The article below by Professor Gerhard Doerfer on the Chagatay Language and Literature was originally posted in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1991 and last updated on October 13, 2011.
It is generally acknowledged by scholars that of all the Turkic languages, it was Chaghatay that by far, enjoyed the greatest prestige. Ebn Mohannā, for instance, characterized it as the purest of all Turkish languages, and the khans of the Golden Horde and of the Crimea, as well as the Kazan Tatars, wrote in Chaghatay much of the time. Professor Doerfer has provided a detailed academic overview of the Iranian linguistic influences upon Chagatay in the Encyclopedia Iranica article discussed below.
Development of Chaghatay
Languages from three different Turkic language groups were spoken in Central Asia before the Russian conquest. Chaghatay is the common designation for a language belonging to the Western Uighur, or Eastern Turkic, language group, the easternmost of the three. The other two groups were the Oghuz (including Turkman, Khorasani Azeri and Turkish, and Turkish in Turkey) and the Kipchak (Qipcaq/Qepčāq). Uighur and Kipchak have retained such archaic features as initial t and k, which became voiced d and g in the languages of the Oghuz group. (For general surveys of the distribution of the Turkish languages see Poppe, Menges, Benzing and Menges.)
Western Uighur developed in three stages: Ḵᵛārazm (Choresm) Turkish or Early Chaghatay (7th-8th/13th-14th centuries), Classical and Late Chaghatay (9th-13th/15th-19th centuries), and modern Uzbek (see central asia xiv. turkish-iranian language contact). There are variations in the labels for these stages, however (cf. Eckmann, 1966, pp. 1-10). Soviet scholars (e.g., Shcherbak) refer to both the first two stages as Old Uzbek, whereas most other Western scholars label the first stage “Ḵᵛārazm Turkish.” The term Early Chaghatay, which was introduced by M. F. Köprülü (İA III), will be used here (linguistically, what is labeled “Ḵᵛārazm Turkish” is the direct predecessor of Classical Chaghatay, and it is better to reserve the term for Turkish spoken in Ḵᵛārazm). Comparison of certain forms and words from these three linguistic stages in Central Asia (as in Eckmann, 1957) reveals a sharply declining percentage of words inherited from Old Turkish (8th century): 67.9 percent in the time of the Qarakhanids (or Ilek Khans; 388-607/998-1211), 51.8 percent in Early Chaghatay, but only 14.3 percent in Classical Chaghatay, which may thus also be regarded as an early stage of Uzbek.
A portion of the Pazyryk carpet found in Central Asia dated to 2,500 years ago. Known as the first known Persian carpet, note the depictions of mythical (winged) lions on the bottom panels. Of interest are the “X” type symbols along the top panels. These were to become a central motif in the major standard of Partho-Sassanian Iran: the Drafsh e Kaviani or the Standard of Kaveh.
Of all the Turkic languages Chaghatay enjoyed by far the greatest prestige. Ebn Mohannā (Jamāl-al-Dīn, fl. early 8th/14th century, probably in Khorasan), for instance, characterized it as the purest of all Turkish languages (Doerfer, 1976, p. 243), and the khans of the Golden Horde (Radloff, 1870; Kurat; Bodrogligeti, 1962) and of the Crimea (Kurat), as well as the Kazan Tatars (Akhmetgaleeva; Yusupov), wrote in Chaghatay much of the time. Even Old Ottoman literature is characterized by many attempts, not always successful, to write in Chaghatay, for instance, a decree of Moḥammad II Fāteḥ (Mehmet II Fatih, 855-86/1451-81) dated 878/1473 (Arat), the “Taḵmīs” of Fożūlī (ca. 885-963/1480-1556; Fuzûlî, pp. 462-64), and the works of many lesser authors (Sertkaya, 1970-76). Chaghatay exerted a strong influence on Kipchak and Oghuz, whereas grammatical forms from these two languages occurred more rarely in Chaghatay, being limited mainly to poetry, where they were adopted in order to satisfy the constraints of the ʿarūż meters (e.g., qalmïš-am, long-short-long, instead of qalmïš-man, long-long-long).
A Suzani Robe from Ancient Bukhara, a mutli-colored style of silk embroidery from Central Asia’s Ferghana valley (Picture Source: Suzanis Blog).
János Eckmann has provided a general survey of the development of oriental Turkish (1957; for more detailed expositions, see Eckmann, 1959a; idem, 1959c; Shcherbak; Brockelmann). The best Chaghatay dictionary has been compiled by Moḥammad Mahdī Khan (d. 1160/1747); the most useful grammars are those by A. M. Shcherbak and Eckmann (1966).
