Khazar language

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Region Khazar Khaganate
Extinct by the 13th century
  • Khazar
Old Turkic
Language codes
ISO 639-3 zkz
Linguist list
Glottolog None

Khazar (also known as Khazarian, Khazaric, Khazari) was the Turkic language spoken by the Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkic people from Central Asia. The language is extinct and written records are almost non-existent. The linguistic affiliation of the Khazars has been disputed. Khazar was a Turkic language, however, different scholars take different views whether it belonged to the Oghur ("lir") or the Oghuz ("shaz") branch of the Turkic language family.


The 10th century Kievian Letter has Orkhon inscription word-phrase OKHQURÜM, "I read (this or it)".

There are a lot of problems with exact classification of the Khazar language. One of the basic issues is vagueness of the name Khazar itself, did it mean a specific Turkic tribe, or had a political and geographical origin beside ethno-linguistic.[1] The Khazar realm was a polyglot and polyethnic state, with Iranian, Finnic, Ugric, Slavic and North Caucasian languages.[2] According anthropological data, it was ruled by Inner Asian Mongoloid (with some Europoid somatic elements) core tribes that accompanied the dynasty.[1][3] The Turkic tribes probably spoke a number of Turkic languages.[4] Scholars consider possibility that by the term Khazar was denoted one or even several languages, and yet again, by the sources can not be claimed the extent of its use.[5]

Chroniclers of the time are unclear on Khazar's linguistical affiliation. The 10th century Al-Istakhri wrote two conflicting notices "the language of the Khazars is different than the language of the Turks and the Persians, nor does a tongue of (any) group of humanity have anything in common with it", "the language of the Bulgars is like the language of the Khazars, but the Burtas have another language".[5] Al-Istakhri mentioned that population of Darband spoke Khazar along other languages of their mountains.[6] Al-Masudi listed Khazars among types of the Turks, and noted they are called Sabir in Turkic and Xazar in Persian.[5] Al-Biruni, while discussed the Volga Bulgars and Sawars (Sabirs), noted their language was a "mixture of Turkic and Khazar".[6][3] Al-Muqaddasi denoted Khazar language as "very incomprehensible".[6]

Compared to the uniformity of Common Turkic which Al-Istakhri mentioned "as for the Turks, all of them, from the Toquz Oghuz, Qirgiz, Kimek, Oguz, Qarluq, their language is one. They understand one another", even if Khazar belonged or was similar to Oghuro-Bulgaric languages, it was distinctly different.[7]

The linguistic data consists of Khazar titles (Beg, Bolušči, Ishad, Il-teber/El-teber, Qağan, Kündü Qağan, Jâwšîġr, Tarxan, Tudun, Yabgu, Yilig/Yelig), anthroponyms (Itaq), and toponyms (Sarkel/Šarkil, Sarığšın/Sarığčın), mostly of Turkic origin.[8][9] The interpretations don't indicate whether are Common Turkic or Oghuric.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Golden 2011, p. 224.
  2. Golden 2011, p. 151.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Golden 1992, p. 235.
  4. Golden 2011, p. 151, 224.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Golden 2011, p. 225.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Golden 2011, p. 226.
  7. Golden 2011, p. 227.
  8. Golden 1992, p. 234–235.
  9. Golden 2011, p. 227–239.
  10. Golden 2011, p. 150.

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