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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Chuvash-Germanic Language Connections


The idea about the presence of the Turkic peoples in Eastern Europe in the Bronze Age contraries many established views of science. The Turkic languages are traditionally included in the Altaic family on the warrant of the typological relationship (affinity) with the Mongolian languages. At the same time, many linguists have found a special closeness between the Chuvash and Mongolian languages.

Our study showed that the ancestral home of the ancient Turks was not near Altai Mountains but in Asia Minor (see the section The Urheimat of the Nostratic Languages). In the 5th mill BC they together with Indo-European and Uralic peoples migrated to Eastern Europe and here in the space between the Dnieper and Don Rivers a common Turkic language was divided into separate dialects that developed later into individual languages. The Chuvash language is one of Bulgarish, which parent tongue was formed in the area on the left bank of the lower Dnieper. Crossing to the 3rd mill the Dnieper, the ancient Bulgars (the ancestors of the Chuvash of nowadays, not to be confused with the modern Bulgarians) populated later huge space of Central and Northern Europe, becoming carriers of the Corded Ware culture (CWC). This theme is considered in the section Discussion. The presence of Bulgars on the territory of the dissemination of CWC is confirmed by Bulgarish place names and expressive connections between the Chuvash and Germanic languages.

Accidentally discovered correspondences between the Germanic and Turkic languages could not go unnoticed by linguists who studied vocabulary and compiled dictionaries of Turkic languages. Especially a lot of linguistic ties between the Chuvash and German languages could be noted by German linguists, but they were left without serious study. At least Yu.K. Kuzmenko, who often quotes German authors in his work on the history of the early Germans, writes nothing about this phenomenon (KUZ'MENKO Yu.K. 2011). In Russia, the fact of German-Chuvash lexical correspondences was first noted by Ashmarin (ASHMARIN N.I. 1902). His examples were later supplemented by several other researchers (KORNILOV G.E. 1985., YEGOROV GENNADIY. 1993, STETSYUK V. 1998). As the calculations showe, about a third of German words are considered to be borrowed from an unknown language (KUZ'MENKO Yu.K. 2011: 99-101). Some of them can be PIE substratum, but without knowledge of the exact location of the ancestral homeland of the Germans and the neighboring peoples to establish the etymology of words like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Even if you have a large list of Turkic-Germanic correspondence a lot of unanswered questions raises, such as where, when and under what conditions there were contacts between the Germanic and Turkic peoples, as well as the most delicate of them – who from who has borrowed. All of these issues are interrelated and the answer to them cannot be given only by comparing the sample language correspondences. It is difficult to obtain a logical result by induction of random linguistic facts especially if we start from the traditional idea of the ethnogenesis of the Turks.

Difficulties arise not only because of lack of sufficient knowledge and methods of comparison of linguistic phenomena, but also because of the bias which is occurred by linguists of various nationalities, willingly or unwillingly, who prefer their own or related language with diligence to find and prove if not greatness, then a high cultural level of its own people in the past.

Insults and accusations accompany these searches. Oriental scholars accuse western ones almost of racism, since the latter allegedly did not admit the possibility of a high level of development of some Asian peoples in the past, and explain common linguistic phenomena by borrowing of words and concepts from the Indo-European languages, while the reverse influence are in advance considered to be unlikely or insignificant (KARATAY OSMAN, 2003-2, 126). Obviously, such misdealing has place but we must pay tribute to European linguistics which due to long existence has accumulated a lot of experience and has developed more or less effective methods of research, often neglected by eastern scholars. In addition, modern European scholars own their oversights: "the traditional European archaeological perspective of ex orient lux continually underestimates cultural impacts from the east" (RASSMANN KNUT a.o. 2014: 97).

It should be borne in mind that some of correspondences may pertain to the period of the Nostratic community and they cannot be considered when we study the interaction of different cultures during a later period. Especially we have to be careful when finding similarities in most common used words and meaning simply concepts. They could concern to earliest time of language development. In contrast, when we find similarities in names of peculiar concepts, for example, in the names of species of rare plants or tools, these cases are of great importance. The number of lexical correspondences found in languages is also important because the dissemination of individual words together with their meaning can be very complex and restoring their ways is just not possible due to lack of explanation even visible phonetic correspondences. The names of soaps which are similar in many languages could be such examples, but their diversity gives no possibility to restore their initial forms.

