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Altaic languages 

 Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are seldom borrowed between languages[citation needed]. Therefore the many correspondences between Altaic pronouns found by Starostin et al. (2003) could be rather strong evidence for the existence of Proto-Altaic. The table below is taken (with slight modifications) from Blažek (2006) and transcribed into IPA.

Proto-AltaicProto-TurkicProto-Mongolic (*), Classical MongolianProto-TungusicProto-Korean (*), Middle KoreanProto-Japonic
"I" (nominative)/bì//be/*/bi//bi//bà/
"me" (oblique cases)/mine/-/men/*/min/-/min/-
"I"/ŋa/*/nad/-, -/m/- (oblique)/nà//a/-
"thou" (nominative)/si/ and/or /tʰi//se/*/t͡ʃi//si//si/
"thee" (oblique cases)/sin/- and/or /tʰin/-/sen/ ?*/t͡ʃin/-
"thou"/ná/-/ŋ/*/nè//ná/
"we" (nominative)/bà//bi-rʲ/*/ba//bue//ú-rí//bà/
"us" (oblique cases)/myn/-*/man/-/myn/-
"ye" (nominative)/sV/ and/or /tʰV//s/*/ta//suː/
"you" (oblique)/sVn/-/sun/-

As above, forms not attested in Classical Mongolian or Middle Korean but reconstructed for their ancestors are marked with an asterisk, and /V/ represents an uncertain vowel.


Numerals and related words

In the Indo-European family, the numerals are remarkably stable. Therefore shared numerals are often considered good evidence for language relationships[citation needed]. The Altaic numerals are less stable than the Indo-European ones, but nevertheless Starostin et al. (2003) reconstruct them as follows:

