Turanian languages

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Linguistic classificationProposed language family

Turanian is an obsolete language-family proposal subsuming most of the languages of Eurasia not included in Indo-European, Semitic and Chinese. During the 19th century, inspired by the establishment of the Indo-European family, scholars looked for similarly widespread families elsewhere.[1] Building on the work of predecessors such as Rasmus Rask and Matthias Castrén, Max Müller proposed the Turanian grouping primarily on the basis of the incidence of agglutinative morphology, naming it after Turan, an ancient Persian term for the lands of Central Asia.[2][3] The languages he included are now generally assigned to nine separate language families.


Müller viewed the structure of the family as follows:[4][5]

He left Japonic, Koreanic, Koryak, Itelmen and various languages of the Caucasus unclassified, but suggested that they might have a common origin with Turanian.[6]

Linguists no longer consider typological features a sufficient criterion for the identification of language families.[7] Müller's northern division, Ural-Altaic, was widely accepted for some time, but largely abandoned early in the 20th century.[8] The combination of the Samoyedic and Finnic (Finno-Ugric) classes form the modern Uralic family. The Altaic theory linking Tungusic, Mongolic and Turkic is also rejected by most scholars.[9] Each of the five classes of his southern division are now considered to belong to separate language families, Tai–Kadai, Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan, Austroasiatic and Dravidian respectively.


  1. ^ Bhattacharya 1972, p. 242.
  2. ^ Müller (1861), pp. 288–289.
  3. ^ Campbell & Poser (2008), p. 237.
  4. ^ Müller (1854), p. 220.
  5. ^ Müller (1861), pp. 397–398.
  6. ^ Müller (1861), p. 324.
  7. ^ Campbell & Poser (2008), p. 242.
  8. ^ Campbell & Poser (2008), p. 241.
  9. ^ Campbell & Poser (2008), p. 238.

Works cited[edit]

  • Bhattacharya, Sudhibushan (1972), "Dravidian and Munda: a good field for areal and typological studies", in Agesthialingom, S.; Shanmugam, S.V. (eds.), Third Seminar on Dravidian Linguistics, Annamalainagar: Annamalai University, pp. 241–256.
  • Campbell, Lyle; Poser, William J. (2008), Language Classification: History and Method, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-88005-3.
  • Müller, Friedrich Max (1854), The classification of the Turanian languages.
  • ——— (1861), Lectures on The Science of Language.