Altaic Languages

(redirected from Altaic hypothesis)

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 ?
Editor's note: Throughout his life Norman was a strong proponent of the Altaic Hypothesis and was in fact working actively on a detailed defense of it at the time he died.
The concluding chapter discusses the Altaic Hypothesis, a topic still debated among philologists as to which languages belong in this group.
Obviously, many of these questions are interrelated, and the answer to some of them rests in how much credence one puts into certain versions of the Altaic hypothesis, for example whether one accepts the possibility of a Turco-Mongolic subbranch that excludes Tungusic (an option that runs counter to several recent proposals about a Mongolo-Tungusic unity -- e.