Turkic languages

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From Southeastern Europe to Western China and Siberia
Linguistic classification: One of the world's primary language families
Proto-language: Proto-Turkic
ISO 639-5: trk
Glottolog: turk1311[1]
Turkic languages

The Turkic languages are a language family of at least thirty-five[2] languages, spoken by Turkic peoples from Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are proposed to be part of the controversial Altaic language family.[3][4]

Turkic languages are spoken as a native language by some 170 million people, and the total number of Turkic speakers, including second-language speakers, is over 200 million.[5][6][7] The Turkic language with the greatest number of speakers is Turkish, spoken mainly in Anatolia and the Balkans, the native speakers of which account for about 40% of all Turkic speakers.[4]

Characteristic features of Turkish, such as vowel harmony, agglutination, and lack of grammatical gender, are universal within the Turkic family.[4] There is also a high degree of mutual intelligibility among the various Oghuz languages, which include Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Qashqai, Gagauz, Balkan Gagauz Turkish, and Oghuz-influenced Crimean Tatar.[8]


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Turkic languages are null-subject languages, have vowel harmony, extensive agglutination by means of suffixes, and lack of grammatical articles, noun classes, and grammatical gender. Subject–object–verb word order is universal within the family.


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The geographical distribution of Turkic-speaking peoples across Eurasia ranges from the North-East of Siberia to Turkey in the West (see picture in the box on the right above).[9]

Early written records

The first established records of the Turkic languages are the eighth century Orkhon inscriptions by the Göktürks, recording the Old Turkic language, which were discovered in 1889 in the Orkhon Valley in Mongolia. The Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (Divânü Lügati't-Türk), written during the 11th century by Kaşgarlı Mahmud of the Kara-Khanid Khanate, constitutes an early linguistic treatment of the family. The Compendium is the first comprehensive dictionary of the Turkic languages and also includes the first known map of the Turkic speakers' geographical distribution. It mainly pertains to the Southwestern branch of the family.[10]

The Codex Cumanicus (12th–13th centuries) concerning the Northwestern branch is another early linguistic manual, between the Kipchak language and Latin, used by the Catholic missionaries sent to the Western Cumans inhabiting a region corresponding to present-day Hungary and Romania. The earliest records of the language spoken by Volga Bulgars, the parent to today's Chuvash language, are dated to the 13th–14th centuries.

Geographical expansion and development

With the Turkic expansion during the Early Middle Ages (c. 6th–11th centuries), Turkic languages, in the course of just a few centuries, spread across Central Asia, from Siberia to the Mediterranean. Various terminologies from the Turkic languages have passed into Persian, Hindustani, Russian, Chinese and to a lesser extent, Arabic.[11]

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Relative numbers of speakers of Turkic languages

For centuries, the Turkic-speaking peoples have migrated extensively and intermingled continuously, and their languages have been influenced mutually and through contact with the surrounding languages, especially the Iranian, Slavic, and Mongolic languages.[12] This has obscured the historical developments within each language and/or language group, and as a result, there exist several systems to classify the Turkic languages. The modern genetic classification schemes for Turkic are still largely indebted to Samoilovich (1922)[13] and are mainly based on the development of *d. However, there are still many questions for which ongoing research has not yet found an adequate solution.[citation needed]

The Turkic languages may be divided into six branches (Johanson 1998):[14]

In this classification, Oghur Turkic is also referred to as Lir-Turkic, and the other branches are subsumed under the title of Shaz-Turkic or Common Turkic. It is not clear when these two major types of Turkic can be assumed to have actually diverged.[15]

With less certainty, the Southwestern, Northwestern, Southeastern and Oghur groups may further be summarized as West Turkic, the Northeastern, Kyrgyz-Kipchak and Arghu (Khalaj) groups as East Turkic.[16]

Geographically and linguistically, the languages of the Northwestern and Southeastern subgroups belong to the central Turkic languages, while the Northeastern and Khalaj languages are the so-called peripheral languages.


