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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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The Türkic Tribes

Illustrated full overview

Before starting work with the Turkic languages, certain difficulties arose, namely, the problem of determining the range of self-sufficient objects of study. As is known, the Turkic language family is quite large and consists of at least 35 modern languages and dialects and at least six ancient and medieval ones (DYBO A.V. 2007: 11). The nomadic way of life of the Turks "led to frequent and disordered language contacts and wide and also disordered inter-dialect borrowing, with the general proximity of dialects" (ibid., 11). Some of the Turkic languages are so close to each other that it may be justified to assume that they have a common origin from one language of a higher order than the Proto-Turkic. Another difficulty was pointed out by Sir Gerard Clawson:

… in conditions of steppe life the ethnic constitution of a particular horde or confederation might alter quite considerably as time went on, even though the name remained unchanged (CLAUSON GERARD 2002: 4).

Moreover, when studying the Turkic peoples it was established that people can have several identities and as defining ones, they choose one or a limited number of them (MALIKOV A.M. 2017: 31). In our ethnogenetic studies, the object is not ethnic groups, but their languages as a historically variable phenomenon, regardless of the identity of its speakers. The Turkic languages are so conservative that they keep their characteristic features for a much longer time than the time of the existence of socio-political entities.

Different classifications of the Türkic languages exist consistent with each other in the recognition of closest relationships. Multi-level historical classifications of the well-known turkologist Baskakov (BASKAKOV N.A., 1960: 37-60) were used for this study. He divided several groups and subgroups of Türkic languages on the highest level. They comprise from one to five-six modern Türkic languages. If we unite close cognate modern languages of separate subgroups in one conventional language, we obtain only thirteen languages that can be considered as self-contained objects for this graphic analysis. Though two extinct tongues as Old-Uighur and Karluk-Uighur could not be analyzed because of the absence of necessary dictionaries. According to the genetic connections established by Baskakov, conventional names were used for all Türkic languages taken for the analysis, sometimes identical to the modern names for some languages, but without claim to historical accuracy and only for the convenience of the further narrative. Thus, the Bulgarish (Volga-Bulgarish) language will correspond with the present-day Chuvash and extinct Khazarian languages; Tartaric with the modern Tatar and Bashkir languages; Kypchak with modern Kumyk, Karachai, Balkarian, Crimea-Tatar, and Karaim; Nogai with modern Kazakh, Karakalpakh and properly Nogai; Oghuz with modern Gagauz and the dialects of Balkan Türks; Seljuqic with modern Turkish, Azerbaijani and south dialect of Crimean Tatars; Karlukish – with modern Uzbek and New Uighur; Tuba with modern Tuvinian and Karagasian; Khakassian with modern Kamasinian, Shorian, North-Altaic, Sari-Uighur, the tongue of Chulim Tatars and properly Khakassian; Altaian  with modern South-Altaic. The Kyrghyz, Turkmen, and Yakut languages correspond with proper present-day languages.

The table-dictionary of the Türkic languages was composed of the data taken from etymological dictionaries of Turkic languages (SEVORTYAN E.V. 1974 – 2003; CLAUSON GERARD, Sir., 1972; EGOROV V.G., 1964). The table is submitted in the section Etymological Dictionaries-Tables for different language families and groups. The numbers of mutual words in the pairs of languages are given in Table 5.

Table 5. The number of mutual words in the pairs of the Türkic languages.

Lang Nog Karl Kyrg Tart Selj Kypc Khak Turk Bulg Tuba Alt Oguz Yak
Nogai 1195 3,0 3,0 3,1 3,7 3,5 4,2 3,7 5,6 6,5 5,6 7,3 7,5
Karluk 948 1178 3,2 3,4 3,6 3,5 4,4 3,7 5,6 6,5 5,9 7,2 7,9
Kyrgh 949 882 1111 3,5 4,1 3,9 4,3 4,2 6,7 6,2 5,5 8,3 7,4
Tartar 921 830 809 1077 4,1 3,7 4,9 4,2 5,4 7,3 6,1 7,8 8,6
Seljuk 752 790 676 676 1060 3,8 4,9 3,9 6,4 7,9 7,1 5,5 9,9
Kypch 810 801 721 759 750 1020 4,7 4,2 6,2 7,9 7,1 7,1 9,0
Khakas 636 681 650 563 571 591 945 5,6 9,3 5,9 6,4 10,3 7,6
Turkm 752 755 671 669 724 673 480 936 6,7 8,6 7,5 6,7 10,5
Bulg 484 453 405 523 428 432 273 401 668 13,7 10,7 10,7 16,2
Tuba 414 412 429 359 327 341 461 297 169 629 8,5 16,7 7,9
Altai 488 463 494 442 373 376 418 346 231 313 598 14,7 10,7
Oghuz 363 366 312 335 493 378 239 403 231 130 155 541 20,0
Yakut 348 333 354 297 253 271 344 234 136 334 231 100 521

