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Turkish language

Turkish (Türkçe IPA ) is a language spoken by over 63 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Cyprus, with smaller groups in Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Turkish is also spoken by several million immigrants in Western Europe, particularly in Germany. The roots of the language can be traced to Central Asia, with the first written records dating back nearly 1,200 years. To the west, the influence of Ottoman Turkish—the immediate precursor of today's Turkish—spread as the Ottoman Empire expanded. In 1928, as one of Atatürk's Reforms in the early years of the Republic of Turkey, the Ottoman script was replaced with a phonetic variant of the Latin alphabet. Concurrently, the newly-founded Turkish Language Association initiated a drive to reform the language by removing Persian and Arabic loanwords in favor of native variants and coinages from Turkic roots.

The distinctive characteristics of Turkish are vowel harmony and extensive agglutination. The basic word order of Turkish is Subject Object Verb. Turkish has a T-V distinction: second-person plural forms can be used for individuals as a sign of respect. Turkish also has no noun classes or grammatical gender.

Classification

Turkish is a member of the Turkish, or Western, subgroup of the Oghuz languages, which includes Gagauz and Azeri. The Oghuz languages form the Southwestern subgroup of the Turkic languages, a language family comprising some 30 living languages spoken across Eastern Europe, Central Asia. and Siberia. Some linguists believe the Turkic languages to be a part of a larger Altaic language family. About 40% of Turkic language speakers are Turkish speakers. The characteristic features of Turkish, such as vowel harmony, agglutination, and lack of grammatical gender, are universal within the Turkic family and the Altaic languages. There is a high degree of mutual intelligibility between Turkish and the other Oghuz languages, including Azeri, Turkmen, Qashqai, Gagauz, and Balkan Gagauz Turkish.

History

The earliest known Turkic inscriptions reside in modern Mongolia. The Bugut inscriptions written in the Sogdian alphabet during the First Göktürk Khanate are dated to the second half of the 6th century. The two monumental Orkhon inscriptions, erected in honour of the prince Kul Tigin and his brother Emperor Bilge Khan and dating back to some time between 732 and 735, constitute another important early record. After the discovery and excavation of these monuments and associated stone slabs by Russian archaeologists in the wider area surrounding the Orkhon Valley between 1889 and 1893, it became established that the language on the inscriptions was the Old Turkic language written using the Orkhon script, which has also been referred to as "Turkic runes" or "runiform" due to an external similarity to the Germanic runic alphabets.

Old Turkic (Göktürkçe/Köktürkçe)
Türk Oğuz beğleri, budun, eşidin; üze Kök Tengri basmasar, asra yir telinmeser, Türk budun, ilinin, törünün kim artatı(r)?
Modern Turkish
Türk Oğuz beyleri, ulus, işitin; üzeride Gök Tanrı basmasa, altta yer delinmese, Türk ulusu, ülkeni, töreni kim atar?

With the Turkic expansion during Early Middle Ages (c. 6th–11th centuries), peoples speaking Turkic languages spread across Central Asia, covering a vast geographical region stretching from Siberia to Europe and the Mediterranean. The Seljuqs of the Oghuz Turks, in particular, brought their language, Oghuz Turkic—the direct ancestor of today's Turkish language—into Anatolia during the 11th century. Also during the 11th century, an early linguist of the Turkic languages, Kaşgarlı Mahmud from the Kara-Khanid Khanate, published the first comprehensive Turkic language dictionary and map of the geographical distribution of Turkic speakers in the Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (Ottoman Turkish: Divânü Lügati't-Türk).

Ottoman Turkish

Following the adoption of Islam c. 950 by the Kara-Khanid Khanate and the Seljuq Turks, who are both regarded as the cultural ancestors of the Ottomans, the administrative language of these states acquired a large collection of loanwords from Arabic and Persian. Turkish literature during the Ottoman period, particularly Ottoman Divan poetry, was heavily influenced by Persian, including the adoption of poetic meters and a great quantity of imported words. The literary and official language during the Ottoman Empire (c. 1299–1922) was a mixture of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic that differed considerably from the period's everyday spoken Turkish and is termed Ottoman Turkish.

