I study Turkic languages. Does anybody know a comparative study of Indo-European languages and Altaic languages or a study which proves that Altaic languages have articles?

I compared some suffixes of Turkic languages with the Indo-European articles and I observed big resemblances between them.

  • 4
    Proto-Indo-European language had no articles.
    – Anixx
    Jan 9, 2015 at 15:25
  • 5
    ....as far as we know.
    – fdb
    Jan 9, 2015 at 17:05
  • 3
    Articles come and go, they aren't very stable historically. Latin did not have articles, some determiners (different for Sardic, Portugues, and mainstream modern Romance!) developped into articles later on. Articles also get lost easily. Dec 29, 2016 at 17:50
  • Depends on what you mean by "articles" (and a lot of present-day linguists don't even use this term at all.)
    – Alex B.
    Feb 18, 2019 at 1:04

1 Answer 1


First and foremost, Altaic is a controversial grouping of languages at best. So take claims about them with a grain of salt, though it may be useful to view them as a language area. But it still doesn't clear up what we're talking about. So-called "Micro-Altaic" (Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages)? Or "Macro-Altaic" (Micro-Altaic plus Korean and Japanese)?

Turkish (a Turkic language) and Mangghuer (a Mongolic language) both have indefinite articles, but they look nothing like one another. The Turkish indefinite article is bir, while the Mangghuer indefinite article is ge. The origin of the Turkic form is fairly clear: it's just the number one, a meaning it retains in modern Turkish. The origin of the Mangghuer is debated, but is likely also from 'one', which is Mangghuer nige (Slater 2003: 312). Not even people who claim Altaic is a valid grouping claim Turkic bir and Mongolic nige are related words, so the innovation must have come after the languages split up, if they even were a singular grouping.

These articles do indeed function like other indefinite articles. There are some fine grained differences, but that's to be expected across languages. A lot of work has been done on what is called differential object marking (DOM) in Turkish, where an object can optionally take the accusative case marker -i for a specific meaning when compared to an object that does not take the accusative case marker. Compare the following:

  • Ali bir kitabı aldı. 'Ali bought a certain book.'
  • Ali bir kitab aldı. 'Ali bought a book.' (examples from Enç 1991)

So there are tons of similarities (English and Turkish indefinite articles both from a word originally meaning 'one'), but differences (Germanic languages except some varieties of Afrikaans don't have DOM but do have articles, Turkish has DOM which interacts with its articles, Japanese has DOM but does not have articles).


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