Tocharian

Authored by: Douglas Q. Adams

The Indo-European Languages

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415730624
eBook ISBN: 9781315678559
Adobe ISBN: 9781317391531

10.4324/9781315678559.pt10

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Abstract

The speakers of the Tocharian languages enter history in the first century BC, when the Han Empire sent military expeditions into the Tarim Basin (what is now the southern half of the Chinese province of Xinjiang). Our linguistic records date only to the late fourth century AD in the case of Tocharian B and to the seventh century AD in the case of Tocharian A. The latest documents in the two languages are probably no later than the ninth century AD (the last dated Tocharian B texts are from the final decade of the eighth century AD). The age of our texts, somewhat older than has often been thought in the past, is confirmed by both paleography and radio-carbon dating. It is also significant, with respect at least to Tocharian B, that our texts cover a half millennium of time, time sufficient for us to see significant change. When it was thought that all the attested texts from Tocharian B were more or less contemporary, within a century or so of one another, the linguistic differences among the texts were reasonably enough taken as the result of there being regional dialects (Winter 1955). However, now it is quite certain that at least most of the differences are the result of the documents’ different ages (Peyrot 2008).

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