Together with Manchu, the Tungusic languages form one branch of the Altaic language tree (table), which also includes a Turkic branch and a Mongol branch.Author(s): M.-L. Beffa
The main features of these languages are agglutination (i.e. they use suffixes), vowel harmony, and an SOV syntax (subject-object-verb).
Linguists divide this branch into two groups:
˝ the northern Tungusic languages, which include those spoken by the Evens (also known as Lamuts), the Evenks, the Neghidals and the Solons;
˝ the southern Tungusic language group, which is in turn divided into two subgroups: the Manchu subgroup, made up of the languages spoken by the Manchus and the Sibes (in Chinese: Xibo), in reality dialects of the same language; and the southern Tungusic subgroup, which covers the languages spoken by the Amur-River Tungus: Nanai (formerly known in Russia as Golds and in China as Hezhe), Ulches, Oroks, Oroches and Udihes (also Udekhe and Udegeis).
The languages spoken by the two peoples that founded ruling dynasties of China, the Jurched (Jin dynasty 1125˝1234) and the Manchus (Qing dynasty 1644˝1911) probably belonged to the Manchu-Tungus family. The Manchus having been culturally assimilated by the Chinese, only the Sibe and the Tungus ethnic groups living in Russia, China and Mongolia still speak languages from this group.
With the exception of Sibe (which is written in Manchu script) and Manchu, it is believed that the Manchu-Tungusic languages were always purely oral, which explains why so little is known about them. As for the languages of the Siberian Tungus, these received an alphabet only under the Soviets, in Latin script until the late 1920s and then in Cyrillic at the end of the 1930s. Today the Tungus peoples still think of their language as basically oral.
Date created: 2003-02-15 - Date modified: 2004-04-15