Language reform and modern Turkish

After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey and the script reform, the Turkish Language Association (TDK) was established in 1932 under the patronage of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, with the aim of conducting research on Turkish. One of the tasks of the newly-established association was to initiate a language reform to replace loanwords of Arabic and Persian origin with Turkish equivalents. By banning the usage of imported words in the press, the association succeeded in removing several hundred foreign words from the language. While most of the words introduced to the language by the TDK were newly derived from Turkic roots, it also opted for reviving Old Turkish words which had not been used for centuries.

Due to this sudden change in the language, older and younger people in Turkey started to differ in their vocabularies. While the generations born before the 1940s tend to use the older terms of Arabic or Persian origin, the younger generations favor new expressions. It is particularly ironic that Atatürk himself, in his lengthy speech to the new Parliament in 1927, used a style of Ottoman diction which today sounds so alien that it has had to be "translated" three times into modern Turkish: first in 1963, again in 1986, and most recently in 1995. There is also a political dimension to the language debate, with conservative groups tending to use more archaic words in the press or everyday language.

The past few decades have seen the continuing work of the TDK to coin new Turkish words to express new concepts and technologies as they enter the language, mostly from English. Many of these new words, particularly information technology terms, have received widespread acceptance. However, the TDK is occasionally criticized for coining words which sound contrived and artificial. Some earlier changes—such as bölem to replace fırka, "political party"—also failed to meet with popular approval (in fact, fırka has been replaced by the French loanword parti). Some words restored from Old Turkic have taken on specialized meanings; for example betik (originally meaning "book") is now used to mean "script" in computer science.

Many of the words derived by TDK coexist with their older counterparts. This usually happens when a loanword changes its original meaning. For instance, dert, derived from the Persian dard (درد "pain"), means "problem" or "trouble" in Turkish; whereas the native Turkish word ağrı is used for physical pain. Sometimes the loanword has a slightly different meaning from the native Turkish word, giving rise to a situation similar to the coexistence of Germanic and Romance words in English (see List of Germanic and Latinate equivalents). Among some of the old words that were replaced are terms in geometry, cardinal directions, some months' names, and many nouns and adjectives. Some examples of modern Turkish words and the old loanwords are:

Ottoman Turkish Modern Turkish English translation Comments
müselles üçgen triangle Compound of the noun üç ("three") and the very old Turkic noun gen ("tension", "side")
tayyare uçak airplane Derived from the verb uçmak ("to fly"). The word was first proposed to mean "airport".
nispet oran ratio The old word is still used in the language today together with the new one. Modern word is from Old Turkic verb or- (to cut).
şimal kuzey north Derived from the Old Turkic noun kuz ("cold and dark place", "shadow"). The word is restored from Middle Turkic usage.
teşrinievvel ekim October The noun ekim means "the action of planting", referring to the planting of cereal seeds in autumn, which is widespread in Turkey

Geographic distribution

Turkish is natively spoken by the Turkish people in Turkey and by the Turkish diaspora in some 30 other countries. In particular, Turkish-speaking minorities exist in countries that formerly (in whole or part) belonged to the Ottoman Empire, such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece (primarily in Western Thrace), the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia. More than two million Turkish speakers live in Germany, and there are significant Turkish-speaking communities in France, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Due to the cultural assimilation of Turkish immigrants in host countries, not all ethnic Turkish immigrants speak the language with native fluency.

The number of native speakers in Turkey is about 60 million, corresponding to about 90 percent of the population. There are roughly another 10 million native speakers worldwide. Turkish is spoken as a first or second language by almost all of Turkey's residents, with Kurdish making up most of the remainder (about 3,950,000 as estimated in 1980). However, even most linguistic minorities in Turkey are bilingual, speaking Turkish as a second language to levels of native fluency.

Official status

Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is one of the official languages of Cyprus. It also has official (but not primary) status in the Prizren District of Kosovo and several municipalities of the Republic of Macedonia, depending on the concentration of Turkish-speaking local population.

