The Tocharian

Central Asia

Not having grown up in a village or agricultural setting I lack most of the terms that my parents' generation possessed, who, in turn, lack many of the terms that older generations did. I see absolutely no reason why a memory of multiple cereals would be preserved by people who did not use them for many centuries as they moved across the steppe. Interestingly, the "tingling" who occupy the northeasternmost corner of the map you provided and thus geographically are the closer to the altaic homeland are usually accepted to be early altaic speakers probably speaking an ancestral form of proto turko-mongolian before it's split to proto turkic and proto mongolian but after proto tunguz did split from proto altaic.

No Xinjiang people were actually called Tocharian. Noone can deny that the chronology fits exactly. The fact that this partly west Eurasian peoples were found in the east part of Xinjiang and apparently north-west Gansu could be explained by the fact they didn't come directly from the west but actually from the north south Siberia.

It wouldn't make sense to have a special term for an animal offspring if the animal wasn't bred by humans.

Tocharians - Wikipedia

Whether Hittite had either word is unclear. Mallory and Mair's book, "The Tarim Mummies" or something like that. Written before the Hemphill article. Besides, The presence of cereals such as wheat, barley and millet is attested in Srednij stog sites a culture ancestral to Yamnaya. Even the fact that the earliest partly west eurasian populations' mummies and archaeological remains are first found in the EAST of the Xinjiang and the GANSU support the fact that they didn't arrive directly from the west but that they actually came from the north i.

For a short window of time there are no other tribes or none except low-density hunter-gatherers in the way and you have a clear road stretching for thousands of miles east-west. So a journey by agriculturalists from the west to the Tarim basin that took say years who then settled down to be agriculturalists again while the open steppe road behind them gradually sealed up with tribes of people who would over time become steppe pastoralists would answer some of the objections at least. For a brief time a Tocharian window could have been like a temporary land-bridge.

Tocharian languages

A bit far-fetched maybe but an interesting thought. I want to tell some thing about Tocharian. In india years back some some people came to Tamilnadu and ruled the country in the name of Pandian. Their sur names are like Hittie bommu and names ends with khan like Pachakhan,Lachakhan,kechilar and more than 30 names all related to tocharistan. Further details pl mail me to boopathymm gmail. This topic is interesting yet the answers may prove difficult considering that Central Asia was literally the crossroads of Eurasia.

The heterogeneity of populations particularly those from early historical times especially due to admixture is expected and no surprise. But judging from the archaeological clues, I am wondering if there are any ties the Bronze Age Tarim people had with the BMAC culture which was very much agricultural or more immediately the ancient Swat Culture. I should also point out that ancient Indian texts are very much handy since they do mention various northern tribes some of whom had alliances with Vedic tribes.

Tribes with names like Tushara or Tukhara were among them and cereals and pigs were among their produce. I am not counting out the Afanasyevo culture entirely, however a direct west-to-east movement seems just as likely. Not that I discount the Afanasyevo origin entirely, but I do think there is indeed a west-to-east movement and that the Bronze Age Tarim folk had ties to the BMAC which was also very much agricultural. Even early Indian texts make mention of various northern tribes some of whom had alliances with the Vedic Aryans and a couple had names like Tushara or Tukhara.

Both cereal and the pig were among their produce. You must consider also the Khotanese people, which the scholars say are "Saka" and indian immigrants bringing buddhism and prakrits. The Eastern R1a branch, is clearly sourced in the East of Iran Underhill et al, , R1a study , and is what accounts for the relatively close relationship between Eastern European languages and Indo-Iranian.

Hello, I don't think that Tocharians are so forgotten and they have descendants even today partially of course in Bulgaria. It is a long story but probably you could be interested to read this: Lars wrote a lot of wrong things In Yenissean languages tojga means high not "tenger". In old Turkic tengek means air , tengir - means make something go to sky, arrow, bird etc. In Old Turkic Tengiri means sky 2. Kam means shaman is Turkic too, not Iranic etc. May 20, On Tocharian origins. Where did the Tocharians originate from? Mallory's recent talk has been somewhat of an eye-opener for me, as Prof.

Mallory brought to my attention two important issues: The lack of a clear connection between Afanasyevo and the Tarim Basin. The existence in Tocharian of a rich agricultural IE terminology related to cereals, as well as the domesticated pig, which cannot be easily explained if Tocharians arrived in Xinjiang from the steppes to the north, and, ultimately from eastern Europe.

To begin with, I want to point out an important issue: There are several arguments why this is so:. Tocharian is first attested in the 8th c. AD , that is, about 3 thousand years after the earliest detected Caucasoids in the region There has been a shift in the region from Tocharian and eastern Iranian languages to Turkic over the last thousand years or so.

