Old Turkic language

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Old Turkic
Old Uyghur
Region Central Asia and Mongolia
Era evolved into other Turkic languages
Old Turkic, Uyghur alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
otk – Old Turkish
oui – Old Uighur
otk Old Turkish
  oui Old Uighur
Glottolog oldu1238[1]

Old Turkic (also East Old Turkic, Orkhon Turkic, Old Uyghur) is the earliest attested form of Turkic, found in Göktürk and Uyghur inscriptions dating from about the 7th century to the 13th century. It is the oldest attested member of the Orkhon branch of Turkic, which is extant in the modern Western Yugur language. However, it is not the ancestor of the language now called Uighur; the contemporaneous ancestor of Uighur to the west is called Middle Turkic.

Old Turkic is attested in a number of scripts, including the Orkhon-Yenisei runiform script, the Old Uyghur alphabet (a form of the Sogdian alphabet), the Brāhmī script, the Manichean alphabet, and the Perso-Arabic script.

Old Turkic often refers not to a single language, but collectively to the closely related and mutually intelligible stages of various Common Turkic branches spoken during the late first millennium.


Sources of Old Turkic are divided into three[clarification needed] corpora:

  • the 7th to 10th century Orkhon inscriptions in Mongolia and the Yenisey basin (Orkhon Turkic, or Old Turkic proper) and the 650 Elegest inscription about Alp Urungu named a Kyrgyz khan at around Elegest River.
  • 9th to 13th century Uyghur manuscripts from Xinjiang (Old Uyghur), in various scripts including Brahmi, the Manichaean, Syriac and Uyghur alphabets, treating religious (Buddhist, Manichaean and Nestorian), legal, literary, folkloric and astrologic material as well as personal correspondence.


Old Turkic has eight vowel qualities;

Front Back
Unr. Rnd. Unr. Rnd.
Close i y ɯ u
Open e ø ɑ o

Rounded vowels only occur at the first syllable

The consonantal system;

Labial Dental Post-
Velar Uvular
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p b t d k g q ɢ
Fricative s z ʃ
Trill ɾ
Approximant ɫ l j

Old Turkic is highly restrictive in consonants that words begin with. In the consonant inventory of Old Turkic; d, g, ɢ, l, n, ɲ, ŋ p, ɾ, ʃ, z and m are not tolerated in word initial position. The only counter examples would be 𐰤𐰀 (ne, “what, which”) and its derivatives, and some early assimilations of word initial /b/ to /m/ following a nasal in a word such as 𐰢𐰤 (men, “I”).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Old Uighur". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 

Further reading[edit]

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