Proto-Altaic meaningProto-AltaicProto-TurkicProto-MongolicProto-TungusicProto-KoreanProto-Japonic
1/byri//bir//byri/ "all, each"/pìrɨ́/ "at first"/pitə/
single/nøŋe//jaŋɯrʲ//nige/ "1"/noŋ/~/non/ "be the first, begin"/nəmi/ "only"
front/emo//øm-gen/ "upper part of breast"/emy/-/emu/~/ume/ "1"
single, one of a pair/sǿna//sɯŋar/ "one of a pair"/son-du-/ "odd"¹/hə̀nàh/ "1"/sa/- "together, reciprocally"
2/tybu/²/d͡ʒiw-rin/~/d͡ʒui-rin/ "2 (feminine)"³/d͡ʒube//tuː/, /tuː-rh/4
pair, couple/pʰø̀kʰe//eki/ "2", /ekirʲ/ "twins"; ?/(j)ɛgir-mi/ "20"/(h)ekire/ "twins"
different, other/gojV//gojar/ "2"/goj/~/gia//kía/
pair, half/put͡ʃʰu//but͡ʃ-uk//pt͡ʃa-k//puta/- "2"
3/ŋy//o-turʲ/ "30"5/gu-rban/; /gu-t͡ʃin/ "30"6/mi/-7
(footnote 8)/ìlù//øløŋ/9/ila-n/ "3"/ùrù-pu/ "bissextile (year or month)"
object consisting of 3 parts/séjra//sere-ʁe/ "trident, pitchfork"/seːi(h)/ "3"/sárápi/ "rake, pitchfork"
4/toːjV//døː-rt//dø-rben/; /dø-rt͡ʃin/ "40"10/dy-gin//də/-
5/tʰu//ta-bun/; /ta-bin/ "50"11/tu-nʲga//tà/-/i-tu-/12
6/nʲu//d͡ʒi-rgu-/; /d͡ʒi-ran/ "60"13/nʲu-ŋu-/14/mu/-
7/nadi/15/jeti//dolu-ʁan/; /dala-n/ "70"15/nada-n//nìr-(kúp)//nana/-
8/d͡ʒa//d͡ʒa-pkun//jè-t-/ 16/da/-
9/kʰegVnV//xegyn//kəkənə/
10/t͡ʃøbe/ or /tøbe//d͡ʒuba-n//təwə/17
many, a big number/d͡ʒøːrʲo//jyːrʲ/ "100"18/jér(h)/ "10"/də̀rə̀/- "10,000"
/pʰVbV//oː-n/ "10"/ha-rban/ "10", /ha-na/ "all"19-/pə/, -/pua/ "-00"20
20/kʰyra//gɯrk/ or /kɯrk/ "40"21/kori-n//xori-n//pata-ti/22
100/nʲàmò/ ?/jom/ "big number, all"/d͡ʒaʁu-n/23/nʲamaː//muàmuà/
1000/t͡ʃỳmi//dymen/ or /tymen/ "10,000"24/t͡ʃɨ̀mɨ̀n//ti/
  • ¹ Manchu /soni/ "single, odd".
  • ² Old Bulgarian /tvi-rem/ "second".
  • ³ Kitan has /t͡ʃur/ "2" (Blažek 2006).
  • 4 -/uː/- is probably a contraction of -/ubu/-.
  • 5 The /y/- of /yt͡ʃ/ "3" "may also reflect the same root, although the suffixation is not clear." (Starostin et al. 2003:223)
  • 6 Compare Silla /mir/ "3" (Blažek 2006).
  • 7 Compare Goguryeo /mir/ "3" (Blažek 2006).
  • 8 "third (or next after three = fourth)", "consisting of three objects"
  • 9 "song with three out of four verses rhyming (first, second and fourth)"
  • 10 Kitan has /dur/ "4" (Blažek 2006).
  • 11 Kitan has /tau/ "5" (Blažek 2006).
  • 12 "(the prefixed i- is somewhat unclear: it is also used as a separate word meaning ‘fifty’, but the historical root here is no doubt *tu-)" (Starostin et al. 2003:223). – Blažek (2006) also considers Goguryeo */ut͡s/ "5" (from */uti/) to be related.
