Archivio | giugno, 2017

The Altaic languages theory

11 Giu

Welcome back to my blog.

This article is the translation of the one I made in Italian about this very same topic.

Japanese and Korean are two language so mysterious it is not possible to establish their origin. Also, we should consider that, in the case of Japan, a writing system arrived on the archipelago only in the VI and VII centuries, despite the Jomon culture having spread over the course of millennia.

Some linguists suggest that they’re related, maybe with a proto-Japanese separating from proto-Korean. Keep in mind, however, that those languages share similarities because they’re both part of the “Sinic world”, which means that some of those words actually derive from Chinese and adapted to the Japanese and Korean pronunciations.

There’s also another theory, which is now disctedited, about how those two languages are the easternmost extension of the Altaic languages, which are spread across Asia. No, seriously: if you pick a map of Asia up, you will notice how the five groups of this family separate the continent in two halves.

Altaic family2.svg

This theory is divided in two: some supporters indicate that a proto-altaic might have existed and it is the common ancestor of the five languages. Others, however, suggest their similarities derive from being geographically close, so their ancestors may have ended up inflencing eachother. This concept is expressed with a German word, sprachbund (linguistic league).

What are those five families?

Turkic languages


As the name may suggest, Turkic people are closely linked to the history and culture of Turkey. They can be found in central Asia (inhabitating the various “-stan” countries except for Afghanistan and Pakistan), in Azerbaijan, in eastern Siberia and western China.

Mongolic languages

Linguistic map of the Mongolic languages.png

I remember when, in middle school, we studied the Otoman Empire and the textbook mentioned some cultural similarities with the Mongols. This is why it does not surprise me that there actually are similarities that ended up including Mongolian and Turkish into one family.

Tungusic languages

Linguistic map of the Tungusic languages.png

The last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing, came from Manchuria, whose language is tungisuc. The only other language of this family with a literary attestation is the Jurchen one from the XII century, and therefore it is difficult to draw the ancient history of this family.

Koreanic languages


Similarities between Japanese and Korean grammar imply multiple theories about those languages being related, usually with a “father and son” approach between proto-Korean and proto-Japonic.

Japonic languages



If you notice, there’s no trace of the Ainu language, spoken by the eponimous people in the Hokkaido island. This is because they speak an even more isolated and mysterious language. There are some who try to include it in the Altaic theory, but it is another issue.

The geographic proximity theory seems to be more favorable than the language family one.

See you, next time, here, on the Empty Blog!

Related languages VS influence sphere: a comparison between Europe and East Asia

5 Giu

Welcome back to my blog.

I’m a student of East Asian languages and cultures at the university of Naples L’Orientale. Most specifically, I study everything about Japan and China, with standard Japanese and Mandarin Chinese as the center.

However, I am also an Italian who has been studying English since preschool and, during high school, got to learn more and more about Latin and Greek, which got me into my passion for languages.

In fact, Europe and East Asia are basically my biggest points of focus when it comes to language history, development and influence, and I love how we can see different aspects of these points.

For instance, what do we find in those regions, when it comes to languages?

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