Despite of mutual language influence of historical time, the model of genetic relationships of Türkic languages was built by using the calculated distances between languages according to the formula:

L=Ko/(N + a),

where Ko – initial value of the proportional coefficient which is a little dependent on the distance between languages, therefore, the constant a is introduced into the formula for correction. We took Ko = 3000 and a = 50.

Built on these data, the scheme of the relationship of Türkic languages is shown in Figure 27.

Fig. 27. Graphic model of Türkic language relationship.

In search of a place proper for this model, all attempts to place it on the map near the Altai region or in Siberia failed. The model can be put only within the Dnieper-Don-Interfluvial area where the characteristic bend of both rivers suggests how to place the model (see map 4).

Thus, we have the reason to posit that Turkic Urheimat was not in Altai but in Eastern Europe. Consequently, the Proto-Türkic could not descend from a primeval language called Altaic or Proto-Altaic as Sir Gerard Clauson expressed this though already fifteen years ago (CLAUSON GERARD, Sir, 2002, 36).

Map 28. The map of the Türkic habitats. Legend: Alt – Southern Altai, Arm – Armenian, Bulg – Bulgarish, Hung – Hungarian, Kar – Karlukish, Kypch – Kypchak, Kyrgh – Kyrghyz, Mord – Mordvinic, Nog – Nogai, Phryg – Phrygian, Tat – Tartaric, Turkm – Turkmen.

The determined territory on which the collapse of the common parent Turkic language took place gives us the opportunity to assume the reasons why the Yakut language, according to the dictionaries, has a less common vocabulary with the Tuvan and Altaic languages than it should be, judging by the resulting scheme, which shows that the segments, connecting the areas of these languages go far beyond their borders. Obviously, a large layer of vocabulary that is common to these languages, without parallels in other Turkic languages, but has them in the languages of the Mongolian group, for the most part, is considered to be borrowed from the Mongolic languages.

Of course, there were borrowings, but some of such vocabulary should still be of Turkic origin. The kinship scheme of the Turkic languages can also shed light on some enigmatic linguistic phenomena that unite such Turkic languages, which, it would seem, are very far from each other. For example, the lexical isogloss is known: Tur. olta "fishing rod" – Chuv. valta "the same" The semantic identity and phonetic similarity of these words are obvious, however, since there is no explanation of where and when speakers of Chuvash and Turkish could contact, some researchers do not consider these words to be related (LEBEDEVA E.A. 1981). But E. Sevortyan quite rightly points out:

Features of semantics (line, hook, fishing rod, bait) – typical for the words of ancient formation, testify to the great historical age of the word. Words are noted only in Turkish and Chuvash, which had no historical connections with each other, although this is not the only case when the word occurs only in Turkish and Chuvash (SEVORTIAN E.V. 1974: 126).

The areas of the Chuvash and Turkish languages are located almost in the neighborhood on the territory of the Turkic space. Without a doubt, this word was common, at least in the western, Dnieper part of the region, since in addition to Turkish and Chuvash, it is also present in Gagauz (alta "fishing rod"), which, however, can be borrowed from Turkish. In Turkmen, the corresponding word may have disappeared, but most likely it has changed its meaning somewhat and has not yet been found.

The terrain occupied by the Turks did not have to change especially in the five millennia before the time when it was described by Wilhelm de Rubruk during his journey to the eastern countries in 1253 with the words:

… having the sea to the south and a vast wilderness to the north, which extends in places over thirty days in breadth; and in it is neither forest, nor hill, nor stone, but only the finest pasturage. (RUBRUKC WILLIAM of. 1957. XIV).

