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Ural-Altaic languages

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  1. Read the text and find the answers to the following questions:

· How many branches are there in the Ural-Altaic family?

· What area does the family occupy?

· What is the characteristic feature of all the Ural-Altaic languages?

· Do the dialects of Mesopotamian culture belong to the Ural-Altaic family?

China and Tibet are bordered on the north and west by the eastern branches of an immense language family, which stretches through central and northern Asia into Europe, overlapping the European border in Turkey, and reaching across it in Russia and Scandinavia to the shore of the Atlantic. Five principal branches are generally reckoned as composing the family. The two easternmost are the Tungusian, with the Manchu for its principal division, and the Mongol. The three others are: the Turkish or Tatar, the dialects of which reach from the mouth of the Lena (Yakut) to Turkey in Europe; the Samoyed, from the Altai down to the arctic shore of Asia, and along this to the White Sea - an unimportant congeries of barbarous tribes; and the Finno-Hungarian, including the tongues of the two cultivated peoples from which it takes its name, and also those of a great part of the population of northern and central Russia, to beyond the Ural Mountains, and finally the Lappish, of northern Scandinavia. The nearer relation of the Samoyed is with the Finno-Hungarian. The Turkish is a type of a well-developed language of purely agglutinative structure: that is, lacking that higher degree of integration which issues in internal change. Whether this degree is wholly wanting in Finnish and Hungarian is made a question; at any rate, the languages named have no reason to envy the tongues technically called "inflective." Of a value not inferior to that of inflective characteristics is one that belongs to all the Ural-Altaic tongues, in varying measure and form, and helps to bind them together into a single family - the harmonic sequence of vowels, namely, as between root and endings, or a modification of the vowels of the endings to agree with that of the root or its final syllable.

The opinion has been held by many scholars that the agglutinative dialects - Sumerain, Accadian, etc. - of the presumed founders of Mesopotamian culture and teachers of the Assyrian Semites belonged to the Ural-Altaic family, and specifically to its Finno-Ugrian branch; but the data for this view are still very uncertain. The mere possession of an agglutinative structure cannot be taken as proving anything in the way of relationship.



overlap – частично совпадать

congery – множество, скопление

agglutinative – агглютинативный

inflective – изменяемый; склоняемый, спрягаемый

inferior – худший (по качеству), плохой; стоящий ниже (по развитию, рангу и т.д.)


  1. Look through the text again and find words and constructions you may use in your professional discourse (scientific terms etc.). Translate and memorize them.
  2. Find the transcription of the following words and practise pronouncing them: through, barbarous, sequence, scholar, view.
  3. Decide whether the following statements are true or false according to the text:

· Hungarian is an agglutinative language.

· An agglutinative structure doesn’t mean that the language is agglutinative.

· All the Ural-Altaic languages have a harmonic sequence of vowels between root and endings.


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