Günaydın and welcome to this month’s edition of Be-lingual. As the language-savvy among you may have guessed from the opening greeting, this month we are going to focus on Turkish. This language is spoken in one of the most diverse cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean region. The country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious and is deeply immersed in all cultural aspects such as fine arts, paintings, sculpture and architecture. Turkey is an amalgamation of the East and the West. In other words, it is the most oriental Western nation or the most Occidental Eastern one.
Turkish – What’s that?
Turkish is the official language of Turkey that has a population of over 72 million people, and also of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is also spoken by small groups of ethnic Turks in several nations like Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and some other regions in Eastern Europe. There are extensive Turkish immigrant communities in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and France, with the largest one in Germany. Turkish can also be heard being spoken in Azerbaijan and in some of the regions of the former USSR.
As for the fun facts
The oldest written records of Turkish are found carved on stone monuments in Central Asia, in the Orhon, Yenisey and Talas regions, which is present-day Mongolia. An interesting fact about Turkish is its agglutinative nature. Which means, by adding or removing affixes, endings or suffixes, a lot can be said using very few words, or to create new words. For “I am going to watch a film” can be roughly translated into Turkish as “Film seyredeceğim”.
Also, Turkish has no noun classes or grammatical gender and the language structure is similar to Asian languages such as Korean, Japanese and Mongolian.
Tracing back the links
Turkish is a very ancient language, dating back 5500 to 8500 years.
It has had many linguistic influences from neighbouring countries and also other European languages throughout its history. As a result of the rapid spread of Islam among the Turks from the 10th century, this language was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian cultures. This, over a long period of time, has resulted in the language having a very large proportion of Arabic and Persian vocabulary today. In turn, Turkish has influenced most of the languages spoken in North Africa, Middle East and Balkans during the Ottoman Empire.
Some of the Turkish origin words found in English are yoghurt, baklava, coffee and caviar.
Factor in Globalisation
Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is one of the official languages of Cyprus. Currently, in compliance with the 1982 Constitution, the Turkish Language Association continues to operate under the organizational framework of the Atatürk High Institution of Culture, Language and History.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was the person who, in 1928, as part of his efforts to modernise Turkey, issued a decree that replaced the Arabic script with a version of the Latin alphabet. This script has been used ever since. The Arabic script is fast becoming obsolete, but the latin alphabet has helped the language spread.
The nation is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, so if you do go there, it’s not like you will not find people speaking English, German, French or any other languages, but naturally, speaking Turkish is always encouraged and appreciated. So as they say in Turkish, Allaha ısmarladık, or good-bye!