|Region||from Eurasian steppe into Europe|
|Extinct||after 5th century CE|
The Hunnic language, or Hunnish, was the language spoken by Huns in the Hunnic Empire, a heterogeneous, multi-ethnic tribal confederation which ruled much of Eastern Europe and invaded the West during the 4th and 5th centuries. A variety of languages were spoken within the Hun Empire. A contemporary reports that Hunnish was spoken alongside Gothic and the languages of other tribes subjugated by the Huns.
The literary records for European Hunnic consist only of a few names and three words in total, all of non-Turkic origin, leading scholars to conclude that Hunnic cannot presently be classified, and there is no firm scholarly consensus on its affinities.
A contemporary Priscus and the 6th century historian Jordanes preserved only a few names and three words of the language of the Huns, which have been studied for more than a century and a half. These sources do not give the meaning of any of the names, only of the three words.
Several vessels and other objects contain large number of Western Eurasian inscriptions in several un-deciphered and possibly related runiform scripts. Decipherment work is ongoing. Professor Azgar Mukhamediev of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan suggested that some of these inscriptions are in an unidentified Turkic language using a script he calls Turanian. The name of one of Attila's sons, Dengizich, supposedly appears as Khan Diggiz on one such vessel, thereby suggesting that the language is Hunnic.
Many of the waves of nomadic peoples who swept into Eastern Europe, such as Magyars, Mongols, Turks, and Alans, are known to have spoken languages from a variety of families. Several proposals for the affinities of Hunnic have been made.
A number of historians and linguists including Peter Heather and Karl Heinrich Menges feel that the evidence only allows the Hunnic language to be positioned in the broad group of Altaic languages.
Notable studies include that of Pritsak 1982, who studied the names of known Huns and concluded, "It was not a Turkic language, but one between Turkic and Mongolian, probably closer to the former than the latter. The language had strong ties to Old Bulgarian and to modern Chuvash, but also had some important connections, especially lexical and morphological, to Ottoman and Yakut... The Turkic situation has no validity for Hunnic, which belonged to a separate Altaic group."
Many authorities suppose that Hunnic may have been mainly Turkic, or closely related to Turkic, possibly a member of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic language family, to which Bulgar, Khazar, Turkic Avar and Chuvash also belong. All except for Chuvash are extinct and known only from very scant records. Maenchen-Helfen held that many of the tribal names among the Huns were Turkic.[dubious ] Although K. H. Menges was reserved towards the language evidence, his view of the Huns was that "there are ethnological reasons for considering them Turkic or close to the Turks."
According to Maenchen-Helfen there are three known words possibly of European Hunnic origin (medos, kamos, strava). They do not seem to be Turkic, but probably a satem Indo-European language similar to Slavic and Dacian. Maenchen-Helfen suggests that "strava" may have come from an informant who spoke Slavic. Other names were classified as Germanic and Iranian, The Gothic language was widely used, described as not being Hunnic, and learned by non-Gothic subjects of the Huns.
Attempts have been made to identify the Hunnic language as Hungarian. These have not achieved scholarly approval. The thesis that Kéẓai, who dedicated his Gesta Hungarorum to Ladislaus IV (1272–1290), preserved genuine Magyar traditions about the Huns has long been refuted. Eighty years ago Hodgkin wrote: "The Hungarian traditions no more fully illustrate the history of Attila than the Book of Mormon illustrates the history of the Jews." Hungarian legends and histories from medieval times onwards assume close ties with the Huns. The name Hunor is preserved in legends and (with a few Hunnic names, such as Attila) is used as a given name in modern Hungary and in Turkey as Atilla and Onur respectively. Some Hungarian people share the belief that the Székelys, a Hungarian ethnic group living in modern-day Transylvania, are descended from a group of Huns who remained in the Carpathian Basin after 454; this myth was recorded in the medieval Gesta Hungarorum.
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- Priscus: Byzantine History, available in the original Greek in Ludwig Dindorf : Historici Graeci Minores (Leipzig, Teubner, 1870) and available online as a translation by J.B. Bury: Priscus at the court of Attila
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- Otto Maenchen-Helfen, Language of Huns
- (German) Doerfer, Gerhard. Zur Sprache der Hunnen. Central Asiatic Journal, 17(1): 1-50.
