Ancient Turkic Alphabets and Languages

An Universal History,from the Earliest Account of Time. Volume XX. Book IV. The History of the Turks,Tartars,and Moguls. Volume XX. Book IV. London. 1748.


  • Whether or no the ancient Tartars had any alphabetic characters in use among them, we shall not take upon us to determine… But we cannot help thinking, that those are in the right, who have endeavored to maintain the affirmative. For that such characters were used among the Scythians in very early times, has not only been rendered probable by Franciscus Foris Otrokocsi, but also be a very ancient tradition still prevailing among the Hungarians, according to Joannes Tsetsius. Nay, we have this very Scythian alphabet exhibited to us by the famous Matthias Belius… its letters were drawn from the right hand to the left… Nay, some manuscripts written in the old HunnoScythian character are said to be still preserved by the Szekelyi, or original Scythian of Transylvania. This has been confirmed to one of us by M.Michael Nethlebius Szekelyhidi, one of these Szekelyi, who lived some time in the family of Count Teleki, a nobleman of profound erudition.
  • The very learned M.Bayer, in one part of his works, takes the Iberican or Georgian letters to have been formed from the Greek alphabet, and to have been used by the ancient Scythians, even those who were seated in the remotest eastern regions. But elsewhere he asserts, that the present letters of the principal eastern and north-eastern Tartarian nations, which are of considerable antiquity, were deduced from the Estrangelo character.
  • Nor can we think, that the Iberian or Georgian letters have such an air of antiquity as the old Hunno-Scythian alphabet published by Belius.
  • That the ancient Scythians, or Tartars, had also a symbolic, or hieroglyphic, character, may be inferred from Clemens Alexandrinus and Herodotus, as well as from what has been observed in a former part of this history. This seems farther to appear from the hieroglyphic characters found near the source of the river Irbyth, which have been copied by M.Von Strahlenberg. The Irbyth is a little river, near a small town in Siberia of the same name, which discharges itself into the Nytza, as that does into the Tura, between the cities of Japantzin and Tumen. such characters are also found in other parts of Siberia, and particularly near the river Pyschma
  • Matthias Belius... observes that the hieroglyphic manner of writing, or rather the old rude picture-writing, still prevails among the illiterate Hungarians.
  • … the Brahmanic, Mungalic, Tangutan, Mangiuric, and in short, all the present Indian and Tartarian, alphabets were deduced from the Estrangelo character. As, therefore, this last is manifestly of Oriental extraction, as well as the Greek alphabet, with the Iberian and Armenian letters proceeding from thence; and as the Etruscan, Latin, Spanish, Arabic, etc. had one common origin, we may conclude, that all the ancient alphabets, and consequently those of, a later date deduced from them, had manifestly the same source.
  • It seems probable from Herodotus, that neither the Scythians, nor the Tracians, were unacquainted with the Assyrian letters; as also that the old Persic Language was nearly allied to, if it was not entirely the same with, the Assyrian.

The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume XIX. London. 1890. The Early Races of Western Asia. By Major C.R.Conder, R.E.


  • Wherever in Western Asia the student of Aryan and of Semitic history has carried back his inquiry to the earliest period, he has found himself confronted by populations speaking languages neither Aryan nor Semitic. In three cases these languages are known to belong to the family of the agglutinative tongues of Central Asia, to which the term Turanian is most commonly applied, including the Turkic dialects, the Mongolian language, the various Finnic tongues, and, as recent researches show, the language of the ruling Tatar race in China.
  • The question which is now raised concerns the affiliation of other dialects in Asia Minor, Syria and Greece to the same stock… It is a question of very general interest, for on the one hand it throws much light on early Greek and Roman history, and on the other it enables us better to understand the earlier part of the Old Testament, and the attitude of the Hebrews towards the Canaanite population of Palestine. But in order to work from the old to the new, and from the generally accepted to that which is still matter of discussion among scholars, a few words are necessary concerning the three languages above noticed as being Turanian. These are the Akkadian, the Medic, and the Etruscan…
  • The Akkadian is the most ancient agglutinative language of which we know anything, and since its discovery forty years ago, by Sir Henry Eawlinson, it has been studied by many well-known scholars. During the year 1888 an excellent grammar has been published by Mr. G. Bertin. The vocabulary, though in part doubtful, has to a certain extent been fixed by bilingual texts and lists; the comparative study of the grammar, by Oppert, Lenormant, and others, leads to the usual classing of this primitive tongue as Turanian…
  • it appears that while comparable with Finnic and Ugric speech, Akkadian is even closer on the whole to the Turkic. Take, for instance, the Akkadian Dimmir or Dingir ” God,” or Tin ” life” — the words are evidently nearer to the Turkic Tangri and Tin than they are to the Finnic Yumala and Leine; and so in many other cases.
  • The Turanian language of Media, known through the trilingual inscriptions of Darius at Behistun, first read by Norris, and deeply studied by Dr. Oppert, is stated by the latter great authority to approach most closely to the Turkic group. We as yet only possess about 200 words of this tongue; but as these are written syllabically, there is less doubt about their pronunciation than is sometimes the case in Akkadian. The Medic language is not the same as the Akkadian, though in syntax and in vocabulary it presents a very marked connection. Considering the difference of some 2,000 years in date, and 400 miles in distance, there can be no real doubt that the two languages are of the same stock, and probably belonged to the same original race.
  • The third language above mentioned is the Etruscan, which, since Dr. Taylor in 1874 laid the basis of a scientific study, has generally been regarded as Turanian. In vocabulary it compares with the Finnic, Ugrian, and Turkic languages; and I find that out of some 250 known words, a large proportion are comparable with the Akkadian.
  •  …As early as 1600 B.C., at least, there were two races in Syria and Palestine known to the Egyptians. One of these was a Semitic race, speaking a language akin to Hebrew and Phoenician, and represented with Semitic features on the monuments. From their town-names, including many of the cities enumerated in the Book of Joshua, we learn that the Semitic nomenclature of Palestine is older than the Hebrew invasion under Joshua—a discovery which fully agrees with the statements of the Book of Genesis. It is not, however, with this Semitic population—the existence of which is proven beyond dispute—that we are now concerned, but with that other population, the contemporary existence of which, especially in the north between Damascus and Aleppo, is equally undoubted. The names of the towns conquered by Thothmes III, about 1600 B.C., in this region, are …not Semitic and not Aryan. When I found reason to suppose that they were probably Turkic, I made a comparison of the sounds with the Akkadian and with the Turkic languages, and the results appear to me to show beyond reasonable doubt, that these town-names are to be so interpreted. Several very distinctive Turko-Tatar words form often repeated elements of these names, among which I may mention as perhaps most clear: Tami for a ” building,” Su for “water,” and Tep for a “hill.” In this respect, therefore, the Syria of 3,500 years ago differs little from the Syria of to-day, when the same mixed nomenclature, Arab and Turkoman, is recognisable in the geographical names.
  • …For the personal names of seventeen chiefs of Northern Syria, mentioned in papyri of the time of Rameses II, tell the same tale. The chief tribe of non-Semitic race in Northern Syria was that of the Kheta or Khati, which, by common consent, is identified with the Biblical Hittites. Their power extended from Aleppo to Galilee, and in earlier times they appear to have extended their migrations to the very south of Palestine.
  • It was through observation of these personal names that I first became convinced of the Turanian origin of the race, and of its affinity to the Akkadian. The words Tur, Sar, Nazi, Lul, Essebu, Lar, and Tarkon, or Tarka, which occur as parts of the names of Hittite chiefs, are not at all unique words. Tur, Sar, and Essebu are words used in Akkadian for ” chief ” or ” prince “; Lul is a word widely spread and used by the Hunns to mean “chief”; Lar is a familiar Etruscan word for chief; Tarkon is the Etruscan Tarquin, and survives in various Turkic dialects, and in the old Mongol (Buriatdargo, as meaning the ” chief of a tribe.” These words and many others are clear evidence of the character of the Hittite population. Nazi is a Susian and Akkadian word which is spelt syllabically, and signifies a prince. My comparisons have been carried from China to Etruria, and from Finland to Chaldea; from the earliest days, 3,000 B.C., down to the present day; and the net result is, that the Turko-Tatar languages serve best to explain both the geographical and the personal names of the Hittites.

