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Thread: Tocharian C: Linguistic Drama Abound

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    Question Tocharian C: Linguistic Drama Abound

    The Tocharian languages (A and B; Agni-Turfanian and Kuchean) have been firmly recognised as comprising of at least two distinct, mutually unintelligible branches since the original Brahmi manuscripts were unearthed in the Tarim Basin.

    Tocharian C, a separate linguistic entity sourced from the southern half of the Tarim, has been entertained as a third language, following the discovery of Prakrit texts in Kroran/Loulan, where numerous Tocharian-looking words which don't cleanly resemble the existing evidence for A or B was discovered.

    This may have escaped the community's attention, but an interesting situation had emerged following the publication of work from several texts which a handful of linguists had concluded to represent the elusive Tocharian C.

    However, several months later, a re-assessment of that work by independent linguists cast major doubts as to the validity of the findings. From the article (emphasis is mine):

    Readers of this blog may remember the excitement generated a few months ago by the announcement that “Tocharian C,” the native language of Kroraina (Chinese Loulan) had been discovered, hiding, as it were, in certain documents written in the Kharoṣṭhī script ("Tocharian C: its discovery and implications" [4/2/19]). Those documents, with transcription, grammatical sketch, and glossary, were published earlier this year as a part of Klaus T. Schmidt’s Nachlass (Stefan Zimmer, editor, Hampen in Bremen, publisher). However, on the weekend of September 15th and 16th a group of distinguished Tocharianists (led by Georges Pinault and Michaël Peyrot), accompanied by at least one specialist in Central Asian Iranian languages, languages normally written in Kharoṣṭhī, met in Leiden to examine the texts and Schmidt’s transcriptions. The result is disappointing, saddening even. In Peyrot’s words, “not one word is transcribed correctly.” We await a full report of the “Leiden Group” with a more accurate transcription and linguistic commentary (for instance, is this an already known Iranian or Indic language, or do the texts represent more than one language, one of which might be a Tocharian language?). Producing such a report is a tall order and we may not have it for some little time. But, at the very least, Schmidt’s “Tocharian C,” as it stands, has been removed from the plane of real languages and moved to some linguistic parallel universe.
    As of writing this thread, the Leiden group's final publication is still pending.

    The hypothetical area through which Tocharian C (if it existed) may have been spoken (from Wiki):


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    Imagine being at a party and telling a girl that you are a Tocharianist, thats just raw sex appeal lmfao!

    On a more serious note, it seriously bothers me how little we still know about the Tocharians. You got graveyards with thousands of ancient skeletons and mummies spanning thousands of years from Tochsrian speaking city states, yet we still don't know what they were and where they came from. It's pretty interestinf how the two more basal splits of Proto-Indo-European have not been solved yet.

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    Unfortunately, Klaus T. Schmidt died in 2017. I'm already thinking about getting the book, I already have a very thick interesting book Traces of Man. 800,000 years of history in Europe. Like finds from modern archeology, prehistory, antiquity, the Middle Ages, modern times and contemporary history. This year and last year some interesting books have come out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CopperAxe View Post
    Imagine being at a party and telling a girl that you are a Tocharianist, thats just raw sex appeal lmfao!

    On a more serious note, it seriously bothers me how little we still know about the Tocharians. You got graveyards with thousands of ancient skeletons and mummies spanning thousands of years from Tochsrian speaking city states, yet we still don't know what they were and where they came from. It's pretty interestinf how the two more basal splits of Proto-Indo-European have not been solved yet.
    We have samples from Tarim C area Kroran/Loulan that are nearly all R1a1xZ93 which could imply a migration from the Ukraine area.
    "The Xiaohe cemetery (40°20'11"N, 88°40'20.3"E) is located in the Taklamakan Desert of northwest China, about 60 km south of the Peacock River and 175 km west of the ancient city of Kroraina (now Loulan..."
    "seven males identified all belonged to haplogroup R1a1a"
    "Y chromosomal DNA analysis revealed only the West Eurasian haplogroup R1a1a in the male individuals."
    "Xiaohe R1a1a more likely originate from Europe because of it not belong to R1a1a-Z93 branch(our recently unpublished data)"


