The Turkish Language Explained for English Speakers
About the Turkish Language, Street Turkish and advice for visiting Turkey.
Manisa Turkish answers some of the difficulties which learners may encounter along their way.
Wikipedia says: "The best website for learning Turkish with detailed explanations."
The Origins of Turkish.
The Turkish Language originated in The Altai Mountain Range in Northern Siberia centuries ago.
For this reason it is called an Altaic Language.
Turkish is spoken from the borders of Greece into the hinterland of Western China.
While the Ottoman Empire flourished Turkish was spoken from Vienna to Arabia, Egypt and Northern Africa.
As nomads expanded further into Asia Minor they brought their language to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Turkic countries.
Many of these languages are mutually intelligible although vocabulary usage, spelling and alphabet may differ.
They all exhibit the same grammatical structure of agglutination and vowel harmony.
The Turkish vocabulary contains many words from Arabic, Persian and European languages.
These imported words follow the basic grammar and vowel harmony of native Turkish.
An Overview of The Turkish Language.
- Nouns are suffixed with possessor and the motion or location words are then added.
- These suffixes show motion towards, motion from, static location of that object.
- Suffixes change spelling to harmonze with the parent word.
- Similarly a consonants may change for ease of pronunciation.
- Suffixes are added verb stems to indicate its positive or negative form.
- Further suffixes are then added for tense and person.
- Further moods may, might, can, can't, must are added thus producing new verbs.
- There is no definite article "the" as a subject.
- There is a specifier "the" as a direct object suffix.
- There are no gender forms (no "le" or "la" as in French) in Turkish.
- One single word is used for "he, she, it"
- Adjectives describe their noun and remain in their basic form.
- There being no gender thus no gender agreement is required.
- The sentence form is SOV Subject, Object, Verb.
The Structure of Turkish.
Turkish is not a Classical Structured Language.
Turkish grammar is not looked on by the Turks themselves as a Classical Structured Language.
Turkish has its own grammar rules which are not based on the Classical System as those in Latin or Greek.
Most Turkish grammars for foreigners are written by linguists and grammarians.
Usually authored in consort with a Turkish national.
They tend to use a classical language framework.
Consequently most grammars are peppered with such classic terms as accusative, dative, locative and ablative together with such tenses and moods as aorist, subjunctive.
Manisa Turkish uses Turkish grammar nomenclature.
Many classical grammar terms have been discarded.
Structure of Turkish Words.
The structure of Turkish words is vowel + consonant.
A vowel always follows a consonant and a consonant always follows a vowel.
There are no diphthongs in Turkish words, other than imported foreign exceptions.
In order to preserve this rule certain consonants are inserted as "buffers" between vowels.
These buffers are always Y, N, S.
Turkish Grammar Rules
Post positions are used instead of prepositions.
Suffixes added to verb stems indicate positive or negative forms.
Further suffixes produce a new verbs of the "passive, reflexive, causative, potential, desire" moods.
Further suffixes are added for tense and person.
Nouns are also suffixed with possessor my, your etc. and noun condition to, from, in, by.
The subject definite article and grammatical gender are lacking
Adjectives precede their noun and do not have to agree in number or case.
Turkish Grammar Characteristics
- Vowel Harmony
[echoing previous vowel]
The vowels of suffixes must mirror the final vowel of the root word being suffixed.
- Consonant Mutation
Spelling changes are made to preserve phonetic euphony with actual pronunciation.
English has some consonant change but not for the same reasons.
Suffixes are attached to the end of nouns
- Verbs are suffixed with
("tense and person")to indicate a modified meaning.
- The Possessive Relationship
There is a Reflexive Genitive in Turkish where both the
About Turkish Grammar
Turkish Grammar is Regular there no exceptions.
It differs in both grammatical structure and vocabulary from the Indo European Group, English, Spanish, French.
The Turkish Alphabet:
Voice sounds are separated into two main groups, consonants and vowels.
When there is no obstacle to a voice then the sound is called a vowel.
- Consists of twenty-one consonants and eight vowels.
- The Turkish alphabet is phonetic as each letter always retains it own sound.
- In English the sound of the letters can change: a does in
fat, fate, fare
- Turkish has no such pronunciation change to letters of the alphabet.