Wrong ways of studies are caused also by views on the history of languages established at the dawn of linguistics. If we, for example, believe that one common paternal language of some related languages existed at certain time, but in fact it existed earlier, ignoring of exclusive features of one of thees languages increases straying. In the case of studying of connections the Turkic and Indo-European languages, especially the Chuvash language is often neglected, because its peculiarities are explained by far-fetched theory of its origin. However, knowing that the ancestral home of Türkic peoples was in Eastern Europe and that the ancestors of the Chuvash, during long a time inhabited places adjacent to settlements of Indo-Europeans or occupied by them later, we can easily find correspondences between the Chuvash and Latin, Greek, and Germanic languages. Traces of Contacts between Turks and Indo-Europeans in Vocabularies are considered apart. In particular, when the majority of Indo-European tribes migrated from their habitats, the Bulgars became the nearest neighbors of the Teutons during a long time while later they had close contacts with the Anglo-Saxons which headed a tribal union Alans.

Osman Karatai asserts that modern English has about 400 Turkic loan-words and a great portion of them belong to the Old Turkic common fund, although he considers only a few examples of Germanic-Turkish correspondences, some of which are highly questionable (ibid, 135). Here is not a place for discussion, but indisputable matches given by the Turkish scholar, should be noted. For example, you cannot object that the German suffix -lich corresponds to Turkic -lık (-lik). It corresponds to –lăk (lĕk) in Chuvash. However, the English suffix -ly was not arisen from reducing the Turkic -lık (-lik) to - (-li), as O. Karatai believes, but from the Chuvash - (-, -llă, – ). You cannot have objections for borrowing some English words such as girl or to tell from the Turkic languages.

It is seen from the list below that lexical correspondences between the German and Chuvash languages have matches in other Turkic not always. On the other hand, we find Chuvash correspondences in German most of all Germanic languages. Later the Anglo-Saxons who had remained on the territory of Ukraine to the Scythian-Sarmatian time, also had to have not less close contacts with Scythian–Bulgars. This is evidenced by some English words of Turkic origin and some features of English grammar. For example, the disappearance of the category of gender in English can be explained by precisely Turkic influence as the category of gender is absent in the Turkic languages. Nevertheless, Chuvash-English language correspondences are found significantly less than the Chuvash-German ones. Obviously, apart from the neighborhood, a special connection of German and Chuvash languages has reason in the influence of the Proto-Bulgarish substrate. Türks as Carriers of the Corded Ware Cultures settled a vast expanses of Central and Northern Europe in a short time about five thousand years ago. Especially their settlements were thick on the territory of modern Germany, as it is evidenced by extant place names that may have Bulgar origin (see Goggle-map in German below)

View Ansiedlungen von Schöpfer der schnurkeramischen Kultur im Deutschland in a larger map

Map of creators of Corded Ware settlements in Germany.
There are on the map red fire figures showing the locations of CWC sites in Germany, and yellow houses mark place names can be decrypted by means of the Chuvash language.

Map shows that as Corded Ware sites and Bulgarish place names are concentrated mainly in the same places, which indicates a high probability of the made assumptions. Thus, it becomes apparent that latecomers not only preserved the names of pre-existing settlements, but could get influence of some previous people in a language that can be evidenced by the following list.

Chuv apat “food, forage” – OE ofett, Ger Obst “vegetable”.

Chuv armuti “wormwood” (similar words are present in other Turkic languages) – Ger Wermut “wormwood”.

Chuv avăn "barn", a special work for drying sheaves – Eng., Dt. oven, Ger. Ofen "oven".

Chuv avlan “to marry” – OE ǽwnian, ǽwan “to marry”. Chuv. suffix -lan forms a verb meaning "to acquire the quality specified in the nominal stem" from the Germanic stem aw "legal (marriage)", "a wife".

Chuv ătăr “an otter” – P.Gmc *utra, Eng otter , Ger Otter.

Chuv ăvăs “asp, aspen” – P.Gmc *apso, OE æps, Ger Espe “asp, aspen”.

Chuv čělkhe 1.“tongue”, 2. "language" (common Turkic root til) – Eng to tell. The English word has matches in other Germanic languages and according many experts all they refer to PIE root *del "to aim, calculate", but only some given to it matches stand far in meaning (Lat dolus , Gr δολοσ "fraud"), in contrary, words til/tili/dili meaning "language" are present in all Turkic languages.

Chuv čětre “to tremble” (common Turkic root titr) – Ger zittern “to tremble”.

Chuv ijja “yes” – Ger ja “yes”.

Chuv jěkel “acorn” – P.Gmc *aikel, Germ Eichel “acorn”.

Chuv kavle “to chew” – Ger kauen “to chew”.

Chuv karta “fence, kitchen garden” – P.Gmc *gardon, Ger Garten, Eng garden.

Chuv kěrt “flock, herd” – P.Gmc *herdo, Ger Herde, Eng herd, Sw hjord “herd, flock”.

