Saka language

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For the Northern Turkic language spoken in Sakha Republic, Russian Far East, see Sakha language.
Not to be confused with Makhuwa language or Scythian languages.
Saka
Khotanese, Tumshuqese
Native to Kingdom of Khotan, Tumshuq, Murtuq and Kashgar[1]
Region Tarim Basin (current China)
Ethnicity Saka
Era ≈200 BCE – ≈1000 CE
Dialects
Khotanese
Tumshuqese
Brahmi, Kharosthi
Language codes
ISO 639-2 kho
ISO 639-3 Either:
kho – Khotanese
xtq – Tumshuqese
Linguist list
kho (Khotanese)
  xtq (Tumshuqese)
Khotanese animal zodiac BLI6 OR11252 1R2 1
Khotanese Verses BLE4 IOLKHOT50 4R1 1
Book of Zambasta BLX3542 OR9614 5R1 1

(Eastern) Saka or Sakan is a variety of Eastern Iranian languages, attested from the ancient Buddhist kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in the Tarim Basin, in what in now southern Xinjiang, China. It is a Middle Iranian language.[2] The two kingdoms differed in dialect, their speech known as Khotanese and Tumshuqese.

Documents on wood and paper were written in modified Brahmi script with the addition of extra characters over time and unusual conjuncts such as ys for z.[3] The documents date from the fourth to the eleventh century. Tumshuqese was more archaic than Khotanese,[4] but it is much less understood because it appears in fewer manuscripts compared to Khotanese. Both dialects share features with modern Pashto and Wakhi. The language was known as "Hvatanai" in contemporary documents.[5] Many Prakrit terms were borrowed from Khotanese into the Tocharian languages.[6]

History[edit]

Main article: Saka

The two known dialects of Saka are associated with a movement of the Scythians. No invasion of the region is recorded in Chinese records and one theory is that two tribes of the Saka, speaking the two dialects, settled in the region in about 200 BC before the Chinese accounts commence.[7] It is evident that many of the Saka have spoken Iranian languages, but is certain that the cultural characteristics are represented by other ethnic and linguistic groups as well.[8] It is not clear whether the Saka-Scythian confederation also consisted of groups who didn't speak an Iranian language.[8]

Classification[edit]

Khotanese and Tumshuqese are closely related Eastern Iranian languages.[9]

Texts[edit]

Other than an inscription from Issyk kurgan that it is tentatively identified as Khotanese (although written in Kharosthi), all of the surviving documents originate from Khotan or Tumshuq. Khotanese is attested from over 2,300 texts preserved among the Dunhuang manuscripts, as opposed to just 15 texts in Tumshuqese.[10] These were deciphered by Harold Walter Bailey. The earliest texts, from the fourth century, are mostly religious documents. There were several viharas in the Kingdom of Khotan and Buddhist translations are common at all periods of the documents. There are many reports to the royal court (called haṣḍa aurāsa) which are of historical importance, as well as private documents. An example of a document is Or.6400/2.3.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mallory, J.P. "Bronze Age languages of the Tarim Basin". Expedition 52 (3): 44–53. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  2. ^ britanica
  3. ^ Bailey, H W (1970). "The Ancient Kingdom of Khotan". British Institute of Persian Studies 8: 65–72. doi:10.2307/4299633. 
  4. ^ Masson], [editors, A.H. Dani, V.M. (1992). History of civilizations of Central Asia. Paris: UNESCO. p. 283. ISBN 92-3-103211-9. 
  5. ^ Bailey, H W (December 1939). "The Rama Story in Khotanese". Journal of the American Oriental Society 59 (4): 460. doi:10.2307/594480. 
  6. ^ Litvinsky 1999: 432
  7. ^ Bailey, H W (1970). "The Ancient Kingdom of Khotan". British Institute of Persian Studies 8: 68. 
  8. ^ a b Jürgen Paul: Neue Fischer Weltgeschichte. 2012. Volume 10. Zentralasien. Pp.57
  9. ^ Ronald Emmerick, "Khotanese and Tumshuqese", in Gernot Windfurh, ed., The Iranian Languages, Routledge, 2009
  10. ^ "The Tumshuqese Language". The LINGUIST List. Multitree: A digital library of language relationships. 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

International Dunhuang Project Bailey, H W (1979) Dictionary of Khotan Saka, Cambridge University Press

Further reading[edit]

  • Encyclopædia Iranica "Iranian Languages" http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/central-asia-xiii
  • Emmerick, R. E., & Pulleyblank, E. G. (1993). A Chinese text in Central Asian Brahmi script: new evidence for the pronunciation of Late Middle Chinese and Khotanese. Roma: Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. (On connections between Chinese and Khotanese, such as loan words and pronunciations)
  • Litvinsky, Boris Abramovich; Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya, M.I (1999). "Religions and religious movements". History of civilizations of Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 421–448. ISBN 8120815408.