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- Karl Heinrich Menges (1995). The Turkic Languages and Peoples: An Introduction to Turkic Studies. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 17. ISBN 978-3-447-03533-0.
- Neville Brown (2001). History and Climate Change: A Eurocentric Perspective. Taylor & Francis. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-415-01959-0. citing E.A. Thompson The Huns (revised posthumously by Peter Heather)
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- "It is assumed that the Huns also were speakers of an l- and r- type Turkic language and that their migration was responsible for the appearance of this language in the West." Johanson, Lars; Éva Agnes Csató (ed.). 1998. The Turkic languages. Routledge; Pritsak, Omeljan. 1982 "The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan." Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 6, pp. 428–476.; Dybo A.V., "Linguistic contacts of early Türks. Lexical fund: Pra-Türkic period" Moscow, 2007, p. 103, ISBN 98-5-02-036320-5 (In Russian); Dybo A.V., "Chronology of Türkic languages and linguistic contacts of early Türks", Moskow, 2007, p. 786,  (In Russian); Starostin S.A. (project "Tower of Babel"),  the database includes Sinicisms borrowed into the Pra-Türkic (i.e., present in both Pra-Türkic and Bulgar branches); Murdak O.A. "Pra-Türkic metallurgical lexicon", “Monumenta Altaica”, ; Tzvetkov P.S., "The Turks, Slavs and the Origin of the Bulgarians"//The Turks, Vol 1, pp. 562–567, Ankara, 2002, ISBN 975-6782-55-2, 975-6782-56-0; Shervashidxe I.N., "Fragment of Ancient Türkic lexicon. Titles"//Problems of Linguistics, No 3, pp. 81–91, (In Russian)
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- http://www.kroraina.com/huns/mh/mh_4.html O. Maenchen-Helfen The World of the Huns. Chapter IX. Language. 5. Iranian names
- http://www.kroraina.com/huns/mh/mh_5.html O. Maenchen-Helfen The World of the Huns. Chapter IX. Language. 4. Germanized and Germanic Names
- Priscus fr. 8 ("For the subjects of the Huns, swept together from various lands, speak, besides their own barbarous tongues, either Hunnic or Gothic, or--as many as have commercial dealings with the western Romans--Latin")
- http://www.kroraina.com/huns/mh/mh_4.html O. Maenchen-Helfen. The World of the Huns. Chapter IX. Language. 4. Germanized and Germanic Names
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- Clark, Larry. 1998. "Chuvash." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 434–452.
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- Golden, Peter B. 1998. "The Turkic peoples: A historical sketch." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 16–29.
- Heather, Peter. 1995. "The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe." English Historical Review 110.4–41.
- Johanson, Lars & Éva Agnes Csató (ed.). 1998. The Turkic languages. London: Routledge.
- Johanson, Lars. 1998. "The history of Turkic." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 81–125.
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- Krueger, John. 1961. Chuvash Manual. Bloomington: Indiana University Publications.
- Maenchen-Helfen, Otto J. 1973. The world of the Huns: Studies in their history and culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Mukhamadiev, Azgar G. 1995. "The inscription on the plate of Khan Diggiz." In: In: Problems of the lingo-ethno-history of the Tatar people. Kazan: Tatarskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, pp. 36–83. (ISBN 5-201-08300, in Russian). Translated from the Russian into English, www.turkicworld.org.
- Pritsak, Omeljan. 1982. "The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan." Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 6, pp. 428–476.
- Róna-Tas, András. 1998. "The reconstruction of Proto-Turkic and the genetic question." In: Johanson & Csató, pp. 67–80.
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- Thompson, E.A. 1948. A History of Attila and the Huns. London: Oxford University Press. Reedited by Peter Heather. 1996. The Huns. Oxford: Blackwell.
- The World of the Huns by Otto Maenchen-Helfen, University of California Press, 1973. Chapter: IX. Language