Tocharian languages

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Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks (Ptolemy VI, 11, 6) as the Tocharians (Ancient Greek: Τόχαροι, Tókharoi). These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans, while the term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria. A Turkic text refers to the Turfanian language (Tocharian A) as twqry. Interpretation is difficult, but Friedrich W. K. Müller has associated this with the name of the Bactrian Tokharoi.

Today we know mainly two branches of Tocharian: Tocharian A (Turfanian, Arsi, or East Tocharian) and Tocharian B (Kuchean or West Tocharian). These languages are extent roughly from the 3rd to 9th centuries AD; before they became extinct, their speakers were either absorbed or exterminated by the expanding Uyghur tribes. Both languages were once spoken in the Tarim Basin in Central Asia, now part of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China.

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Phonemes

Phonetically, Tocharian is a "Centum" Indo-European language, meaning that it merges the palato-velar consonants (*ḱ, *ǵ, *ǵʰ) of Proto Indo-European with the plain velars (*k, *g, *gʰ). Centum languages are mostly found in western and southern Europe (Greek, Italic, Celtic, Germanic) and the number of isoglosses between Tocharian and several Western European languages is stunning, considering the geograhical separation and total lack of cultural contact. In that sense, Tocharian (to some extent like the Greek and the Anatolian languages) seems to have been an isolate in the "Satem" (i.e. palato-velar to sibilant) phonetic regions of Indo-European-speaking populations. The discovery of Tocharian contributed to doubts that Proto-Indo-European had originally split into western and eastern branches.[1][2]

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