On the Fascinating Turkish language

Merhaba!

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I’ve been learning Turkish and French for a while now, following an alternation method I’ve discussed in an earlier post.

Despite being initially neutral to the Turkish language, I’ve grown more and more fond of it. It has such interesting features and characteristics that I want to share some of those I’ve recently discovered with you.

*These are just some very basics and general facts shared to stir your interest towards this beautiful language, which is indeed very rich and I do invite you to discover more about it 🙂

Basics

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The Turkish alphabet has been reformed, and the previous Arabic alphabet has been replaced by latin letters. There are 29 letters in the Turkish alphabet and they are divided in 21 consonants and 8 vowels.

Turkish doesn’t have the letters Q, X and W but it has characters not present in the English alphabet.

They are:

Ç-ç, always pronounced as tch like in chair.

  • the Turkish C is read as J in John,
  • while the Turkish J is read as the S in leisure

Ğ-ğ, this is practically a silent letter that lengthens the sound of the vowel before it

İ-i vs I-ı , there’s a difference in Turkish between the dotted i and the one without a dot. The first one is read like the English ee, while the second has a very short sound and I hear it like a fast ‘eh’ or like the a in the French article ‘an’.

Ö-ö, like in French and German

Ş-ş, read as sh in short

Ü-ü, like in French and German.

 

The sound of Turkish is very peculiar

One of the main features of the Turkish sound is that it follows something called vowel harmony and it uses buffer letters to avoid diphthongs (two vowel next to each other).

At times, Turkish reminds me of the German language, at others of the Japanese language and sometimes of the French language due to all those umlauts! I like to think of this mix as a German guy with some Egyptian roots that was raised in France and was trying to speak Japanese 🙂

Turkish has words such as ‘oku‘, ‘iyi‘, or even “Hop, o da ne?” which look and sound very Japanese-like. And has a quite a bit of French loanwords (around 5000 according to some sources) due to the alliance between French and the Ottoman Empire since the year 1536.

Of course, at other times it sounds like Arabic, simply because a fair deal of Arabic words are used (tamam, Allah-Allah, merhaba, yani) but most often, especially when I first started to get familiar with the sounds of the language, it sounded like an endless string of shhh siz, tchhhhh yim and lar bilir ok!

Some characteristics of the Turkish grammar

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Have you ever dreamed of a perfect language to learn? One that was rational and followed its own rules? Well, I present you the Turkish language!

What a relief that all Turkish verbs are regular! ….Or almost. The only exception I know of, so far, are the to be verb and exactly 12 more verbs in the Simple Present Tense.

So, the to be verb – which interestingly enough is not a word by itself but a suffix added to a word- should be olmak, but in practice if you want to say:

‘My name is Eureka’, it would be

(Benim) adim Eureka = lit. (my) name-mine (is) Eureka

or for ‘I’m Eureka’,

Ben Eureka(‘yim) = lit. I Eureka (am)

If you want to say:

‘You are nice’

it’s : ‘Sen iyisin’, in which

sen = you

iyi = good/nice

  • -sin = suffix for the verb to be in 2nd person singular (are)

Of course Turkish has some irregular features, but I haven’t found so many of them as to cause me to panic (so far)!

Here are some more interesting features in Turkish in no particular order:

  1. Turkish is an agglutinative language, wich mean multiple suffixes can be added to the root of a word to modify or add to the meaning of the original word
  2. Turkish is a gender neuter language, the pronoun “O” is used to refer to she, he,it and that.
  3. Turkish is a flexible languages, meaning that you can switch the place of the words in a sentence and still retain the original meaning of the sentence. But it usually follows the Subject/ Object/Verb sentence structure
  4. There is just one conjugation for the verb in each tense
  5. It has different tenses for the past: one that is used to talk about something that you have witnessed or that happened with certainty and another that is used regarding events you have heard about and of which you can’t be completely sure.
  6. The infinitive of the verbs always ends in either -mek, or -mak.
  7. To form a negation -ma or -me is attached to the root of the noun before adding anything else
  8. Turkish has six cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative,locative
  9. The definitive article “the” as we know it , does not exist in Turkish, the accusative form is used to clarify that we are referring to something in the definitive form
  10. You can coniate new verbs from nouns!
  11. In Turkish there are two different ways to address people depending on the level of familiarity and/or to the degree of seniority or status they have with respect to each other, as in most latin languages.

Follow up

I look forward to writing a follow up to this post once I study more Turkish.

**Special thanks to Samed Ersay and Doğa Özakçe for the edits!

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