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Turkish Consonant Change (mutation)

Consonant Mutation
Changes in spelling to reflect changes in pronunciation.

In Turkish the spelling of the words is changed when the pronunciation changes. Generally this does not happen in English, when we change the pronunciation we do not change the spelling. In fact we often change the spelling when the pronunciation is the same so that we can recognize the meaning.

A number of words can easily show this meet vs meat, feet vs feat, right vs write, main vs mane, sea vs see, and many more. For example, if English were written phonetically, the word does should be spelt duz

Turkish however being a phonetically written language will make these changes in spelling. The reason for the changes in pronunciation are only for ease of speaking and are only concerned with consonants which have voiced and unvoiced equivalents.

Voicing of Consonants

Turkish Unvoiced Consonants: p ç t k f h s ş

A voiced consonant (-b - c -d -ğ) is one where the voice is used to produce the sound and an unvoiced consonant (p ç t k f h s ş) is where the voice is silent and only air is expelled to produce the sound. In Turkish when a word ends in a consonant it is usually the Un-Voiced Form
The word for letter is mektup, but my letter is mektubum the terminal -p has changed to -b- when it appears between two vowels see equivalent chart below. This is simply because it is easier to pronounce in its Voiced form between vowels b and in Turkish the spelling must reflect this change for the rules of phonetics to operate.

Unvoiced and Voiced Equivalents

Unvoiced p equivalent to Voiced b
Unvoiced ç equivalent to Voiced c
Unvoiced t equivalent to Voiced d
Unvoiced k equivalent to Voiced ğ
Unvoiced s no equivalent -
Unvoiced ş no equivalent -
Unvoiced h no equivalent -
The last three s, ş, h do not have a unvoiced form as they are not really voiced consonants but they do affect the added suffix as they are considered as unvoiced consonants:
nefis delicious becomes nefistir it is (certainly) delicious [not nefisdir.]
sabah morning becomes sabahtan from morning [not sabahdan]
güneş sun becomes güneşten from the sun [not güneşden]

Change of -k to soft ğ
Whenever unvoiced -k terminates a word it almost always changes to voiced when suffixes beginning in a vowel are added. This cange occurs both in suffixes and verb tense and mood endings. The exceptions where no change is made are very few.

Turkısh Consonant Mutation K ↔ Ğ
Change K ↔ Ğ is widespread as many Turkish words end in a terminal -K
köpekdogköpeğim [köpek + im]my dog
bacaklegbacağın [bacak + ın]your leg
topukankletopuğu [topuk + u]his ankle
bilekwristbileğimizour wrists
gözlükspectaclesgözlüğünüzyour spectacles
durakbus stopdurağato the bus stop
görecekwill seegöreceğimI shall see
yaptıkwe didyaptığımızthat which we did
bardakglass (tumbler)bardağıhis glass

Turkish K ↔ G Exception

Terminal -nk changes to -ng [NOT -nğ] as the letter cluster -nğ plus an added vowel is unpronounceable.
denk bale, equation becomes dengim my bale
ahenk harmony, accord becomes ahengi its harmony
kepenk shutter becomes kepenginiz your shutter
renk color becomes rengimiz our colour

Other Turkish Consonant Changes

Some of the other unvoiced consonants which change to their voiced form in similar fashion are as follows:
-p changes to -b in front of suffixed vowels.
changes to -c in front of suffixed vowels.
-t changes to -d in front of suffixed vowels mainly in verb and tense suffixes.

kitap book becomes kitabın your book
öğüt advice becomes öğüdüm my advice
tat taste becomes tadı its taste
ilaç medicine becomes ilacı his medicine
ağaç tree becomes ağacın the tree's

Non-mutating Turkish Single Syllable Word Roots

Non-mutating Turkish Single Syllable Word List
These single syllable words do not change their final consonant.
akwhiteakıthe white/his white
athorseatıthe horse/his horse
ekadditionekithe addition/its addition
etmeatetithe meat/his, her, its meat
göçmigrationgöçüthe migration
ipropeipithe rope
kaç?how many?kaçıncı?which one?
kökrootköküthe root/its root
okarrowokuthe arrow/his arrow
otgrassotuthe grass/its grass
saçhairsaçıthe hair/his, her hair
saphandlesapıthe handle/its handle
suçfaultsuçuthe fault/his,her, its fault
sütmilksütüthe milk/his, her its milk
üçthreeüçü the three/trio

Turkish Single Syllable Word Roots which do mutate.

Mutating Turkish Single Syllable Word List
These single syllable words do change their final consonant.
butthighbuduthe thigh/his,her,its thigh
dipbottom/basedibithe bottom/the base/its bottom
çoka lot/much/veryçoğuthe lot/his, her, its lot
gökskygöğüthe sky/its sky
kapvessel (utensil)kabıthe vessel/his vessel
kurtworm/wolfkurduthe worm, the wolf/his wolf
point/tip/enducuthe point/his, her, its point
yurttent, villageyurdu the tent, the village

Turkish Terminal Consonants are Unvoiced. (p ç t k f h s ş)

Words can not end with the voiced consonants b, c, d, g. Words must end in the equivalent unvoiced forms p, ç, t, k in order to finish the pronunciation without continuity thus helping the listener to determine word breaks in conversation.
For example: kebab cooked meat is wrong kebap is correct.
Similarly the name Mehmed is wrong Mehmet is correct.

