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the name for two closely related extinct languages comprising a separate branch in the Indo-European language family; their relationship to the other Indo-European languages was demonstrated in 1908 by the German scholars E. Sieg and W. Siegling.
In the sixth and seventh centuries, the Tocharian languages were spoken in Eastern Turkestan (Sinkiang Province). Their name is arbitrary, coming from the name of the Tochari, who spoke an Eastern Iranian language. The self-designation of the Tocharian speakers is not known. Therefore, one of the two Tocharian languages has come to be known as Tocharian A (East Tocharian) and the other as Tocharian B (West Tocharian); they are sometimes also called Turfanian and Kuchean, respectively, after the principal cities in which texts were found. Manuscripts and a certain number of inscriptions from the fifth to eighth centuries, consisting of translations of Buddhist literature, were written in Brahmi, a special type of Indian syllabic writing. Few of the original texts have been discovered.
The Tocharian languages are characterized by isoglosses, which associate them with the western Indo-European languages. The Indo-European voiced and voiceless consonants coincide in a single series of voiceless consonants. Other features of the Tocharian languages include a pronounced ramification of the verb system; the development of a multicase agglutinative paradigm, possibly under the influence of a local substratum; the existence of group inflection in the noun; and the presence in the nominal system of a dual, paired, and plurative in addition to the singular and plural. Adjectives in Tocharian do not have degrees of comparison. There are many borrowings from Indian and Iranian languages.
By the ninth and tenth centuries the Turkic Uighurs had assimilated the speakers of the Tocharian languages. The first texts were published in Russia in 1892 by S. Ol’denburg. Other texts, which have been preserved mainly in France and the Federal Republic of Germany, have not been published in full.
REFERENCESTokharskie iazyki. Moscow, 1959.
Sieg, E., and W. Siegling. Tocharische Grammatik. Göttingen, 1931.
Krause, W., and W. Thomas. Tocharisches Elementarbuch, vols. 1–2. Heidelberg, 1960–64.
A. A. KOROLEV