In Turkey, the regulatory body for Turkish is the Turkish Language Association (Türk Dil Kurumu or TDK), which was founded in 1932 under the name Türk Dili Tetkik Cemiyeti ("Society for Research on the Turkish Language"). The Turkish Language Association was influenced by the ideology of linguistic purism: indeed one of its primary tasks was the replacement of loanwords and foreign grammatical constructions with equivalents of Turkish origin. These changes, together with the adoption of the new Turkish alphabet in 1928, shaped the modern Turkish language spoken today. TDK became an independent body in 1951, with the lifting of the requirement that it should be presided over by the Minister of Education. This status continued until August 1983, when it was again made into a governmental body in the constitution of 1982, following the military coup d'état of 1980.

Dialects

Istanbul Turkish is established as the official standard language of Turkey. Dialectal variation persists, in spite of the levelling influence of the standard used in mass media and the Turkish education system since the 1930s. Academically, researchers from Turkey often refer to Turkish dialects as ağız or şive, leading to an ambiguity with the linguistic concept of accent, which is also covered with these same words. Projects investigating Turkish dialects are being carried out by several universities, as well as a dedicated work group of the Turkish Language Association. Work is currently in progress for the compilation and publication of their research as a comprehensive dialect atlas of the Turkish language.

The standard dialect of the Turkish language is İstanbul. Rumelice is spoken by immigrants from Rumelia, and includes the distinct dialects of Deliorman, Dinler, and Adakale, which are influenced by the theoretized Balkan linguistic union. Kıbrıs is the name for Cypriot Turkish and is spoken by the Turkish Cypriots. Edirne is the dialect of Edirne. Ege is spoken in the Aegean region, with its usage extending to Antalya. The nomadic Yörük tribes of the Mediterranean Region of Turkey also have their own dialect of Turkish. This group is not to be confused with the Yuruk nomads of Macedonia, Greece, and European Turkey who speak Balkan Gagauz Turkish.

Güneydoğu is spoken in the southeast, to the east of Mersin. Doğu, a dialect in Eastern Anatolia, has a dialect continuum with Azeri, particularly with Karapapak dialects in some areas. The Central Anatolia region speaks Orta Anadolu. Karadeniz, spoken in the Eastern Black Sea Region and represented primarily by the Trabzon dialect, exhibits substratum influence from Greek in phonology and syntax. Kastamonu is spoken in Kastamonu and its surrounding areas. The Hemşinli dialect, known as Hemşince, is spoken by the eastern group of Hamshenis around Artvin, influenced by Armenian. Karamanlıca is spoken in Greece, where it is also named Kαραμανλήδικα (Karamanlidika). It is the literary standard for Karamanlides.

Sounds

Consonants

Consonant phonemes of Standard Turkish
Bilabial Labio-
dental
Dental Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosives p b c ɟ k ɡ
Nasal m n
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ ɣ h
Affricate
Tap ɾ
Approximant j
Lateral ɫ l

The phoneme /ɣ/, usually referred to as yumuşak g ("soft g"), ğ in Turkish orthography, actually represents a rather weak front-velar or palatal approximant between front vowels. It never occurs at the beginning of a word, but always follows a vowel. When word-final or preceding another consonant, it lengthens the preceding vowel.

In native Turkic words, the sounds /c/, /ɟ/, and /l/ are in complementary distribution with /k/, /g/, and /ɫ/; the former set occurs adjacent to front vowels and the latter adjacent to back vowels. The distribution of these phonemes is often unpredictable, however, in foreign borrowings and proper nouns. In such words, /c/, /ɟ/, and /l/ often occur with back vowels: some examples are given below.

When a vowel is added to many nouns ending with postvocalic , the becomes <ğ> by consonant alternation. A similar alternation applies to certain loan-words ending in

and , which become and , respectively, with the addition of a vowel. This is because the final //ɡ//, //d//, and //b// consonants of these words lose their voicing when not followed by a vowel.