Areas of forming individual primary Türkic languages were located mainly on watersheds small at present rivers, but they could be more flowing once. However, in those days they were not difficult for overcoming obstacles. Their role as the boundaries of the areas forming separate dialects was due to the need to have clear boundaries for grazing cattle of different tribal communities. Some of the confusion between the neighbors during pasturing led to clashes and enmity, which contributed to the consolidation of similar communities in tribes and to a certain alienation between them. The meaning of borders for nomadic housekeeping was well understood by Lev Gumilev:

Section of lands and strict observance of their borders – is the only mean to keep the nomads from the cruel fratricidal clashes over watering, pastures, and hunting grounds (GUMILEV L.N., 2003, 89)

Intertribal strife, harsh living conditions, a constant threat to livestock from predators, a device for winter camps, and other required good organization way of life of the tribe, the consequence of the formation of tribal leadership and nomination of its tribal leaders. Such social conditions also contributed to the rapid dismemberment of earlier common parent language into separate dialects.

Proto-Bulgarian area was limited by the Low Dnieper, the coast of the Azov and Black Seas, and in the east by the rivers Molochna and Konka. Tatar area was stretched further east along the Sea of Azov area and was limited by the river Mius and its tributary Krynka. Ancestors of Turkmen populated an area between the rivers Dnieper, Konka, and Samara separated from the Tatar area by the ridge of Azov Upland. There was the Kypchak area west of the river Seversky Donets, the headwaters of the Lugan' (or the river Krivyi Torets), and the river Krynka on both banks of the River Samara and Altaian area was located beyond the river Mius along the lower Don limited by the river Seversky Donets on the east and by the Lygan' River on the north. Seljuk area was limited by the rivers Vorskla, Orel', and the Donets and Oghuz area were beyond the river Vorskla till the Sula River (or Pslo). We shall return to this question. The Karlukish, Nogai, Kyrghyz, and Tuba languages were formed on the areas along the left bank of the river Seversky Donets separated by the rivers Oskol, Aydar, and Kalytva. Yakut area was located at the bend of the river Don River, and yet the Khakasian area was on a small habitat along the right bank of the Don between the rivers Black Kalitva and Tykha Sosna.

The Proto-Armenians resided on the left banks of the river Dniepr in the closest vicinity to Türks. Accordingly, thr most words of Türkic origin were found in the Armenian language. Some parts of the Türkic words through the Armenian language even reached the ancient Greeks. The Türkisms in the Armenian, to which sometimes can be found matches in Greek, are given apart in the List of Traces of Linguistic Contacts between Indoeuropeans and Türks.

Not all Türkic loan words survived in the Armenian language, and some parts of them have not been found yet, which is why a small group of Türkic roots exist only in Greek. There is no doubt that matches to a part of them can be found in the Armenian language sometimes. A separate deal of the Türkic-Greek lexical correspondences is represented by the Greek-Chuvash parallels which date from the more late time as the part of Greek ethnos stayed in Pontic steppes after a great deal of Ancient Greeks went for Balkan Peninsula. The Proto-Bulgars, the ancestors of Chuvash, had to stay on this territory for a long time too, and adopted from the Greek some words, but the Armenian matches are not obligatory for them. The Greek-Chuvash lexical correspondences can be found in the same List of Traces of Linguistic Contacts between Indoeuropeans and Turks too.

In light of the obtained data about the Urheimat of individual Türkic ethnoi, an explanation could be found for views about the imaginary likeness of the spiritual cultures of Indo-European and Altaic peoples claimed by German scientists (Wilhelm Koppers, Ernst Meyer) based on misconceptions about the Indo-European ethnicity of creators of Corded Ware culture. Take, for example, Ernst Meyer wrote describing the mentioned commonality:

Altai peoples are clearly expressed peoples-riders, as also Indo-Europeans should be, they had similar organizational forms of large patriarchal families, believed in the heavenly god as a universal deity having the same origin, like Indo-Europeans (MEYER ERNST, 1968, 279).

German scientists believed that the Indo-Europeans settled the Pontic steppes and hence brought corded ware and battle axes in Central Europe, so their perceptions of the spiritual culture of the Indo-Europeans were based largely on the study of this particular block cultures. However, they themselves not knowing could talk not about the similarities in the cultures of Indo-European and Altai peoples but about similarities in the cultures of the Türkic peoples. More details of the Corded Ware culture will be discussed further.