Manisa Turkish Icon - The Turkish language Explained for English Speakers

Manisa Turkish Icon - The Turkish language Explained for English Speakersbasics > alphabet
Google: Yahoo: BING:

Turkish Vowel Harmony

The Eight Vowels of Turkish

There are eight vowels in Turkish which are divided into two groups as follows:
The A-UnDotted Vowels A I O U
The UnDotted Vowels [back vowels] are produced nearer the throat as in English.
The E-Dotted Vowels E İ Ö Ü
The Dotted Vowels [front vowels] are produced at the the front of the mouth as in the French Language.

The first rule of Turkish Vowel Harmony concerns the vowels A and E

To explain Vowel Harmony we are using the Plural Suffix choosing either -ler or -lar to mirror the final vowel of its noun all other suffixes will follow these Vowel Harmony rules:
To form the plural we have a choice to add either -lar or -ler to the word:

Plural of the Turkish A-UnDotted Vowel Group

The plural suffix -lar to words whose final vowel is any of the A-UnDotted Vowels
balta final vowel -a axe plural baltalar [balta-lar] axes
kapı final vowel door plural kapılar [kapı-lar] doors
palto final vowel -o overcoat plural paltolar [palto-lar] overcoats
boncuk final vowel -u bead plural boncuklar [boncuk-lar] beads
The vowels in these Turkish words are all of the A-UnDotted Group so the added plural suffix -lar must also contain an A-UnDotted Vowel.

Plural of the Turkish E-Dotted Vowel Group

The plural suffix -ler to words whose final vowel is one of the E-Dotted Vowels
ev final vowel -e house plural evler [ev-ler] houses
kedi final vowel -i cat plural kediler [kedi-ler] cats
göz final vowel eye plural gözler [göz-ler] eyes
ödül final vowel award, prize plural ödüller [ödül-ler] awards
The vowels in these Turkish words are all of the E-Dotted Group so the added plural suffix -ler must also contain an E-Dotted Vowel. This echoing of the final vowel by the suffix is called Vowel Harmony.

Exceptions to Turkish Vowel harmony Rules

There are a very few exceptions to this rule where the suffix does not echo Vowel Harmony exactly as examples:
saat hour, clock plural saatler hours, clocks
harf letter (of alphabet) plural harfler letter (of alphabet)

All exceptions to the rule of pluralizing nouns in Turkish also constitute exceptions when other suffixes are attached to them. The word rol rôle becomes roller roles. This contrary to the general rule.

These words like rol also constitute exceptions when case suffixes are attached, as follows:
Bu rolü almak istiyorum. I want to take (on) the is rôle.
Bu rolden çok bıktım. I am really fed up with this rôle.
Bu rolde bir sürü aksaklık var. There is something wrong in this rôle..
Bu role hiç alışamadım. I could not get used to this rôle at all.

kalp heart, kalpler hearts, kalbi heart (obj.) kalbin of the heart, kalbe to the heart, kalpten from the heart
harf Letter (alpha.), harfler Letters, harfi Letter (obj.), harfin of the letter, harfe to the letter, harften from the letter
There are other words from Arabic or foreign imported words which exhibit this irregularity.

Vowel Harmony of Turkish Suffixes

All words with their last vowel in the A-UnDotted Group take -lar as their plural.
This rule applies for all suffixes which contain a.

Those words with an E-Dotted Group Vowel take -ler as their plural.
This rule applies for all suffixes which contain e.

Let us look at some common but important words which are used all the time. These little words in, on, at, from, to, with, etc. are suffixes in Turkish and must harmonize with final vowel of the word they modify.

The static location suffix -de/-da in, on, at
Locative suffix is -de/-da and it shows concrete place (location):
adamda [adam-da] on the man
adamlarda [adam-lar-da] on the men
kedide [kedi-de] on the cat
kedilerde [kedi-ler-de] on the cats
evde [ev-de] at home
evlerde [ev-ler-de] at the houses
kapıda [kapı-da] at the door
kapılarda [kapı-lar-da] at/by the doors
köprüde [köprü-de] on the bridge
köprülerde [köprü-ler-de] on the bridges
odada [oda-da] in the room
odalarda [oda-lar-da] in the rooms
The plural adds two suffixes -ler + -de or -lar + -da and tagged them altogether to make one word in Turkish.

Odadayım. [oda-da-yım] I am in the room.
Ali bey, evdeymiş. [ev-de-ymiş] Ali bey must be at home. Bahçedeki çocuklar top ile oynuyorlar. The children (who are) in the garden are playing with a ball.

With animate subjects the verb should be congruent with subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural, the verb plural.
Çocuklar oynuyorlar. The children are playing. [subject children animate so verb is congruent.]

For inanimate subjects, the verb should be always singular.
Yapraklar düşüyor. Leaves are falling. [subject leaves inanimate so verb is singular.]