  • In addition to these linguistic indications, which, as we shall see, are fortified by many other considerations concerning race, custom, and religion, we have monuments in Syria itself which present a system of hieroglyphics distinct from, though akin to, the other known systems of antiquity. That these inscriptions are written in an agglutinative language I propose to assume, because it is not now disputed by any scholar who has given careful attention to the subject. That, this language belongs to the same group with the Medic and Akkadian seems to me, in the first place, indicated by what has just been said as to the nomenclature of the Kheta, who inhabited the country where these texts are found; and secondly, by the recovery of the sounds belonging to many of the emblems.
  •  The language of the Khitai as investigated by Mr. Howorth is akin to Mongolian and to the Turkic dialects ; and I may note that words are found in this language which also occur in Akkadian, and which in some cases occur also in the Kheta geographical names already mentioned.
  • The general consensus of ancient authority also derives the Etruscans from Asia Minor as relations of the Lydians. We have seen that the Etruscan language is Turanian, and this race was known to the Greeks as Tyrrhenians. [Of Turkic origin. -Ed]
  • A few words of the Lydian and Carian languages have also been preserved for us by classic writers; and although such information is not of the most authentic, since it is very late and since copyists’ errors may have crept into the unfamiliar sounds, yet in several cases these words seem clearly to be of Turkic character. Thus in Carian we have Kos for ‘sheep’, which recalls the Turkish Kozi, ‘a lamb’, which occurs also in Buriat for ram; and Taba for ‘a rock’ recalling the widely used Turkic Tapa, Taba or Tepe for ‘a hill top’, and the Zirianian Tup meaning ‘a ridge’. In the later Lydian many words seem to be Aryan, but others are Turanian. Thus Lailas for a ‘tyrant’ is I think to be compared with the Hittite LeI, the Akkadian Lil or Lola, the Hunnic Luli for ‘Chief’, and so in other cases which there is no reason here to detail.
  • Another indication which connects the Kheta [known also as Khitai , a Turkic tribe-Ed] very strongly with Lydia and Caria, is the existence in those regions of the syllabary which has been found to be derived from the old Kheta hieroglyphics. Nor is it only the syllabary which survives, for hieroglyphic texts accompanying rock-hewn figures have been found on the southern and western shores of Asia Minor, which without doubt belong to the same system with that of the Kheta. The great rock sculptures of Pteria in Cappadocia, are of the same character, and are accompanied by the same kind of hieroglyphics. Thus then there is no doubt that a race and a civilisation similar to that of northern Syria existed in early times from Armenia to the Bosphorus.


History of the Turks, Moguls, and Tatars, Vulgarly Called Tartars together with a Description of the Countries They Inhabit. In Two Volumes. Translated from the Tatar manuscript written in the Mogul language by Abu’l Ghazi Bahader, Khan of Khowarazm. London, 1730.


  • Wherefore having been obliged for certain reasons to remain a whole year in the country of the Calmacks, I have had opportunity to learn the language of the Mogulls; and the reason why I have written this book in the Mogull, or Turkish language, without meddling with the others, is that it may be everywhere in use; and if God spares me my life, I am resolved to translate it herafter into the Persian.