Consider the countries Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. They speak Turkic languages (alongside some Russian). It was primarily Iranic people (Scythians and Persians) who lived in these territories up to the 3rd century BC or so.

Did Turkic languages exist at that time? If so where were they spoken (my guess would be the territory of modern Mongolia or East Russia)?

When did Turkic languages start being spoken in Central Asia? Did the linguistic shift also come with a genetically detectable demographic shift or was it the Iranic people adopting a different language?

I found that the First Turkic Khaganate used an Iranic language for official functions and a Turkic language informally so whenever this shift happened it must have been mostly complete by 550 AD.

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    Maybe the linguistics se is a better place to pose this question? Oct 31, 2021 at 13:43
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1 Answer 1


The Xiongnu, Hephtalites and Huns may have spoken Turkic languages. However, there are a lot of uncertainties about these groups of people (are they three different groups or only one? Did the Huns speak one language or several? etc etc) so that no-one knows for sure.

Also note that languages spoken in areas that are only suitable for nomadic pastoralism can change quite often (Mongolia is a good example for that, but one might argue the northern shore of the Black Sea is similar) while urban and farming areas tend to be more stable in that regard. Even today Samarkand and Bukhara (both in Uzbekistan) are supposed to be mostly Persian-speaking.

  • Are you suggesting some kind of continuity between the Persian speakers in Bukhara today and the ancient Iranic people? It would be great if you could provide more references (because for example there is a substantial number of speakers of Azerbaijani and Turkmen in Iran).
    – dejg
    Oct 30, 2021 at 11:14
  • @dejg Proposing such a continuity would be highly speculative. But it might be possible to show such a continuity from the times of the Khwarezmian or Timurid empires, in both of which Persian was quite important.
    – Jan
    Oct 30, 2021 at 12:44

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