The following isoglosses are traditionally used in the classification of the Turkic languages:[14]

  • Rhoticisation, e.g. in the last consonant of the word for "nine" *toqqız. This separates the Oghur branch, which exhibits /r/, from the rest of Turkic, which exhibits /z/. In this case, rhoticisation refers to the development of *-/r/, *-/z/, and *-/d/ to /r/,*-/k/,*-/kh/ in this branch.[17] See Antonov and Jacques (2012) [18] on the debate concerning rhotacism and lambdacism in Turkic.
  • Intervocalic *d, e.g. the second consonant in the word for "foot" *hadaq
  • Word-final -G, e.g. in the word for "mountain" *tāğ
  • Suffix-final -G, e.g. in the suffix *lIG, in e.g. *tāğlığ

Additional isoglosses include:

  • Preservation of word initial *h, e.g. in the word for "foot" *hadaq. This separates Khalaj as a peripheral language.
  • Denasalisation of palatal *ń, e.g. in the word for "moon", *ań
isogloss Old Turkic Turkish Azerbaijani Uzbek Uyghur Tatar Kazakh Kyrgyz Altay Western Yugur Fu-yü Gyrgys Khakas Tuvan Sakha/Yakut Khalaj Chuvash
z/r (nine) toquz dokuz doqquz toqqiz toqquz tuğız toğız toğuz toğus dohghus doğus toğıs tos toğus toqquz tăχăr
*h- (foot) adaq ayak ayaq oyoq ayaq ayaq ayaq ayaq ayaq azaq azıχ azaχ adaq ataχ hadaq ura
*VdV (foot) adaq ayak ayaq oyoq ayaq ayaq ayaq ayaq azaq azıχ azaχ adaq ataχ hadaq ura
*-g (mountain) tag dağ* dağ toğ tağ taw taw tağ daχ tağ dağ tıa tāğ tu
suffix *-g (mountainous) taglıg dağlık* dağlıq toğlık tağlıq tawlı tawlı tōlū tūlu taglig daglug tûlûh
*-ń (set on fire) köy- köy- kuy- köy-/küy- köy- küy- küy- küy- köy- kiěn- küñ

*In the standard Istanbul dialect of Turkish, the ğ in dağ and dağlık is not realized as a consonant, but as a slight lengthening of the preceding vowel.


The following table is based upon the classification scheme presented by Lars Johanson (1998)[19]

Proto-Turkic Southwestern Common Turkic (Oghuz)

Lenguas Oguz.png

West Oghuz
East Oghuz
South Oghuz
Northwestern Common Turkic (Kipchak)

Map-Kypchak Language World.png

West Kipchak
North Kipchak (Volga–Ural Turkic)
South Kipchak (Aralo-Caspian)
Southeastern Common Turkic (Karluk)

Lenguas karluk.png

Northeastern Common Turkic (Siberian) North Siberian
South Siberian Sayan Turkic
Yenisei Turkic
Chulym Turkic
Altai Turkic[31]
  • Altay Oirot and dialects such as Tuba, Qumanda, Qu, Teleut, Telengit

Vocabulary comparison

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The following is a brief comparison of cognates among the basic vocabulary across the Turkic language family (about 60 words).

Empty cells do not necessarily imply that a particular language is lacking a word to describe the concept, but rather that the word for the concept in that language may be formed from another stem and is not a cognate with the other words in the row or that a loanword is used in its place.

Also, there may be shifts in the meaning from one language to another, and so the "Common meaning" given is only approximate. In some cases the form given is found only in some dialects of the language, or a loanword is much more common (e.g. in Turkish, the preferred word for "fire" is the Persian-derived ateş, whereas the native od is rare). Forms are given in native Latin orthographies unless otherwise noted.