Why assume linguistic continuity in the preceding three thousand? Indeed, there has been linguistic shift throughout other regions of Eurasia in shorter timespans, such as the spread of Slavic across most of eastern Europe, the virtual extinction of Celtic in most of western Europe, the replacement of multiple languages by Arabic in the Near East, and so on. Linguistic continuity does not seem to be an appropriate default position in the absence of direct evidence.

This reduces our confidence that they spoke an Indo-European language, as there is a pattern of Caucasoid patrilineages combined with Mongoloid mtDNA in present-day non-IE South Siberians Indeed, the current Turkic Uyghurs , who are closer temporally to the Tocharians than the early Bronze Age Caucasoids have a rich assortment of Caucasoid Y-chromosome haplogroups, whereas the early Bronze Age ones seem to have belonged uniformly to R1a1.

What languages were spoken by the non-R1a1 Caucasoids who arrived in the Tarim prior to the Turkification of the region? To summarize the first part of the argument: If that's the case then the Greater Yuezhi have no other choice left to them. The other option is the one mentioned in the introduction - that the Greater Yuezhi are not related to the Tarim Basin Tocharians and are merely returning back towards Central Asia along the route which brought them to Gansu in the first place.

Unnamed son of the 'king of the Yuezhi'. Led them into Bactria. Their westwards migration triggers a slow domino effect of barbarian movement in Central Asia as they probably follow the route through the Dzungarian Basin and the Dzungarian Gate to penetrate the Kazakh Steppe beyond. This will see them enter the Saka -controlled plains to the north-east of Ferghana. Along the way the Greater Yuezhi have bumped up against their former neighbours, the Wusun, and a successful attack is launched against them.

The westwards migration continues, however, possibly with the Wusun still tagging along. By about BC the Yuezhi have encountered the outlying Saka groups on the eastern Kazakh Steppe, primarily in the Lli Valley immediately to the south of Lake Balkhash, which they now occupy. Seemingly, these Saka groups are easily dominated by the Greater Yuezhi , probably due to the sheer weight of numbers on the latter's side, while the Saka are at the eastern edge of their vast swathe of tribal territories which stretch all the way back to the shoreline of the Caspian Sea.

Kwen-mo, son of the dead Wusun chief, appears to be the driving force in this alliance. This probably serves to hurry them along in their westwards migration, pushing them off the Saka plains which they have only just seized. Instead they are forced to enter Transoxiana from the direction of Da Yuan the Chinese term for Ferghana.

They penetrate Sogdiana from its northern reaches, initially dominating the Sakas who are already there.

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This is where Chinese and western Classical records converge, and allow the Greater Yuezhi to be identified with the migrant arrivals in Bactria who are mistakenly referred to as Tocharians. Hellenic cities there appear to survive for some time, as does the well-organised agricultural system. The general area of Bactria soon comes to be called Tokharistan. The landscape around the walls of the ancient city of Bactra, capital of Bactria shown here - now known as Balkh in northern Afghanistan, close to the border along the Amu Darya , was and still is very diverse, offering both challenges and rewards to any settlers there, including the newly arrived Tocharians BC The Chinese envoy, Chang-kien or Zhang Qian, visits the newly-established Greater Yuezhi capital of Kian-she in Ta-Hsia otherwise shown as Daxia to the Chinese, and Bactria-Tokharistan to western writers and the rich and fertile country of the Bukhara region of Sogdiana.

His mission is to obtain help for the Chinese emperor against the Xiongnu, but the Greater Yuezhi leader - the son of the dead leader of about BC - refuses the request. Kian-she can reasonably be equated with Lan-shih or Lanshi, but the question of whether this is the Bactrian capital of Bactra modern Balkh seems to be much more controversial. It does seem to be likely though, despite scholarly objections. However, although some modern scholars label the Bactra of this period as the Greater Yuezhi 'capital', Zhang Qian's own contemporary account makes it quite clear that the country is not ruled by a single king who is based in Bactra.

Nor does the city contain a central administration.


He carefully notes that: The Chinese word used to describe the status of Lanshi can refer either to the capital of a country or, preferably here, a large town, city, or metropolis. The sense in which it is used clearly edges towards the latter option. Instead the Greater Yuezhi territory has been divided into five principalities, one for each of the main five tribes although there is the possibility that one or more may instead be formed of Sakas who had been there before the Yuezhi and have now been absorbed into their ranks. Although they are independently governed by their own allied prince or xihou , they act together as a confederation.

