Classical Quarterly 18 (3-4):119- (1924)

Just east of the Pamir mountains, and to the north of the great plateau of Tibet, lies the little-explored country of Chinese or Eastern Turkestan. In that country, towards the end of the last century, two hitherto unknown languages were discovered by European explorers and translated by European scholars. Several nations took part in the investigation, and the material discovered was amicably distributed among English, French, German, and Russian philologists. The material to which I refer, the precious sources from which our knowledge of these languages is obtained, consists partly of engraved wooden tablets, but chiefly of documents written on a kind of paper which has been miraculously preserved in the extreme dryness of the sand for some 1,300 years—just like the eggs of the dinosaur recently discovered not so very far from this region, and which, we are told, have been there for ten million years. No such antiquity can be claimed for our documents, which are, in fact, distressingly late. Historical references contained in them seem to show that both languages existed at least as late as the seventh century A.D., when they disappeared. The most striking fact about these languages is that, though very different the one from the other, they both clearly belong to that great Indo-European family to which Greek, Latin, English, Sanskrit, Persian, and so many of the languages of Europe belong
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DOI 10.1017/s0009838800006972
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