Turkish: Yaşasın!

Hooray for Türkçe! Turkish is next on the list making it language number 30 in the project. Here’s where we are so far:

1. Romanian
2. Macedonian
3. Spanish
4. Vietnamese
5. Norwegian
6. Bulgarian
7. Slovenian
8. Malagasy
9. Japanese
10. Moldavian
11. Hindi
12. Finnish
13. Azeri
14. Arabic
15. Czech
16. Albanian
17. Cambodian
18. Serbian
19. Chinese
20. Xhosa
21. Portuguese
22. Armenian
23. Korean
24. Croatian
25. Afrikaans
26. Greek
27. Swedish
28. French
29. Thai

30. Turkish
31. Dutch
32. Hebrew
33. Danish
34. Filipino
35. Polish
36. Lao
37. Catalan

Turkish is spoken by 70 million people in Turkey, Cyprus, large communities throughout the Balkans and notably Germany. It belongs the to Turkic Language family, with Azeri, which was featured way back in February.

REGIONAL HISTORY: The first Turkic empire started with the arrival of the Seljuks, who came from east in the 1000s. The Seljuks overtook the ruling Byzantine powers, while bringing with them Persian literature, art and architecture. They also brought with them their language, Oghuz Turkic, which is the direct ancestor of modern Turkish. In 1243, the Mongols defeated the Turks and the region was divided into various Turkish and Mongol states. However, around 1300, a rising state ruled by Osman I would eventually lead to the Ottoman Empire, one of the world’s most powerful and longest legacies to exist.

With the help of general Mehmet II, the Ottoman Turks took control of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), crushing the Byzantine Empire once and for all. The empire was well-trained for battle, as it expanded across Southern Europe and Northern Africa. The empire saw a golden age with the rule of Süleyman in the mid-1500s.

After losing the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Ottoman Empire began to crumble. Western Europe rose to power through exploration and colonization, along with Central Europe’s Hapsburgs. The Empire also had to play catch up in terms of science and technology (Istanbul Technical University would be established during this period). Around the end of the empire, various states such as Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria – all countries that have been mentioned in this blog – would declare independence after centuries of rule, some of which was brutal. The Ottoman Empire lost in WWI, with a humanitarian crisis most notably referred to as the Armenian Genocide (this continues to be debated to this day).

Then came Mustafa Kemal. Known as Atatürk to all those who live in Turkey today, the general became the first president of the Republic of Turkey, formed in 1923, which officially ended the Ottoman Empire. Kemal ushered in a wave of reforms in attempts to modernize Turkey, and they worked. Some of these included changes to the Turkish language, like the creation of the Turkish Language Association, which fostered a new Roman-based alphabet and substitution of Arabic and Persian-based vocabulary for Turkish ones. Atatürk’s influence lives on in modern-day Turkey, as the nation has risen to become one of Europe’s powers.

WRITING SYSTEM: As mentioned before, Turkish has used a Roman alphabet since the 1930s. There are a few differences in a few consonants and vowels from the English alphabet. Q, W and X are used in loan words but are not officially part of the alphabet. I give credit to Turkey Travel Planner for an excellent pronunciation guide.

A a – a as in father
B b
C c – j as in jam
Ç ç – ch as in church
D d
E e – e as in bet
F f
G g – g as in go
Ğ ğ – not really a sound, it just lengthens vowels
H h
I ı – uh as in huh
İ i – i as in it
J j
K k
L l
M m
N n
O o – o as in phone
Ö ö – o as in world
P p
R r
S s
Ş ş – sh as in shut
T t
U u – u as in lute
Ü ü – like the French u as in bleu
V v
Y y
Z z

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I like Turkish and have a lot of fun trying to pronounce it! I think I like it better than Azeri but I don’t know why, considering they are very similar. One of the things that makes Azeri and Turkish the same is the feature of vowel harmony, where vowels in a word have to be of the same type. Phonetically, this could make Turkish easier to pronounce (also, every letter is pronounced and there are no digraphs, e.g., the English t + h = “th”). So why didn’t I like vowel harmony when I looked at Finnish? Hmm. Listening to Turkish at first, its rhythm sounds similar to English’s, which is a plus.

