Turkologist Afad Gurbanov’s Role in Solving Problems of General Turkic Linguistics

Afad Gurbanov, eminent linguist-Turkologist and connoisseur of the Altaic languages, was a scientist whose creative activity encompassed almost all the areas of linguistics. Turkological linguistic issues occupied a special place in his scientific activity.


It is well-known that involving the language materials of the Turkic world in any large-scale and comprehensive research is one of the most pressing problems of present-day science. The way of life, language, history of the formation and development of the ancient Turkic tribes and families and the territories inhabited by them and the reasons for their distribution on these territories and other issues have not yet been studied at the required level and in depth.


In considering all these problems, Afad Gurbanov started conducting research in this area as early as the seventies and gradually extended the boundaries of the research and used materials from all the Turkic languages. It was Professor Afad Gurbanov who first introduced the term “Turkological linguistics” into Azerbaijani linguistics.


The tireless research on the part of the selfless scientist produced the “Turkological Linguistics” monograph, “Development Periods of Turkic Personal Names”, “History of Turkic Anthroponymia”, “Bibliography of Turkological Linguistics”, “Turkic Peoples’ Naming Traditions”, “Ancient Turkic Names”, “Common Turkic Language”, and other books.


For the first time in the history of our linguistics “Turkological Linguistics” identified the role and objectives of Turkological linguistics within general Turkology, dealt with the issue of the position of the Turkic languages among world languages, reviewed the principles of the classification of world languages, provided an analysis of the classifications put forward with respect to Turkic languages in the history of linguistics, and conducted a grouping of modern Turkic languages.   In addition, the work also reviews the directions of research into modern Turkic languages and expresses an approach to the issue of the study of ancient Turkic written monuments.


The end of the book deals with such topical problems of Turkic linguistics as the need for a common Turkic literary language, the establishment of a common Turkic language center, the problem of a common Turkic dictionary, a common Turkic alphabet, and the problem of the mutual teaching of Turkic languages.


Professor Gurbanov continued working for the creation of a common Turkic alphabet and language with characteristic self-restraint, patience and belief. One of his sacred wishes was to bind more closely together an area populated by over two hundred and sixty million people speaking, reading and writing in twenty three languages by means of a unified alphabet and common language. He was one of the initiators of the development and compilers of the draft common Turkic alphabet. In 1993 the draft common Turkic language alphabet prepared with the participation of the representatives of six Turkic language states – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Turkmenia – was adopted in Ankara for more extensive discussion. The key objective of the common alphabet is to make it possible for the phonemes of each of the Turkic languages to be reflected when national alphabets are determined. The developed alphabet consisting of 34 letters is important for the reflection of the phonemes (sounds) of all the Turkic peoples.


The creation and compilation of the common Turkic alphabet consisting of 34 letters involved a great deal of work on the part of Afad Gurbanov. According to Gurbanov himself, who was one of the first and main initiators and compilers of the draft unified common Turkic alphabet: “This alphabet covers the spoken sounds of all the Turkic languages. The common Turkic language and alphabet are of special historical importance for the formation and implementation of the political, economical and cultural unity of the Turkic peoples. The common alphabet will be able to play a great role in the study and spreading awareness of the history, literature, culture, folklore and traditions of Turkic peoples.”

The draft common Turkic alphabet was endorsed following discussions held in Turkey in 1993 involving scientists representing all the Turkic peoples.


The idea of the creation of a “common language” for the Turkic had appeared again in the 1980s. This idea attracted even more attention as a contemporary extra-linguistic problem at congresses, conferences, symposia and scientific workshops held on various linguistic issues in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. The issue of a common language was the subject of more extensive discussions at the conference held in Ankara by the Turkic Language Body in 1992 and this issue was also favorably received and supported by representatives of other Turkic language nations. In 1999, Professor Gurbanov published his book entitled “A Common Turkic Literary Language” dedicated to the main problems of modern Turkological linguistics.


In addition, with his book entitled “Bases of Azerbaijani Onomatology”, Afad Gurbanov laid the scientific foundations of this area not only in Azerbaijan but also in Turkey. This book has been published in the Turkic language in Turkey under the title “Onomasigin əsasları”.


In his two-volume “General Linguistics” monograph, which for the first time in Azerbaijan is written on a national basis, Afad Gurbanov achieved another first in world linguistics by succeeding in including Turkic language materials in his work. He introduced a new section to the classification of the world languages, which is one of the problems of general linguistics, and presented a new and original classification of the family of Altaic languages. These scientific innovations were highly valued by prominent linguist scientists and Turkologists from various countries and following translation the monograph was published in three volumes in both Russia and Turkey.


Afad Gurbanov started his activity as a Turkologist and expert in the area of the Altaic languages back in the Soviet period. From 1984-1989 he was a member of the Soviet Turkologists Committee of the USSR Academy of Sciences, member of the Bureau of the Turkic Onomastics Section, the Chief of the Educational and Methodical Section, and later became the deputy chairman of the aforementioned Committee. When the committee was founded Academician A. Kononov was appointed its chairman for life, and Academician E. Teneshev was the deputy chairman. Later on E. Teneshev was appointed chairman and Afad Gurbanov became its deputy chairman. During that period of time academicians A. Kononov, E. Teneshev,  A. Sherbak and A. Gurbanov among them were accepted as well-known Turkologists in the Turkic world.


Afad Gurbanov always maintained close relations with his colleagues living in Turkic language states and devoted a great deal of effort to the joint settlement of the problems of Turkology and Turkological linguistics. His recognition and the affection in which Afad Gurbanov was held in these countries were due both to his personal and creative qualities.


As early as the Soviet period Afad Gurbanov maintained permanent relations with the Turkish Language Society, which was established by the great Ataturk in 1927 and was regarded as the most reputable scientific institution in the world in the area of Turkology and Turkological linguistics. The management of the Turkish Language Society found it necessary to consult the reputable linguist-Turcologist and consulted with him on a number of questions. Afad Gurbanov had gained this right thanks to his great intellect and the scale and value of his research.

For his services in the development of Turkological linguistics, Afad Gurbanov was invited to Ankara by Mr. Suleyman Damiral, President of the Republic of Turkey, and was the first Azerbaijani to be accepted as an honorary member of the Turkish Language Society.


Afad Gurbanov was known as a selfless defender and advocate of the common moral and cultural values of the Turkic language peoples. His services in the area of Turkological linguistics are undeniable. Turkologists know that the scientist’s research in all the areas of linguistics and especially his studies in general linguistics, Turkology and onomatology are studied, read and taught not only in our country but also beyond its boundaries.