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The Turkish language is not an Indo-European language.

It belongs to the Altay branch of the Ural-Altay linguistic family. The languages of this family are called Altaic because they are believed to have originated in the high lands around the Altay Mountains of Central Asia. More than 90 percent of all contemporary speakers of Altaic languages speak a Turkish language. The peoples of this region led a nomadic life. Turks, too, for centuries being nomads, took their language along whereever they moved. The Turkish language now stretches from the Mongolian lands and China to the present day Turkey. The far eastern border of the language now is where once the Turkish people have originated from.

The Turkish language at present is being heavily spoken in the following countries and regions: Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Ozbekistan, Turkistan, Kazakistan, Kirgizistan, Tajikistan and so on.

The language being spoken in Turkey now is accepted to be the standard Turkish and it is the descendant of Ottoman Turkish and its predecessor, so-called Old Anatolian Turkish, which was introduced into Anatolia by the Seljuk Turks in the late 11th century AD. It basically differs from that of other Turkic origin groups in dialects and accents.

In the period of the Ottomans, many loanwords penetrated into Turkish, and their influence on the present day Turkish spoken in Turkey can be easily traced. As you can find in the Ataturk section to clean Turkish from foreign words, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk made changes in the language and adopted a Latin based alphabet instead of Arabic script in 1928. Now the Turkish alphabet has 29 letters, 8 of which are vowels and 21 are consonants. The Turkish language is written phonetically which means every letter is uttered while reading.

Accordingly, the Turkish alphabet is designed for the easiest phonetic description: For instance, to describe the sound of "ch" as in "chalk", in Turkish alphabet there is the letter of "c" with a cedilla, a dot under the letter "c". The same applies for "sh" sound as in "shore". In Turkish you simply put a cedilla under the letter "s" and that new letter is one of the 29 letters of the Turkish alphabet. The reason why we do language.html - topnot put these letters right here on this section is that your browser might not support Turkish characters and you may find totally irrelevant letters if not signs instead.

Turkish characters and you may find totally irrelevant letters if not signs instead. There is one other interesting letter in Turkish and it is the so-called "the soft g". This symbol is created by adding a cedilla this time to the top of the letter "g". The reason why it is called "the soft g" is the fact that you prolong the preceding vowel when there is a "soft g", in a way softening the utterance. To give you an example and let's kill two words, (ooppss) birds with one stone here; every foreigner, at least at the beginning, find it very difficult to say "thank you" in Turkish, "tesekkur ederim". Instead, there is a more friendly and easier way, that is, by saying "sagol", and the " g" here is a "soft g" and it is described with a cedilla dot on its top. So, you read it as " saaol" by prolonging the "a " sound , making it as if it were double. "Saaol", "Thanks".

Turkish is an agglutinative language, meaning a fairly large number of affixes in Turkish may be added to the root; each affix has one meaning or grammatical function and retains its form more or less unaffected by the morphemes surrounding it. This term is traditionally used in the typological classification of languages. Turkish, Finnish, and Japanese are among the languages that form words by agglutination.To put it more simply, there are suffixes added to the stem of the words to generate new words or even sentences. Take the example " Cekoslavakyalilastiramadiklarimizdanmisiniz?." If we should translate this one word sentence ( 43 letters) into English, it means " Are you one of those that we could not have possibly turned into a Checkoslavakian?" If we should have a closer look at the suffixes forming the sentence, we can find the following:

Cekoslavakya = Checkoslavakia
li = from
las = reflexive suffix
tir = causative suffix
a = ability
ma = negation
di = past tense
k = first person plural
lar = plural
i = harmony suffix
miz = first person plural
dan = from
mi = question suffix
siniz = second person plural

One other descriptive feature of the Turkish language is the Vowel and Consonant.

Harmony: According to this principle rule front vowels (e, i, ) and back vowels (a, i, o, u) go together with one another and do not make combinations with the other category. For example; "erik" plum, and "ucak" airplane.


Since 1928, Turkish has been written in a slightly modified Latin alphabet which is very nearly phonetic. The Turkish alphabet has 8 vowels (A E I I O Ö U Ü ) and 21 consonants. The letters Q,W and X do not exist in Turkish. Most letters are pronounced pretty much as you would expect, but some are not. Once the phonetic value of all letters is known, then it is rather easy to pronounce any word one sees or to spell any word one hears.The following letters require explanation:

Aa = "a" as in "card" or "dark", never as "a" in"cat" or "back" ( kan = blood )
Cc = "J" as in "judge" ( can= life, soul, pronounced like "John" )
Çç = "ch" as in "church"( çay= tea, pronounced "chay", rhymes with "buy" )
Ee = "e" as in "bed" ( ekmek =bread )
Gg = "g" as in "get" ( gelin =bride )
g ( yumusak ge [soft g] Never appears as the first letter in a word; essentially silent; sometimes lengthens preceding vowel; sometimes pronounced like "y" in "yet" (dag =mountain, pronounced daa , rhymes with the "baa" of "baa baa black sheep"; diger =other, pronounced diyer )
li( undotted "i" ) "u" as in "radium" or "i" as in "cousin" (isik =ligth, irmak = river )
Ii( dotted "i" ) ="i" as in "sit" ( bir = one, pronounced like "beer" )
Jj = "j" as in "azure" (garaj = garage, pronounced as in French & English )
Oo = "o" as in "fold"(okul =school )
Öö German "ö" as in "König" or French "eu" as in "peur"( göl = lake, rhymes with furl)
Ss="s" as in "sing", never pronounced like a "z" as the "s" in "his"(ses = voice)
Ss="sh"as in "ship" (sey = thing, pronounced "shey" , rhymes with "hay")
Uu= "oo" as in "boot" (buz = ice, pronounced like "booze")
Üü German "ü" as in "für" or French "u" as in "tu" (gül = rose)
Zz="z" as in "zoo" (beyaz = white)

Turkish belongs to the Turkic branch of the Altaic language family.The earliest Turkic inscriptions date from the 7th century C.E. and Islamic texts written in Turkic appear in the 11th century. Turkish, the language of modern Turkey, is spoken by about 60 million people. Other important Turkic languages are Azeri (15 million speakers) and Uzbek (14 million speakers). Turkish formerly used the same alphabet as Arabic, but has been written in the Latin alphabet since 1928 as mentioned above; since 1940, Azeri and Uzbek have been written in Cyrillic but efforts are now under way to replace it with Latin.

As an Altaic language, Turkish has virtually nothing in common with English or other Indo-European languages except for some loan words, usually from French or English.

Turkish grammar is complex, but also quite regular. Its two most characteristic features are :
(1) vowel harmony (vowels within a word follow certain harmonic patterns) and (2) agglutination (addition suffixes to words.) Through this process, astoundingly long word phrases can be encountered. For example, the following means, "Maybe you are one of those whom we were not able to Turkify." Türklestiremedigimizlerdensinizdir.

Another interesting feature is that there is no gender in Turkish.The same word , "o", for example, means "he", "she" and "it".

Turks generally call each other by their given names.For example, a man whose name is Ahmet Kuran would be called Ahmet bey( bey = Mr.), and his wife whose name is Ayse Kuran would be called Ayse hanim ( hanim =Ms.). Good friends drop the "bey" and "hanim". But a letter would be addressed to Bay ve Bayan Ahmet Kuran (Mr. and Mrs...).

* Assembled by Derya Sendil
** Assembled by Richard Chambers / Chicago University

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