Besenyos, Ogur and Oguz
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Paleographical study of the Türkic Alphabets
From the 6-th to 15-th century AD
Elements of history, distribution, and classification
Fig. 8 Distribution of the the Euro Asiatic and the Asiatic groups of the Türkic alphabets
Geographical extent of Kharosthi script
Correlation scheme of the Euro Asiatic and Asiatic groups of the Steppe Türkic alphabets
Türkic Scripts Tree
Table 23 Türkic alphabets of the the Euro Asiatic and the Asiatic groups
Russian Academy of Sciences
Publisher "Eastern Literature", Moscow, 1994, 327 pp., ISBN 5-02-017741-5
WRITINGS OF EURASIAN STEPPES
Рис. 8. Распространение памятников евроазиатской и азиатской групп
Geographical extent of Kharosthi script
Correlation scheme of the Euro Asiatic and Asiatic groups of
the Steppe Türkic alphabets
The paleographic analysis of the sum total of old runic inscriptions of the Eurasian Steppes has led to understanding that all these scripts do not present the homogeneity either in Europe or in Asia. The conception presented in this book proclaims the existence of two separate groups of Türkic alphabets, the Euro Asiatic group and the Asiatic one, each consisting of several related alphabets.
The Euro Asiatic group of the Türkic scripts (Chapter I) includes five alphabets which were not described before and are shown by the author. The inscriptions of the Don (Fig. D l, Table VII) and the Kuban (Fig. K, Table IX) alphabets were found in the N. Pontic and on the banks of the Kama river (Fig. l, Tables I-VI, VIII). They present two distinct, though close to one another, alphabets (Table X). These alphabets don't look like the Tisza runiform writing (Nagy-Szent-Miklos and Sarvas inscriptions, Tables XI, XII), the signs of Murfatlar (Table XIII) and other runiform scripts of the Southern Europe (Fig. 2). It appeared that in paleographic respect the Don and the Kuban alphabets have relationship with the South-Yenisei writing of South Siberia (Fig. K, Fig. 3, Tables XV, XVII, XIX), the Achiktash (Fig. A, Fig. 7, Tables XVIII, XIX) and the Isphara alphabets of Central Asia (Fig. 7, Fig. H, Tables XX, XXI). The inscriptions of the Euro Asiatic group of the Türkic writings are presented from the Don river to Yenisei (Fig. 8) and belong to the 8th-10th centuries. The Don and the Kuban alphabets were used in the Khazar Empire, the Kuban one was also used in the several ancient Bulgarian states, including Volga Bulgaria . It is unknown who used the Achiktash and the Isphara alphabets. The South-Yenisei alphabet was used by Kök Türks.
The "classic old Türkic inscriptions" present the Asiatic group of the Türkic writings (Chapter II). It includes three distinct though close to one another, the Yenisei, the Orkhon and the Tallas alphabets and was spread only within the limits of Asia (from the Selenga river to Semirechye, Fig. 8). Every alphabet has different forms of peculiar letters which are unknown to the others (Table XXIII, E, O, T, 31, 53, 70, 72, 75-77). These peculiar features of the 8-th century Orkhon script had been preserved without any change until the l0-th century. This fact gives an opportunity to conclude that the 8-th - 10-th centuries Yenisei letters, which differed from the Orkhon ones, had an independent existence. These signs were the characters for "b2", "t1", "s/š" and "m" (Table XXIII, 29 and 73, 68 and 69, 67 and 71, 33). Some features of the Yenisei writing graphics influenced the Orkhon inscriptions of the second part of 8th and the first part of 9th century (Table XXV). The inscriptions of the High Altai (9-th - 10-th centuries) are mixed texts in terms of the paleography (Table XXIV, 19 and 32, 24 and 35), though they belong to the patterns of the Yenisei alphabet (Table XXIV, 19, 35). The Tallas alphabet appeared as a result of the Yenisei writing's influence on the local scripts of the Central Asia (maybe on the Achiktash alphabet - especially Table XXIII, 53). The existence of the paleographically mixed inscriptions of the 8-th - 9-th - 10-th centuries indicates that the Yenisei alphabet supplanted the other Türkic writings. The peculiar signs of some Yenisei inscriptions of the Tuva region (Fig. 9, Table XXVI) are the traces of this process. They are the remainders of the local Türkic script (Upper-Yenisei alphabet) used by the inhabitants named čiks .