  • 13 Kitan has /nir/ "6" (Blažek 2006).
  • 14 Middle Korean has /je-(sɨs)/ "6", which may fit here, but the required loss of initial /nʲ/- "is not quite regular" (Starostin et al. 2003:224).
  • 15 The Mongolian forms "may suggest an original proto-form" /lʲadi/ or /ladi/ "with dissimilation or metathesis in" Proto-Mongolic (Starostin et al. 2003:224). – Kitan has /dol/ "7".
  • 16 "Problematic" (Starostin et al. 2003:224).
  • 17 Compare Goguryeo /tok/ "10" (Blažek 2006).
  • 18 Manchu /d͡ʒiri/, /d͡ʒirun/ "a very big number".
  • 19 Orok /poːwo/ "a bundle of 10 squirrels", Nanai /poã/ "collection, gathering".
  • 20 "Hundred" in names of hundreds.
  • 21 Starostin et al. (2003) suspect this to be a reduplication: /kɯr-kɯr/ "20 + 20".
  • 22 /kata-ti/ would be expected; Starostin et al. (2003) think that this irregular change from /k/ to /p/ is due to influence from "2" /puta-tu/.
  • 23 From /nʲam-ŋu-/.
  • 24 Also see Tumen.



 Others

The following table is a brief selection of further proposed cognates in basic vocabulary across the Altaic family (from Starostin et al. [2003]).

Proto-Altaic meaningProto-AltaicProto-TurkicProto-MongolicProto-TungusicProto-KoreanProto-Japonic
breast/kòkʰè//køky-rʲ/1/køkø-n/2/kuku-n/2/kokajŋi/ "pith; medulla; core"/kəkə-rə/1 "heart"
stone/tǿːlʲì//diaːlʲ//t͡ʃila-ʁu//d͡ʒola//toːrh/3/(d)ísì/
neck/móːjno//boːjn//moŋa-n//mje-k//nəmpV/
star/pʰǿlʲo//jul-durʲ//ho-dun//pjɨːr//pə́sí/
eye/næ̀ː//ni-dy//nʲia-sa/4/nú-n//mà/-
that/tʰa//di/- or /ti/-/te-re//ta//tjé/
  • 1 Contains the Proto-Altaic dual suffix -/rʲV/: "both breasts" – "chest" – "heart".
  • 2 Contains the Proto-Altaic singulative suffix -/nV/: "one breast".
  • 3 Compare Baekje */turak/ "stone" (Blažek 2006).
  • 4 This is disputed by Georg (2004), who states: "The traditional Tungusological reconstruction *yāsa [ = /jaːsa/] cannot be replaced by the nasal-initial one espoused here, needed for the comparison."[7] However, Starostin (2005)[8] mentions evidence from several Tungusic languages cited by Starostin et al. (2003). Georg (2005)[9] does not accept this, referring to Georg (1999/2000)[10] and an upcoming paper. By that time, Starostin was already dead (Starostin 2005 was published posthumously).