One concern I do have is that Turkish is quite agglutinative. One word can be the equivalent to a simple sentence in English. But I will give Turkish the benefit of the doubt, as it uses its postpositions and suffixes to alter the meaning of words.

One thing I also love about Turkish is the music! Seriously, it’s amazing! Turkish pop and rock music blows me away, so much of it is better than the usual stuff I hear from America. I love, love, LOVE this song by MaNga, who won big at this year’s MTV European Music Awards:


Lonely Planet – History of Turkey
Turkey Travel Planner – Pronunciation Guide
Wikipedia (Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Turkish Language)

9 thoughts on “Turkish: Yaşasın!

  1. Ah, Turkish pop! Gotta love it.

    Correction about the pronunciation on the two “I’s” — I believe the difference is more as between the English words “be” and “been,” or “he” and “him.” I checked with a Turkish speaker to verify. So the last syllable in your blog title would be pronounced “sin,” not “sunn.”

    Keep it up! 🙂

  2. Hi! Just started reading your blog and I love it. Thanks a lot! I am French and American, and just wanted to say that the U in “bleu” is not pronounced like a “u”, because it is part of the “eu” combo, and is therefore pronounced like an e (upside down e in IPA, or shwa). So “bleu” is closer to “bluh” read in English. A better example word could be “plu”, or anything that has the u by itself. As soon as the u has another vowel (unless it has a “trema”), it combines with the other vowel to create a completely different sound.

    I know you gave up on French, but just thought i’d let you know.

    1. Wow — thank you so much for solving that mystery for me! I could never get it right, even when I try to pronounce it. “Bluh” sounds much more accurate. I will definitely insert this into the blog, thank you for the tip (and for reading)! 🙂

  3. Uzun zamandır siteyi takip ediyorum. cidden güzel paylaşımlar yapıyorsunuz. lütfen paylaşımlarınızı bırakmayın. bu paylaşımda fevkalade olmuş. paylaşımlarınızın devamını bekliyorum.


  4. Hi Keith,

    Great idea for a project! I also love languages–lived in Argentina last year and Turkey the year before, and Turkish has a special place in my heart, so I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    A correction to the reply someone left regarding pronunciation of the two Is. The i without the dot is really closer to a “uh” sound, as you initially said. However, it’s more closed than our “uh” in English. Definitely NOT the vowel sound in “be”, not even really that of “sin”, although that word comes closer.

    I’m sure you’ve already researched other Turkish music, but if you haven’t heard anything by Mor ve Otesi or Tarkan you should check them out.

    Finally, I hope you choose Turkish, if not so much for the language (which is fun and EXTREMELY logical, but not my favourite), then definitely for the country. It’s one of the most amazing and varied places I’ve been, with incredible landscapes, warm people, delicious food, mind-boggling history, and addictive board games (tavla, aka backgammon while sipping on cay aka tea).

    Also, fun fact about the language if you didn’t come across it in your brief foray: “No” is of course “Hayir”, but three non-verbal ways are more commonly used to express it: a “tsk” sound, an eyebrow raise, or a backward tilt of the head! Often they are combined, in what seems a very dismissive (and initially insulting, but eventually liberating and very fun to use) gesture! Sorry for the length of this reply.

    Iyi sanslar with your language pursuits!

    1. Hi Andrew,

      First I apologize for the late reply. Thank you for explaining how the undotted “i” sounds! Some people have told me that it sounds like the “i” in bird, but I had no idea it was closed. I could tell there was a minor difference, but couldn’t pinpoint it. Thank you!

      Also, I’ve heard of Mor ve Otesi and Tarkan (thanks to Eurovision and my Turkish friends)! I am incredibly excited about Turkish and Turkey in general. It’s definitely on my list of places to visit very soon.

      Please do not apologize for the length of this reply — I rather enjoyed it and your tips (along with the gestures you explained when one says “no”). Thank you so much for following and I wish you the best in your own pursuits! Teşekkürler! 🙂

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