Türik Bitig.

A reader wrote me:

Didn’t see it mentioned anywhere, so I thought I’d pass along the Türik Bitig site. It’s got a lot to sink your teeth into:
1. Etho-Cultural Dictionary of Old Turkic
2. Uploads of most (all?) of the common Old Turkic inscriptions
3. Even a bit on learning to read Old Turkic

I’ve added the links; the site has a note:

The basic idea of creating the electronic historical and cultural fund was based on issue of The Oriental Studies Section of The Institute of Oriental Studies named after Suleimenov in 2005 under the govermental program “Cultural Heritage”: “Қазақстан тарихы туралы түркі деректемелері” сериясының 2-томы Н.Базылхан “Көне түрік бітіктастары мен ескерткіштері (Орхон, Енисей, Талас)” Алматы: Дайк-Пресс. 2005, 252 б. +144 бет жапсырма.

Thanks, Parry!

Update. As of Feb. 25, 2021, the site appears to have been infected with malware, so I have substituted archived links.


  1. Nelson Goering says

    Very interesting!

    Turkic philology caught my attention recently when I read this very interesting blog post by Eric Schluessel, who’s just written a textbook for the Turkic literary language Chaghatay (Čağatay). Some very interesting comments about institutional support for the study of ‘obscure’ languages, and the (dis)incentives students and scholars can have for learning languages. For example:

    If you have limited time and resources to pursue a PhD, then the sensible thing would be to spend them on marketable skills. From this perspective, the situation seems hopeless – only the eccentric and the independently wealthy would study Central Asia.

    There is a solution to this problem: we can change the academic economy of time by lowering the investment necessary to conduct research in Central Asian sources.

    He goes to talk about how all this informs how he went about writing his textbook:

    The textbook assumes no background knowledge, but builds up a foundation in reading knowledge sufficient to work through manuscript narratives sources over the course of sixteen chapters, one for each week of a typical semester. Each chapter introduces and reinforces common vocabulary and grammar in a cumulative way. From Chapter Seven onward, students will read authentic manuscript materials to help them learn paleography and lose their dependence on typescript editions. These primary sources range from finer texts by Abū ‘l-Ghāzī, Navai, and Babur, to the sorts of textual flotsam one encounters in the antiquities market in Kashgar, to the local chronicles and hagiographies held in the reading room of a regional library.

    This book is not perfect, and I anticipate corrections and amendments – but it is a start. I want this book to help everyone who has run a Chaghatay course – and there have been a few of them around the world – but struggled to put together a curriculum… It has been tested on people with no background in Turkic languages or Arabo-Persian script, and on those who speak fluent Uzbek or Uyghur.

    My personal favourite bit is his emphatic endorsement of dabblers:

    Some will object to the prospect of people “dabbling” in Central Asia, learning a little language and not enough deep area knowledge. I would argue that we need dabblers.

    It’s all worth a read, anyway, or at least I thought so. There are also some sobering comments at the end on the state of Uyghur scholarship in China.

  2. деректемелері

    Did some detective work trying to figure out this Kazakh word.

    It means “details” and it’s plural, the singular form “derek” means “news, fact” and comes from Persian word which meant “claim”. However, it’s just tip of the iceberg, because Persian “dark” also meant “perception, realisation, understanding”. In turn, it is a borrowing from Arabic where “dark” means:
    (obsolete) stairs, staircase going down
    Synonym: دَرَج‎ (daraj) (going up or down)
    path one takes to reach a goal
    reaching of a goal
    (obsolete) a piece rope attached to the side of a bigger rope

    Related Arabic word from the same root
    أَدْرَكَ • (ʾadraka) IV, non-past يُدْرِكُ‎‎ (yudriku)
    to overtake
    to grasp, to understand, to realize

    I’ll stop now, but figuring this kind of semantic shifts and travels across languages of Asia and Africa is deeply fascinating to me. Every Kazakh word in these two sentences can be expanded in this vein.

    OK, one more.

    144 бет

    “Bet” is an Old Turkic word which means both “face” and “page” (in a book). The amount of semantic meanings of this word in Kazakh is astonishing (“surface”, “side”, “cheek”, “shame, conscience” and millions of figurative meanings, mostly revolving around concept of “losing face” which I thought was Chinese, but probably is just Asian)

  3. My personal favourite bit is his emphatic endorsement of dabblers

    Yes, that’s great — long live dabblers!

    Thanks for that analysis, SFReader; that stuff is fascinating to me too.

  4. this very interesting blog post by Eric Schluessel … worth a read, anyway, or at least I thought so.

    It sounds interesting, but did you, perhaps, intend to include a link?

  5. Nelson Goering says

    Oops – I had the linked copied, but I guess just blanked on actually pasting it in.

  6. Prof Schluessel’s textbook is open access on the UMich library website. I own a copy of the print book and it is definitely a dabbler’s textbook – I think I found it for $13 used online. Definitely a publishing paradigm I can get behind!

    Oofta, бет is a hefty one. My Kazakh-English dictionary lists 41 figurative senses. Surprisingly, Mukan’s A Learner’s Dictionary of Kazakh Idioms doesn’t have any indexed under it.

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