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Turkish is an agglutinative language.
Spoken by more than 95% of the population of Turkey. Turkish is a language is classified as agglutinative when complex phrases are formed by adding prefixes and suffixes instead of adding different words. Turkish is a prime example of an agglutinative language. For example, the word evlerinizden means “from your houses”, and consists of four individual parts: ev (house), ler (plural), iniz (your), and den (from).
Turkish was written in its own form of Arabic script for over a thousand years. The Latin alphabet was made compulsory in public communications by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as of 1929, in an effort to modernise the country after Turkey became a republic in 1923. The Latin alphabet was modified slightly to accommodate Turkish phonetic requirements, and special characters such as “Ç”, “Ğ” and “Ü” were introduced. In the present form of the Turkish alphabet, there are 21 consonants and 8 vowels.
One of the main goals of the Turkish Language Association was to “purify” the language. Before 1932, only 35-40% of Turkish words were of Turkish origin, the rest being derived from other languages like Arabic or Farsi. Now, almost 80% of Turkish words are of “pure” Turkish origin.
Turkish features vowel harmony.
As we have established, Turkish is an agglutinative language, which means that it has a lot of prefixes and suffixes. It also has two classes of vowels: a, ı, o, and u are hard vowels, whereas e, i, ö, and ü are soft vowels. Vowel harmony means that suffixes will use either hard or soft vowels depending on the final vowel in the root word. For instance, if the last vowel in a word is soft, then the vowels in the suffixes will also be soft in order to preserve this harmony.
Given its geographical location, it makes sense that Turkish has been influenced by Farsi and Arabic, two languages spoken in countries that border Turkey. In addition, Turkish has borrowed substantially from France, especially with words relating to finance or economy. For instance, döviz (“currency”) comes from the French device; kriz (“crisis”) comes from the French crise; and bono (“bond”) comes from the French bon. Almost phonetic. Loanwords are adjusted to the Turkish spelling. For example:
- media becomes medya ,
- television becomes televizyon,
- restaurant becomes restoran and
- hotel becomes otel.
Several Turkish words made it into English as well, such as
- kiosk from köşk, open pavillon,
- agha or aga, from ağa, chief,
- kayak, kayık,
- yogurt, yoğurt
The word tulip comes from a Turkish word for turban because of the shared resemblance of the flower and the turban. And the word meander comes from the winding Menderes River in Western Turkey.
Turkish is understood in many countries of Central Asia and 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 Turkic languages are part of a larger Altaic language family that also include Mongolic, Tungusic, Korean and Japonic.
In Turkish, it’s considered impolite to address somebody by just their first name upon meeting them (especially for those older than you). Instead, you must accompany their name with a title, such as teyze (auntie) or amca (uncle). If you don’t know somebody’s name, address them as hanımefendi (madam) or beyefendi (sir).
Tracey Emin – Turkish Cypriot father – “I speak Turkish so badly it is embarrassing, but when I am in Turkey I always try my best to be polite or let some taxi driver have it when taking me the wrong way or charging too much.”
Boris Johnson – Turkish Great Grandfather.
Colin Kazim-Richards – His Turkish-Cypriot, Muslim mother was evacuated from the Mediterranean island by the British army after a military coup in 1974. His father is a Rastafarian, born to Antiguan Christian parents, and used to get attacked just for stepping out with her. “I’d say from round about 1983 you start seeing mixed-race babies [in London]. It wasn’t the norm. So my mum and dad had all that. My dad, especially, had skinheads beating him up, going to wars with them in Walthamstow.”
Kaz, as he is known to his friends back home, is as London as they come but has always felt Turkish, attended Turkish school as a child and spoke the language at home with his mum and “nene” (grandma).
Leon Osman – Turkish Cypriot father
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