Common meaning Old Turkic Turkish Azerbaijani Turkmen Tatar Bashkir Kazakh Kyrgyz Uzbek Uyghur Sakha/Yakut Chuvash
- Father, ancestor Ata Ata Ata Ata Äti Ata(y) Ata Ata Ota Ata Ata Ate
Mother Ana Ana/Anne Ana Ene Äni Inä(y)/Asay Ana Ene Ona Ana Anne
Son O'gul Oğul/Oğlan Oğul Ogul Ul Ul Ul Uul Oʻgʻil Oghul Uol Yvăl, Ul
Man Er(kek) Er(kek) Ər/Erkək Erkek İr İr(käk) Er(kek) Erkek Erkak Er Er Ar/Arşçin
Girl Kyz Kız Qız Gyz Qız Qıð Qız Kız Qiz Qiz Ky:s Hĕr
Person Kişi Kişi/Şahıs Kişi/Şəxs Kişi Keshe Keşe Kisi Kishi Kishi Kishi Kihi Şçin
Bride Kelin Gelin Gəlin Gelin Kilen Kilen Kelin Kelin Kelin Kelin Kylyn Kin
Mother-in-law Kaynana Qaynana Gaýyn ene Qayın ana Qäynä Qayın ene Kaynene Qaynona Qeyinana Hun'ama
Body parts Heart Yürek Yürek Ürək Ýürek Yöräk Yöräk Jürek Jürök Yurak Yürek Süreq Čĕre
Blood Qan Kan Qan Gan Qan Qan Qan Kan Qon Qan Qa:n Jun
Head Baš Baş Baş Baş Baş Baş Bas Bash Bosh Bash Bas Puś
Hair Qıl Kıl Qıl Gyl Şäş/kıl Qıl Qıl Kıl Qil Qil Kıl śûs/χul
Eye Köz Göz Göz Göz Küz Küð Köz Köz Koʻz Köz Kos Kuś
Eyelash Kirpik Kirpik Kirpik Kirpik Kerfek Kerpek Kirpik Kirpik Kiprik Kirpik Kirbi: Hărpăk
Ear Qulqaq Kulak Qulaq Gulak Qolaq Qolaq Qulaq Kulak Quloq Qulaq Gulka:k Hălha
Nose Burun Burun Burun Burun Borın Moron Murın Murun Burun Burun Murun
Arm Qol Kol Qol Gol Qul Qul Qol Kol Qoʻl Qol,Bilek Qol Hul/Hol
Hand El(ig) El Əl El Alaqan Alakan Ilik Ili: Ală
Finger Barmak Parmak Barmaq Barmak Barmaq Barmaq Barmaq Barmak Barmoq Barmaq Pürne/Porn'a
Fingernail Tyrnaq Tırnak Dırnaq Dyrnak Tırnaq Tırnaq Tırnaq Tyrmak Tirnoq Tirnaq Tynyraq Čĕrne
Knee Tiz Diz Diz Dyz Tez Teð, tubıq Tize Tize Tizza Tiz Tüsäχ Čĕrpuśśi
Calf Baltyr Baldır Baldır Baldyr Baltır Baltır Baltır Baltyr Boldir Baldir Ballyr Pıl
Foot Adaq Ayak Ayaq Aýak Ayaq Ayaq Ayaq Ayak Oyoq Ayaq Ataq Ura
Belly Qaryn Karın Qarın Garyn Qarın Qarın Qarın Karyn Qorin Qerin Qaryn Hyrăm
Animals Horse At At At At At At At At Ot At At Ut
Cattle Siyir, İnek Sığır, İnek İnək, Sığır Sygyr Sıyer Hıyır Sïır Sıyır Sigir Siyir Inax Vıleh
Dog Yt İt İt It Et Et Ït It It It Yt Jytă
Fish Balyq Balık Balıq Balyk Balıq Balıq Balıq Balık Baliq Beliq Balyk Pulă
