Nostratic Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nostratic Languages


a hypothetical macrofamily of languages, which includes a number of language families and languages of Eurasia and Africa (Indo-European, Kartvelian, Hamito-Semitic, Uralic, Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus-Manchu, Korean, and the Dravidian languages). The Etruscan, Elamite, Japanese, Nivkh, Yukaghir, and Chukchi-Kamchatkan languages have also been shown to be affiliated with the Nostratic languages.

The hypothesis on the relationship of the Nostratic languages, which was proposed by the Danish scholar H. Pedersen in the early 20th century and elaborated by B. Collinder (Sweden), K. Menges (USA), and V. M. Illich-Svitych and A. B. Dolgopol’skii (USSR), attained the status of a proven scientific theory after Illich-Svitych compiled an etymological dictionary and made a rigorous study of the comparative phonology of the Nostratic languages. More than 700 common Nostratic roots are known, including pronouns and grammatical markers, which, evidently, were originally separate words. (The history of these roots has been traced from a reconstructed parent language to the descendant languages.)

A historical grammar of the Nostratic languages is currently being developed. The study of the relationship of the Nostratic languages has made it possible to clarify a number of issues relating to their structure, including the origin of irregular alternations.


Dolgopol’skii, A. B. Gipoteza drevneishego rodstva iazykov Severnoi Ev-razii. Moscow, 1964. (Seventh International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences).
Illich-Svitych, V. M. Opyt sravneniia nostraticheskikh iazykov, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.