Vowels

IPA chart for Turkish vowels
The vowels of the Turkish language are, in their alphabetical order, a, e, ı, i, o, ö, u, and ü. Undotted <ı> is the close back unrounded vowel [ɯ]. There are no diphthongs in Turkish; when two vowels come together, which occurs rarely and only with loanwords, each vowel retains its individual sound. However, a slight diphthong can occur when two vowels surround a yumuşak g. For example, the word soğuk ("cold") can be pronounced /soʊk/ (resembling the English soak) by some speakers.

Vowel harmony

The Turkish vowel system can be considered as being two-dimensional, where vowels are characterised by two features: front/back and rounded/unrounded. Vowel harmony is the principle by which a native Turkish word incorporates either exclusively back vowels (a, ı, o, and u) or exclusively front vowels (e, i, ö, and ü). The pattern of vowels is shown in the table below.

Turkish vowels
Front Back
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
High i ü ı u
Low e ö a o

Grammatical affixes have "a chameleon-like quality", and obey one of the following patterns of vowel harmony:

  • twofold (-e/-a): the locative suffix, for example, is -de after front vowels and -da after back vowels. The notation -de² is a convenient shorthand for this pattern.
  • fourfold (-i/-ı/-ü/-u): the genitive suffix, for example, is -in or -ın after unrounded vowels (front or back respectively); and -ün or -un after the corresponding rounded vowels. In this case, the shorthand notation -in4 is used.

The following examples, based on the copula -dir4 ("[it] is"), illustrate the principles of vowel harmony in practice: Türkiye'dir ("it is Turkey"), kapıdır ("it is the door"), bu gündür ("it is the day"), paltodur ("it is the coat").

There are some exceptions to the rules of vowel harmony. In compound words, the vowels need not harmonize between the constituent words of the compound. Forms like bu+gün ("today") or baş+kent ("capital") are permissible. In addition, vowel harmony does not apply in loanwords and some invariant affixes, such as -yor (present tense) and -bil- (potential). Some loanwords do, however, exhibit partial or even complete vowel harmony (e.g. mümkün "possible" < Arabic mumkin; and dürbün "binoculars" < Persian dūrbīn). There are also a few native Turkish words that do not follow the rule, such as anne ("mother"). In such words, suffixes harmonize with the final vowel: thus annedir ("she is a mother"). Many loanwords from Arabic and French, however, take front-vowel suffixes after final back vowels: for example halsiz < hal + -siz4 "listless", meçhuldür < meçhul + -dir4 "it is unknown", harfler < harf + -ler² "(alphabetical) letters" (instead of the expected *halsız, *meçhuldur and *harflar).

The road sign in the photograph above illustrates several of these features:

  • a native compound which does not obey vowel harmony: Orta+köy ("middle village"—a place name)
  • a loanword also violating vowel harmony: viyadük ("viaduct" < French viaduc)
  • the possessive suffix -i4 harmonizing with the final vowel (and softening the k by consonant alternation): viyadüğü

Stress

Stress is usually on the last syllable. Exceptions include some suffix combinations and loanwords, particularly from Italian and Greek, as well as many proper names. While such loanwords are usually stressed on the penultimate syllable ([ɫoˈkanta] lokanta "restaurant" or [isˈcele] iskele "quay"), the stress of proper names is less predictable ([isˈtanbuɫ] İstanbul, [ˈaŋkaɾa] Ankara).

Grammar

Turkish is an agglutinative language and frequently uses affixes, and specifically suffixes, or endings. One word can have many affixes and these can also be used to create new words, such as creating a verb from a noun, or a noun from a verbal root (see the section on Word formation). Most affixes indicate the grammatical function of the word. The only native prefixes are alliterative intensifying syllables used with adjectives or adverbs: for example sımsıcak ("boiling hot" < sıcak) and masmavi ("bright blue" < mavi).

The extensive use of affixes can give rise to long words. It is jokingly said that the longest Turkish word is Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız, meaning "You are said to be one of those that we couldn't manage to convert to a Czechoslovak". This example is of course contrived; but long words do frequently occur in normal Turkish, as in this heading of a newspaper obituary column: Bayramlaşamadıklarımız (Bayram [festival]-Recipr-Impot-Partic-Plur-PossPl1; "Those of our number with whom we cannot exchange the season's greetings").