Chuv. kěsle “shackle for sheep” (Bash, Tat. keshən, Balk., Karach. kishan "shackle") – P.Gmc. *skakula, OE. sceacel “shackle, fetter”, Old Norse skökull "pole of a carriage", Dutch. schakel “link of a chain, ring of a net”.

Chuv khaltară “to freeze” – P.Gmc *kalda, Ger kalt, Eng cold “cold”.

Chuv khatăr “cheerful” – OE hador, Ger heiter “cheerful”.

Chuv khămla, "hop" – similar words are common among many languages, including Germanic (e.g., O.Icl. humli, humla, humall, AS. hуmеlе) but Bulgar source of borrowing seems unlikely for them , despite the good phonetic matching. (VASMER NAX. 1973. V. 4: 249-250). However, it is so.

Chuv khăt, O.T. qut 1.“happiness, good, use”, 2. "soul, spirit, life vigor" – OE. gōd, Eng. good, Ger. gut, Eng god, Ger Gott.

Chuv khĕr “girl, daughter” (O.T. – qyř) – Eng girl. Turkic long vibrating consonant ř (rz) could be converted into sounds r or z in different languages during their development (at present in many Turkic languages qyz "a girl"). The sound ř had also an other modification ĺ () which could be converted into l or š. Turkic word qyrz “girl” was borrowed in English at prehistoryc times and later it was developed into girl retaining the tendency to a long vibrating consonant at the ending of the word. The borrowing of the Turkic *kir into English is explained by V. Terentiev in his own way, drawing on the alleged OE *gyrel, which is not recorded anywhere (TERENTYEV V.A. 1990: 69-74).

Chuv. khupax "inn, tavern", Kar., Balk. gabaq "village" – Low Ger. kabacke "closet, hovel".

Chuv khurlaxǎn (Uzb qorygat, Türkm garağat etc) “currants” – Eng currants.

Chuv khüšĕ “hut, cabin, light house” – Ger Haus, Eng house.

Chuv khüte “defence, shelter” – P.Gmc *hoda, Ger Hut, Eng hood, hat, Sw hatt“protection, defence”.

Chuv khyr, khyră (in other Turkic languages qarağaj) “pine” – OE furho, ON fura, Ger Fohre “pine”.

Chuv lank “to touch” – Ger lenken “ro direct”.

Chuv latlă “good” – Eng little (West Gmc *lutila).

Chuv lăkh-lăkh “to smile”, lăkhlat “to laugh aloud”, – Ger. lachen a.o. similar Gmc “to laugh”.

Chuv – (–, –llă, –llĕ) suffix forming adjectives from nouns and participles meaning "having qualities of" – Eng -ly (1) – similar suffix.

Chuv. lutra "low" – OE. loddere "beggar", O.H.G. lotar "vain", Ger. Lotterbube "lazy".

Chuv măkăn“poppy” – Ger Mohn “poppy” (old form *mæhon).

Chuv. năkă “stark”, Tat. nyk “stark” a.o. – OE ge-nàg “rasch, schnell”, Lett. naiks “heftig, rasch, schnell”.

Chuv palt “fast, quick” – P.Gmc *balþa, “bold, courageous”, Eng. bold, Ger bald “fast, soon”.

Chuv patak "a stick, cane", other Türkic bodaq "branch" from O.T. bod "body, trunk; tribe, clan" – O.E. bodig "a trunk, chest", N.E. body, O.H.G. botah "body".

чув. părt, pĕrt "flutter" – Eng. bird.

Chuv pichĕke, pichke “barrel” – P.Gmc *büka- (Ger. Bauch, O.E. būc “belly”).

Chuv pěçen “sow-thistle” – Ger Vesen “siftings, bran”.

Chuv pike "woman, lady", Tat, Bash pikә "lady", Tat bičä "wife" – OE bicce "female of the dog, fox, wolf".