    I also found it interesting that all the R1a1 males had what I think of as possibly non European mtDNA.
    "Fifteen individuals' AMG amplicons were obtained from the 20 Xiaohe individuals (whose mtDNA was successfully amplified), among which seven individuals were identified as male and eight as female."
    106 298-327 C4 R1a1a
    111 223-298-309-327 C4 R1a1a
    115 298-327 C4 R1a1a
    120 189-192-311 R* R1a1a
    121 183-189-192-311 R* R1a1a
    136 298-327 C4 R1a1a
    139 298-327 C4 R1a1a
    "Xiaohe R* is the cluster under the macrohaplogroup R."
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838831/

    "The earliest settlers may have been nomadic herders of the Afanasievo culture (ca. 3300–2000 B.C.), a primarily pastoralist culture derived from the Yamna culture of the Pontic-Caspian region and distributed in the Eastern Kazakhstan, Altai, and Minusinsk regions of the steppe north of the Tarim Basin (Fig. 1) [9, 12–15]. This view is based on the numerous similarities between the material culture, burial rituals and skeletal traits of the Afanasievo culture and the earliest Bronze Age sites in the Tarim Basin"

    "The second model, known as the “Bactrian oasis hypothesis”, also postulates a two-step settlement of the Tarim Basin in the Bronze Age, but maintains that the first settlers were farmers of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (or BMAC, also known as the Oxus civilization) (ca. 2200–1500 B.C.) west of Xinjiang in Uzbekistan (north Bactria), Afghanistan (south Bactria), and Turkmenistan [17], followed later by the Andronovo people from the northwest (Fig. 1) [5, 7]."

    IMO the second model is dead as BMAC's Iran/Turan had no R1a1 of any kind and Andronovo is Z93.

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    See also:
    Mitochondrial haplogroup C in ancient mitochondrial DNA from Ukraine extends the presence of East Eurasian genetic lineages in Neolithic Central and Eastern Europe
    https://www.nature.com/articles/jhg201269

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    Quote Originally Posted by CopperAxe View Post
    On a more serious note, it seriously bothers me how little we still know about the Tocharians. You got graveyards with thousands of ancient skeletons and mummies spanning thousands of years from Tochsrian speaking city states, yet we still don't know what they were and where they came from.
    This is almost certainly due to the sociopolitical situation in Xinjiang province and the narrative war that has existed between the Uyghur minority and the CCP for a good few decades, as attested in Mallory and Mair's The Tarim Mummies.

    in sum, following the discovery of the mummies, an assortment of Uyghur activists have historically used them as evidence for their autochthonicity in the region.
    Conversely, the finding of hundreds of morphologically W. Eurasian mummies within an area of modern China that's considered by some in the CCP as a "historically Chinese" area is highly inconvenient.

    I purchased the above-stated book over a decade ago and there's been incredibly little progress since then. It is no coincidence that archaeogenetic stasis is due to the stepwise deterioration of the situation in Xinjiang.

    If you'd like a forecast - I don't see any steady trickle of new data from the region for at least another decade. There's reason to suspect that the situation there will become worse rather than better.

    Stating the above to frame the recent historical situation in Xinjiang only - We're prohibited from discussing current sociopolitical topics outside of The Atrium (you'd need to be an 'opt-in' Subscription Class member to view that section, CopperAxe).

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    Quote Originally Posted by parasar View Post
    I also found it interesting that all the R1a1 males had what I think of as possibly non European mtDNA.
    ...
    Yes, the uniparentals clearly indicate they either belonged to the same clan or a highly drifted splinter group from whomever the Xiaohe progenitors were.

    Can't remember if the paper also looked at auDNA or not (specifically IBD segments) to ascertain their inter-relatedness.

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    how boring, let's all just work from someone else's digital transcriptions instead of using proper primary sources guys. How hard is it to keep an "I see these words as a substrate palimpsest" theory alive these days? It's like what Scooby Doo and the gang to struggling magicians with rubber masks.

    Primary sources are artworks lets just never touch them ok.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMXX View Post
    This is almost certainly due to the sociopolitical situation in Xinjiang province and the narrative war that has existed between the Uyghur minority and the CCP for a good few decades, as attested in Mallory and Mair's The Tarim Mummies.

    in sum, following the discovery of the mummies, an assortment of Uyghur activists have historically used them as evidence for their autochthonicity in the region.
    Conversely, the finding of hundreds of morphologically W. Eurasian mummies within an area of modern China that's considered by some in the CCP as a "historically Chinese" area is highly inconvenient.

