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Reconstruction ofTurkic languages
RegionProbably Mongolia
Erac. 500 BCE

The Proto-Turkic language is the linguistic reconstruction of the common ancestor of the Turkic languages that was spoken by the Proto-Turks before their divergence into the various Turkic peoples. Proto-Turkic separated into Oghur (western) and Common Turkic (eastern) branches. One estimate postulates Proto-Turkic to have been spoken 2,500 years ago in East Asia.[1]

The oldest records of a Turkic language, the Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions of the 7th century Göktürk khaganate, already shows characteristics of Eastern Common Turkic and reconstruction of Proto-Turkic must rely on comparisons of Old Turkic with early sources of the Western Common Turkic branches, such as Oghuz and Kypchak, as well as the Western Oghur proper (Bulgar, Chuvash, Khazar). Because early attestation of these non-easternmost languages is much more sparse, reconstruction of Proto-Turkic still rests fundamentally on the easternmost Old Turkic of the Göktürks.



The consonant system had a two-way contrast of stop consonants (fortis vs. lenis), k, p, t vs. g, b, d. There was also an affricate consonant, ?; at least one sibilant s and sonorants m, n, ?, ?, r, ?, l, ? with a full series of nasal consonants.

The sounds denoted by ?, ?, ? refer to palatalized sounds and have been claimed by Altaicists to be direct inheritances from Proto-Altaic. The last two can be reconstructed with the aid of the Oghur languages, which show /r, l/ for *?, *?, while Common Turkic has *z, *?. Oghuric is thus sometimes referred to as Lir-Turkic and Common Turkic as Shaz-Turkic.

However, an alternate theory holds that Common Turkic is closer to the original state of affairs and reconstructs Proto-Turkic *z, *?. The glottochronological reconstruction based on analysis of isoglosses and Sinicisms points to the timing of the r/z split at around 56 BCE-48 CE. As A. V. Dybo puts it, that may be associated with

the historical situation that can be seen in the history of the Huns' division onto the Northern and Southern [groups]: the first separation and withdrawal of the Northern Huns to the west has occurred, as was stated above, in 56 BC,... the second split of the (Eastern) Huns into the northern and southern groups happened in 48 AD.[2]

Dybo suggests that during that period, the Northern branch steadily migrated from Western Mongolia through Southern Xinjiang into the north's Dzungaria and then finally into Kazakhstan's Zhetysu until the 5th century.[2]

Bilabial Dental or
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosives and
Fortis *p *t * t *k
Lenis *b *d *g
Sibilants *s *h
Nasals *m *n * n? *?
Liquids Lateral(s) *l * l?
Rhotic(s) *r * r?
Semivowel *j


Like most of its descendants, Proto-Turkic exhibited vowel harmony, distinguishing vowel qualities e, i, o, u vs. ë, ï, ö, ü besides a, as well as two vowel quantities.

front back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
high *i, *i: /i/ *ü, *ü: /y/ *ï, *ï: /?/ *u, *u: /u/
mid *e, *e: /?/ *ö, *ö: /ø/~/oe/ *ë, *ë: /?/ *o, *o: /o/
low *a, *a: /ä/



Proto-Turkic Turkish Azeri Turkmen Kazakh Chuvash Karakhanid Uzbek Bashkir Kyrgyz
I *ben ben, ban- m?n men men, ma- e-p?, man- men, man- men min men
you *sen sen, san- s?n sen sen, sa-, siz e-s?, s?n- sen, san- sen, siz hin sen, siz
he/she/it *an-, *o-l on-, o on-, o ol on-, o-l un-, v?l an-, ol u ul al
we *bi? biz biz biz biz pir- biz biz beð biz
you (plural) *si? siz siz siz sender, sizder sir- siz sizlar heð siler, sizder
they *o-lar on-lar onlar olar olar v?sen- olar ular ular alar


Proto-Turkic Turkish Azeri Turkmen Chuvash Karakhanid Kazakh Uzbek Bashkir Kyrgyz Yakut
1 *b?r bir bir bir p?r b?r bir bir ber bir biir
2 *?ki iki iki iki ik? ikk? eki ikki ike eki ikki
3 *ü? üç üç üç vi ü? üsh uch ös ü? üs
4 *d?rt dört dörd dört t?vat? t?rt tört to'rt dürt tört tüört
5 *b(k) be? be? bä? pil?k b bes besh bi? be? bies
6 *altï alt? alt? alty ult? altï? alt? olti alt? alt? alta
7 *y?ti yedi yeddi ýedi ?i yét? zheti yetti yete jeti sette
8 *seki? sekiz s?kkiz sekiz sak?r sekiz segiz sakkiz higeð segiz as
9 *toku? dokuz doqquz dokuz t?h?r tok?z toz to'qqiz tuð toguz to?us
10 *?n on on on vun? ?n on o'n un on uon
20 *y?girmi yirmi iyirmi ýigrimi ?ir?m yegirm? zh?y?rma yigirma yegerme j?y?rma süürbe
30 *otu? otuz otuz otuz vr ottuz ot?z o'ttiz ut?ð otuz otut
40 *kïrk k?rk q?rx kyrk h?r?h kïrk q?r?q qirq q?rq k?rk -
50 *ellig elli ?lli elli all? ellig eliw ellik ille elüü -
60 *altmï? altm altm altmy? utm?l altmï? alp?s oltmish altm alt?m -
70 *y?tmi? yetmi? yetmi? ýetmi? ?itm?l yetmi? zhetpis yetmish yetme? jetimi? -
80 *seki? ?n seksen s?ks?n segsen sak?rvun seks?n seksen sakson hikhän seksen as uon
90 *doku? ?n doksan doxsan dogsan t?h?rvun toks?n toqsan to'qson tuqhan tokson to?us uon
100 *y yüz yüz ýüz r y?z zhüz yuz yöð jüz süüs
1000 *bï? bin min mü? pin mi? m ming me? miñ mu?


  1. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2013). "Personal pronouns in Core Altaic". In Martine Irma Robbeets; Hubert Cuyckens (eds.). Shared Grammaticalization: With special focus on the Transeurasian languages. p. 223. ISBN 9789027205995.
  2. ^ a b Dybo, A. V. (2007). Chronology of Turkic languages and linguistic contacts of early Turks (PDF) (in Russian). Moscow. p. 770. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-03-11.


  • Décsy, Gyula (1998). The Turkic Protolanguage: A computational reconstruction.
  • Róna-Tas, András (1998). "The reconstruction of Proto-Turkic and the genetic question". In Johanson, Lars; Csató, Éva (eds.). The Turkic Languages. London: Taylor & Francis. pp. 67-80. ISBN 0-415-08200-5.

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