Louse Bit Bit Bit Bit Bet Bet Bït Bit Bit Pit Byt Pyjtă/Put'ă
Other nouns House Uy Ev Ev Öý Öy Öy Üy Üy Uy Öy Av*
Tent Otag Otağ Otaq Otag Oʻtoq Otaq Otu: cha'ta(r)
Way Yol Yol Yol Ýol Yul Yul Jol Jol Yoʻl Yol Suol Śul
Bridge Köprüq Köprü Körpü Köpri Küper Küper Köpir Köpürö Koʻprik Kövrük Kürpe Kĕper
Arrow Oq Ok Ox Ok Uq Uq Oq Ok Oʻq Oq Uhă
Fire Ot Od Od Ot Ut Ut Ot Ot Oʻt Ot Uot Vut/Vot
Ash Kül Kül Kül Kül Köl Köl Kül Kül Kul Kül Kül Kĕl
Water Suv Su Su Suw Su Hıw Su Suu Suv Su Uu Šyv/Šu
Ship, boat Kemi Gemi Gəmi Gämi Köymä Kämä Keme Keme Kema Keme Kimĕ
Lake Köl Göl Göl Köl Kül Kül Köl Köl Koʻl Köl Küöl Külĕ
Sun/Day Küneš Gün(eş) Gün(əş) Gün Kön Kön Kün Kün Kun Kün Kün Kun
Cloud Bulut Bulut Bulud Bulut Bolıt Bolot Bult Bulut Bulut Bulut Bylyt Pĕlĕt
Star Yulduz Yıldız Ulduz Ýyldyz Yoldız Yondoð Juldız Jıldız Yulduz Yultuz Sulus Śăltăr
Earth Topraq Toprak Torpaq Toprak Tufraq Tupraq Topıraq Topurak Tuproq Tupraq Toburaχ Tăpra
Hilltop Töpü Tepe Təpə Depe Tübä Tübä Töbe Töbö Tepa Töpe Töbö Tüpĕ
Tree/Wood Yağac Ağaç Ağac Agaç Ağaş Ağas Ağaş Jygach Yogʻoch Yahach Jyvăś
God (Tengri) Tengri Tanrı Tanrı Taňry Täñre Täñre Täñiri Teñir Tangri Tengri Tanara Tură/Toră
Sky, Blue Kök Gök Göy Gök Kük Kük Kök Kök Koʻk Kök Küöq Kăvak/Koak
Adjectives Long Uzun Uzun Uzun Uzyn Ozın Oðon Uzın Uzun Uzun Uzun Uhun Vărăm
New Yany Yeni Yeni Ýaňy Yaña Yañı Jaña Jañı Yangi Yengi Sana Śĕnĕ
Fat Semiz Semiz Simez Himeð Semiz Semiz Semiz Semiz Emis Samăr
Full Tolu Dolu Dolu Doly Tulı Tulı Tolı Tolo Toʻla Toluq Toloru Tulli
White Aq Ak Ak Aq Aq Aq Ak Oq Aq
Black Qara Kara Qara Gara Qara Qara Qara Kara Qora Qara Xara Xura
Red Qyzyl Kızıl Qızıl Gyzyl Qızıl Qıðıl Qızıl Kızıl Qizil Qizil Kyhyl Hĕrlĕ
Numbers 1 Bir Bir Bir Bir Ber Ber Bir Bir Bir Bir Bi:r Pĕrre
2 Eki İki İki Iki İke İke Eki Eki Ikki Ikki Ikki Ikkĕ
4 Tört Dört Dörd Dört Dürt Dürt Tört Tört Toʻrt Tört Tüört Tăvattă
7 Yeti Yedi Yeddi Ýedi Ğide Yete Jeti Jeti Yetti Yetti Sette Şichche'
10 On On On On Un Un On On Oʻn On Uon Vun'(a)
100 Yüz Yüz Yüz Ýüz Yöz Yöð Jüz Jüz Yuz Yüz Sü:s Şe'r
Old Turkic Turkish Azerbaijani Turkmen Tatar Bashkir Kazakh Kyrgyz Uzbek Uyghur Sakha/Yakut Chuvash

