Why are all Turkic language so similar?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Roel~, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    How come that Turkic languages are spoken from West-Anatolia to west China but still look very similar?
  2. ancalimon Senior Member

    I guess probably because Turkic is an extremely simple language at its roots (somehow like lego pieces). But they are not that similar at all. For example, a Turkish speaking person would not understand a Kazakh speaking person. He would only get bits and pieces. He would maybe need a whole year to perfectly speak Kazakh Turkic.

    Here's a detailed article about classification of Turkic.

    Turkic languages are extremely separated. Most of this divide happened thousands of years ago.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I'm not sure if I have understood you correctly. You mean they actually look similar but are not similar at all?
  4. er targyn Senior Member

    They're very different and have many false friends.
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    They reach as far as Anatolia because they moved in there quite recently, only a thousand years ago. Turkish is historically as much a Central Asian language as its kin.
  6. ancalimon Senior Member

    That is contested by many experts. It's even theorized that the Northern neighbors of Sumerians were Turkic speaking.

    Some say that as a result of Manzikert War, Turks liberated other enslaved Turkic speaking populations of Anatolia and also a significant portion of Eastern Roman army consisted of Turks that switched to Turkic side.
  7. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    That sounds like a nationalist driven rewrite of history.
  8. ancalimon Senior Member

    It's true that there are some examples of that. But nevertheless, some concerns of those people are legit.

    For example I have shown the work of Tuna about Historical Comparative Linguistics regarding Turkic loanwords inside Sumerian on this forum.
    I don't think that can be called a nationalist driven rewrite of history. If it could be, then we could also call the source of Indo-European Languages theory the same thing.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2013
  9. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    This I can believe, because the steps people, Turks among them, have regularly expanded into Europe and the near east. The Huns(if they were Turkic) and the Bulgars comes to mind. When it comes to Anatolia I get doubtful as nationalists tend to create such theories to counter Historical Greek or Armenian claims. And don't get me wrong, well I am slightly pro-Byzantine, the Greeks & later Romans imposed their culture and language upon Anatolia earlier in history and were really no better.(sorry for going off topic)
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2013
  10. mungu Senior Member

    Well, there are a couple of differences, such as the fact that IE theory does not serve any specific nation's self-glorification/justification (except inasmuch as facts obstruct specific nations' nationalist agendas), that IE theory is universally accepted by linguists (indeed, it serves as the foundation of modern historical linguistics) and that it is compatible with historical evidence. Theories of Sumerian-Turkic connections, on the other hand, serve a Turkish nationalist agenda, are not accepted by any linguists outside of Turkey and other Turkic-speaking countries, and don't fit the historical evidence (no texts in Turkic languages or even names clearly indicating the presence of Turkic peoples anywhere near the Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East before the first millennium AD - and it's not even quite clear whether that would be first half of the millennium - the Huns - or the second half - the Seljuks). Alas, the linguistics, especially of non-Western countries, is plagued by nationalism (and I'm saying that as a national of such a country). I won't be commenting Tuna's text specifically (though the use of coban "shepherd", a word of generally accepted Persian etymology - -pan/ban being a Persian root for "guard" - as an example of a Turkic root reflected in Sumerian sipad - does not inspire any confidence), but the fact that his claims have not been accepted internationally by Sumerologists and historical linguists, plus the obvious presence of a potential nationalist motive, is sufficient for me. In general, attempts to link Sumerian to pretty much any other agglutinative language in Eurasia (Hungarian, Finnish) are a classical type of nationalist fantasizing, very popular on the Internet in particular.

    As for Anatolia, we have plenty of texts from that place for about three millennia and there is no evidence for any Turkic speakers, sorry (what we do have is the isolate Hattic, Hurrian of the Hurro-Urartian family, languages of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European languages - Hittite, Luwian, Lydian etc., and eventually Greek assimilation - apart from the Armenians, of course). On the other hand, as far as I remember, the genetic evidence would seem to suggest that the population hasn't changed so much and is pretty distinct from that of the Turkic speakers of Central Asia, so it probably adopted the Turkic language of the new conquerors. Of course, people in Turkey don't like the idea that Turkey is, historically, a subjugated colony of, say, the Uyghurs, as opposed to being the proud capital of a vast Turkic world.

