Tungusic language

Tungusic languages

The Tungusic languages (also known as Manchu-Tungus, Tungus) are spoken in Eastern Siberia and Manchuria. Although it is a very debated subject, many linguists consider them to be part of the Altaic language phylum, which, if it actually exists as a genetic entity, also includes the Turkic and Mongolic language families. Many Tungusic languages are endangered, and the long-term future of the family is uncertain.


Linguists working on Tungusic have proposed a number of different classifications based on different criteria, including morphological, lexical, and phonological characteristics. One classification which seems favoured over other alternatives is that the Tungusic languages can be divided into a northern branch and a southern branch, with the southern branch further subdivided into southeastern and southwestern groups. Northern Tungusic

Following languages can be considered dialects or related languages of Evenki

Southern Tungusic

Jurchen-Manchu (Jurchen and Manchu are simply different stages of the same language; in fact, the ethnonym "Manchu" did not come about until 1636 when Emperor Hong Taiji decreed that the term would replace "Jurchen") is the only Tungusic language with a literary form which dates back to at least the mid- to late-1100s; as such it is a very important language for the reconstruction of Proto-Tungusic. The earliest extant text in Jurchen is the Da Jin deshengtuo songbei inscription (The Jin Victory Memorial Stele), which dates from the dading period (1161-1189).

Common characteristics

The Tungusic languages are of an agglutinative morphological type, and some of them have complex case systems and elaborate patterns of tense and aspect marking. They also exhibit a complex pattern of vowel harmony, based on the parameters of vowel roundedness and vowel tenseness.

Relationships with other languages

Tungusic has traditionally been linked with Turkic and Mongolic languages in the Altaic language family. Others have suggested that the Tungusic languages might be related (perhaps as a paraphyletic outgroup) to the Korean, Japonic, or Ainu languages as well.


  • Ethnologue entry for Tungus languages
  • Kane, Daniel. The Sino-Jurchen Vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters. Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, Volume 153. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 1989.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew. Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971.
  • Poppe, N.N. Vergleichende Grammatik der Altaischen Sprachen [A Comparative Grammar of the Altaic Languages]. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1960.
  • Tsintsius, V. I. Sravnitel'naya Fonetika Tunguso-Man'chzhurskikh Yazïkov [Comparative Phonetics of the Manchu-Tungus Languages]. Leningrad, 1949.

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