Hunnic language: Wikis


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Spoken in from Eurasian steppe into Europe
Language extinction after 453 CE
Language family possibly Altaic
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3

The Hunnic language is the language spoken by the historic Huns. The literary records for this language are sparse, consisting of a few names and words.



Hunnic has been considered as related to the extinct Bulgar and to present-day Chuvash in various schemes of genetic relationship. Today these languages are usually classified, with Khazar and Turkic Avar, as members of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic language family.[4]

The suggestion that Hunnic was a Turkic language arises from the identification of some of the Hunnic names, attested in the surviving literary records, as Turkic.[5]. Other names were classified as Germanic and Iranian. The recorded words (medos, kamos, strava, (and possibly cucurun)) do not seem to be Turkic.[6] These remained records have been studied for more than a century and a half and no attempt to connect the remaining names with any known language group has achieved scholarly consensus.

The inscription on the Khan Diggiz plate has been interpreted as giving the name of a known Hunnic king, son of Attila, in a form of Turkish.[7].

The l- and r- type language (Lir-Turkic) is now documented only by Chuvash, the only surviving member of the Oghuric branch of Turkic. The rest of the Turkic languages (Common Turkic) are of the š- and z- type (also referred to as "Shaz-Turkic). "It is assumed that the Huns also were speakers of an l- and r- type Turkic language and that their migration was responsible for the appearance of this language in the West." [8]

The question of the relationships of the Hunnic language is far from settled. A good summary of the problem comes from the words of Otto Maenchen-Helfen:

"All we know of the language of the Huns are names. Our sources do not give the meaning of any of them... Only by a careful study of the literary context in which the names appear can we hope to bring the problem of the Hunnish language closer to its solution. Attempts to force all Hunnic names into one linguistic group are a priori doomed to failure. The number of Hun names which are certainly or most probably Turkish is small. In addition to the objective difficulties, subjective ones bedevil some scholars. Turkologists are likely to find Turks everywhere; convinced that all proto-Bulgarians spoke Turkish, Németh offered an attractive Turkish etymology of Asparuch; other Turkologists explained the name in a different, perhaps less convincing way. Now it has turned out that Asparuch is an Iranian name... Scholars of profound erudition were sometimes biased by Pan-Turkism..."[9][10]

Hunnic and other language groups

Attempts have been made to identify the Hunnic language as related to Hungarian. Hungarian legends and histories from medieval times onwards assume close ties with the Huns. The name Hunor is preserved in legends and (with a few Hunnic names, such as Attila) is used as a given name in modern Hungary. Many Hungarian people share the belief that the Székelys, a Hungarian ethnic group living in Romania, are descended from a group of Huns who remained in the Carpathian Basin after 454.

It has been suggested that the Hunnic language was related to that of the Xiongnu and not to other language groups, but there is no scholarly consensus on this suggestion or on what languages the Xiongnu spoke.[11][12][13].


  1. ^ Wang Shiping, Where Did the Huns Go?
  2. ^ Wang Zu, Scourge of God
  3. ^ Lin Gan, A Study of Northern Nationalities in Ancient China
  4. ^ Pritsak, Omeljan. 1982 "The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan." Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 6, pp. 428–476.[1]
  5. ^ Notably as documented in the works of Maenchen-Helfen (1973), Pritsak (1982), Kemal (2002).
  6. ^ Otto Maenchen-Helfen, Language of Huns, Ch. 9.
  7. ^ PROBLEMS OF LINGUOETHNOHISTORY OF THE TATAR PEOPLE. KAZAN 1995. Azgar Mukhamadiev. The KHAN DIGGIZ DISH INSCRIPTION. Excerpts from the article “Turanian Writing”, published in the book “Problems Of Linguoethnohistory Of The Tatar People” (Kazan, 1995. pages 36–83). [2]
  8. ^ Johanson (1998); cf. Johanson (2000, 2007) and the articles pertaining to the subject in Johanson & Csató (ed., 1998).
  9. ^ Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen. The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture. University of California Press, 1973
  10. ^ Otto Maenchen-Helfen, Language of Huns
  11. ^ The autonomous Hunnic language was evidenced - summary, Prof. Uchiraltu: The words of Hunnic language, 2007, Inner Mongolian University Press
  12. ^ The Asian Huns in the Chinese sources. Katalin Csornai, 2007, Budapest, Hungary summary
  13. ^ Dr. OBRUSÁNSZKY, Borbála : The History and Civilization of the Huns. Paper of the University of Amsterdam, 8 October 2007. Page 60.


  • Clark, Larry. 1998. "Chuvash." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 434–452.
  • Gmyrya, L. 1995. Hun country at the Caspian Gate: Caspian Dagestan during the epoch of the Great Movement of Peoples. Makhachkala: Dagestan Publishing.
  • Golden, Peter B. 1998. "The Turkic peoples: A historical sketch." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 16–29.
  • Heather, Peter. 1995. "The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe." English Historical Review 110.4–41.
  • Johanson, Lars & Éva Agnes Csató (ed.). 1998. The Turkic languages. London: Routledge.
  • Johanson, Lars. 1998. "The history of Turkic." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 81–125.[3]
  • Johanson, Lars. 1998. "Turkic languages." In: Encyclopaedia Britannica. CD 98. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 5 September 2007.[4]
  • Johanson, Lars. 2000. "Linguistic convergence in the Volga area." In: Gilbers, Dicky, Nerbonne, John & Jos Schaeken (ed.). Languages in contact. Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi. (Studies in Slavic and General linguistics 28.), pp. 165–178.[5]
  • Johanson, Lars. 2007. Chuvash. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Kemal, Cemal. 2002. "The Origins of the Huns: A new view on the eastern heritage of the Hun tribes." (Text edited from conversations with Kemal Cemal, Turkey, 1 November 2002.) In: Features for Europe: Barbarian Europe. Kessler Associates. The History Files.[6]
  • Krueger, John. 1961. Chuvash Manual. Bloomington: Indiana University Publications.
  • Maenchen-Helfen, Otto J. 1973. The world of the Huns: Studies in their history and culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.[7]
  • Mukhamadiev, Azgar G. 1995. "The inscription on the plate of Khan Diggiz." In: In: Problems of the lingo-ethno-history of the Tatar people. Kazan: Tatarskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, pp. 36–83. (ISBN 5-201-08300, in Russian). Translated from the Russian into English,[8]
  • Pritsak, Omeljan. 1982. "The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan." Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 6, pp. 428–476.
  • Róna-Tas, András. 1998. "The reconstruction of Proto-Turkic and the genetic question." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 67–80.
  • Schönig, Claus. 1997–1998. "A new attempt to classify the Turkic languages I–III." Turkic Languages 1:1.117–133, 1:2.262–277, 2:1.130–151.
  • Samoilovich, A. N. 1922. Some additions to the classification of the Turkic languages. Petrograd.[9]
  • Thompson, E.A. 1948. A History of Attila and the Huns. London: Oxford University Press. Reedited by Peter Heather. 1996. The Huns. Oxford: Blackwell.

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