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Old Turkic language

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Old Turkic language

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. Confusingly, 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.


Sources of Old Turkic are divided into three 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 nine 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 words do not begin with the sounds b, d, g, ɢ, l, p, ɾ, , z.

See also


  • Ö.D. Baatar, Old Turkic Script, Ulan-Baator (2008), ISBN 0-415-08200-5
  • , Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 8 Uralic & Central Asia, Brill, Leiden (2004)A Grammar of Old TurkicM. Erdal, , ISBN 90-04-10294-9.
  • M. Erdal, Old Turkic word formation: A functional approach to the lexicon, Turcologica, Harassowitz (1991), ISBN 3-447-03084-4.
  • Talat Tekin, A Grammar of Orkhon Turkic, Uralic and Altaic Series Vol. 69, Indiana University Publications, Mouton and Co. (1968). (review: Gerard Clauson, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1969); RoutledgeCurzon (1997), ISBN 0-7007-0869-3.
  • L. Johanson, A History of Turkic, in: The Turkic Languages, eds. L. Johanson & E.A. Csato, Routledge, London (1998), ISBN 0-415-08200-5
  • M. Erdal, Old Turkic, in: The Turkic Languages, eds. L. Johanson & E.A. Csato, Routledge, London (1998),ISBN 978-99929-944-0-5

Further Reading

  • Noten zu den alttürkischen Inschriften der Mongolei und Sibiriens (1898)

External links

  • Old Turkic inscriptions (with translations into English), reading lessons and tutorials
  • Turkic Inscriptions of Orkhon Valley (with translations into Turkish)
  • VATEC, pre-Islamic Old Turkic electronic corpus at
  • A Grammar of Old Turkic by Marcel Erdal
  • Old Turkic (8th century) funerary inscription (W. Schulze)
  • 古代突厥文碑铭研究 - 数字图书馆
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