- Letter Y is considered as a consonant in Turkish.
Adjectives and adjectival phrases precede their noun and do not agree in number.
Turkish is a descriptive language : adjectives abound.
If Turkish can make something into an adjective then it will do so.
Being an descriptive language an adjective or adjectival phrase always preceded its noun:
kara kedi a black cat as in English.
Turkish makes great use of adjectival phrases and clauses to describes nouns, actions and thoughts.
In English we may say:
The black cat with the long tail which is sitting on the mat looks hungry.
Turkish describes the cat not only as black, but also where and upon what it is sitting together with any other attributes, such as its long tail:
- Minderin üstünde oturan uzun kuyruklu kara kedi aç görünüyor.
- On the mat which-is-sitting long tailed black cat hungry looks.
In Turkish the subject and object are described adjectivally with regards to place and disposition.
Once all the describing is done, the verb is placed last in the sentence.
Turkish Vowel Harmony:
The majority of Turkish Vowels are always pronounced quite short.
There is no lengthening of vowels.
For Turkish learners this sometimes makes understanding difficult.
There is little and light stress in Turkish pronunciation.
Turkish has eight vowels.
(A-E I-İ O-Ö U-Ü)
Their corresponding front / back, and rounded / unrounded sounds form the basis for vowel harmony rules.
The 4 A-Undotted Vowels a ı o u are pronounced the back of the mouth as English.
The 4 E-Dotted Vowels e i ö ü are pronounced at the front of the mouth as French.
Vowel Harmony Reference
- A-UnDotted Vowels follow each other.
- E-Dotted Vowels follow each other.
All original Turkish words are pronounced either:
- Entirely containing A-UnDotted Vowels:
bulmacaları their crosswords
- Entirely containing E-Dotted Vowels:
evlerinden from their house
köylüler the villagers.
Most suffixes follow the Rule of Vowel Harmony
Adding: -de in, on, at
evde [ev-de] in the house.
Adding: -den from
evden [ev-den] from the house.
The suffixes de and den harmonize with the final vowel in the word ev.
Similarly adding suffix -da in, on, at
odada [oda-da] in the room
Adding: -dan from
odadan [oda-dan] from the room
These suffixes harmonize with the final vowel of the word oda.
Noun and verb suffixes follow vowel harmony.
Examples to form Plural Nouns:
- Plural Suffix -lar suffixed to kapı produces doors kapılar.
- -ler suffixed to köylü produces villagers köylüler.
- Consonant Mutation
- Changes in pronunciation and spelling of consonants to preserve phonetics and euphony.
The Voicing of Consonants.
A Voiced Consonant is one where the voice box is used to produce the sound d b are in this category.
An Unvoiced Consonant is where the voice is silent and only air is expelled to produce the sound such as t p.
In certain circumstances changes are made to the spelling of consonants.
If the pronunciation of a consonant changes the spelling also changes to reflect this.
English Consonant Change
There is some consonant mutation in English.
The terminal -y of lady changes to an -ie- in the plural ladies
The terminal -f of knife changes to a -v- in the plural knives.
Turkish has consonant change on a larger scale than English.
Turkish Consonant Change: k to ğ and d to t.
- The main changes that occur in Turkish words is that a terminal -k may change to a -ğ (soft g) when a suffix with a vowel is added.
- The first letter -d of a suffix may change to a -t adding suffixes to
[ç f h k p s ş t]
geç + dim becomes geçtim [geç-tim] I passed
- There are also some other minor consonant changes.
[a "gluing together"]
- Agglutination a "sticking on to"
- The putting together of language particles.
- Each expresses a single definite meaning thus forming a new word.
Suffixes add to the word's meaning and / or mark its grammatical function.
ev house becomes evlerden [ev-ler-den] from the houses)
In English there are many words which agglutinate (extend) to form other words.
The word argue can be agglutinated to argument by sticking on a -ment suffix.
Further suffixes: -ative giving argumentative
-ly suffix to formargumentatively.
This is the way of Turkish. Words like "in, from, at" are suffixed to nouns to produce an extended word.
Always come at the end of the sentence.
Sentence construction follows the "SOV" subject-object-verb pattern.
