The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Turanian Race and Languages

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TURANIAN RACE AND LANGUAGES. The constituent members of this race (whose ethnological appellation has been chosen in reference to the Turan of the Persians, the land of the northern nomads, in contradistinction to Iran) are as follows: 1. The Finno-Hungarian, Uralo-Finnic, or Ugrian branch. Its subdivisions are: a, the Ugric, including the Hungarian or Magyar as principal member, with the Vogul and Ugro-Ostiak in and beyond the Ural; b, the Bulgaric, including the Tcheremisses and Mordvins, scattered tribes along the Volga; c, the Permian group, of the Permian, Sirian, and Votiak, in eastern Russia; d, the Finnic or Tchudic, including the Lapp, the Finnish proper, or Suomian, and the Esthonian. The Bashkirs are also now considered as belonging to this branch. This is the most western branch of the family, lying chiefly within the limits of Europe; it is also the one of highest endowment, most perfect language, and most advanced culture. 2. The Samoyedic branch, comparatively insignificant in numbers, position, and history, and one of the lowest races of the Asiatic continent. The Samoyeds occupy principally the country between the Obi and the Yenisei, the inhospitable shores of the Arctic ocean from the White sea to beyond the North cape of Asia, and in small groups the northern mountains of central Asia. 3. The Turkish or Tartar (more properly Tatar) branch, the most widely spread of all, reaching from Turkey in Europe to beyond the middle of central Asia, with important outliers in the yet more remote northeast, as the Yakuts of the Lena. Its subdivisions are very numerous, but are grouped in three chief classes: those of the southeast, in and to the east of Turkistan; those of the north, including among others the Kirghiz and Yakuts; and those of the west, stretching from northern Persia through Asia Minor and the Crimea to Constantinople, and scattered in patches over the European dominions of the sultan. 4. The Mongolian branch, composed of three families, East Mongols, West Mongols, and Buriats, inhabiting the present territory of Mongolia, the slopes of the Altai mountains, and in groups the lands bordering on Persia, India, and China. 5. The Tungusian branch, of which the principal race is the Mantchoo, which has held China in subjection during the past two centuries. There is no question respecting the family relationship of these branches. The common name Turanian is more frequent than any other, but various scholars prefer the terms Mongolian (in the wider sense), Uralo-Altaic, Scythian, or Tartaric; the first of these four seems to be gaining universal favor. It has been sought to extend still further the boundaries of this immense family, by attaching to it the Dravidian races of southern India and other Asiatic peoples, and even tying on the Malays and Polynesians, and the North American tribes; but such sweepingly synthetic classification is, in the present stage of linguistic ethnology, to be regarded as utterly unscientific. Even the combination of the branches above mentioned into one family is not beyond question; the Mongol and Mantchoo branches may yet be found unconnected with the others.—As the Aryan or Indo-European languages are much more varied and diverse in their development than the Semitic, so they are, in their turn, vastly exceeded in this respect by the idioms now under consideration. The law of linguistic connection prevailing among the latter is quite peculiar; between tribes confessedly of near kin exist differences of linguistic material even in cardinal points, such as the pronouns, numerals, and important affixes of derivation. A marked similarity of linguistic method, however, runs through them all, and helps to stamp them as kindred. They are all formed on what is called the agglutinative type; that is to say, the root or theme everywhere maintains its form almost unchanged, and all formative syllables are suffixed, never prefixed, to it; and they enter with it into no intimate union giving rise to forms which are accepted by the mind, without analysis, as signs for the complex idea; they remain in the condition of loosely appended elements. There are no varieties and irregularities of nominal and verbal flexion; each language has but a single declension and (with unimportant exceptions) a single conjugation. The plural of declension is formed by a pluralizing particle, to which the same case endings are then attached as in the singular. Grammatical gender is unknown. The cases are numerous. Prepositions always follow the words they govern; as, indeed, it is a general rule that the governed word precedes the governing. Words connecting sentences, relatives and conjunctions, are in most languages hardly employed at all. A marked phonetic peculiarity running through all the dialects is the law of harmonic sequence of vowels; the vowels are divided into two classes, heavy and light (or hard and soft), and within the same word only heavy or only light vowels can follow one another; the vowel of a suffix, or those of a series of suffixes, changing to conform themselves to the character of that of the root. The languages are rich in harmonious and well developed vocabularies, so far as the sound goes, and they abound in nice distinctions of certain kinds. Yet their rank in the general scale of language is low; they are deficient in sharp distinction of the principal grammatical categories, and awkward, cumbrous, and incomplete in the expression of thought. This character belongs to them in varying degree; the Mantchoo dialects are the poorest of all, and the Mongol do not much surpass them; the Tartaric idioms hold the middle rank; the tongues of the Finnic branch, particularly the Finnish proper and the Hungarian, possess a marked superiority to the others. Most of the languages of the family are known only in their present condition. None of the branches has ever had a properly national literature, if we except the mythic and legendary songs of the Finns and the mostly lyric popular songs of the Hungarians; but even some of the remoter tribes, under the influence and by the aid of foreign teachers, have acquired the art of writing, and have brought forth religious and historical works, while the Hungarian and Turkish have developed important literatures. It is also believed that on the cuneiform monuments of Mesopotamia and Persia is represented, in the inscriptions of the third order, a Ugrian dialect, now frequently designated as Accadian, and that we have there authentic evidence and remains of an ancient Ugrian civilization, which preceded and formed the basis for that of the other races in the same regions. F. Lenormant has recently (1874) written a grammar of the Accadian on this assumption of its value. These results of a small number of investigators are not yet fully accepted by scholars in general. See Rémusat, Recherches sur les langues tartares (Paris, 1820); Rask, in several of his philological works; Schott, in numerous memoirs published by the Berlin academy, especially Ueber das altaische oder finnisch-tartarische Sprachengeschlecht (1849); Castrén, in a series of grammars, essays, accounts of travel, &c. (St. Petersburg, 1853-'8); Max Müller, “Letter on the Turanian Languages,” in Bunsen's “Philosophy of Universal History,” vol. i., and “Lectures on the Science of Language” (London, 1861); and Pauly, Description ethnographique des peuples de la Russie (St. Petersburg, 1862).