Book in Focus
The Genesis of the Turks"/>

22nd April 2022

Book in Focus
The Genesis of the Turks

An Ethno-Linguistic Inquiry into the Prehistory of Central Eurasia

By Osman Karatay

Intellectual rebellions are not rare, but scientific rebellions combined with intellectual concerns are really infrequent. The Altaic linguistic theory suggesting that Turkic, Mongolian, Manchu-Tungus, Korean, and Japanese languages descend from a proto-language has, on the other hand, never been proved. Furthermore, in the words of Professor Stefan Georg, it is not known who invented this theory as “it was already somewhere there”. Although there are many morphological features tying those languages to each other, the theory lacks a common Altaic vocabulary that would point to the claimed common roots. On the other hand, Turkic origins are sought in the Far East based upon the uncorroborated Altaic theory in almost all scientific studies, while the bulk of Turkic peoples and their histories have had nothing to do with the Far East.

The author of this book, a Professor of the Ege (Aegean) University in Izmir, Turkey, and a student of the history of mostly late antique and early medieval Eastern Europe, rebelled against this approach of basing a clear phenomenon on an unknown fact. This approach is very sure in its demagogic language and does not reveal the deficits or poverty of the theory. There are too many reasons to be skeptical. The features allegedly unifying Turkic with the aforesaid languages also exist between Turkic and the Uralic languages to a greater degree and, furthermore, Turkic and Uralic languages have more lexical material in common, pointing either to shared distant origins or to relations in the deep past.

Besides, the Altaic theory does not contain an explanation for the dispersal and great population of the Turks, who were ruling over even Morocco until relatively recently. We believe that the farming dispersal component of the theory proposed in this book explains both the spread of the Turkic peoples to distant lands in considerable numbers and the common agricultural vocabulary shared with the Uralic zone. Besides Uralic languages, the results presented here show that Turkic has more agricultural terms shared with the Proto-Indo-European language, rather than with the Altaic zone. This is an unbelievable case and needs to be explained by the traditional Altaist milieu.

A Turkic homeland in the South Urals is also compatible with the facts and results of ancient population genetics. Today's Turkic peoples share mostly the haplogroups of Central Eurasian origin, but not the genetic codes widespread in Eastern Asia. Since Central Eurasia had continuously exported invaders to Europe by the rise of the Muscovite Russia in the 16th century, among whom the Huns, Avars and Hungarians are the most famous in European memory, then it is not surprising to find a great portion of genetic codes shared especially between East and North European populations and Turkic peoples. We believe that the linguistic correspondences between the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic languages and Proto-Turkic listed in our book are only a reflection of intensive interactions and relations in very ancient times that are traceable also in genetic studies.

In this discourse, one of the most interesting conclusions of the author is on the naming of numbers, which is indeed the most problematic theme in Altaic and Uralic studies. In contrast to global expectancies, Uralo-Altaic languages are generally greedy to share their names of numbers with the other members of the family, and they all have their own almost independent numeric vocabularies. Turkic is an exception, however; it shares its relevant words not with a Uralic or Altaic language, but with the Indo-European realm. Verbal correspondences between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Turkic are also very striking. This close relation in the proto-languages age points to such a fact that the earliest or Proto-Turks appeared in an area close or adjacent to the Uralic and Indo-European core communities.

That region is also the homeland of the Hungarians. Therefore, it is not surprising that Turkic and Hungarian are among the Ural-Altaic languages closest to each other, which cannot be explained by a vague neighbourhood relation of Hungarian with a “Bulgar-kind” Turkic language, as shown in our book in great detail. Agrarian vocabulary is the most important lexical group shared by Turkic and Hungarian. It is not very convincing to claim that the Proto-Hungarian society, knowing nothing about agriculture and domestic animals, borrowed the necessary words from the language of the nomadic Turks, according to the classical mainstream view, who also did not deal extensively with agriculture and whose diversity of domestic animals counted only a few in number.

This book contains many rebellions and objections, but also offers suggestions. As such, there are a lot of novelties here. It also balances four grand scientific disciplines (history, archaeology, linguistics and genetics).

Osman Karatay completed his Master’s degree at Gazi University, Turkey, in 2001 and his doctorate from the same institution in 2006. He is currently a Lecturer at Ege University, Turkey, and has contributed to Turkish historiography with many projects. He served as co-editor of the six-volume book The Turks (2002) and the volumes Balkanlar El Kitabı [A Handbook of the Balkans] (2006), Doğu Avrupa Türk Tarihi [A History of the Turks in Eastern Europe] 2014), and launched the academic quarterly Karadeniz Araştırmaları [Black Sea Studies]. His publications include İran ile Turan [Iran and Turan] (four ed.: 2003, 2012, 2015, 2018), In Search of the Lost Tribe. The Origins and Making of the Croatian Nation (2003), and İlk Oğuzlar. Köken, Türeyiş ve Erken Tarihleri Üzerine Çalışmalar [The Earliest Oghuz: Studies on Their Origins, Genesis and Early History] (four ed.: 2017-2020).

The Genesis of the Turks: An Ethno-Linguistic Inquiry into the Prehistory of Central Eurasia is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter code PROMO25 at checkout to redeem. eBook available from Google Play.

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