Language family trees

Philologists suggest that languages are connected and the languages can be drawn under one particular big language family tree.  The number of such language families and languages varies. Yule (2010) refers to 30 language families with more than 6 000 languages (p. 225). Another source claims that there are 141 language families (Lewis, Simons, & Fennig, 2016) and 7,097 languages all over the world (Paul, 2009).  Like Yule (2010) describes the Proto-Indo-European language family with some examples, it would also be interesting to illustrate the Altaic language family, from which the Kazakh language has its origin (Paul, 2009).  In this blog, family connections of the several languages in Altaic family are clarified, and the examples of similar words and grammatical structure are provided to prove the connection of languages in one language family.

Altaic language family consisting of 66 languages is named after the Altai Mountains, a mountain range in Central Asia. It is divided into three groups – Mongolic, Tungusic, and Turkic. Turkic group includes 6 subgroups: Southern (Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen); Central (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Karakalpak, Nogai); Eastern (Uzbek, Uigur, Salar); Western (Karachay, Bashkir, Tatar Bolgar Chuvash); Northern (Yakut, Altai, Khakas, Tuva, Shor). Korean, Japanese, and Ainu are often grouped together as a branch of the Altaic language family. This grouping, however, is still controversial. According to Lewis, Simons, & Fennig (2016), the Kazakh language is assigned to the Western subgroup of the Turkic group.

Without any doubts one can say that the languages in subgroups are extremely similar, however, each subgroup is closely related to each other and it depends not only on geographical position of people (countries) who speak these languages but also shows us that all of them have the same roots in origin. To be proved, I attempt to find some similarities in Kazakh, Turkish and Tatar languages. Despite of thousands of kilometers separating the countries, they may speak different languages, but have common root.


Kazakh Turkish Tatar Meaning
su su su water
sut sut sut milk
kalam kalem kalem a pen

Word building is developed very well in Kazakh and Karakalpak languages. There are mostly similar endings for making nouns from nouns, nouns from adjectives, adjectives from nouns, negative adjectives from nouns:

Endings Karakalpak Kazakh Meaning
-shi Anshy Anshy A hunter
-lyk Zhaksylyk Zhaksylyk Good

We can also observe similar meaning of phraseological units, but they have slight difference in spelling some words. For instance,

Karakalpak Kazakh Meaning
‘Ut belan uinau’ ‘Otpen oinau’ To play with fire – to deal with risky, dangerous things
‘Utta yanmas, suga batma’ ‘Otka janbas, suga batpas’ Neither burns on fire nor sinks in the water

Language similarities are mostly seen in phraseological units which denote education, friendship, poetry, mother-child, animals, and quantifiers. This means that social, religious and cultural ties between were close and had a lot in common, therefore had one root in the beginning.

Having analyzed some languages from Altaic family like Kazakh, Turkish, Tatar, Karakalpak, I strongly agree that languages are connected, and they belong to specific language families. However, classification of languages is controversial, and it needs for further research. Even if languages have different origins, they might be connected due to geographical and historical interactions.


Lewis, M., Simons, G., and Fennig, C. (Eds.) (2016). Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 12 September 2016 from

Paul, L. (Ed.) (2009). Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 12 September 2016 from

Yule, G. (2010). The Study of language. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.


1 thought on “Language family trees

  1. Great formal post, Gulnar. (5/5) Clearly organized, presenting clear examples and citations about Kazakh and the languages most closely related to it.


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