Altaic Languages

(redirected from Altaic family)
Also found in: Wikipedia.

Altaic Languages

 

a family of languages uniting three language groups: the Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungus-Manchurian. The Altaic languages also include the Korean language. The Turkic and the Tungus-Manchurian languages are farthest removed from each other.

The existence of kinship between the Altaic languages cannot be taken as definitively proved. Despite protracted scientific work on the Altaic problem, even today there are linguists who uphold the theory of the common origin of the Altaic languages (G. J. Ramstedt, N. Poppe, E. D. Polivanov, and others) and those who attempt to account for the material similarity of the Altaic languages in terms of linguistic interaction (V. Kotwicz and others). The Uralo-Altaic hypothesis put forward by N. Räsänen and others combines the Altaic languages with the “Uralic” languages (Finno-Ugric and Samoyed).

The stem in the Altaic languages is characterized by stable phonology and independence (it constitutes a full word). Word formation and word changes take place through the agglutination of affixes to the root (stem). Affixes, as a rule, have a single meaning. Prefixes are not typical of Altaic languages. Formal joining of the root and affixes into a single unit is achieved by the assimilation of the phonology of these affixes to the phonology of the stem—that is, synharmonism, which is common in almost all the Altaic languages. The category of gender is absent in the Altaic languages. The grammatical category of possessiveness, expressing the person of the possessor (first, second, and third persons of the singular and plural) by special possessive affixes, is highly developed in most of the Altaic languages. The degree of comparison is usually expressed in the Altaic languages by using the ablative case of the noun designating the object to be compared. One characteristic feature of Altaic languages is the widespread use of nonper-sonal forms of the verb—participles and verbal adverbs—in those cases where the Indo-European languages frequently use the personal forms of the verb. In Altaic languages, the subject is placed at the beginning of the sentence and the predicate at the end. The word order in the sentence is governed by a general rule: the dependent term precedes the term on which it depends, while the attribute stands before the constituent modified, and the object stands before the constituent to which it refers. Added to this is the fact that Altaic languages lack prepositions and instead use postpositions. (Since the noun is dependent on the postposition which governs various cases of the noun, the noun must precede the postposition.) Sometimes the term “Altaic languages” is used to designate the languages of those peoples living in the Altai area (the Altai, Khakass, Tuva, and other peoples).

REFERENCES

Ramstedt, G. J. “Vvedenie v altaiskoe iazykoznanie.” Morfologiia. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Ramstedt, G. J. Kalmückisches Wörterbuch. Helsinki, 1935.
Shcherbak, A. M. “O kharaktere leksicheskikh vzaimosviazei tiurkskikh, molgol’skikh i tungusko-man’chzhurskikh iazykov.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1966, no. 3.
Illich-Svitych, V. M. “Altaiskie dental’nye t, d, s.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1963, no. 6.
Illich-Svitych, V. M. “Altaiskie gutturnal’nye *kc, *k, *g.” Etimologiia, 1964. Moscow, 1965.
Illich-Svitych, V. M. “Sootvetstviia smychnykh v nostricheskikh iazykakh.” Etimologiia, 1966. Moscow, 1968.
Dolgopol’skii, A. B. “Gipoteza drevneishego rodstva iazykovykh semei Severnoi Evrazii s veroiatnostnoi tochki zreniia.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1964, no.2.
Sinor, D. Introduction à l’étude de I’Eurasie Céntrale. Wiesbaden, 1963.
Poppe, N. Vergleichende Grammatik der altaischen Sprachen, vol. 1. Wiesbaden, 1960.
Poppe, N. Introduction to Altaic Linguistics. Wiesbaden, 1965.

E. A. POTSELUEVSKII

References in periodicals archive ?
Firstly, Turkic languages are believed to come from the Altaic family of languages, based on some similarities in phonology, grammar and lexicology.
A Tungusic language, Manchu is now only spoken by a few elders, he says, but it is important for reading documents of China's last imperial dynasty and for exploring the Altaic family of languages.
However, the Tungusic languages represent a crucial part of the larger Altaic family.
Budenz classified Hungarian as belonging to the extended Ugric branch, and, in his model, the Ugric branch, the Turkic branch and other Asiatic branches, all belonged to the wide Altaic family.
Today, the Korean people are ethnically and physically remarkably homogeneous, speaking a single language belonging to the Central Asian Altaic family, only distantly (if at all) related to Japanese and not at all to Chinese, despite the presence of many loan words and other cultural borrowings from the giant southern neighbour.