Two manuscript fragments from the Eastern Turkestan (Fig. 10) preserved the Orkhon alphabet (Chapter III). The order of the letters peculiar to it is not known in other alphabets, the letters being organized in pairs (Table XXVII). If we take into account the phonetics (Table XXVIII), the alphabet's logic will become clear: the letters that conveyed two sounds (they are marked with "x") were paired with those that conveyed one sound only (they are marked with "o"). Four pairs with "x" are replaced with two pairs "o" (Table XXIX). This pattern allows one to fill in the lacunae in the manuscripts (Table XXX) and to demonstrate that the alphabet included not 38 or 40 signs as is currently believed, but 48 signs. In practice, not all signs were used: the alphabet preserved many archaic signs (Tables XXVIII, Nos. l, 3, 12; XXXVI) that were still used by the Tuva aborigines (Table XXXI: the Upper-Yenisei alphabet). These signs are not letters - they are syllables. It seems that the proto-Orkhon alphabet goes back not to alphabetic systems (like the Aramaic or others) but to the ancient, probably Semitic, syllabaries (Table XXXVII) of an unknown (not West Semitic) origin. It was developing through eliminating the signs used in practice. The Orkhon and Yenisei inscriptions demonstrate the final stage of this process. The "classical" ancient Türkic "runic" alphabets were not invented - they were borrowed. Among many such systems the ancient Turkic "linguists" wisely chose the alphabetical system best suited to the Türkic language. The unity of both groups of the Türkic alphabets is in the fact that they belong to the same Türkic family of languages. Paleographic similarity consists in the order the lines were written and read, from the right to the left. The scripts of these two groups present not the "fast writing" but runiform signs, though the cursive scripts belonging to the professional scribes are also well-known (Chapter IV, Fig. 12). The rock inscriptions written in ink (Fig. 13, 14) and the appearance of the majority of the Türkic letters show that there was a custom to write with ink on soft material.
To find the peculiar and historically related groups of the alphabets is the basis of the paleographic research. The study of every concrete Türkic alphabet and its application in writing inscriptions is an independent branch of the paleography, because every Türkic alphabet possesses unique graphics and, therefore, unique history. The outward similarity of the Euro Asiatic and Asiatic Türkic scripts can be explained by their basis, the ancient Semitic alphabets of the Central Asia. Each of these groups of the Türkic alphabets was formed under different conditions and on a different basis. The Yenisei and the Orkhon alphabets were formed independently from one another though they had the same basis. The influence of the Yenisei alphabet on the Orkhon alphabet determined the main line of their development. The author supposes that the Orkhon and the South-Yenisei alphabets were replaced by the Yenisei alphabet, and the Tallas alphabet influenced the development of the Achiktash one.
Both groups of the Türkic alphabets coexisted, at least partially, in the South Siberia, Central Asia (Semirechye) and, maybe, in Mongolia, for a while they were used simultaneously. In the Yenisei and South-Yenisei, in the Tallas and Achiktash inscriptions are discovered the traces of the mutual influence. The fact of this coexistence and mutual penetration gives the opportunity to look for phonetic correspondences of the Euro Asiatic Türkic scripts on the basis of the paleographically composite inscriptions. The phonological meaning of the Asiatic Türkic signs should become the basis of this work. The Euro Asiatic Türkic inscriptions will be deciphered in the future.
The correct interpretation and translation of the Türkic inscriptions are possible only if the origins are studied in detail (Chapter V). The majority of the Türkic texts are extraordinary laconic. That's why the pursuit of the group of inscriptions with the analogous meaning is very important. The numerous Yenisei Türkic inscriptions, for example, are divided into such meaning groups: the epitaphs, the boundary, sacral, magic, historical, elucidative inscriptions, the marks of owners and visitors, wishes of welfare (Fig. 15-34).
The paleography of the old Turkic Türkic writings is inseparable from the history (Chapter VI). Every Türkic alphabet (and certainly every group of alphabets) is primarily not an ethnic but rather a cultural-political, state phenomenon. Thus, the Orkhon alphabet was used in the Eastern Türkic and the Uigur empires, while the Yenisei alphabet was used in the multinational old Khakass (Kyrgyz) state, the Tallas alphabet was used probably by the population of the Karluk and the Karakhanid federations in the Semirechye. On the contrary, several Türkic alphabets were used in the same state, as the Don and the Kuban scripts in the Khazar empire, and as the Yenisei and the South-Yenisei alphabets in the old Khakass state, and so on. However, one of the alphabets always was the state script and the others had no official status. Therefore the ethnic definitions of the Türkic alphabets, which existed earlier in the Türkological literature, were not scientifically grounded, and the paleographical-geographical definitions of the alphabets in this book are only conditional.
The state laws guided even the external features of such official inscriptions as the Türkic epitaphs. In the Eastern Türkic and the Uigur empires, the tamga heraldic signs were placed near the top of stele. The lines of the text run from the top of the stone to its foundation (Fig. 36, 7, 2). There were other rules in the old Khakass (Kirghiz) state. The tamgas were placed near the sole of the stele and texts were written from the bases of stone to its top (Fig. 36, J). The third kind of composition was among the Chicks (čiks) in the Tuva region: the lines of their inscriptions went across the stele and the tamga was placed under them (Fig. 37). But when this land was occupied by the old Khakasses, the Chicks (čiks) changed their style in accordance with the Khakass canon (Fig. 37). The Tallas epitaphs present the fourth type of the monuments. They were written on the round stones (Fig. 38). It is very important that these classes of the Türkic epitaphs match with the different Türkic alphabets of the texts. Type I demonstrates the Orkhon alphabet, types II and III - the Yenisei and the type IV - the Tallas. Every medieval state of the Turkic-speaking peoples had its own modification of the literacy culture and, probably, an early form of the literary language.
The supplements of the book contain the copies of the inscriptions that demonstrate the Euro Asiatic Türkic alphabets defined by the author. There are also descriptions of these inscriptions in the supplements, the history of their discoveries and study, and paleographic commentaries.
Table 23 Türkic
alphabets of the the Euro Asiatic and the Asiatic groups
Note. Kharosthi characters shown in the field at left appear not to have matches in the table of the Türkic characters of the table.
Besenyos, Ogur and Oguz