The Tocharian


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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.


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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. One group of travel permits for caravans…. Tarim Basin , vast depression drained by the Tarim River in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, western China, covering about , square miles , square km and enclosed by the Tien Shan mountains to the north, the Pamirs to the west, the…. Indic writing systems , writing systems that include the syllabic Kharosthi and semialphabetic Brahmi scripts of ancient India.

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No systems of writing subsequently developed from the Kharosthi script. Brahmi, however, is thought to be the forerunner of all of the scripts used for writing the languages of Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia,…. Language, a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves.

The functions of language include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and…. Communication, the exchange of meanings between individuals through a common system of symbols. This article treats the functions, types, and psychology of communication. For a treatment of animal communication, see animal behaviour. For further treatment of the basic components and techniques of…. Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback.


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    At the bottom of the article, feel free to list any sources that support your changes, so that we can fully understand their context. Internet URLs are the best. Thank You for Your Contribution! There was a problem with your submission. Please try again later. The name of the Tocharian languages. The name of the Tocharian languages has been a subject of lively debate for more than a century. The name was accepted by E. A Sanskrit-Tocharian B bilingual text has also been an important issue in the discussion on the name of the Tocharian language.

    Instead, a more probable interpretation takes tokharika to be a Prakritism for Skt. Kuci and classical Chin. Writing, phonology and grammar. It is transcribed according to the Sanskrit values of the characters. Two additional sounds are expressed with digraphs: For two further sounds the script has been adapted more radically: There is no distinctive vowel length in Tocharian. The consonantal system is relatively simple: Consequently, many characters occur only in loanwords from Sanskrit.

    The language allows rather heavy consonant clusters, e. The morphology of both languages is relatively complex and can typologically best be compared with Khotanese, while it is simpler than that of, for instance, Avestan and Sanskrit. On the basis of the formation of the plural and the primary cases, around thirty nominal inflectional categories with often only minor differences can be distinguished.

    Introduction to Tocharian

    The verb has five basic stems: From the present is derived the imperfect, and from the subjunctive the optative. Finite verb forms are inflected for person, number, and voice active vs. There is a large number of different patterns for the formation of the basic stems. The basic word order is SOV: For the grammar of the Tocharian languages, see E. Schulze , W. Thomas ; and further G.

    Encyclopædia Iranica

    Pinault , , Malzahn , M. Undoubtedly some of these made their way into the spoken language, but the majority clearly belongs to a learned register, as is shown also by the attempt to keep the original Sanskrit spelling in spite of the frequent occurrence of phonemes absent from genuine Tocharian. One of the few regular adaptations is that the Skt. There are also loanwords from Prakrit, which are mostly better integrated into the language and do not necessarily belong to a higher register.

    In some cases, borrowing through Khotanese needs to be assumed, while in other cases it cannot be excluded; cf. While the contacts with Indian are from a relatively recent date, with many of the loanwords belonging to a superficial layer of the lexicon, contacts with Iranian languages have taken place over a much longer period. Loanwords from Iranian are mostly well integrated into the language and do not show marginal or loan phonemes, and their morphological patterns are often indistinguishable from Tocharian words directly inherited from Proto-Indo-European.

    History and linguistic characteristics

    The main problem with the Iranian loanwords in Tocharian is that they are heterogeneous, dating from different periods and coming from different sources, and that the exact source cannot always be identified. While many words may come from dialects for which the relevant word happens to be unattested, or from earlier stages of dialects that are known only from a later stage, it is practically certain that there are also borrowings from extinct Eastern Iranian dialects that have left no written testimony.

    Important questions are when and where these words were borrowed, from which dialect, and under what circumstances. From the viewpoint of Tocharian, the most important chronological criterion is whether a word has been borrowed into both languages separately or into Proto-Tocharian. Proto-Tocharian is the common ancestor of Tocharian A and B that is not attested directly but has to be reconstructed through the comparison of the daughter languages. The latest stage of Proto-Tocharian before the split cannot be dated precisely but is commonly estimated to have been approximately between BCE and BCE.

    Evidently, words that were borrowed into early stages of the two daughter languages soon after the split may be hard to distinguish from loanwords into Proto-Tocharian. The identifiable Iranian source languages conform with the geographical position of Tocharian: Bactrian , Khotanese, Sogdian. Words demonstrably from Bactrian date from after the split of Proto-Tocharian and are probably due to the influence of the Kushans in the Tarim Basin in the 2nd century CE, possibly also to that of the Hephthalites in the 5th century.

    The Sound of the Common Tokharian Language (A Short Story)

    Loanwords from Khotanese are partly recent and may date from the historical period; borrowings from earlier stages of Khotanese or other Saka dialects are expected, but the dialect assignment is often difficult. In the Tocharian-Iranian contacts, Iranian is almost exclusively the donor language: The semantic fields of warfare and society are well represented, but in general the loanwords cover a broad semantic range. The most important contributions on the Iranian loanwords in Tocharian are: Adams , G.

    Carling , O. Hansen , L. Isebaert , Pinault a , K. Schmidt , M. Schwartz , N. Sims-Williams , Tremblay , W.

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