A Look at the Turkish Language

From here. A look at the Turkish language from the point of view of an English speaker trying to learn the language. Turkish is not a difficult language to learn, but it is not exactly simple either, and the agglutinative structure is very different from Indo-European. Turkish is often considered to be hard to learn, and it’s rated one of the hardest in surveys of language teachers, however, it’s probably easier than its reputation made it out to be. It is agglutinative, so you can have one long word where in English you might have a sentence of shorter words. One word is Çekoslovakyalilastiramadiklarimizdanmisiniz? Were you one of those people whom we could not turn into a Czechoslovakian? Many words have more than one meaning. However, the agglutination is very regular in that each particle of meaning has its own morpheme and falls into an exact place in the word. See here:

göz            eye
göz-lük        glasses
göz-lük-çü     optician
göz-lük-çü-lük the business of an optician

Nevertheless, agglutination means that you can always create new words or add new parts to words, and for this reason even a lot of Turkish adults have problems with their language. Turkish is an imagery-heavy language, and if you try to translate straight from a dictionary, it often won’t make sense. However, the suffixation in Turkish, along with the vowel harmony, are both precise. Nevertheless, many words have irregular vowel harmony. The rules for making plurals are very regular, with no exceptions (the only exceptions are in foreign loans). In Turkish, incredible as it sounds, you can make a plural out of anything, even a word like what, who or blood. However, there is some irregularity in the strengthening of adjectives, and the forms are not predictable and must be memorized. Turkish is a language of precision in other ways. For instance, there are eight different forms of subjunctive mood that describe various degrees of uncertainty that one has about what one is talking about. This relates to the evidentiality discussed under Tuyuca above, and Turkish has an evidential form similar to Tamil and Bulgarian. On Turkish news, verbs are generally marked with miş, which means that the announcer believes it to be true though he has not seen it firsthand. The Roman alphabet and almost mathematically precise grammar really help out. Turkish lacks gender and there are almost no irregular verbs.  However, this is controversial, and it depends on how you define grammatical irregularity. There is strangeness in some of the verb paradigms, but it is argued that these oddities are rule-based. The aorist tense is said to have irregularity. Nevertheless, weighing against the verbal regularity would be the large number of verbal forms. There is some irregular morphophonology, but not much. The oblique relative clauses have complex morphosyntax. Turkish has two completely different ways of making relative clauses, one of which may have been borrowed from Persian. There are many gerunds for verbs, and these have many different uses. At the end of the day, Turkish grammar is not as regular or as simple as it is made out to be. Words are pronounced nearly the same as they are written. A suggestion that Turkish may be easier to learn that many think is the research that shows that Turkish children learn attain basic grammatical mastery of Turkish at age 2-3, as compared to 4-5 for German and 12 for Arabic. The research was conducted in Germany in 2005. In addition, Turkish has a phonetic orthography. However, Turkish is hard for an English speaker to learn for a variety of reasons. It is agglutinative like Japanese, and all agglutinative languages are difficult for English speakers to learn. As in Japanese, you start your Turkish sentence the way you would end your English sentence. Turkish vowels are unusual to speakers of English (ö and ü are not in English), and Turkish learners say the vowels are hard to make or even tell apart from one another. Turkish is rated 4, very hard to learn.

Please follow and like us:
Tweet 20

3 thoughts on “A Look at the Turkish Language”

  1. Robert-bey, do you recall the Borges’ short story on Uqbar? The fictional language of the fictional Tlon inhabitants present in the literature of the fictional people of fictional Uqbar land fictionally put in one edition of the real Encyclopaedia Britannica reminds me very much of Turkish. There was one notion on a word of the Great Wall size reportedly meaning something like the shed of a drop of water falling down the swimmers cheek (or chest?) at dawn but I can’t find it exactly, I read an annoying English edition of this Borges thing long time ago and it barely touches the bell now, not even ringing it. The agglutination was very pronounced in languages dominant in the Western Hemisphere of Tlon, I reckon. Wonder if Borges made it up or just copied the Turkish pattern. The Uqbar was placed somewhere near the existing parts of the present day Eastern Turkey, near Iraqi border.
    The agglutination and riches of grammatical modes of verbs in Turkish is utterly fascinating. The wide array of sounds marked by all possible umlauts, dotted and undotted i or so, that looks like a barbed-wire hostile and severe set of fortification to prevent the learner’s advance is also fucking tempting to break. I’ma love it (Eminem).

  2. hehe nice 🙂 but question attachments is writte apart from the words
    F : Çekoslovakyalilastiramadiklarimizdanmissiniz?
    T: Çekoslovakyalilastiramadiklarimizdan misiniz?
    And you must to search ”şey” it’s turkish word and

  3. “As in the Japanese example above, the subordinate clause must precede the subject”
    This is new to me, I thought you could put it in any order you like. It could be due to a lack of formal training, but it doesn’t seem at all awkward to me to say this sentence either way in Turkish.
    As per the vowels, English has all of the same vowels , doesn’t it? We just don’t have letters for them in English.
    Dotted i = ee in Bee
    Undotted i = i in big
    e = e in end, and a in apple (this is a big oversight, should have used an upside-down e for the second type)
    Dotted o = u in further
    Dotted u = first u in future

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)