Nouns

There is no definite article in Turkish, but definiteness of the object is implied when the accusative ending is used (see below). Turkish nouns decline by taking case-endings, as in Latin. There are six noun cases in Turkish, with all the endings following vowel harmony (shown in the table using the shorthand superscript notation. The plural marker -ler² immediately follows the noun before any case or other affixes (e.g. köylerin "of the villages").

Case Ending Examples Meaning
köy "village" ağaç "tree"
Nominative Ø (none) köy ağaç (the) village/tree
Genitive -in4 köyün ağacın the village's/tree's
of the village/tree
Dative -e² köye ağaca to the village/tree
Accusative -i4 köyü ağacı the village/tree
Ablative -den² köyden ağaçtan from the village/tree
Locative -de² köyde ağaçta in the village/on the tree

The accusative case marker is used only for definite objects; compare ağaç gördük "we saw a tree" with ağacı gördük "we saw the tree". The plural marker -ler² is not used when a class or category is meant: ağaç gördük can equally well mean "we saw trees [as we walked through the forest]"—as opposed to ağaçları gördük "we saw the trees [in question]".

The declension of ağaç illustrates two important features of Turkish phonology: consonant assimilation in suffixes (ağaçtan, ağaçta) and voicing of final consonants before vowels (ağacın, ağaca, ağacı).

Additionally, nouns can take suffixes that assign person: for example -imiz4, "our". With the addition of the copula (for example -im4, "I am") complete sentences can be formed. The interrogative particle mi4 immediately follows the word being questioned: köye mi? "[going] to the village?", ağaç mı? "[is it a] tree?".

Turkish English
ev (the) house
evler (the) houses
evin your house
eviniz your (pl./formal) house
evim my house
evimde at my house
evlerinizin of your houses
evlerinizden from your houses
evlerinizdendi (he/she/it) was from your houses
evlerinizdenmiş (he/she/it) was (apperently/said to be) from your houses
Evinizdeyim. I am at your house.
Evinizdeymişim. I was (apperantly) at your house.
Evinizde miyim? Am I at your house?

The Turkish personal pronouns in the nominative case are ben (1s), sen (2s), o (3s), biz (1pl), siz (2pl, or formal/polite 2s), and onlar (3pl). They are declined regularly with some exceptions: benim (1s gen.); bizim (1pl gen.); bana (1s dat.); sana (2s dat.); and the oblique forms of o use the root on. All other pronouns (reflexive kendi and so on) are declined regularly.

Linking nouns (Tamlama)

Two nouns, or groups of nouns, may be joined in either of two ways:

  • definite (possessive) compound (belirtili tamlama). Eg Türkiye'nin sesi "the voice of Turkey (radio station)": the voice belonging to Turkey. Here the relationship is shown by the genitive ending -in4 added to the first noun; the second noun has the third-person suffix -(s)i4.
  • indefinite (qualifying) compound (belirtisiz tamlama). Eg Türkiye Cumhuriyeti "Turkey-Republic = the Republic of Turkey": not the republic belonging to Turkey, but the Republic that is Turkey. Here the first noun has no ending; but the second noun has the ending -(s)i4—the same as in definite compounds.

The following table illustrates these principles. In some cases the constituents of the compounds are themselves compounds: these subsidiary compounds are marked with [square brackets].

Linked nouns and noun groups
Definite (possessive) Indefinite (qualifier) Complement Meaning
kimsenin yanıtı nobody's answer
kimse yanıtı the answer "nobody"
Atatürk'ün evi Atatürk's house
Atatürk Bulvarı Atatürk Boulevard (named after, not belonging to, Atatürk)
Orhan'ın adı Orhan's name
Orhan adı the name "Orhan"
R sessizi the consonant r
[R sessizi]nin söylenişi pronunciation of the consonant r
Türk [Dil Kurumu] Turkish language-society
[Türk Dili] Dergisi Turkish-language review
Ford [aile arabası] Ford family car
Ford'un [aile arabası] (Mr) Ford's family car
[Ford ailesi]nin arabası the Ford family's car
Ankara [Kız Lisesi] Ankara Girls' School
[yıl sonu] sınavları year-end examinations
Bulgaristan'ın [İstanbul Başkonsolosluğu] the Istanbul Consulate-General of Bulgaria (located in Istanbul, but belonging to Bulgaria)
[[İstanbul Üniversitesi] [Edebiyat Fakültesi] ] [[Türk Edebiyatı] Profesörü] Professor of Turkish Literature in the Faculty of Literature of the University of Istanbul
ne oldum delisi "what-have-I-become! madman = parvenu who gives himself airs