Iranian linguistic influence on Chaghatay
As the cultural centers of the Turks shifted from the northeast to the southwest, Iranian influences increased proportionately. Inscriptions from the 2nd/8th century, when the center of the Old Turkish empire lay in Mongolia, contain only a few Iranian loanwords, particularly titles (Aalto; Rossi). With the blossoming of Uighur culture in Khocho in the 3rd/9th century an increasing number of Sogdian and early Persian words found their way into the Uighur dialect of Old Turkish. When Qarakhanid literature began to develop in southwestern Xinjiang (Kāšḡar and Balāsaḡūn) in the 5th/11th century and at the same time Islam spread through the area, Persian words, including borrowings from Arabic, became more common. In the 8th/14th century Ḵᵛārazm, where the Persian influence was much stronger, became a cultural center. Under the Timurids Herat (capital of Šāhroḵ, r. 807-50/1405-47), Samarkand (capital of Oloḡ Beg, r. 850-53/1447-49), and Shiraz (seat of the prince Eskandar Mīrzā, d. 827/1423-24) were the main literary centers in the first half of the 9th/15th century, and Herat remained so through the reign of Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (875-912/1470-1506). After the Timurids were succeeded in Transoxania by the Shaibanids in 906/1500 (see central asia v, vi), Bukhara, Samarkand, Ḵᵛārazm, Balḵ (Šaybānīḵān), and Farḡāna became the Chaghatay cultural centers. The Timurid Bābor founded the Mughal dynasty in 932/1526, after which Afghanistan and India also played an important role. With the formation of the Central Asian khanates in the 11th/17th century Chaghatay continued to be written only in Ḵīva and Ḵokand; in Bukhara the written language was generally Persian (cf. Eckmann, 1959b; idem, 1959c).
A number of Persian grammatical features were adopted in Chaghatay, for example, postpositions (e.g., tā “until,” ṭaraf “towards”), conjunctions (e.g., ägär “if,” ki general subordinating conjunction), eżāfa (jism i nātuvānïm “my weak body”), yā-ye ešārat (oq-ī ki yadïn čïqtï “the arrow which flew from the bow”), and yā-ye waḥdat (köprüg-ī gä yätär “he comes to a bridge”; see Brockelmann, pp. 159-60, 186-87, 196-97, 393-427; Kales, pp. 13-15; central asia xv). Beginning in the 9th/15th century a large number of Persian loanwords also came into use.
Post-Sassanian style decoration motifs common in Iranian architecture adorn this mosque archway in Bukhara; note large bird or Simurgh (Persian Phoenix – Turkic: Ertugrul), a dog reminiscent of Sassanian arts and the floral-arboreal patterns (Picture source: Natasha von Geldern in World Wandering Kiwi).
Even when Chaghatay authors deliberately set out to write in Turkish they were not able to avoid using Persian words. For example, when the vizier and poet ʿAlī- Šīr Navāʾī (844-906/1441-1501), encouraged by Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, wrote Moḥākamat al-loḡatayn in order to prove the superiority of Turkish over Persian (See Encyclopedia Iranica’s CENTRAL ASIA v. HISTORY UNDER THE MONGOLS AND TIMURIDS), he used a language that contained 62.6 percent Persian and Arabic words (sample: 122 of 195 words).
Throughout history Turkish words have also entered Persian (Doerfer, I, pp. 3-5, 37-44). In the 5th/11th century the primary source was Saljuq Turkish, in the 7th-9th/13th-15th centuries Mongolian and Chaghatay, and beginning in the 10th/16th century Azerbaijani Turkish. The Chaghatay vocabulary in Persian was, however, generally limited to macaronic verses (e.g., Qurašī, beg. 14th cent.: čandān bezī ay šāh ke gūyad tork-ī/yavlaq qarï bolmïš Münmiš tegin “live so long, o king, that a Turk may say: very old has Münmiš tegin become!” where the first part is Persian, the second Early Chaghatay; cf. Doerfer, Elemente I, p. 20); formulas in decrees (e.g., sözümiz “our word”); names of years in the duodecimal animal cycle (See calendar); and terms for hunting and animal husbandry, matters of state and administration, and warfare (e.g., in the work of the historian Mīrḵᵛānd, 836/903/1433-98, another protégé of Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā). Persian literature from Central Asia, on the contrary, contains very few Turkish elements. For instance, Navāʾī’s contemporary, the poet ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī (817-98/1414-92), still another protégé of Sultan Ḥosayn, used no Turkish words. (For Turkish influence on the Iranian languages spoken in Central Asia, especially Tajiki Persian, see central asia xv; Doerfer, Elemente; idem, 1967).
