languages in a Ural-Altaic family.[1]:126–127

Versions of the Altaic family hypothesis were widely accepted until the 1960s, and it is still listed in many encyclopedias and handbooks.[3]:73 However, in recent decades, the proposal has received substantial criticisms and has been rejected by many comparative linguists.[4][5][6]

Nevertheless, "Altaicists" (supporters of the theory of a common origin for the Altaic languages) such as Václav Blažek and Sergei Starostin have endeavored to reconstruct "Proto-Altaic," the hypothetical common ancestral language of the family.

Some Altaicists have proposed that the original area where Proto-(Macro-)Altaic would have been spoken was a relatively small area comprising present-day North Korea, Southern Manchuria, and Southeastern Mongolia.[7] The date for its split into the major recognized families was estimated at around 5,000 BC[8] or 6,000 BC.[9] This would make Altaic a language family about as old as Indo-European (4,000 to 7,000 BC according to several hypotheses[10]) but considerably younger than Afroasiatic (c. 10,000 BC[11]:33 or 11,000 to 16,000 BC[12]:35–36 according to different sources).


(As of 2019), the most comprehensive attempt at reconstructing a Proto-(Macro)-Altaic language is the 2003 Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages by Starostin, Dybo, and Mudrak,[8] which was summarized in 2006 by Blažek.[13]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Nicholas Poppe (1965): Introduction to Altaic Linguistics. Volume 14 of Ural-altaische Bibliothek. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden.
  2. Roy Andrew Miller (1986): Nihongo: In Defence of Japanese. ISBN:0-485-11251-5.
  3. Stefan Georg, Peter A. Michalove, Alexis Manaster Ramer, and Paul J. Sidwell (1999): "Telling general linguists about Altaic". Journal of Linguistics, volume 35, issue 1, pages 65–98.
  4. Lyle Campbell and Mauricio J. Mixco (2007): A Glossary of Historical Linguistics, page 7 University of Utah Press.
  5. Johanna Nichols (1992) Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time, page 4. Chicago University Press.
  6. R. M. W. Dixon (1997): The Rise and Fall of Languages, page 32. Cambridge University Press.
  7. Lars Johanson and Martine Irma Robbeets (2010): Transeurasian Verbal Morphology in a Comparative Perspective: Genealogy, Contact, Chance.. Introduction to the book, pages 1-5.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sergei Starostin, Anna V. Dybo, and Oleg A. Mudrak (2003): Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, 3 volumes. ISBN:90-04-13153-1.
  9. Elena E. Kuz'mina (2007): The Origin of the Indo-Iranians, page 364. Brill. ISBN:978-9004160-54-5
  10. Mallory (1997): Page 106
  11. Igor M. Diakonoff (1988): Afrasian Languages. Nauka, Moscow.
  12. Ehret (2002)
  13. Václav Blažek (2006): "Current progress in Altaic etymology." Linguistica Online, 30 January 2006. Accessed on 2019-03-22.

Works cited

  • Aalto, Pentti. 1955. "On the Altaic initial *p-." Central Asiatic Journal 1, 9–16.
  • Antonov, Anton; Jacques, Guillaume (2012). "Turkic kümüš 'silver' and the lambdaism vs sigmatism debate". Turkic Languages 15 (2): 151–170. 
  • Clauson, Gerard. 1959. "The case for the Altaic theory examined." Akten des vierundzwanzigsten internationalen Orientalisten-Kongresses, edited by H. Franke. Wiesbaden: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, in Komission bei Franz Steiner Verlag.
  • Clauson, Gerard. 1968. "A lexicostatistical appraisal of the Altaic theory." Central Asiatic Journal 13: 1–23.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard. 1973. "Lautgesetze und Zufall: Betrachtungen zum Omnicomparativismus." Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft 10.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard. 1974. "Ist das Japanische mit den altaischen Sprachen verwandt?" Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 114.1.
  • Doerfer, Gerhard. 1985. Mongolica-Tungusica. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Lee, Ki-Moon and S. Robert Ramsey. 2011. A History of the Korean Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. 1980. Origins of the Japanese Language: Lectures in Japan during the Academic Year 1977–1978. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN:0-295-95766-2.
  • Ramstedt, G.J. 1952. Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft I. Lautlehre, 'Introduction to Altaic Linguistics, Volume 1: Phonology', edited and published by Pentti Aalto. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Ramstedt, G.J. 1957. Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft II. Formenlehre, 'Introduction to Altaic Linguistics, Volume 2: Morphology', edited and published by Pentti Aalto. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Ramstedt, G.J. 1966. Einführung in die altaische Sprachwissenschaft III. Register, 'Introduction to Altaic Linguistics, Volume 3: Index', edited and published by Pentti Aalto. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2004. "Swadesh 100 on Japanese, Korean and Altaic." Tokyo University Linguistic Papers, TULIP 23, 99–118.
  • Robbeets, Martine. 2005. Is Japanese related to Korean, Tungusic, Mongolic and Turkic? Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
  • Tekin, Talat. 1994. "Altaic languages." In The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Vol. 1, edited by R.E. Asher. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 1993. "About the phonetic value of the Middle Korean grapheme ᅀ." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 56(2), 247–259.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 1994. "Genetic affiliation of Japanese and methodology of linguistic comparison." Journal de la Société finno-ougrienne 85, 241–256.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2001. "Japanese, Korean, and Tungusic: evidence for genetic relationship from verbal morphology." Altaic Affinities (Proceedings of the 40th Meeting of PIAC, Provo, Utah, 1997), edited by David B. Honey and David C. Wright, 83–202. Indiana University, Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2010. Koreo-Japonica: A Re-Evaluation of a Common Genetic Origin. University of Hawaii Press.

Further reading

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

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