Indo-European Daughter Languages: Tocharian

Opinion is divided on whether these divisions exist prior to the Greater Yuezhi settlement in Bactria, with the likelihood being that they are created specifically to administer the new Greater Yuezhi home. It is also during this period that the Greater Yuezhi become literate, quickly progressing to become able administrators, traders, and scholars.

King Artabanus II is killed in one such encounter. The answer could lie in the fact that Saka groups have been dominated by the Greater Yuezhi since the latter's arrival thirty or forty years beforehand, so the Greater Yuezhi could be the driving force behind the fighting against the Parthians while a Saka could still be responsible for the wound which kills Artabanus II. After their defeat, the Greater Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria-Tokharistan while the Sakas are diverted into Indo-Greek Gandhara.

The western territories of Aria , Drangiana, and Margiana would appear to remain Parthian dependencies.

Discovery and decipherment

If that sounds familiar, it's because the Botai culture is a candidate for the R1a satem -speaking people. English language, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family that is closely related…. University of North Carolina Press, article orig. Although such a syncope has taken place in Bactrian, the relevant words are older and cannot derive from historical Bactrian. The absence of specific South European components in them also suggests that the opinion of some linguists and archaeologists that would see the Tocharians related to Celts and moving from deep within Europe, or even Western Europe to the Tarim, are unlikely; the south European component is ubuiquitous in Europe, and the Uyghurs, like South Asians, seem to lack it entirely.

He is known in Chinese records as Yinmofu of Jibin, suggesting that the Sakas have been driven from there during the leadership of Maues and that therefore he is already king well before the arrival of the Sakas in Gandhara. Once there, he issues some coins jointly with a Queen Machene, who may be an Indo-Greek ruler.

The Indo-Greek king, Artemidoros c. The name is surprisingly close to that of Maues, and Hermaeus holds a level of importance with nomad rulers during and after his reign, with his coins being copied far and wide, especially by the Greater Yuezhi , Sakas, and the emerging Kushans. By the period between BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories shown in white had been squeezed towards Eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India.

The dates within their lands shown in yellow show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India click on map to view full sized c. BC The Kushan tribe of Greater Yuezhi capture the territory of the Sakas in what will one day become Afghanistan , and have probably already caused the downfall of the Indo-Greek King Hermaeus, conquering Paropamisadae and entering Gandhara in the process.

The Kushans now become the most prominent of Greater Yuezhi tribes, gradually uniting all of the tribes into one kingdom and creating a brief but powerful empire by the end of the century. By around AD they have extended their domination to the Tarim Basin and the Tocharian populations there. AD - The beginning of the third century AD apparently coincides with the beginning of the Sassanid invasion of north-western India.

The Kushans are toppled in former Arachosia , Aria , and Bactria more recently better known as Tokharistan and are forced to accept Sassanid suzerainty. There is a split in Kushan rule, so that a separate, eastern section rules independent of the Sassanids, while some of the nobility remain in the west as Sassanid vassals. Even so, Kushan power still gradually wanes in India.

The surviving Tocharian texts all date to a period roughly between the sixth and eighth centuries AD. The materials are predominantly but not exclusively Tocharian A translations of Buddhist texts which are currently in common circulation in Central Asia. Other, secular documents are all written in Tocharian B, leading some scholars to conclude tentatively that Tocharian A, by the time the surviving documents are written, may already be an extinct language, preserved only as the liturgical language - much as Latin will become in Europe.

One theory about their origins suggests that they are Turkified Indo-Europeans, making them Tocharians who had intermarried with proto-Turkic groups in the three-and-a-half millennia since their split from the main body of Indo-Europeans of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Generally, the Indo-European descendants of the Tocharians and Lesser Yuezhi are gradually subsumed within other emerging ethnic identities during the course of the first millennium AD, including the Chinese Jie people, Tibetans as the Gar or mGar, noted blacksmiths , and the Turkic Uyghurs with their notable Caucasian features who later dominate the region.

You will need to enable JavaScript on your browser to use Email or Share. See the help page. Far East Kingdoms Central Asia. Other groups of proto- Indo-Europeans have already begun to migrate westwards, away from the Anatolian and Tocharian branches. By around BC the Indo-Europeans had begun their mass migration away from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, with the bulk of them heading westwards towards the heartland of Europe click on map to view full sized.

A section of the Volga-Ural steppe population decides to migrate eastwards across Kazakhstan, covering a distance of more than two thousand kilometres to reach the Altai Mountains. The short-lived empire of Lugalannemundu of Adab subjects the Gutians.

