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Latin and Albanian are Indo-European languages so it makes sense that those two languages share many words with each-other.

But why is it that Turkish — a non-Indo-European language — shares words with both Latin and Albanian?

For example, the word clay/dirt is:

Turkish balçık meaning "slime", "clay"

Albanian baltë meaning "mud"

Romanian baltă meaning "shallow, muddy lake", "swamp"

Latin bolus meaning "clod of earth".

Are these related?

What's the most probable/simple explanation?

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    Languages that have been next to each other for thousands of years will naturally borrow many words.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 19, 2020 at 23:49
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    Could Linguistics SE have some sort of FAQ with explanations for this and a few other perennial questions (is language X more expressive, is language X older, is language X simpler...). Jan 20, 2020 at 7:16
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    Most "common" words in Latin and Albanian are of Latin origin. Present Albanian is, compared to Latin, a relatively recent language comparable more to Romanian than to Latin, no matter the "archaic" features it might have (and share with others, including Romanian).
    – cipricus
    Jul 20, 2021 at 11:12
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    Common Latin terms: Turkish language was and still is in contact with the Balkan Sprachbund which includes Albanian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Macedinian and shares many features, including vocabulary, part of which is of Latin origin. Many Turkish and Greek words entered this linguistic area, but some went in the other direction too. For example, from the Latin mensa (table) resulted in Romanian masa, which passed in Balkan Slavic, then Turkish, then even in Persian and Urdu/Hindi.
    – cipricus
    Jul 20, 2021 at 11:43
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    Common Greek terms: Latin, Turkish and Balkan Sprachbund languages, just like many modern languages, have been importing Greek words. (By the way, Albanian didn't took the Latin word for "table", but the Greek word: trapeza — which resulted in tryezë.) Common Iranian terms: Turkish is not an Indo-European language but was heavily influenced by Persian/Farsi. Dacians/Thracians spoke maybe languages not far from the Iranian dialects of their northern neighbors the Scythians. Some terms may be still present in the Balkan Sprachbund.
    – cipricus
    Jul 20, 2021 at 11:46

4 Answers 4

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There are three possible explanations:

  1. Turkish has borrowed many words from other languages, just as has Albanian. I have been told courant d'air is actually a Turkish word (probably spelled the Turkish way). It is possible that your word, or a morpheme in it, was borrowed from an Indo-European language long ago. It may have happened in early praehistoric times, since the two families have been in contact since time immemorial in Central Asia and elsewhere.

  2. It is speculated that the Turkic family of languages might be related to the Indo-European family, together being part of a Eurasiatic super-family. Some linguists have tried to explain similarities across linguistic families thus. But it is generally not accepted that any substantial evidence exists for this theory.

  3. Coincidence. Arguably, most of what happens in language is coincidence, and there are only so many sounds of consonant-vowel-consonant that exist in Turkish, and only so many in Albanian; many are bound to exist in both, and a few of those will coincidentally have a similar meaning.

Consider also that the root from which balçık is derived probably had 20 different forms in the various historic and regional variants of Turkish, and even more different shades of meaning: it may be coincidental that one Turkish combination of form–meaning should match another in Albanian. But, in this case, it may very well be explanation 1, (praehistoric or later) borrowing.

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  • Initially I was certain this was easily explained by the argument no 1. Looking more closely at the cited terms though, the "prehistoric" seems more probable. Because such old roots are so extraordinary I wouldn't dismiss this question as superficial, given it has hit such a rare target.
    – cipricus
    Jul 22, 2021 at 15:46
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A slightly more specific answer:

  1. Albanian and Latin are both Indo-European languages and share a fair number of inherited words, especially in the core vocabulary (e.g. numerals).
  2. .Albania was part of the Roman Empire for several centuries (Roman province of Ilyria). During this time the ancestor of Albanian borrowed a large number of words from Latin, or specifically from Balkano-Romance, the ancestor of Romanian and Aromanian.
  3. In recent times Albanian has borrowed extensively from Italian, and to a lesser degree from French. These are both Romance languages with their roots in Latin.
  4. During the long period of Ottoman rule Albanian borrowed a large number of words from Turkish, many of which derive from Arabic or Persian (of which the latter is also an Indo-European language with a few cognates shared with Albanian).
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Your question contains erroneous claims.
Latin bolus < Greek bolos has nothing to do with "mud" or "slime".
Albanian baltë means "mud"
Turkish balçık means "slime"

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  • 1. The OP cited a source for his translations (albeit Google Translate); what's yours? 2. Even if you're glossing correctly, it doesn't take much imagination to see a semantic link between these three words, so this doesn't impact one way or another the question of whether the words are etymologically connected
    – b a
    Jan 20, 2020 at 15:11
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    Turkish balçık has cognates in other Turkish languages, and comes from Proto-Turkic *bạl- "clay, mud". (Turkic etymology compiled by Anna Dybo, link: is.gd/JtWkIk )
    – Locoluis
    Jan 20, 2020 at 16:11
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    Albanian baltë comes from Proto-Albanian *baltā which is hypothesized to come from PIE *bʰoləto- "white > marsh", and cognate with Proto-Slavic *bolto (“swamp”), Lithuanian báltas (“white, shining”). Greek cognate is βάλτος (váltos, “swamp”).
    – Locoluis
    Jan 20, 2020 at 16:15
  • All the cited terms are obscure at close inspection. A very-very old common root is not to be excluded, given the fact that a similar form is present in Romanian, Albanian, Greek and Italian, but which cannot be reduced to a Latin or Greek root. The Indo-European specificity of that root is not certain, a pre-indo-european stratum is at least imaginable.
    – cipricus
    Jul 20, 2021 at 12:57
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Well, people call us nationalistic and they don't believe it when we say Sumerians, Hittites and Etruscans were Turkic. This one screams the truth. First of all, to the person who claimed that we borrowed it, Turkish did not borrow it because Turkish already owns the root of this word which is *bal(mud, marsh). Balbal is a Turkish word already, you know, those beetle-browed statues that Turks left here and there. The same style as Sumerian(beetle brows). Bal-çık contains a dimunitive suffix, it means a piece of mud actually. Also the old Turkish word for city was bal-ık. Because first civilized city was a dried marsh(Sumerian). Then Anatolian civilizations and then Etruscans used that word for city. Even Greek word for city 'pol-is' derives from that. Latin bolus derives from that. Not only that there are many words in Latin having Turkish roots. All words related with pointy stuff starts with ac, but I'm sure it's actually Turkish 'uc/uç'(tip, pointy end). Many tree related words start with ac again but I'm pretty much sure it's Turkish ağaç(read aaç)(tree). I can give you a ton of examples. Many people don't even notice. Actually there are some linguists who point out these things but their works are mostly slept on.

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    Do you have sources for any of this? The standard Sumerian word for "city" is uru and the Hittite word is usually taken as hāppiras. And Turkish, like all languages, has changed over time; it sounds very different now than it did hundreds of years ago, let alone thousands.
    – Draconis
    Mar 31, 2022 at 19:54

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