    Interestingly, in the Turkic case, we get both of the most common examples of nationalist rewriting of history: the self-glorification (we are related to / have influenced great civilizations such as the Sumerian one) and the self-justification (we have always been the same, we have always possessed our current territory, we have always spoken the same language and had the same religion and will always be the same - there is no discontinuity in our history). I encounter this kind of ideological impulse leading to alternative theories again and again, from England ("we" have always been Anglo-Saxon speakers), through Bulgaria ("we" have always inhabited our current territory and been Indo-European speakers), to India ("we" have always spoken Indo-European - Sanskrit in particular - indeed the Indo-European language family arose from us). Real history, and real historical linguistics on the other hand, is a story of change, of fluid and vague boundaries, where all "sacred" identities constantly arise, disappear, merge into each other and split from each other like, say, bubbles in a carbonated soft drink. There is no "we", in the long run, and that's the fact that all identity-based ideologies are vainly fighting against.
  11. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    Well said, Bravo!
  12. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    Indeed! A most excellent post! I particularly like: "There is no 'we', in the long run".
  13. Treaty Senior Member

    Apart from the recent expansion of Turkish language, another explanation can the high mobility of Turkic people which also explains their military power. It means they were more in contact with each other, so the chance of developing separate dialects was less.
  14. francisgranada Senior Member

    A naive question: Are the Turkic languages very similar (mutually understandable)?
    (e.g. comparing with the similarity among the Slavic or Romance languages)
  15. ancalimon Senior Member

    Not all of them are mutually understandable. Unless you train yourself, get used to it a bit. But some of them are so similar to the point that even a small child would understand most of the things.
  16. Treaty Senior Member

    Comparing Turkic with Romance and Slavic is not very helpful. Both (original) Romance and Slavic speaking countries are geographically very close to each other (actually attached). In addition, they had a long tradition of writing in their language. While for some Turkic languages, the official writing was mainly in Arabic and Persian.
  17. ancalimon Senior Member

    Actually before that Turks (and most of the other steppe people) wrote in Turanian writing. Or some call them tamgas. The only problem with that there was no standard as far as I know and most of them are not deciphered fully. Most probably because of what you say. People not living close to each other. The logistics was not efficient enough to support the political system. By the time Russians gained comtrol of most of the geography and tried the improve this, it was already too late and they themselves chose a different approach.
  18. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    I'm not sure the wanted to improve that, the Russian and later soviet approach was to divide and turn groups against each other so that they would fight each other and not Moscow. If the Russians had wanted too they could have created a official standardized Turkic alphabet, grammar and spelling and forced it upon the people but that would have given the all the Turkic people a sense of unity and that would have been dangerous.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  19. ancalimon Senior Member

    Yes the different approach I was talking about was this. They tried so hard to differentiate Turkic languages like changing the alphabets a couple of times in a couple of generations to cut connections.. or cutting the "lu" suffix to turn them from "oğlu, owlu" into "ov" from surnames of Turks to make it look Russian) but at its root it stayed the same. What they did do was building railroads to improve logistics. But I guess they controlled it and communism controlled who lived where and travel where, it did not help Turks intermingle much.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  20. sotos Senior Member

    Viewed from China, all the european languages look very similar too. I can learn Italian in six months and spanish in seven.
  21. sotos Senior Member

    Staying very much in topic, I am not aware of any prohibition of "Sumerio-Turkish" or any other language in the hellenistic period. e.g. Egyptians kept on using hieroglyphic (Rosetta stone) , Ptolemeus resqued the Bible (and other non-greek books) from obscurity, and the arabs were head-hunting for Greek manuscripts when Greeks were not there. However, if you are an orientalist, you can imagine "lost great civilizations of the East".
  22. jcpjcp Senior Member

    I think, because throughout the history, the Turkic languages have expanded across a vast area. And they have been influenced by neighbouring languages, but they have kept their basic common structures and elements.
  23. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    I don't think that's the best example, as those to languages are so close, now if you replace Spanish with German or Danish I'm impressed
  24. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Learn up to what level?

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