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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


Tokharskie 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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
21: The statement, "the turks adopted brahmi from the writers/speakers of Tocharian," reflects a commonly held but possibly incorrect opinion.
45: Even if Chinese mi 'honey' comes from Indo-European, it is not necessary that Tocharian be the source, as assumed by the author.
While this was the value originally in Sanskrit, it is not necessarily so in Tocharian. The Uygur brahmi uses both <s> and <s>and their corresponding Fremdzeichen to write Uygur /s/.
89: "Tocharian /w/ differed to such a degree from Skt.
114: About the gloss seswa over [s.sub.a]suwa 'sons' in THT3597 he speculates, "it must be from a later stage [of the language], or it has been produced by a non-native speaker of Tocharian B, for instance a speaker of Old Uygur." I think the latter suggestion is correct and that the glosser was giving a phonetic rendering, a pronunciation guide, using his native, possibly Turkic, orthographic principles.
175-77: Peyrot confirms Stumpf's view that over time the use of virama increased in Tocharian B documents.
198: When discussing sociolects, the different registers shown by official and colloquial documents, he states, "we will never know the phonetics of the different varieties of Tocharian B other than through the script." The best sources of information about the phonetics of the late language are probably the two versions of the Manichean hymn.