Tungus languages

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The Tungusic languages (also: Manchu-Tungusic languages ) are a language family of twelve relatively closely related languages ​​spoken by around 75,000 speakers in northern China , eastern Siberian areas of Russia and parts of Mongolia .

The hypothesis that Tungusian belongs to the Altaic languages , except in the context of a linguistic union , has almost only historical significance.

Today's geographical distribution of the Tungusic languages
Chinese and Manchurian

Origin and home

Most linguists assume that the Tungusic languages ​​originated in northeastern China . Juha Janhunen and Pevnov (2012) locate Manchuria and the Amur River as the original home of Tungusian . Some, on the other hand, suspect the original home southeast of Lake Baikal .


On the basis of lexical and grammatical studies, the Tungusic languages ​​can be divided into the three groups North Tungusian (actually Tungusian), Southeast Tungusian (Amur languages) and Southwest Tungusian (Manchu languages). More detailed studies also showed that the latter two groups are more closely related. Overall, the following classification results:

  • Tungus 12 languages, 75,000 speakers
    • Northern Tungus
    • South Tungusian
      • Southeast (Amur Group)
      • Southwest (Manchu)
        • Manchurian (100, ethnically 10 million) (native language of the Chinese emperors of the Manchu dynasty)
        • Xibenisch (Sibenisch, Xibo, Sibo, Sibe-Manchurisch) (30,000, ethnic 170,000)
        • Jurchenisch (Juchenisch, Ruzhenisch, Nuchen, Nüzhen) † (previously spoken by the Ruzhen)

Geographical distribution

The number and naming of the individual languages ​​varies depending on the point of view of the respective scientist. The definition of relatively closely related variants (i.e. dialects) as languages ​​follows political guidelines in some cases. All Tungusic languages ​​are threatened with extinction or at least endangered.


Tungus languages ​​- geographical distribution

Language / group speaker Geographical distribution
Northern Tungus (Tungus)
Ewenisch 7,500 Russia: Yakutia, Kamchatka
Evenk Solonic 30,000 Russia: AK Evenki, Sakhalin "Evenki" 10 thousand.
China: Inner Mongolia, also Manchuria "Solon" 20 thousand.
Negidial 200 Russia: Amur region, Khabarovsk
Southeast Tungus (Amur)
Nanai 6,000 Russia: Amur-Ussuri, Khabarovsk Krai
Ultschisch 1,000 Russia: Khabarovsk Krai, Ultsch region
Orokish 100 Russia: Sakhalin
Udiheisch 100 Russia: Khabarovsk Krai
Orochian 100 Russia: Khabarovsk Krai
Southwest Tungus (Manchu)
Manchurian 100 China: Manchuria (ethn. Several million)
Xibenisch 30,000 China: Xingjiang, Ili region (ethn. 170 thousand)
Jurchenisch China: formerly Manchuria, northern China

Northern Tungusian (Tungusian ie S.)

The Ewenische (old name: "Lamutisch") is common in northeast Siberia in Yakutia and on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Evenk language is used in many parts of Siberia , some regions of Mongolia and in the extreme northeast of the People's Republic of China . It is the Tungusian in the strict sense. Evenk has many regional variants that are spoken by around 10 thousand people in Siberia, especially Sakhalin. In China, a distinction is made between three dialects of Evenki, “Solonic” with almost 20,000 speakers, “Bargu-Evenkish” with approx. 3,000 speakers and “Olguya-Evenkish” with approx. 150 speakers. Almost all speakers live in the administrative area of ​​the city of Hulun Buir in Inner Mongolia , only about 2,000 speakers of Solonic Evenkish live in neighboring Qiqihar in Heilongjiang Province . (Previously, these dialects of Evenk were considered separate languages.)

Linguistically, this group also includes Negidial, which is still spoken by around 200 people on the Amur lower reaches (geographically an Amur language).

Southeast Tungus: Amur languages

In the regions on the lower reaches of the Amur (Chabarowsk Krai) belonging to Russia , the following Tungusic languages ​​are spoken: Nanai (Goldisch, Hezhenisch), Ultschisch, Orokisch, Orochisch and Udiheisch. The Negidial, which is also spoken on the Amur, linguistically belongs to the northern Tungus languages. Together they only have seven to eight thousand speakers.

Southwest Tungus: Manchu languages

In Manchuria , the Manchurian language (Manchu) is still spoken by fewer than 100 people in two villages . The vast majority of the more than 10 million Manchus in the People's Republic of China now speak variants of the Chinese language . The Manchurian language was one of the official languages ​​of the Tungus-Manchurian Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The Xibenische , which has evolved from the Manchurian is today in Xinjiang in Ili -type region, especially in Qapqal , disseminated (30,000 speakers).

In contrast to the other Tungus languages, the Southwest Tungus languages ​​have a high proportion of Korean loanwords, which indicates that Korean had an influence on the Jurchen and early Manchus.

Written languages

The most widespread Tungusic written and literary language was Manchu , for which a script was created as the official language of the Chinese Manchu dynasty in the 17th century - based on Mongolian models - in which there is also a noteworthy literature.

The language of the forerunners of the Manchus, the Jurchen , was officially used in the northern Chinese Jin dynasty in its own script based on the script of the Proto-Mongolian Chitan . Their territory, like that of the Chinese Song Dynasty, was then conquered by the Mongols. Remnants of manuscripts and inscriptions have also been found in this language and individual words are passed down in Chinese chronicles from that time.

