definition of Wikipedia
|Spoken in||Tarim Basin in Central Asia|
|Extinct||Ninth century AD|
|Writing system||Tocharian script|
xto – Tocharian A
txb – Tocharian B
Tocharian or Tokharian (// or //) is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family, formerly spoken in oases on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (now part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China). Two branches of Tocharian are known from documents dating from the 3rd to 9th centuries AD:
Prakrit documents from 3rd century Kroran on the southeast edge of the Tarim Basin contain loanwords and names that appear to come from another variety of Tocharian, dubbed Tocharian C. All these languages became extinct after Uyghur tribes expanded into the area.
A colophon to a Buddhist manuscript in Old Turkish states that it was translated from Sanskrit via a language called twγry, read as toxrï by Friedrich W. K. Müller in 1907 who guessed it was the newly discovered language of the Turpan area. He further connected this toxrï with the ethnonym Tócharoi (Ancient Greek: Τόχαροι, Ptolemy VI, 11, 6, 2nd cent. AD), itself taken from Indo-Iranian (cf. Old Persian tuxāri-, Khotanese ttahvāra, and Sanskrit tukhāra), and proposed the name "Tocharian" (German Tocharisch). Ptolemy's Tócharoi are often associated by modern scholars with the Yuezhi of Chinese historical accounts, who founded the Kushan empire. These people are now known to have spoken Bactrian, an Eastern Iranian language, and Müller's identification is now a minority position among scholars. Nevertheless "Tocharian" remains the standard term for the language of the Tarim Basin manuscripts.
Phonetically, Tocharian is a "centum" Indo-European language, meaning that it merges the palatovelar consonants (*ḱ, *ǵ, *ǵʰ) of Proto Indo-European with the plain velars (*k, *g, *gʰ). Centum languages are mostly found in western and southern Europe (Greek, Italic, Celtic, Germanic) and the number of isoglosses between Tocharian and several Western European languages is stunning, considering the geographical separation and total lack of cultural contact. In that sense, Tocharian (to some extent like the Greek and the Anatolian languages) seems to have been an isolate in the "satem" (i.e. palatovelar to sibilant) phonetic regions of Indo-European-speaking populations. The discovery of Tocharian contributed to doubts that Proto-Indo-European had originally split into western and eastern branches.
Note that the above consonantal values are largely based on the writing of Sanskrit/Prakrit loanwords. A retroflex value for /ʂ/ is particularly suspect as it is derived from palatalized /s/; it was probably a low-frequency sibilant /ʃ/ (like German spelling sch), as opposed to the higher-frequency sibilant /ɕ/ (like Mandarin Pinyin spelling x).
Tocharian is documented in manuscript fragments, mostly from the 8th century (with a few earlier ones) that were written on palm leaves, wooden tablets and Chinese paper, preserved by the extremely dry climate of the Tarim Basin. Samples of the language have been discovered at sites in Kucha and Karasahr, including many mural inscriptions.
Tocharian A and B are not intercomprehensible. Properly speaking, based on the tentative interpretation of toxrï as related to Tocharoi, only Tocharian A may be referred to as Tocharian, while Tocharian B could be called Kuchean (its native name may have been kuśiññe), but since their grammars are usually treated together in scholarly works, the terms A and B have proven useful. A common Proto-Tocharian language must precede the attested languages by several centuries, probably dating to the 1st millennium BC. Given the small geographical range of and the lack of secular texts in Tocharian A, it might alternatively have been a liturgical language, the relationship between the two being similar to that between Classical Chinese and Mandarin. However, the lack of a secular corpus in Tocharian A is by no means definite, due to the fragmentary preservation of Tocharian texts in general.
Most of the script in Tocharian was a derivative of the Brahmi alphabetic syllabary (abugida) and is referred to as slanting Brahmi, However a smaller amount was written in the Manichaean script in which Manichaean texts were recorded. It soon became apparent that a large proportion of the manuscripts were translations of known Buddhist works in Sanskrit and some of them were even bilingual, facilitating decipherment of the new language. Besides the Buddhist and Manichaean religious texts, there were also monastery correspondence and accounts, commercial documents, caravan permits, medical and magical texts, and one love poem.
Tocharian has completely re-worked the nominal declension system of Proto-Indo-European. The only cases inherited from the proto-language are nominative, genitive, and accusative; in Tocharian the old accusative is known as the oblique case. In addition to these three cases, however, each Tocharian language has six cases formed by the addition of an invariant suffix to the oblique case. For example, the Tocharian A word käṣṣi "teacher" is declined as follows:
The existence of the Tocharian languages and alphabet was not even suspected until archaeological exploration of the Tarim basin by Aurel Stein in the early 20th century brought to light fragments of manuscripts in an unknown language.
This language, now known as Tocharian, turned out to belong to a hitherto unknown branch of Indo-European. The discovery of Tocharian upset some theories about the relations of Indo-European languages and revitalized their study.
The Tocharian languages are a major geographic exception to the usual pattern of Centum branches, being the only one that spread directly east from the theoretical Indo-European starting point in the Pontic steppe. One theory, following the "wave" theory of Johannes Schmidt, suggests that the Satem isogloss represents a linguistic innovation within the heart of the Proto-Indo-European home range, which would thus see the distribution of the Centum languages as simply representing linguistic conservatism along the eastern and western peripheries of the Proto-Indo-European home range.
Tocharian probably died out after 840, when the Uyghurs were expelled from Mongolia by the Kyrgyz, retreating to the Tarim Basin. This theory is supported by the discovery of translations of Tocharian texts into Uyghur. During Uyghur rule, the peoples mixed with the Uyghurs to produce much of the modern population of what is now Xinjiang.
The Afanasevo culture is a strong candidate for being the earliest attested representative for speakers of the Tocharian languages.
|Tocharian vocabulary (sample)|
|English||Tocharian A||Tocharian B||Ancient Greek||Sanskrit||Latin||Gothic||Old Irish||Proto-Indo-European|
|one||sas||ṣe||heĩs, hen||sa(kṛ́t)||semel||simle||samail||PToch *sems ← *sḗm|
|cow||ko||keu||boũs||gaúṣ||bōs[* 2]||(OE cū)||bó||*gʷeh₃us ~ *gʷh₃eum̥|
|voice||vak||vek||épos[* 1]||vāk||vōx||(Du gewag)[* 1]||foccul[* 1]||*u̯ṓkʷs|
|to milk||mālkā||mālkant||amélgein||—||mulgēre||miluks||bligid (MIr)||*h₂melǵ-ei̯e|
|Indo-European languages (list)|
|Indo-European language-speaking peoples|
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