As the last example shows, the qualifying expression may be a substantival sentence rather than a noun or noun group.

Adjectives

Turkish adjectives are not declined. However most adjectives can also be used as nouns, in which case they are declined: e.g. güzel ("beautiful") → güzeller ("(the) beautiful ones / people"). Used attributively, adjectives precede the nouns they modify. The adjectives var ("existent") and yok ("non-existent") are used in many cases where English would use "there is" or "have", e.g. süt yok ("there is no milk", lit. "(the) milk (is) non-existent"); the construction "noun 1-GEN noun 2-POSS var/yok" can be translated "noun 1 has/doesn't have noun 2"; imparatorun elbisesi yok "the emperor has no clothes" ("(the) emperor-of clothes-his non-existent"); kedimin ayakkabıları yoktu ("my cat had no shoes", lit. "cat-my-of shoe-plur.-its non-existent-past tense").

Verbs

Turkish verbs indicate person. They can be made negative, potential ("can"), or impotential ("cannot"). Furthermore, Turkish verbs show tense (present, past, inferential, future, and aorist), mood (conditional, imperative, necessitative, and optative), and aspect. Negation is expressed by the infix -me²- immediately following the stem.

Turkish English
gel- (to) come
gelebil- (to) be able to come
gelme- not (to) come
geleme- (to) be unable to come
gelememiş Apparently (s)he couldn't come
gelebilecek (s)he'll be able to come
gelebilirsen if you(sing.) can come
gelinir (passive) one comes, people come
gelebilmeliydin you(sing.) should be able to come
gelebilseydin if you(sing.) could come
gelmeliydin you(sing.) should have come
geleceğimizi (obj.) ...that we'll come
gelmeyeceğimizi (obj.) ...that we won't come
gelemeyeceğimizi (obj.) ...that we won't be able to come

All Turkish verbs are conjugated in the same way, except for the irregular and defective verb i-, the Turkish copula, which can be used in compound forms (the shortened form is called an enclitic): Gelememişti = Gelememiş idi = Gelememiş + i- + -di.

Participles

Turkish has several participles, including present (with the ending -en²), future (-ecek²), indirect/inferential past (-miş4), and aorist (-er² or -ir4). These forms can function as either adjectives or nouns: oynamayan çocuklar "children who do not play", oynamayanlar "those who do not play"; okur yazar "reader-writer = literate", okur yazarlar "literates".

The most important function of participles is to form modifying phrases equivalent to the relative clauses found in most European languages. The participles used in these constructions are the future (-ecek²) and an older form (-dik4), which covers both present and past meanings. The use of these "personal" or "relative" participles is illustrated in the following table, in which the examples are presented according to the grammatical case which would be seen in the equivalent English relative clause.

English equivalent Example Translation
Case of relative pronoun Pronoun Literal Idiomatic
Nominative who, which/that şimdi konuşan adam "now speaking man" the man (who is) now speaking
Genitive whose (nom.) babası şimdi konuşan adam "father-his now speaking man" the man whose father is now speaking
whose (acc.) babasını dün gördüğüm adam "father-his-ACC yesterday seen-my man" the man whose father I saw yesterday
at whose resimlerine baktığımız ressam "pictures-his-to looked-our artist" the artist whose pictures we looked at
of which muhtarı seçildiği köy "mayor-its been-chosen-his village" the village of which he was elected mayor
of which muhtarı seçilmek istediği köy "mayor-its to-be-chosen wishing-his village" the village of which he wishes to be elected mayor
Remaining cases (incl. prepositions) whom, which yazdığım mektup "written-my letter" the letter (which) I wrote
from which çıktığımız kapı "emerged-our door" the door from which we emerged
on which geldikleri vapur "come-their ship" the ship they came on
which + subordinate clause yaklaştığını anladığı hapishane günleri "approach-their-ACC understood-his prison days-its" the prison days (which) he knew were approaching