Chuv. pulkkă “flock, herd, crowd” – this word can be correlated with Ger. Volk, Eng. folk, Sw. volc etc. “folk, army” originated from P.Gmc *fulka of unclear origin (KLUGE FRIEDRICH, SEEBOLD ELMAR. 1989: 768) and with OE flocc "hred" also of unclear origin (HOLTHAUSEN F. 1974: 109). Theo Vennemann compares Old Germanic *fulka and also Eng. ploug, Germ. Pflug a.o. with Hebr plC, a family of related roots including plg, which words have meaning "to divide, separate" (VENNEMANN THEO, 2005: 27). The Semitic root has good matches in Chuvash: Pülĕkh "a distributor", "providence", Chuvash ancient deity giving people a happy or unlucky lot, and pulkkǎ. The Chuvash words come from the Old Bugaris one, which was borrowed from the language of the Trypillians, which we identify with one of the Semitic tribes (see Semitic Tribes in Eastern Europe at Prehistoric Time). An Old Bulgarish word meaning “flock, herd, crowd” was borrowed in Proto-Germanic and other Indo-European languages and became a travelling word without clear phonetic correspondences: Lat. volgus, vulgus “(common) folk”, “herd”, “mob”, Lat. volgō, vulgāris “ordinary, common”, O.-Ind. vargah “division, group”, O.-Sl. pъlkъ “regiment”, Lyt. pulkas, Alb. plogu “mod” etc. (see VASMER MAX, 1971, V. III; WALDE A., HOFMANN J.B, BERGER ELSBETH. 1965). Obviously here also Lat. populus “folk”, plebs “folk, mob”, Gr. φυλον “people, folk, tribe”, ethnonyms "Volcae", "Poles", "Polans", "Bulgars" (Bulgar – Old name of a Turkic tribe, the ancestors of Chuvash).

Chuv pultăran “a kind of parsley” – Ger Baldrian “valerian”. Perheps, Latin name of the plant Valeriana, that is similar to parsley, is changed accordingly to Lat valere “be strong” and the first form of the name was other. German word is more similar to Tur baldiran “a kind of parsley” and other Türkic names of this plant (in Balkar, Tartarian and Altaian). Therefore, it is not clear, which of the languages, German or Latin, adopted the Türkic word first.

Chuv pülemes "fat, full" – this word is like to the name of the village and lake Pulemetz on the Urheimat of Tuetons, which is explained as “a full measure of grain” (Ger. volle Metze, O.U.G. fulle mezza.

Chuv săpsa "wasp" – P.Gmc *wabso “wasp” (OE wæfs, wæps, Ger Wespe), (here also Sl osa “wasp”).

Chuv sepper "supper" – Eng supper. This word considered to be borrowed from Old French which itself is loanword from some Germanic language (Meyer-Lübke W. 1992, 8464).

Chuv sěnk "to drowse, doze", Turkic *siŋ (Tat seŋü, Kaz siŋdirlu, Uzb singdirmoq etc) "to sink, to be digested" – Ger senken, OE sencan "to droop", Eng “to sink”.

Chuv sěre "very" – M.H.G. sēre, OE sāre, Ger sehr “very”.

Chuv çak(k) “to stick up” (the words of this root are present in other Turkic languages) – Ger Zacke “tooth, jag”.

Chuv çirěp “stark”, Sir Gerard Clauson restores Turkic *jarp (jarpuz) as “herb” (Uzb jalpiz, Kaz žalbyz the plant mint (Mentha L.), Xakani- jarp “firm, solid”, etc”) – Eng herb, Ger herb.

Chuv šěpěl “a small special shovel” – OE scofl “a shovel”, Eng Ger a shovel, Schaufel “a shovel”.

Chuv tărpa "chimney" – P.Gmc *þarpa "house, yard, hamlet", Eng thorp, Ger Dorf "a village".

Chuv tără “top” – Eng tor “stony top”. See Lat torus too.

Chuv tetel “fish net” – Ger Zettel “warp”.

Chuv tu “to do” – Ger tun, Eng to do, Dt doen “to do”.

Chuv turǎ “god” (from Turkic teŋgri) – P.Gmc þunre “thunder god, Thor”.

Chuv ulăp “giant, titan” – Ger Alp, Alb “evil ghost”, Eng elf . See also alap’-em “plunder”.

Chuv urpa (Turk arpa) “barley” – P.Gmc *arwa, Ger Erbse “pea”.

Chuv vak “wake” – P.Gmc *wakwo, Ger Wake, Eng wake, Sw vak “wake”.

Chuv vălta “fishing-rod” – P.Gmc. *walþu "cluster, rod", OE., Eng. weald, Ger. Wald "forest".

Chuv vantă “weir-basket, coop” – P.Gmc. *wend- "to twine", Ger Want, Dt. want, "a rope for mounting masts", MDt. want "a net for catching herring".

Chuv. varak “gully, pot-hole” – Gmc. *furkh, Ger. Furche, OE. i>furh, MDt. vorke "furrow".

Chuv větel “a double-snipe” – Ger Wachtel (O.H.G wahtel) “a quail”.

Chuv. vĕrke "to warp", "to move to and fro" – I.-E. *werg "to make, work" (Ger. Werk, wirken, Eng. work and many other similar words in Indo-European languages).

Chuv vulǎ “trunk, stem” – OE wala, walu “stick, staff”.

Chuv ytla “superfluous” – West Ger. *ìdla “insignificant, vain”, Ger eitel, Eng idle, Dt ijdel.