Beach Pub Sign

In the photograph Turkish has written Sahil Pup [Beach Pub.] The English import of the word Pub [public house] has been changed into its Turkish version Pup ending with the equivalent unvoiced consonant p.




A real-life example
The Turkish writer has used the natural un-voiced P on the end of the English word LAMB

Turkish Single Syllable Exceptions:
There are a few words which do end in voiced consonants such as ad, od, sac simply to make their meaning recognizable from similar word that have a unvoiced consonant at the end. This little group of words is an exception to the general rule that words always end in a unvoiced consonant.
ad name and at horse
od fire and ot grass
sac sheet iron and saç hair

Proper Names:
Proper Names do not change in writing Memed'in is only valid in spoken language. It should be written as Mehmet'in in writing but should be pronounced Memedin. Another example Burak'ın (as written) should be pronounced as Burağın
The letter -h- is always articulated and pronounced in Turkish as it is a phonetic language. However, the name Mehmet is an exception. It is always pronounced as Memed through constant usage.

Mutation of Turkish Suffixes

  • To reiterate:
  • Unvoiced p equivalent to Voiced b
  • Unvoiced ç equivalent to Voiced c
  • Unvoiced t equivalent to Voiced d
  • Unvoiced k equivalent to Voiced ğ
  • Unvoiced s no equivalent -
  • Unvoiced ş no equivalent -
  • Unvoiced h no equivalent -

Words ending in (-p -ç -t -k) change to (-b -c -d -ğ) when suffixed with a vowel:
The word mutates:
bilek wrist which becomes bileği his wrist.
dolap cupboard which becomes dolabınız your cupboard.
kağıt paper which becomes kağıdı the paper. (obj.)

Suffixes beginning with -d change to -t when added to words teminating in (-p -ç -t -k.)
The suffix mutates:
The suffix -de/-da in/on/at changes -te/-ta when added to words ending (-p -ç -t -k.)
ayak foot becomes ayakta on the foot.
The suffix -den/-dan from , via changes to -ten/-tan when added to words ending (-p -ç -t -k.)
ağaç tree becomes ağaçtan from the tree.

  • Examples of Turkish Suffix Mutation
  • kitap book becomes kitapta in the book [not kitap-da]
  • otobüs bus becomes otobüstü it was a bus [not otobüs-dü]
  • dolmuş dolmush (small bus) becomes -dolmuşta in the dolmush [not dolmuş-da]
  • ilaç medicine becomes ilaçta in the medicine [not ilaç-da]
  • sabah morning becomes sabahtan from morning [not sabah-dan]
  • kibrit match becomes kibritten from the match [not kibrit-den]

The last example kibrit preserves a double letter -tt- when adding the suffix -ten to produce kibritten. Although Turkish generally abhors two consonants arising together we must realize that what we have here is two separate words match and from being joined together so each word must retain its full form.

A Very few exceptions:
There are a few words that historically end in a voiced consonant, for these words that end in a voiced consonant, then the suffix retains its voiced form. Saat hour, time, clock becomes saatte on the clock, saatler clocks. This word from Arabic obeys neither consonant mutation or vowel harmony rules.

Mutation of words ending in Unvoiced Consonants (-p -ç -t -k.):
Here is an example of the effect of adding a suffix which begins with a consonant.
kitaptı it was a book word ends in unvoiced -p thus kitap-tı. The suffix -tı takes it unvoiced form from the noun ending.

The same example when adding a Suffix which begins with a Vowel:
kitabınız your book suffix -ınız begins with a vowel so kitap beomes kitab-ınız
kitabınızda in your book extended word ends in voiced -z thus kitabınız-da The suffix reverts to its voiced form when:

  1. added to words ending in an voiced (-b -c -d) consonant.
  2. added tp the plural -ler/-lar.
  3. added to words ending in a vowel.
  4. added to already suffixed (extended) word which end in a wowel.

Examples of Nouns changing to Voiced Form when adding suffixes beginning with a vowel or the Plural Suffix -lar/-ler
köpekten from the dog köpeğinden [köpeğ-in-den] from his dog
ilaçta in the medicine ilacında [ilac-ın-da] in his medicine
otobüsten from the bus otobüslerden [otobüs-ler-den] from the buses
sokaktan from the street sokaklardan [sokak-lar-dan] from the streets
In the last two examples above the voiced -r ending of the plural suffix -ler/-lar forces the subsequent suffix to take its voiced (-d) form.

Turkish Consonant Mutation Rules

1. If the word ends in any of these Unvoiced Consonants [p ç t k] :
When adding a suffix beginning with a vowel:
The last letter of the root word changes to its voiced [p ↔ b, ç ↔ c, t ↔ d, k ↔ ğ] form:
kitap book becomes kitabı his book
kazanç profit becomes kazancı his profit
kilit lock becomes kilidi his lock
köpek dog becomes köpeğiniz Your dog

2. If the word ends in an Unvoiced Consonant [p ç t k f h s ş] :
When adding a suffix beginning with a consonant:
The suffix changes to its unvoiced Form [d ↔ t]
tıkaç plug, stopper becomes tıkaçtan from the plug
kitap book becomes kitaptan from the book
kilit lock becomes kilitte in the lock
köpek dog becomes köpekten from the dog
sabah morning becomes sabahtan from the morning
domates tomato becomes domatesten from the tomato(es)
giriş exit becomes girişte at the exit
raf shelf becomes raftan from the shelf

These are the Complete Rules of Turkish Consonant Mutation