In 1931 Evenk, Evenk and Nana got the Latin script in the Soviet Union, shortly afterwards in 1936/37 they were written in Cyrillic.

The Xibe still use their own Xibe script, a slight modification of the Manchurian script.

"Tatar" and Tungus

In Russian, some Tungusic languages ​​- like many other Siberian languages ​​- were called "Tatar", without being closely related to the Turkic language known today as Tatar .

Tungus etymologies (word equations)

The following table offers a look at the word equations of the basic Tungus vocabulary. It shows that the Tungusic languages ​​are closely related, but also reveals the main groups in the north (Ewen-Ewenki-Negidal), south-east (Amur languages) and south-west (Manchu-Juchen).

meaning Proto-
Evenki Even Negidal Manchu Jurchen Ulcha Orok Nanai Oroch Udihe
Mother; woman * eni enin enin enin enen enin en- enin enin eni enin
Sister (elder) * eke (n) ekin ekın exe xexə xexe eqte ects ects eki exi
Brother (elder) * aka aka aqa aga xaxa xaxa aGa aka . aka aga '
daughter in law * bener bener benır level . . bener . bener level level
Chest; heart * (k) ukun ukun ecın öxön oxo . kukun qun kun ok .
nose * xoŋa oŋocto oŋıt oŋocto xoŋqo . xoŋqo . qoŋkto- xoŋko .
Tendon, thread * sire (kte) sirects siren sijen mountains . sirects sirects refused objects she said
eye * (n) iasa esa äsıl esa yes ŋiaci isal isal nisal isa yeah (?)
Hand, paw * mana mana mana mana . . mana . maja manaka mane
water * mu (ke) must mo must muke mo must must muke must must
rock * kada (r) kadar qadar kada xada . qadali qada qadar kada kada
ice * djuke djuke djok djuxe djuxe djuxe djue duke djuke djuke judge
3 * ilan ilan ilın ilan ilan jilan ilan ilan ilaŋ ilan ilan
4th * dügin diγi diγi diγi duju dujin you in djin you in di di
5 * tuŋa doa doŋın tuŋna sunja cunja yes tunda tojŋa doa doa
7th *so so nadın so so so so so so so so

Linguistic properties

Typologically , the Tungusic languages ​​are very similar to the other two groups of Altaic languages ​​(Turkic and Mongolian). These features are largely common in Altaic and can also be found in part in Uralic and Paleo-Siberian languages ​​(see Altaic languages ).

The main typological characteristics of the Tungusic languages ​​are:

  • Medium-sized phoneme inventories , simple syllable structure, hardly any consonant clusters.
  • Vowel harmony between the last vowel of the stem and the following suffix, based on different vowel opposition.
  • A largely agglutinative word formation and inflection, almost exclusively through suffixes. Each morpheme has a specific meaning and grammatical function and is - apart from the requirements of the vowel harmony - immutable. In the Tungusic languages ​​there are also approaches of periphrastic formations (inflection with auxiliary words).
  • The marker sequence PLURAL - KASUS - POSSESSIVUM applies to the formation of the nominal , deviating from Turkish and Mongolian, comparable to Finnish.
  • Adjectives are not inflected, they show no concordance with their defining word.
  • There are no articles .
  • There is no grammatical gender .
  • Just like the Mongolian languages, the Tungusic languages ​​also have the concept of converbs , which are used to replace constructions of subordinate clauses. In general, subordinate clauses are nominalized and incorporated into the main clause as part of a sentence.
  • The normal sentence sequence is SOV (subject-object-verb).


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  • Malchukov, Andrei L. (1995): Even. (Languages ​​of the World, Materials, 12) Munich / Newcastle: LINCOM Europe.
  • Masica, Colin P. (1976): Defining a linguistic area: South Asia. Chicago, IL / London: Chicago UP.
  • Nikolaeva, Irina & Maria Tolskaya (2001): A grammar of Udihe. (Mouton Grammar Library) Berlin / New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Ning, Jin (1993): Sibe-English Conversations. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Norman, Jerry (1978): A concise Manchu-English lexicon. Seattle, WA / London: Washington UP.
  • Ramsey, S. Robert (1987): The languages ​​of China. Princeton.
  • Роббек, В.А. (1989): Язык эвенов березовки. Ленинград: Наука.
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See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Martine Robbeets: Book Reviews 161 Andrej L. Malchukov and Lindsay J. Whaley (eds.), Recent advances in Tungusic linguistics (Turcologica 89). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012. vi + 277 pages, ISBN 978-3-447-06532-0 , EUR 68. (PDF). Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  2. Immanuel Ness: The Global Prehistory of Human Migration . John Wiley & Sons, 2014, ISBN 978-1-118-97058-4 ( google.com [accessed September 3, 2018]).
  3. Alexander Vovin: Koreanic loanwords in Khitan and their importance in the decipherment of the latter . In: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae . tape 70 , no. 2 , June 2017, ISSN  0001-6446 , p. 207–215 , doi : 10.1556 / 062.2017.70.2.4 ( akademiai.com [accessed September 2, 2018]).
  4. Kishik Noh: Recent Research Trends on Jurchen-Manchu Studies in Korea . In: International Journal of Korean History . tape 21 , no. 1 , February 28, 2016, ISSN  1598-2041 , p. 249-258 , doi : 10.22372 / ijkh.2016.21.1.249 ( khistory.org [accessed September 2, 2018]).