The Tocharian (sometimes Tokharian) languages (/təˈkɛəriən/ or /təˈkɑːriən/), also known as Arśi-Kuči, Agnean-Kuchean or Kuchean-Agnean, are an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family spoken by inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, the Tocharians. The languages are known from manuscripts dating from the 5th to the 8th century AD, which were found in oasis cities on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (now part of Xinjiang in Northwest China) and the Lop Desert. The discovery of these languages in the early 20th century contradicted the formerly prevalent idea of an east–west division of the Indo-European language family as centum and satem languages, and prompted reinvigorated study of the Indo-European family. Scholars studying these manuscripts in the early 20th century identified their authors with the Tokharoi, a name used in ancient sources for people of Bactria (Tokharistan). Although this identification is now believed to be mistaken, "Tocharian" remains the usual term for these languages.
The discovered manuscripts record two closely related languages, called Tocharian A (also East Tocharian, Agnean or Turfanian) and Tocharian B (West Tocharian or Kuchean). The subject matter of the texts suggests that Tocharian A was more archaic and used as a Buddhist liturgical language, while Tocharian B was more actively spoken in the entire area from Turfan in the east to Tumshuq in the west. A body of loanwords and names found in Prakrit documents from the Lop Nor basin have been dubbed Tocharian C (Kroränian). A claimed find of ten Tocharian C texts written in Kharoṣṭhī script has been discredited.
The oldest extant manuscripts in Tocharian B are now dated to the 5th or even late 4th century AD, making it a language of Late Antiquity contemporary with Gothic, Classical Armenian, and Primitive Irish.
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^ abDiringer, David (1953) [First published 1948]. The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind (Second and revised ed.). London: Hutchinson's Scientific and Technical Publications. pp. 347–348.
^Walter, Mariko Namba (1998). "Tokharian Buddhism in Kucha: Buddhism of Indo-European Centum Speakers in Chinese Turkestan before the 10th Century C.E." (PDF). Sino-Platonic Papers. 85: 2–4.
^Adams, Douglas Q. (25 September 2019). "'Tocharian C' Again: The Plot Thickens and the Mystery Deepens". Language Log. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
^Kim, Ronald I. (2018). "One Hundred Years of Re-Reconstruction: Hittite, Tocharian, and the Continuing Revision of Proto-Indo-European". In Rieken, Elisabeth (ed.). 100 Jahre Entzifferung des Hethitischen. Morphosyntaktische Kategorien in Sprachgeschichte und Forschung. Akten der Arbeitstagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft vom 21. bis 23. September 2015 in Marburg. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag. p. 170 (footnote 44). Retrieved 13 September 2019.
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