There are no irregular verbs in Turkish. One single conjugation is used for all verbs.
Turkish Verbs follow vowel harmony rules.
All verbs belong to one of two groups determined by their infinitive form.
- The A-UnDotted Vowel Group Verbs end in -mak
[bakmak to look]
- The E-Dotted Vowel Group Verbs end in -mek
[kesmek to cut]
The suffixes for all -mak verbs consist of A-UnDotted Vowels.
bakmak to look becomes:
bakacak [bak-acak] he will look.
The suffixes of -mek verbs consist of E-Dotted Vowels:
gelmek to come:
gelecek [gelecek] He will come.
Due to Vowel harmony the future suffix may be -acak or -ecek
All suffixes can have multiple spellings due to Vowel Harmony.
The Six Turkish Noun Conditions.
These six conditions are suffixed to the root word according to Vowel Harmony Rules.
The vowels of the suffix match the final vowel of the root word.
Title Condition (Nominative)
The root word which carries no suffix.
The subject is consisered as being specicic.
el hand, the hand.
Ownership Condition (Genitive)
-in -ın -un -ün
The condition of "belonging to" of, 's in English
elin [el-in] the hand's, of the hand.
Specific Object Condition (Accusative)
The Direct Object specific "the"
eli [el-i] the hand
Movement Towards Condition (Dative)
The Condition of Movement Towards to, towards
ele [el-e] to / towards the hand.
Static Position Condition (Locative)
-da/-de or -ta/-te
The Condition of Place and Position in, on, at
elde [el-de] in / on / at the hand.
Movement Away Condition (Ablative)
-dan/-den or -tan/-ten
The Condition of Movement Away from, by, via
elden [el-den] from / by / via the hand.
Turkish Lack of Gender.
There is no gender distinction in Turkish
Turkish does not have gender pronouns "he / she / it."
There are no "le" and "la" problems as in French, Italian
Turkish only has one word for he, she and it, namely o.
Turkish Definite Articles
Turkish does not have a subject definite article "the".
The object of a verb does have a objective suffix "the" in Turkish.
This is one of the difficulties for those learning Turkish.
English does not distinguish between subject "the" and object "the"
English uses the definite article "the" to make both the subject and the object specific.
The Subject (nominative)
There is no separate Definite Article "the" in Turkish.
The subject is already considered as specific in Turkish.
The cup is on the table.
[fincan "The cup"
subject not suffixed]
The Subject: the cup fincan is considered as definitive (specific) in Turkish.
It is the way of saying "the" cup as a subject.
The Object (accusative)
An accusative suffix -(y)i -(y)ı -(y)u -()ü is added to objects to signify "the".
This is difficult for English speakers.
English uses the definite article "the" to distinguish the object of a sentence.
Masadaki fincanı bana verin.
Give me the cup which is on the table.
[fincanı fincan-ı "The cup"
object -ı is suffixed]
It is the way of saying "the" cup as an object.
Turkish Word Order.
Word order is regular, but differs from English:
- Adjectival Descriptions of Subject.
- The Subject.
- Time Clauses.
- Adjectival Descriptions of Object.
- The Object.
- The Verb.
The verb is always last in a sentence.
Turkish punctuation normally puts a comma after the subject of a sentence.
The subject may be extended by a long adjectival description.
The man with the fishing rods in his hands [a long described subject]
will be [verb]
at your friend's 50th birthday party [a long described object]
tomorrow night. [time phrase]
Ellerinde oltası olan adam, yarın gece arkadaşının 50'ci doğum günü partisinde bulunacak.
Hands-his-in fishing-rod-the which-are man [a described and suffixed subject]
tomorrow night [time phrase]
friend-your-of 50th birthday party-his-at [a described and suffixed object]
and at last [the verb] will be.
Foreign Influence on Turkish Vocabulary
Turkish has imported many words from French:
These words have been modified phonetically to use the Turkish Alphabet.
Spelling accords to Turkish phonetics.
Both front and back vowels are within foreign imports which is unnatural for Turkish.
Such is true for the numerous Turkish words of Arabic origin:
mektup letter, merhaba hello
and of Persian origin as hane office
Vowel harmony does not occur in the word itself.
The final vowel of the word determines the vowel harmony for suffixation.