Karakhanid: An extinct language of Central Asia

The Karakhanid language became extinct by the 1950s. There are no native speakers of the language that are currently alive. What is known of the language and culture of the people was reconstructed from written records and coins that were used by the Karakhanids. The Karakhanids ruled the Turkic dynasty known as the Kar-Karakhanid- Khanate in Central Asia between 999 and 1211. The dynasty comprised a number of tribes. This included the Uzgen, Kashgar, Samarkand, Balasagun and other tribes. There are some universities that offer courses in the study of the Karakhanids and Turkish languages. This includes the Marmar University. The main objective of the course is to help graduates understand more about the Kar-Karakhanid- Khanate and be able to teach about in other educational institutions.

Other alternate names of the language are Khakanid , Karakhanid Turkish, Khaqanid , Qarlu, Middle Turkic and Karakhanid Turkic. The name of the language can also be spelled as Ilek Khanid or Qarakhanid. The name Karakhanid originated from the phrase Qara Khaqan or Qara Khan, which were the titles of the rulers. The meaning of the word Qara is black. According to Islamic written records, this dynasty was referred to as Al-Khaqaniya while the Persians referred to it as the Al-i Afrasiya.

The Karakhanid’s left one of the most well known legacies of Central Asia. The Karakhanids combined both the Islamic culture with the Turkic culture. The Islamic culture flourished under the rule of the Karakhanid’s. They put up madras, hospitals and constructed buildings, some of which exist up to today, for example, the Kalyan Minaret, which stands besides the main mosque in Bukhara. During their rule, the Karakhanid’s also caused a linguistic shift of the people they ruled. Most of the local population adopted Turkic languages. This became the main languages that were used for official business. A prominent Karakhanid historian, Mahmud al Kashgari, came up with the first comprehensive dictionary of the Turkic languages. This was written in Arabic. Yusuf Balasaghuni, wrote The Wisdom of Felicity, which is the only known literature from the Karakhanid era.

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