52nd Meeting Huhhot, 2009

Myth and Mystery in the Altaic World

Some Thoughts about the Central Theme of the 52nd Annual Meeting of the PIAC


Languages and language groups have always excited the curiosity and imagination of scholars and amateurs alike. The origin of a given language might be shrouded in myth, its development might be obscure and its interrelation with other languages puzzling – there can be no doubt that in the study of languages one continually encounters facts of a mysterious or unexplained nature. This seems particularly true for the languages that are traditionally termed the altaic languages, or the altaic language group. Moreover, the history of investigation of the altaic languages is characterized by numerous factional disputes over theories and concepts, sometimes myths, that continue to occupy and bewilder the scholarly mind.

 Myth and mystery are no less common motifs in the literature, folklore, and fine arts of the altaic world. They also play an important role in its various religions. in history, we find many significant incidents or figures that remain mysterious to us or, at best, difficult to comprehend. many aspects of altaic culture need to be reinterpreted or reconsidered.

The central theme of the 52nd annual meeting of the PIAC offers the opportunity to explore in the light of the most recent research and findings the myths and mysteries of the altaic languages, past and present, and the wealth of its cultural traditions. this theme also provides us with the opportunity to shed more light on the history of scholarship in altaic studies.