Affiliations of Altai Turkic: Case system – part one

Altai republic is home to several language varieties sometimes divided into two languages, Northern and Southern, and sometimes considered as dialects of a single official language which is based on the Oirot variety. While it is obvious that North and South Altai share many features, how closely related they are and what is their position within the Turkic family are less clear.

On one side there are Siberian Turkic languages, in particular Yeniseian languages, which Northern Altai shows some affinities to, on the other is the Kyrgyz language whose speakers likely arrived in Kyrgyzstan from the slopes of Tian Shan and Kipchak languages which may or may not include Kyrgyz and possibly even Altai itself.

Thus I’d like to investigate the differences between these languages and determine shared innovations which will hopefully illuminate relationships of descent among them.

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Turkic initials

While all Turkic languages show distinction between voiceless and voiced stops [1] word-internally, only Oghuz languages have it initially[2], and only between k/g in front vowel words and t/d .

Most reconstructions take this distinction to have been phonemic in Proto-Turkic, but Doerfer makes the case in Ein altosmanisches Lautgesetz im Kurdischen that we’re dealing with a secondary voicing in Oghuz.

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Typological cycles, spirals and other graphs

A rather old idea exists in linguistics that is still occasionally invoked of a cycle of flective types:

… → Isolating → Agglunative → Fusional → Isolating → …

This is criticized by Martin Haspelmath, an influential typologist. He instead proposes the “anasynthetic spiral”, the pattern of new analytic forms built from content words arising and eventually grammaticalizing, potentially replacing older synthetic forms if they were existent. I think that we can afford to consider patterns of language change more generally.

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Typology of Northern Eurasia: Prosody

(To keep posts to a manageable length, I’ve decided to split this text so that this post covers only ‘core Altaic’)

This posts continues the earlier post on Eurasian vocalism, here I would like to discuss not only quantity, stress and tone; but also vowel reduction phenomena and constrains on distribution of vowels that might imply them.

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