    I purchased the above-stated book over a decade ago and there's been incredibly little progress since then. It is no coincidence that archaeogenetic stasis is due to the stepwise deterioration of the situation in Xinjiang.

    If you'd like a forecast - I don't see any steady trickle of new data from the region for at least another decade. There's reason to suspect that the situation there will become worse rather than better.

    Stating the above to frame the recent historical situation in Xinjiang only - We're prohibited from discussing current sociopolitical topics outside of The Atrium (you'd need to be an 'opt-in' Subscription Class member to view that section, CopperAxe).

    I was going to touch on this but thought it was too risque but I think it is important to stress , CCP has a tight narrative on the type of samples released which personally are too East Eursian shifted and pretty much contradict all those mummies and the accounts of Chinese travellers in Antiquity. Though using Uyghurs you can sort of work backward and figure out the main population which existed there was quite West Eurasian shifted compared to those Shirzengou samples. The West Eurasian ancestry is largely Pamiri Tajik like. This would suggest the majority of people in the Tarim Basin were Indo Iranian related but adopted Tocharian as a language. In the context of the Khotanese Kingdom and even the much earlier Tarim mummies ( which clearly look quite Andronovo/Indo Iranian to me) it seems Indo Iranian groups absorbed or largely replaced the original Tocharian speakers. Interestingly Sarikoli the only Indo Iranian language spoken in the Tarim today is related to Shugni.

    "sample": "Uygur:Average",
    "distance": 1.0888,
    "Tajik_Shugnan": 51.5,
    "Mongolian": 30,
    "Tibetan_Chamdo": 13,
    "Han_Fujian": 5.5

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    Douglas Q. Adams tries to justify that the name Tocharian may be appropriate after all!

    A rather similar hypothesis, that there was a Tocharian-speaking population in the Gansu Corridor, known to the Chinese as the Yuezhi, is hardly proved by this new data, but it is rendered a bit more plausible in that now we can imagine an unbroken chain of Tocharian languages from the upper Tarim into the Gansu Corridor. The Yuezhi of course, driven from their home by the Xiongnu in the second century BC, migrated to western Central Asia where, ultimately, they were known to the classical world as the Tókharoi. The latter’s name was extended by early investigators (particularly Friedrich W. K .Müller in 1907) to the newly discovered languages of the Tarim Basin (A and B) under the mistaken idea that these peoples represented an eastward reflux of the Tókharoi. This reasoning was clearly wrong, but, if the Yuezhi should happen to have spoken a variety of Tocharian, the name may actually have some historical justification. The classical Tókharoi are now known to have spoken an Iranian language, but it’s quite possible that the incoming Yuezhi (whatever their original language) came to speak the language of the earlier inhabitants of their new home. (Compare the French who today speak a Romance language but whose [partial] ancestors, the Franks, were speakers of Germanic, or the Bulgarians who speak a Slavic language but whose [partial] ancestors, the Bulgars, spoke a variety of Turkic.) Further information and discussion, focusing on the linguistic data and issues, will appear in my review of the book to be published in the Journal of Indo-European Studies.
    That had been A.K. Narain's claim too - that Gansu was Tokharian speaking and ultimately the place of origin of all IE languages - "Mallory and Mair argue that the ancestors of the Yuezhi lived first in the region of the Altai mountains and Yenesei River" but Narain thought they were long time inhabitants of the "region around Dunhuang and the Qilian (Ch'i-lien) Mountains of Gansu."
    https://books.google.com/books?id=8FVsWq31MtMC&pg=PA14

    https://depts.washington.edu/silkroa...u/notes13.html
    "Narain argues that once one accepts the equation Tocharian = Yuezhi, then one is forced to follow both the Chinese historical sources (which for him would propel the Yuezhi back to at least the 7th century BC) and the geographical reference of their first cited historical location (Gansu) to the conclusion that they had lived there ‘from times immemorial’. Narain infers that they had been there at least since the Qijia culture of c. 2000 BC and probably even earlier in the Yangshao culture of the Neolithic. This would render the Tocharians as virtually native to Gansu (and earlier than the putative spread of the Neolithic to Xinjiang) and Narain goes so far as to argue that the Indo-Europeans themselves originally dispersed from this area westwards. Seldom has a tail so small wagged a dog so large.” Mallory and Mair (2000), p. 281.

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