I was just listening to some Mongolian and it struck me that the word for "language", хэл, is quite similar to the Estonian word for "language", keel.

I know it's not accepted that these languages are related, but some linguists accept various hypotheses that they are, along with Turkic, Japonic, Korean, etc.

I'm also aware that coincidences are especially common in single-syllable words.

However I'm interested to know if anyone remotely credible includes these terms in their higher-order protolanguage reconstructions, etc.

Conversely I'd be interested to see if known sound changes in these languages/families rule out any relationship.

  • 1
    Tower of Babel proposes that they are related. I think Starostin et al. count as "remotely credible": starling.rinet.ru/cgi-bin/… (click on the crosses next to the Altaic and Uralic forms)
    – cyco130
    Oct 6, 2014 at 15:00
  • 1
    See the *k῾iăli entry on page 796 in the Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages by S. A. Starostin, A. V. Dybo, O. A. Mudrak.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 7, 2014 at 8:37
  • These are both great answers, both posted as comments. Googling didn't lead me to either of these resources but I'm assuming somebody downvoted my question because they feel I was too lazy to find these trivially easy resources that every child should know about... or? Oct 7, 2014 at 8:42
  • Did you click on cyco's link? It works for me, but computers are full of mystery.
    – fdb
    Oct 7, 2014 at 11:57
  • @fdb: Yes both links work for me. Oct 7, 2014 at 12:01

2 Answers 2


According S. Starostin et al., Estonian keel, along with Finnish kieli comes from Proto-Uralic kele. I have no knowledge of Uralic languages nor access to any mainstream Uralic books, so I can't comment on how reliable this reconstruction is.

If you believe the Altaic theory and its particular reconstruction by them, Mongolian хэл comes from Proto-Altaic *k'i̯ali. Here, I have to say that their case about Turkish kelime and related forms not being Arabic because of "front vocalism and final e" is plain wrong. Turkish kelime is a very regular reflex of Arabic كليمة, including front vocalism and final e. I personally noticed many similar errors and dubious claims about Turkic in their Altaic dictionary and others pointed out other problems concerning other languages. So it's by no means mainstream.

Furthermore, based on these reconstructions and some others, they also reconstruct a Proto-Nostratic *Ḳä[lH]ä, which is the answer to your question if you find them "remotely credible".

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    Are not PIE klee̯ti calls, kle̯ros loud, sonorous related?
    – Anixx
    Oct 7, 2014 at 17:20
  • Thanks cyco, this is exactly what I was getting at by saying "remotely" (-: Oct 7, 2014 at 23:55

Yes, they are related. They both derive from Eurasiatic word for tongue.

  • 3
    ....if you believe in such a thing as "Eurasiatic".
    – fdb
    Oct 7, 2014 at 11:58
  • 2
    -1 This answer really needs some references.
    – robert
    Oct 7, 2014 at 12:05

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