On the Interrelatedness of Turkic and Germanic Runic Scripts

Yakovlev Victor (Moscow, Russia)

On the Interrelatedness of Turkic and Germanic Runic Scripts

(57th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Vladivostok, 2014)

To formulate the problem of interrelatedness is legitimate, because in runic alphabets, Turkic as well as Germanic, there are identical signs, while similarly written characters are associated with sounds definately different. It does not seem right therefore to speak about the kinship of such different existing runic alphabets, or those preceding them, but, probably, of kinship or continuity of “graphic systems”.

The earliest of the well studied eastern-turkic runic monuments date from the VII – VIII centuries. Resembling characters were discovered at Issyk on the silver cup of the VI – IV centuries B. C.

According to its reproduction the inscription contains 26 characters, of which 18 are used once each. The sign in the 3rd place appears in the 6 th one again. That in the 5th position is repeated in the 20th one again. The sign in the 7th place is met in the 9th , 14th , 17th, and 19th posiotions. That, which is in the 12th place, appears again in the 25 th one. The sign at the 18th palace comes again at the 26th one.

So, the frequency of the characters {1 2 4 8 10 11 13 15 16 21 22 23 24} = 1; {3 6} = 2; {5 20} = 2; {12 25} = 2; {18 26} = 2; {7 9 14 17 19} = 4, and that of the recurrent and of the single time symbols is the same.

For the identification of the graphic system used in this text characters, obviously similar to those of Orchon-Yenissei, are sufficient.

With the most early dating of the Issyk monument (the 5th century B. C.) an interval of time between this specimen of runic writing, and undoubtedly Turkic monuments is about one thousand years. Yet, later dates were also suggested for the burial mound at Issyk (the IVth or the IIIrd century B. C.). Intermediate stages were discovered at some other findings.

Earlier than Issyk cup, in the burial ground of Aktas, the embankment of the mound, dating from the IV – VI centuries A.D., there was found “an unwraught three-edged stone, on the all three natural planes of which there were about thirty characters” (Akishev, 1978).

There is an impression that Issyk writing represents an offshoot of the Central-Asian runic writing, having developed approximatly during 1 500 years.

Besides that considerable number of Germanic and Scandinavian runic characters are graphically identical to those of Orchon-Yenissei, there are also other indications of the common origin of the scripts considered, in particular such are runes designating coupled or bound consonants. Such combined runes, that unexpectedly appear in the Issyk inscription, can be abundantly found in Germanic an Scandinavian ones as well.

So far as the time interval between the early Germanic inscriptions and familiar Turkic monuments is significant (existence of a written language, used by Turcs as early as the VIth century AD, was evidenced by Bizantine and Chinese sources), it does not seem possible to trace the moment of contact definately, as well as the extent and the nature of the infuence.

Perceiving traces and indications of syllabic writing in Turkic runic alphabets, scientists suggest that “the appearance of runic writing with the ancient people speaking Turkic languages is … a result of borrowing it” (I. Kyzlasov, 1998). Such borrowing must have taken place considerably more early than the evidences of historians concerning the existence of this, probably, borrowed writing. The borrowing could have happentd earlier than the appearance of futhark with Germanic people.

Palaeographers and linguists are busy finding alphabets that could have given birth to runic writing. Yet participation of runics in the creation of some medieval alphabets also cannot be excluded.

The Gothic alphabet of Wulfila (311—383) contains, among others, evidently runic signs, the number of which seems to be greater than usually admitted. Such are not only U O R t, but also a j и я (a gothic rune, red as ‘p’).

The order of gothic runes is similar to that of futhark. Namely, this alphabet is presented on the Kilver stone. It is possible to suggest therefore, that Wulfila’s alphabet, where the order of signs is different, was created later than the Germanic runic one.

Turkic or more early, analogous to the Turkic, signs were borrowed by Goths in an attempt of stylisation of the Latin alphabet or of creating seemingly different own one, such as futhark is. The term was coined by reading the first six runes as it were one word.

The order of the alphabet looks enigmatic. Nevertheless, a reverse reading of the first six letters seems to be a prompt, because we hear there Q R … T U V of the German alphabet. Why then the first letter is F? German alphabet is thought to be derivative of the Etrurian one, where (according to the reconstruction) a letter on the fourth place, not much different in appearance from the fourth rune of futhark, and looking also like the first rune of the latter, is read as v and as f (like in German nowadays).

Probably, initially created or borrowed runic alphabet was written or carved from the right to the left (horizontally), but read later in the opposite direction. Similarity of the mentioned writing systems is not confined to the likness of the considerable number of symbols, for there are analogies of phonologic order (marks or traces of syllabic writing). And this shows that creators of the Germanic runic alphabet were acquainted with the Turkic runics or one preceding the latter. Probably, there existed Germanic runic alphabet with a greater number of characters, and which could be nearer to the Turkic one.

Possibly, Gothic runes were close to those, used by Avars. Yet limited knowledge of the matter does not allow to evaluate or to verify a suggestion of possible contacts of Gots with the tribes, related, according to some hypotheses, either to Xianbis, Ruan-ruans, or to the Turcs.

Nevertheless, there exists an inscription, engraved in “polyethnic runics” on the plate of Dengizich (a son Attila), and read as if it were a Turkic one. In view of a “polyethnicity” of writing, which could have been used by Huns, it is possible to quote Edward Gibbon, who, relying on Priscus, mentioned buffoons, Moorish and a Scythian, who amused guests, invited to the royal feast, by “the strange unintelligible confusion of the Latin, the Gothic, and the Hunnic languages” (E . Gibbon, 1840, III 175). In the Gothic alphabet of Wulfila the presence of the said ethnolinguistic components (plus Greek one) can be observed not as a matter of joke, but in earnest. Probably, Gothic runes, their tracing and alphabetical order, retain peculiarities, they borrowed, most likely, from Huns.

At any rate, such contacts and relations, the liability of Germans and Scandinavians to Asian influence seem possible, so far as the fact that “ runic writing came to the people of the Eastern Europe from the Central Asia, and in the VIII — IX centuries widely spread there”, is established (I. Erdélyi, 1980).