Journal of Linguistics

Telling general linguists about Altaic

a1 University of Bonn
a2 University of Illinois
a3 Wayne State University
a4 University of Melbourne


The hypothesis of an Altaic language family, comprising the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Korean and, in most recent versions, Japanese languages continues to be a viable linguistic proposal, despite various published claims that it is no longer accepted. A strong body of research continues to appear, developing and refining the hypothesis, along with publications that argue against a demonstrated relationship among these languages. This paper shows that many of the arguments against a genetic relationship fail to address the criteria demanded in modern historical linguistics, while many of the responses from proponents of the Altaic theory have failed to address the criticisms raised. We hope that arguments focusing on the real issues of phonological correspondences and morphological systems will shed greater light on the relationship among these languages.

(Received December 24 1997)
(Revised August 10 1998)

c1 Author's address: Heerstrasse 7, D-53111 Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany. E-mail:
c2 Author's address: 307 South McKinley Ave., Champaign, IL 61821, U.S.A. E-mail:
c3 Author's address: 4225 Walden Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 U.S.A. E-mail:
c4 Author's address: Department of Linguistics & Applied Linguistics, Babel Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville 3052, Victoria, Australia. E-mail: