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
C c – j as in jam
Ç ç – ch as in church
E e – e as in bet
G g – g as in go
Ğ ğ – not really a sound, it just lengthens vowels
I ı – uh as in huh
İ i – i as in it
O o – o as in phone
Ö ö – o as in world
Ş ş – sh as in shut
U u – u as in lute
Ü ü – like the French u as in bleu
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:
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