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Climate change from around this period onwards greatly affects the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex BMAC , or Oxus Civilisation centred on the later provinces of Bactria and Margiana , denuding it of water as the rains decline. The archaeological site known as Small River Cemetery No 5 the 'Xiaohe Tomb Complex' , discovered in and rediscovered in , lies near a dried-up riverbed in the Tarim Basin. Small River Cemetery No 5 consists of a large number of burials, the earliest dating to about BC, all of which exhibit a distinctive Indo-European appearance. The remains, although lying in what is now one of the world's largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats.

Wu-ting is one of the greatest of the Shang dynasty Chinese kings. The Yuezhi Tocharians still reside on the border of agricultural China , having been there for longer even than the seemingly ever-present Xiongnu. Towards the end of China's ' Warring States ' period, by the third century BC, the Xiongnu become a real threat to the north-western Chinese border.

History and linguistic characteristics

The kingdom of Bactria shown in white was at the height of its power around BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Greater Yuezhi click on map to view full sized. Seemingly within the last century, during China's ' Warring States ' period, the Greater Yuezhi have appeared on the sweeping grasslands closer to the border of the Qin kingdom, somewhat to the south of the Eastern Steppe, and possibly encompassing at least part of the western section of the Yellow River.

Chinese records detail four waves of violence between the Greater Yuezhi and the Xiongnu around this period in time. It takes Modu another seven years before he feels that his warriors are strong enough and numerous enough to launch a fresh attack on the Greater Yuezhi. The situation has stabilised for approximately a quarter of a century, which suggests that the Greater Yuezhi defeat had not been quite as bad as had been perceived and that the Xiongnu have not felt the need - or do not possess the capability - to follow up on their previous victory.

Laoshang Chanyu is Modu's son and successor amongst the Xiongnu. The Greater Yuezhi were defeated and forced out of the Gansu region by the Xiongnu, and their migratory route into Central Asia is pretty easy to deduct from the fact that they chose to try and settle in the Lli river valley below Lake Balkhash click on map to view full sized. Rather than backtrack towards the Tarim Basin though, which would be a natural target if the Greater Yuezhi had originated here, they head to the north of it, seemingly towards the pasture lands of the Dzungarian Basin in the north of modern Xinjiang , and the passes between the Altai Mountains to the north and the Tian Shan mountain range which provides the northern border to the Tarim Basin.

The Greater Yuezhi evacuation of their lands on the borders of the Chinese kingdom continues, turning from a trickle into a flood. Another defeat is inflicted upon the Greater Yuezhi , this time by an alliance of the Wusun and the Xiongnu.

Tocharian Online

The landscape around the walls of the ancient city of Bactra, capital of Bactria shown here - now known as Balkh in northern Afghanistan, close to the border along the Amu Darya , was and still is very diverse, offering both challenges and rewards to any settlers there, including the newly arrived Tocharians. The Chinese envoy, Chang-kien or Zhang Qian, visits the newly-established Greater Yuezhi capital of Kian-she in Ta-Hsia otherwise shown as Daxia to the Chinese, and Bactria-Tokharistan to western writers and the rich and fertile country of the Bukhara region of Sogdiana.

The noun shows less of its Indo-European origins.

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However, it preserves three numbers singular, dual, and plural and traces at least of the nominative, accusative, genitive, vocative, and ablative cases. Most of the attested cases are built up by the addition of postpositions to the oblique accusative form. The vocabulary shows the influence of Iranian and, later, Sanskrit the latter language particularly was the source of Buddhist terminology. Chinese had little influence a few weights and measures and the name of at least one month.

Many of the most archaic elements of the Indo-European vocabulary are retained— e. The equation of the Twgry language with that of the Tocharoi is based on phonetic similarity. In later times their ruling elite used a form of Iranian as a written language but what their original language may have been remains uncertain. Despite its historical position on the eastern frontier of the Indo-European world and the obvious lexical influence of Indo-Aryan and Iranian, Tocharian seems more closely allied linguistically with languages of the Indo-European northwest, particularly Italic and Germanic, in the matter of common vocabulary and certain verbal categories.

To a lesser extent Tocharian appears to share certain features with Balto-Slavic and Greek. With regard to the two Tocharian languages themselves, it is possible that Tocharian A was, at the time of documentation, a dead liturgical language preserved in the Buddhist monasteries in the east, whereas Tocharian B was a living language in the west note that commercial or at least nonliturgical documents are found in that dialect.

The presence of manuscripts in B mixed with those in A in the monasteries of the east can be accounted for by ascribing the B manuscripts to a new missionary initiative by Buddhist monks from the west. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval.

Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. Tocharisch languages, Tokharian languages. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: The Tocharian languages , now extinct, were spoken in the Tarim Basin in present-day northwestern China during the 1st millennium ce.