Word order

Word order in simple Turkish sentences is generally Subject Object Verb, as in Korean and Latin, but unlike English. In more complex sentences, the basic rule is that the qualifier precedes the qualified: this principle includes, as an important special case, the participial modifiers discussed above. The definite precedes the indefinite: thus çocuğa hikâyeyi anlattı "she told the child the story", but hikâyeyi bir çocuğa anlattı "she told the story to a child".

It is possible to alter the word order to stress the importance of a certain word or phrase. The main rule is that the word before the verb has the stress without exception. For example, if one wants to say "Hakan went to school" with a stress on the word "school" (okul, the indirect object) it would be "Hakan okula gitti". If the stress is to be placed on "Hakan" (the subject), it would be "Okula Hakan gitti" which means "it's Hakan who went to school".

Vocabulary

The 2005 edition of Güncel Türkçe Sözlük, the official dictionary of the Turkish language published by Turkish Language Association, contains 104,481 entries, of which about 14% are of foreign origin. Among the most significant foreign contributors to Turkish vocabulary are Arabic, French, Persian, Italian, English, and Greek.

Word formation

Turkish extensively uses agglutination to form new words from nouns and verbal stems. The majority of Turkish words originate from the application of derivative suffixes to a relatively small set of core vocabulary.

An example set of words derived from a substantive root:

Turkish Components English Word class
göz göz eye Noun
gözlük göz + -lük eyeglasses Noun
gözlükçü göz + -lük + -çü optician Noun
gözlükçülük göz + -lük + -çü + -lük optician's trade Noun
gözlem göz + -lem observation Noun
gözlemci göz + -lem + -ci observer Noun
gözle göz + -le observe Verb (order)
gözlemek göz + -le + -mek to observe Verb (infinitive)

Another example, starting from a verbal root:

Turkish Components English Word class
yat- yat- lie down Verb (order)
yatmak yat-mak to lie down Verb (infinitive)
yatık yat- + -(ı)k leaning Adjective
yatak yat- + -ak bed, place to sleep Noun
yatay yat- + -ay horizontal Adjective
yatkın yat- + -gın inclined to; stale (from lying too long) Adjective
yatır- yat- + -(ı)r- lay down Verb (order)
yatırmak yat- + -(ı)r-mak to lay down Verb (infinitive)
yatırım yat- + -(ı)r- + -(ı)m laying down; deposit, investment Noun
yatırımcı yat- + -(ı)r- + -(ı)m + -cı depositor, investor Noun

New words are also frequently formed by compounding two existing words into a new one, as in German. A few examples of compound words are given below:

Turkish English Constituent words Literal meaning
pazartesi Monday pazar ("Sunday") and ertesi ("after") after Sunday
bilgisayar computer bilgi ("information") and say- ("to count") information counter
gökdelen skyscraper gök ("sky") and del- ("to pierce") sky piercer
başparmak thumb baş ("prime") and parmak ("finger") primary finger
önyargı prejudice ön ("before") and yargı ("splitting; judgement") fore-judging

Writing system

Turkish is written using a modified version of the Latin alphabet introduced in 1928 by Atatürk to replace the Arabic-based Ottoman Turkish alphabet. The Ottoman alphabet marked only three different vowels—long ā, ū and ī—and included several redundant consonants, such as variants of z (which were distinguished in Arabic but not in Turkish). The omission of short vowels in the Arabic script was claimed to make it particularly unsuitable for Turkish, which has eight vowels.