Sound correspondences

If a Proto(-Macro)-Altaic language really existed, it should be possible to reconstruct regular sound correspondences between that protolanguage and its descendants; such correspondences would make it possible to distinguish cognates from loanwords (in many cases). Such attempts have repeatedly been made. The latest and (so far) most successful version is reproduced here, taken from Blažek's (2006) summary of the newest Altaic etymological dictionary (Starostin et al. 2003) and transcribed into the IPA.

When a Proto-Altaic phoneme developed differently depending on its position in a word (beginning, interior, or end), the special case (or all cases) is marked with a hyphen; for example, Proto-Altaic /pʰ/ disappears (marked "0") or becomes /j/ at the beginning of a Turkic word and becomes /p/ elsewhere in a Turkic word.


Only single consonants are considered here. In the middle of words, clusters of two consonants were allowed in Proto-Altaic as reconstructed by Starostin et al. (2003); the correspondence table of these clusters spans almost 7 pages in their book (83–89), and most clusters are only found in one or a few of the reconstructed roots.

Proto-AltaicProto-TurkicProto-MongolicProto-TungusicProto-KoreanProto-Japonic
/pʰ/0-¹, /j/-, /p//h/-², /j/-, -/b/-, -/h/-², -/b//p//p//p/
/tʰ//t/-, /d/-³, /t//t/, /t͡ʃ/4, -/d//t//t//t/
/kʰ//k//k/-, -/k/-, -/g/-5, -/g//x/-, /k/, /x//k/, /h//k/
/p//b//b/-, /h/-², /b//p/-, /b//p//p/
/t//d/-, /t//t/, /t͡ʃ/4/d/-, /d͡ʒ/-6, /t//t/, -/r/-/t/-, /d/-, /t/
/k//k/-, /k/, /g/7/k/-, /g//k/-, /g/-, /g//k/-, -/h/-, -0-, -/k//k/
/b//b//b/-, -/h/-, -/b/-8, -/b//b//p/, -/b/-/p/-, /w/, /b/9, /p/10
/d//j/-, /d//d/, /d͡ʒ/4/d//t/, -/r/-/d/-, /t/-, /t/, /j/
/g//g//g/-, -/h/-, -/g/-5, -/g//g//k/, -/h/-, -0-/k/-, /k/, 011
/t͡ʃʰ//t͡ʃ//t͡ʃ//t͡ʃ//t͡ʃ//t/
/t͡ʃ//d/-, /t͡ʃ//d/-, /d͡ʒ/-4, /t͡ʃ//s/-, -/d͡ʒ/-, -/s/-/t͡ʃ//t/-, -/s/-
/d͡ʒ//j//d͡ʒ//d͡ʒ//t͡ʃ//d/-, /j/
/s//s//s//s//s/-, /h/-, /s//s/
/ʃ//s/-, /t͡ʃ/-12, /s//s/-, /t͡ʃ/-12, /s//ʃ//s//s/
/z//j//s//s//s//s/
/m//b/-, -/m/-/m//m//m//m/
/n//j/-, -/n/-/n//n//n//n/
/nʲ//j/-, /nʲ//d͡ʒ/-, /j/, /n//nʲ//n/-, /nʲ//m/-, /n/, /m/
/ŋ/0-, /j/-, /ŋ/0-, /j/-, /g/-13, /n/-14, /ŋ/, /n/, /m/, /h//ŋ//n/-, /ŋ/, 00-, /n/-, /m/-6, /m/, /n/
/r//r//r//r//r//r/, /t/15
/rʲ//rʲ//r//r//r//r/, /t/
/l//j/-, /l//n/-, /l/-, /l//l//n/-, /r//n/-, /r/
/lʲ//j/-, /lʲ//d/-, /d͡ʒ/-4, /l//l//n/-, /r//n/-, /s/
/j//j//j/, /h//j//j/, 0/j/, 0
  • ¹ The Khalaj language has /h/ instead. (It also retains a number of other archaisms.) However, it has also added /h/ in front of words for which no initial consonant (except in some cases /ŋ/, as expected) can be reconstructed for Proto-Altaic; therefore, and because it would make them dependent on whether Khalaj happens to have preserved any given root, Starostin et al. (2003:26–28) have not used Khalaj to decide whether to reconstruct an initial /pʰ/ in any given word and have not reconstructed a /h/ for Proto-Turkic even though it was probably there.
  • ² The Monguor language has /f/ here instead (Kaiser & Shevoroshkin 1988); it is therefore possible that Proto-Mongolian also had /f/ which then became /h/ (and then usually disappeared) in all descendants except Monguor. Tabgač and Kitan, two extinct Mongolic languages not considered by Starostin et al. (2003), even preserve /p/ in these places (Blažek 2006).
  • ³ This happened when the next consonant in the word was /lʲ/, /rʲ/, or /r/.
  • 4 In front of /i/.
  • 5 When the next consonant in the word was /h/.
  • 6 When followed by /æ/, /ø/, /y/.
  • 7 When the next consonant in the word was /r/.
  • 8 When the preceding consonant was /r/, /rʲ/, /l/, or /lʲ/, or when the next consonant was /g/.
  • 9 When the following vowel was /a/, /ə/, or followed by /j/.
  • 10 When followed by /i/ and then another vowel, or by /j/.
  • 11 When preceded by a vowel preceded by /i/.
  • 12 When followed by /a/.
  • 13 When followed by /u/.
  • 14 When followed by /a/, /o/, or /e/.
  • 15 When followed by /i/ or /u/.