Mutual literary influences
The first important monuments of Early Chaghatay literature, from the 8th/14th century (Eckmann, 1964a; Köprülü, İA III, pp. 280-85), all exhibit strong Persian influence. Iranian influence in Central Asian Turkish literature can be traced even farther back, as can perhaps also Turkish influence in Iranian and Persian literature. Analyses of Middle Persian poetry and modern popular literature in various Iranian dialects have revealed structural similarities with Old Turkish literary patterns (Benveniste; Bertel’s, pp. 53, 74-75; Boratav, pp. 112-13; Köprülü, İA I, pp. 637-40; idem, 1986, pp. 137-41; idem, 1934, p. 219; Mann, pp. 32, 36; Massé, Croyances, p. 492; Pagliaro and Bausani, pp. 132, 527-35; Rempis; Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 49-52, 74, 92, 134, 694-97). The structure of Old Turkish poetry can be reconstructed from a comparison of the oldest Turkish literature with modern forms that have not been influenced by Persian poetry (Bang and Gabain; Birtek; Bombaci, 1969, p. 35; Boratav; Dilçin, pp. 39-58; Doerfer, 1964b, pp. 867-70; idem, forthcoming; Gandjeï, 1958b, esp. pp. 144-52; Köprülü, İA, pp. 645-48; idem, 1919, p. 7; Kowalski, esp. pp. 157-64; Radloff, 1870; Stebleva, 1965, pp. 29-37; idem, 1971a; idem, 1971c, pp. 86-87, 296-98; idem, 1971b, pp. 80-81; idem, 1970; idem, 1976; Tekin; Zhirmunskiĭ, 1965; idem, 1970, pp. 40-48, 50-52; Yesevî). Meter depended on the number of syllables (often seven or eight), rather than on stress or quantity; caesuras occurred naturally between identical structures of meaning. The strophe normally consisted of four verses, more rarely two. Rhyme was usually effected through identical grammatical endings, the end of each verse being stressed on the last syllable; suffixes were assonant. The most frequent rhyme schemes were aaab and aaba. Alliteration was only occasionally used, but both parallelism and repetition of words were common.
These patterns survived in the works of Aḥmad Yasawī (d. 562/1166) and his successors, who wrote in simple language (Bodrogligeti, 1974; Bombaci, 1969, pp. 113-14; Eckmann, 1964b, p. 365; Eraslan, p. 193; Gandjeï, 1958b, pp. 151-53; Köprülü, İA III, pp. 283, 285, 288, 311; idem, İA I, pp. 644-46; idem, 1919, pp. 102,119-21; Kowalski, p. 162; Yesevî). On the other hand, ʿarūż had been adopted by Turkish writers in its Persian form in the 5th/11th century (Köprülü, İA I; idem, 1919, p. 15; idem, 1986, pp. 134-35; Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., p. 923). The oldest Turkish example of ʿarūż is to be found in the Qutaḏgū Bilig of Yūsof Ḵāṣṣ Ḥājeb (written 462/1070), a maṯnawī in the motaqāreb meter (Bombaci, 1969, p. 110; Gandjeï, 1958b, pp. 149-50; cf. Yūsof, tr. Dankoff). Contrary to previous assumptions (Köprülü, İA I, pp. 644-46; Stebleva, 1971c, p. 287; idem, 1976, p. 158), Yūsof used it quite correctly (Tekin, 1967). Maḥmūd Kāšḡarī (d. after 476/1094), on the other hand, used the ʿarūż imperfectly, relying on the number of syllables and sometimes resorting to graphic devices (e.g., omitting letters marking long vowels) in order to simulate a perfect ʿarūż (Stebleva, 1971c). This lack of facility in the use of the ʿarūż remained typical of Turkish literature for some time afterward (Bombaci, p. 53; Eckmann, 1964b, p. 134; Gandjeï, 1958b, p. 153; Köprülü, İA III, p. 249; idem, İA I, pp. 645-46; Rustamov, p. 129; Stebleva, 1971c, p. 287; 1976, p. 158; see also Doerfer, forthcoming, b).
The question of the origin of the robāʿī (quatrain), which was popular in both Iranian and Turkish literatures, is controversial. E. E. Bertel’s (p. 88), Tadeusz Kowalski (pp. 161-63), and L. Z. Rustamov (pp. 77-81) suggested that in Iranian literature it was borrowed from Turkish folk literature. On the other hand, Alessio Bombaci (p. 54), Köprülü (İA I, p. 646; 1919, p. 15), and I. V. Stebleva (1970, pp. 137-38) have argued that in Turkish literature it was a borrowing from Iranian. Paul Horn (apud Kowalski, p. 37), Gerhard Doerfer (1964a, pp. 839-40), and V. M. Zhirmunskiĭ (1970, p. 39) have taken the view that the Iranian and Turkish forms developed independently. Finally, Köprülü (1934, pp. 115-22) argued formerly that the similarities resulted from mutual influence in ancient times. The four-line strophe has a long history in Turkish literature (Köprülü, 1919, p. 7; 1986, pp. 137-41; 1934, p. 113; Stebleva, 1970, p. 147), the earliest known examples being from Turkish songs partially quoted by the poets Abu’l-Najm Aḥmad b. Qūs Manūčehrī (d. 432/1041), Badr-al-Dīn Qawwāmī Razī (d. ca. 560/1165), and Jamāl Qurašī (fl. 7th/13th century), and a robāʿī composed by Faḵr-al-Dīn Mobārakšāh in 602/1206 (Köprülü, 1934, pp. 28-32, 113-22). In Persian literature, on the other hand, it took a highly original form (Bertel’s, p. 88).