Uralic and Altaic languages
Two important features that characterize the Ural-Altaic languages, with few exceptions, are agglutination and vowel harmony. These two points of similarity have led a number of authorities to accept Ural-Altaic unity. In an agglutinative language, different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are often joined to form one word. In these languages multiple suffixes are added to a root while prefixes are almost totally lacking. Vowel harmony refers to the agreement between the vowels in the root of a word and the vowels in the word's suffix or suffixes. Such agreement is illustrated in the Turkish words ev [house] and evde [at the house]; masa [table] and masada [at the table]. Thus, most suffixes have a double form, one with a front vowel (e.g., e, i, ö, ü) to correspond to a root with a front vowel, and one with a back vowel (e.g., a, ı, o, u) to match a root with a back vowel. Grammatical gender (with its distinctions of masculine, feminine, and neuter) is generally lacking in the Ural-Altaic languages. Stress varies in the different tongues. The Ural-Altaic languages also have a small common vocabulary consisting of basic words, among them some personal pronouns, some words indicating kinship (e.g., mother, father), and some words that denote plants and animals, name occupations, and the like. This rudimentary vocabulary is common to all the tongues and is considered by some to be additional evidence for Ural-Altaic unity. At the same time, speakers of the Ural-Altaic languages also borrowed words from the various tongues of other peoples with whom they came in contact.
See N. Poppe, Introduction to Altaic Linguistics (1965); B. Collinder, Survey of the Uralic Languages (2d ed. 1969).
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