The reform of the script was an important step in the cultural reforms of the period. The task of preparing the new alphabet and selecting the necessary modifications for sounds specific to Turkish was entrusted to a Language Commission composed of prominent linguists, academics, and writers. The introduction of the new Turkish alphabet was supported by public education centers opened throughout the country, cooperation with publishing companies, and encouragement by Atatürk himself, who toured the country teaching the new letters to the public. As a result, there was a dramatic increase in literacy from its original Third World levels.

Latin was applied to the Turkish language for educational purposes even before the 20th century reform. Instances include a 1635 Latin-Albanian dictionary by Frang Bardhi, who also incorporated several sayings in the Turkish language, as an appendix to his work (e.g. alma agatsdan irak duschamas – 'An apple does not fall far from its tree').

Turkish now has an alphabet suited to the sounds of the language: the spelling is largely phonetic, with one letter corresponding to each phoneme. Most of the letters are used approximately as in English, the main exceptions being , which denotes [dʒ] ( being used for the [ʒ] found in Persian and European loans); and the undotted <ı>, representing [ɯ]. As in German, <ö> and <ü> represent [œ] and [y]. The letter <ğ>, in principle, denotes [ɣ] but has the property of lengthening the preceding vowel and assimilating any subsequent vowel. The letters <ş> and <ç> represent [ʃ] and [tʃ], respectively. A circumflex is written over back vowels following , , or when these consonants represent [c], [ɟ], and [l]—almost exclusively in Arabic and Persian loans. An apostrophe is used to separate proper nouns from any suffixes: eg İstanbul'da 'in Istanbul'.

The specifically Turkish letters and spellings described above are illustrated in this table:

Turkish spelling Pronunciation Meaning
Cağaloğlu ˈdʒaːɫoːɫu [İstanbul district]
çalıştığı tʃaɫɯʃtɯˈɣɯ where/that s/he works/worked
müjde myʒˈde good news
lazım laˈzɯm necessary
mahkûm mahˈcum condemned

Sample

Dostlar Beni Hatırlasın by Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu (1894–1973), a minstrel and highly regarded poet in the Turkish folk literature tradition.

Orthography IPA Translation
Ben giderim adım kalır After I pass, my name remains
Dostlar beni hatırlasın May the friends remember me
Düğün olur bayram gelir Weddings happen, holidays come
Dostlar beni hatırlasın May the friends remember me

Can kafeste durmaz uçar Soul flies from the cage
Dünya bir han konan göçer World is an inn, settlers depart
Ay dolanır yıllar geçer The moon wanders, years go by
Dostlar beni hatırlasın May the friends remember me

Can bedenden ayrılacak Body will be deprived of life
Tütmez baca yanmaz ocak Hearth won't burn, smoke won't rise
Selam olsun kucak kucak By armfuls, salutes I pass
Dostlar beni hatırlasın May the friends remember me

Açar solar türlü çiçek Many blooms thrive and fade
Kimler gülmüş kim gülecek Who had laughed, who'll be glad
Murat yalan ölüm gerçek Desire's lie, real is death
Dostlar beni hatırlasın May the friends remember me

Gün ikindi akşam olur Into evening will turn the days
Gör ki başa neler gelir Behold what soon will take place
Veysel gider adı kalır Veysel departs, his name remains
Dostlar beni hatırlasın May the friends remember me

See also

Notes

Details of the sources cited only by the author's name are given in full in the References section.

References

Printed sources

On-line sources

Further reading

  • Eyüboğlu, İsmet Zeki (1991). Türk Dilinin Etimoloji Sözlüğü (Etymological Dictionary of the Turkish Language). Sosyal Yayınları, İstanbul.
  • Özel, Sevgi; Haldun Özen and Ali Püsküllüoğlu (eds.) (1986). Atatürk'ün Türk Dil Kurumu ve Sonrası (Atatürk's Turkish Language Association and its Legacy). Bilgi Yayınevi, Ankara.
  • Püsküllüoğlu, Ali (2004). Arkadaş Türkçe Sözlük (Arkadaş Turkish Dictionary). Arkadaş Yayınevi, Ankara.

External links

Linguistics

Learning resources

Turkish editions of Wikimedia projects

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