See also


  1. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. Dybo A.V., "Chronology of Türkic languages and linguistic contacts of early Türks", Moskow, 2007, p. 766, [1] (In Russian)
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  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  5. Brigitte Moser, Michael Wilhelm Weithmann, Landeskunde Türkei: Geschichte, Gesellschaft und Kultur, Buske Publishing, 2008, p.173
  6. Deutsches Orient-Institut, Orient, Vol. 41, Alfred Röper Publushing, 2000, p.611
  7. http://www.zaman.com.tr/iskander-pala/turkceyi-kac-kisi-konusuyor_480993.html
  8. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  9. Turkic Language tree entries provide the information on the Turkic-speaking regions.
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  11. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  12. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  13. Classification of Turkic languages
  14. 14.0 14.1 Lars Johanson, The History of Turkic. In Lars Johanson & Éva Ágnes Csató (eds), The Turkic Languages, London, New York: Routledge, 81-125, 1998.Classification of Turkic languages
  15. See the main article on Lir-Turkic.
  16. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The reliability of Ethnologue lies mainly in its statistics whereas its framework for the internal classification of Turkic is still based largely on Baskakov (1962) and the collective work in Deny et al. (1959–1964). A more up to date alternative to classifying these languages on internal camparative grounds is to be found in the work of Johanson and his co-workers.
  17. Larry Clark, Chuvash. In Lars Johanson & Éva Ágnes Csató (eds), The Turkic Languages, London, New York: Routledge, 434-452, 2006.
  18. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  19. Lars Johanson (1998) The History of Turkic. In Lars Johanson & Éva Ágnes Csató (eds) The Turkic Languages. London, New York: Routledge, 81-125. [2]
  20. Khalaj is surrounded by Oghuz languages, but exhibits a number of features that classify it as non-Oghuz.
  21. Crimean Tatar and Urum are historically Kipchak languages, but have been heavily influenced by Oghuz languages.
  22. Tura, Baraba, Tomsk, Tümen, Ishim, Irtysh, Tobol, Tara, etc. are partly of different origin (Johanson 1998) [3]
  23. Of Altai Turkic origin, but recently closer to Kazakh (Johanson 1998)
  24. Deviating. Historically developed from Southwestern (Oghuz) (Johanson 1998) [4]
  25. Aini contains a very large Persian vocabulary component, and is spoken exclusively by adult men, almost as a cryptolect.
  26. Deviating. Probably of South Siberian origin (Johanson 1998)
  27. Coene 2009, p. 75
  28. Coene 2009, p. 75
  29. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  30. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  31. Some dialects are close to Kirghiz (Johanson 1998)

Further reading

  • Akhatov G. Kh. 1960. "About the stress in the language of the Siberian Tatars in connection with the stress of modern Tatar literary language" .- Sat *"Problems of Turkic and the history of Russian Oriental Studies." Kazan. (Russian)
  • Akhatov G.Kh. 1963. "Dialect West Siberian Tatars" (monograph). Ufa. (Russian)
  • Baskakov, N.A. 1962, 1969. "Introduction to the study of the Turkic languages. Moscow. (Russian)
  • Boeschoten, Hendrik & Lars Johanson. 2006. Turkic languages in contact. Turcologica, Bd. 61. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-05212-0
  • Clausen, Gerard. 1972. An etymological dictionary of pre-thirteenth-century Turkish. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Deny, Jean et al. 1959–1964. Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Johanson, Lars & Éva Agnes Csató (ed.). 1998. The Turkic languages. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08200-5.
  • Johanson, Lars. 1998. "The history of Turkic." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 81–125.[5]
  • Johanson, Lars. 1998. "Turkic languages." In: Encyclopædia Britannica. CD 98. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 5 sept. 2007.[6]
  • Menges, K. H. 1968. The Turkic languages and peoples: An introduction to Turkic studies. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Öztopçu, Kurtuluş. 1996. Dictionary of the Turkic languages: English, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Turkish, Turkmen, Uighur, Uzbek. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-14198-2
  • Samoilovich, A. N. 1922. Some additions to the classification of the Turkish languages. Petrograd.[7]
  • Schönig, Claus. 1997–1998. "A new attempt to classify the Turkic languages I-III." Turkic Languages 1:1.117–133, 1:2.262–277, 2:1.130–151.
  • Starostin, Sergei A., Anna V. Dybo, and Oleg A. Mudrak. 2003. Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-13153-1
  • Voegelin, C.F. & F.M. Voegelin. 1977. Classification and index of the World's languages. New York: Elsevier.

External links