Altaic

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Altaic

(ăltā`ĭk), subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages (see Uralic and Altaic languagesUralic and Altaic languages
, two groups of related languages thought by many scholars to form a single Ural-Altaic linguistic family. However, other authorities hold that the Uralic and Altaic groups constitute two unconnected and separate language families.
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). Some scholars still consider Altaic an independent linguistic family. Spoken by over 130 million people, who occupy parts of a territory that stretches from E Europe across the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to the Pacific Ocean, the Altaic languages fall into three subdivisions: TurkicTurkic
, group of languages forming a subdivision of the Altaic subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages (see Uralic and Altaic languages). The Turkic group of languages has a total of some 125 million speakers in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, and parts of Russia and
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, Mongolian (see Mongolian languagesMongolian languages,
group of languages forming a subdivision of the Altaic subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages (see Uralic and Altaic languages). The Mongolian languages are spoken by about 6 million people, mainly in the Republic of Mongolia, in the Inner
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), and Tungusic. The Tungusic subdivision, by far the smallest, today has only a few thousand speakers. It includes Manchu, spoken in various parts of Manchuria, and Tungus, native to E Siberia. Like the Uralic languages, the Altaic tongues are characterized by agglutination and vowel harmony. The former involves using suffix upon suffix to express grammatical relationships and meanings. Suffixes are also employed to form derived words. With vowel harmony, the vowel in a suffix corresponds to the vowel of the root to which the suffix is added. The Altaic languages lack grammatical gender.

Bibliography

See N. Poppe, Introduction to Altaic Linguistics (1965).