 Vowels

Vowel harmony is pervasive in Altaic languages: most Turkic and Mongolic as well as some Tungusic languages have it, Korean is arguably in the process of losing its traces, and it is (controversially) hypothesized for Old Japanese. (Vowel harmony is also typical of the neighboring Uralic languages and was often counted among the arguments for the Ural-Altaic hypotheses.) Nevertheless, Starostin et al. (2003) reconstruct Proto-Altaic as lacking vowel harmony. Instead, according to them, vowel harmony originated in each daughter branch as assimilation of the vowel in the first syllable to the vowel in the second syllable (which was usually modified or lost later). "The situation therefore is very close, e.g., to Germanic [see Germanic umlaut] or to the Nakh languages in the Eastern Caucasus, where the quality of non-initial vowels can now only be recovered on the basis of umlaut processes in the first syllable." (Starostin et al. 2003:91) The table below is taken from Starostin et al. (2003):

Proto-AltaicProto-TurkicProto-MongolicProto-TungusicMiddle KoreanProto-Japonic
first s.second s.first syllable
/a//a//a/, /a/¹, /ʌ/¹/a//a//a/, /e//a/
/a//e//a/, /ɯ//a/, /i//a//a/, /e//ə/
/a//i//ɛ/, /a//a/, /e//a//a/, /e/, /i//i/
/a//o//o/, /ja/, /aj//a/, /i/, /e//a//ə/, /o//a/
/a//u//a//a/, /o/, /u//a//a/, /ə/, /o/, /u//u/
/e//a//a/, /ʌ/, /ɛ//a/, /e//e//a/, /e//a/
/e//e//ja/-, /ɛ/, /e/²/e/, /ja//e//a/, /e/, /i/, /ɨ//ə/
/e//i//ja/-, /ɛ/, /e/²/e/, /i//e//i/, /ɨ/, /a/, /e//i/
/e//o//ʌ/, /e//a/, /e/, /y/³, /ø/³/e//ə/, /o/, /u//ə/, /a/
/e//u//ɛ/, /a/, /ʌ//e/, /a/, /o/³/e//o/, /u/, /a//u/
/i//a//ɯ/, /i//i//i//a/, /e//a/
/i//e//ɛ/, /e/²/e/, /i//i//i/, /ɨ//i/
/i//i//i//i/, /e/¹/i//i//i/
/i//o//ɯ//i//i//o/, /u/, /ɨ//i/, /ə/
/i//u//ɯ/, /i//i//i//i/, /ɨ//u/
/o//a//o//o/, /u//o/, /u//a/, /e//a/
/o//e//ø/, /o//ø/, /y/, /o//o/, /u//ɨ/, /o/, /u//ə/
/o//i//ø/, /o//ø//o/, /u//o/, /u//u/
/o//o//o//u//o/, /u//a/, /e//ə/
/o//u//o//o/, /u//o/, /u//ə/, /o/, /u//u/
/u//a//u/, /o//a/, /o/, /u//o/, /u//a/, /e//a/
/u//e//y//o/, /u/, /y//u//a/, /e//ua/, /a/¹
/u//i//y/, /u//y/, /ø//u//o/, /u/, /ɨ//u/
/u//o//u//o/, /u//o/, /u//o/, /u/, /ɨ//ə/
/u//u//u//o/, /u//o/, /u//o/, /u//u/
/æ//a//ia/, /ja/, /ɛ//a//ia/, /i/4/ə/, /a/³/a/
/æ//e//ia/, /ja//i/, /a/, /e//i//i/, /e/, /je//ə/
/æ//i//ia/, /ja/, /ɛ//i/, /e//ia/, /i/4/ə/, /e/, /je//i/
/æ//o//ia/, /ja/, /a/¹/e//o/, /u//ə/, /o/, /u//a/
/æ//u//e/, /a/, /ʌ/¹/a/, /o/, /u//o/, /u//o/, /u/, /e/, /je//u/
/ø//a//ia/, /ja/, /a/¹/a/, /o/, /u//o/, /u//o/, /u/, /ə//a/
/ø//e//e/, /a/, /ʌ/¹/e/, /ø//o/, /u//o/, /u/, /je//ə/, /u/
/ø//i//ia/, /ja/, /a/¹/i/, /e/, /ø//o/, /u//o/, /u/, /ə//i/
/ø//o//o/, /u//ø/, /y/, /o/, /u//i//i/, /e/, /je//ə/, /a/
/ø//u//u/, /o//e/, /i/, /u//ia/, /i/4/ə/, /u/, /je//u/
/y//a//ɯ//o/, /u/, /i//o/, /u//a/, /e//a/
/y//e//y/, /ø/, /i/²/ø/, /y/, /o/, /u//y/, /u/¹/a/, /e/, /ja/, /je/, /o/, /u//u/, /ə/
/y//i//y/, /ø//ø/, /y/, /o/, /u//i/, /u/¹/ɨ/, /i/, /o/, /u//i/
/y//o//u/, /o//o/, /u//y//a/, /e/, /ja/, /je/, /o/, /u//u/, /ə/
/y//u//ɯ//i/, /o/, /u/, /y/, /ø//o/, /u//o/, /u/, /i/, /ɨ//u/
  • ¹ When preceded by a bilabial consonant.
  • ² When followed by a trill, /l/, or /lʲ/.
  • ³ When preceded or followed by a bilabial consonant.
  • 4 When preceded by a fricative (/s/, /ʃ/, /x/).


Prosody

Length and pitch in the first syllable evolved as follows according to Starostin et al. (2003), with the caveat that it is not clear which pitch was high and which was low in Proto-Altaic (Starostin et al. 2003:135). For simplicity of input and display every syllable is symbolized as "a" here:

Proto-AltaicProto-TurkicProto-MongolicProto-TungusicProto-KoreanProto-Japonic
áaa¹aà²á
àaaaáà
áːa¹aà²á
àːaaáà
  • ¹ "Proto-Mongolian has lost all traces of the original prosody except for voicing *p > *b in syllables with original high pitch" (Starostin et al. 2003:135).
  • ² "[…] several secondary metatonic processes happened […] in Korean, basically in the verb subsystem: all verbs have a strong tendency towards low pitch on the first syllable." (Starostin et al. 2003:135)



 



 


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