The motion away suffix -den/-dan from, by, via, through
adamdan [adam-dan] from the man
adamlardan [adamlar-da] from the men
kediden [kedi-den] from the cat
kedilerden [kediler-den] from the cats
evden [ev-den] from home
evlerden [evler-den] from the houses
kapıdan [kapı-dan] from the door
kapılardan [kapılar-dan] from the doors
köprüden [köprü-den] from the bridge
köprülerden [köprüler-den] from the bridges
odadan [oda-dan] from the room
odalardan [odalar-dan] from the rooms

The motion toward suffix -(y)e/-(y)a to, towards
adama [adam-a] to the man
adamlara [adamlar-a] to the men
kediye [kedi-ye] to the cat
kedi cat ends in a vowel so kedi-y-e is used [kedie] is incorrect.
kedilere [kediler-e] to the cats
eve [ev-e] to home
evlere [evler-e] to the houses
kapıya [kapı-ya] to the door
kapı door ends in a vowel so kapı-y-a is used [kapıa] is incorrect
kapılara [kapılar-a] to the doors

Words which end in vowels
köprüye [köprü-ye] to the bridge
köprülere [köprü-ler-e] to the bridges
odaya [oda-ya] to the room
odalara [oda-lar-a] to the rooms
The Buffer Letter -y- is used when the word ends in a vowel. Turkish does not like two vowels to be together.

The second rule of Turkish Vowel Harmony concerns the vowels I, İ, U, Ü

There are two different forms of I (İ) and U (Ü) in Turkish.
(1) The UnDotted Forms of  I or U must follow the A-UnDotted group A I O U
(2) The Dotted Forms of  İ or Ü must follow the E-Dotted group E İ Ö Ü

A suffix containing the letter a can have two forms either a or e. The the suffix -den from which is used with the E-Dotted vowels and -dan which is used with the A-UnDotted vowels was shown as an example.

Suffixes which contains the generic letter -I has four forms. These are -i -ı -u -ü.
The suffix -im my will harmonize its own vowel to any of -i, -ı, -u, ü to mirror the last vowel of the word it is suffixed to. All suffixes with an internal -i- vowel will follow this vowel harmony.

Some Examples
ev house
evim [ev-im] my house
evlerim [ev-ler-im] my houses

raf shelf
rafın [raf-ın] your shelf
rafların [raf-lar-ın] your shelves

çit hedge
çiti [çit-i] his hedge
çitleri [ çit-ler-i] his hedges

kız girl / daughter
kızım [kız-ım] my girl
kızlarım [kız-lar-ım] my girls

göz eye
gözüm [göz-üm] my eye
gözlerim [göz-ler-im] my eyes

yol road
yolunuz [yol-unuz] your road
yollarınız [yol-lar-ınız] your roads

gün day
günümüz [gün-ümüz ] our day
günlerimiz [gün-ler-imiz] our days

okul school
okulları [okul-ları] their school(s)
okulları [okul-lar-ı] his schools

The suffix -üm follows words whose last vowel is or
göz eye
gözüm [göz-üm] my eye
gözlerim [gözler-im] my eyes
gül rose
gülüm [gül-üm] my rose
güllerim [güller-im] my roses
The plurals gözlerim and güllerim take the -im suffix [not the -üm suffix as in the singular] as they immediately follow the final vowel -e of the plural -ler.

The suffix-um follows words whose last vowel is -o or -u.
jeton token, jeton
jetonum [jeton-um] my token, my jeton
jetonlarım [jetonlar-ım] my tokens, my jetons
oyun game
oyunum [oyun-um] my game
oyunlarım [oyunlar-ım] my games
The plurals jetonlarım and oyunlarım take the -ım suffix [not the -um suffix as in the singular] as they immediately follow the final vowel -a of the plural -lar.

The Rule for Words ending in a Vowel
The Vowel of the Suffix -im my is dropped to prevent two vowels occurring together. [the root word itself is preserved.]
baba father
babam my father [ not babaım]
baban your father [not babaın]
kedi cat
kedim my cat [not kediim]
kedimiz our cat [kediimiz]
palto overcoat
paltom my overcoat [not paltoum]
paltonuz your (pl.) overcoat [palto-unuz])
When adding -im my or the other Possessive Adjectives)to a word which ends in a vowel, then we only add the shortened suffix -m, -n, -miz, -niz etc. this prevents two vowels occurring together.

As the third person singular suffix is just a bare vowel -i, then it becomes -si by using buffer letter -s- in order to keep two vowels apart and preserve the original root word:
şapka hat
şapkam my hat
şapkası [not şapka-ı] his/her hat

The Complete Rules of Turkish Vowel Harmony
A E Harmony
UnDotted A I O Uare followed byA UnDotted suffix
Dotted E İ Ö Üare followed byE Dotted suffix
I İ U Ü Harmony
UnDotted A or I are followed byI UnDotted suffix
Dotted E or İare followed byİ Dotted suffix
UnDotted O or U are followed byU UnDotted suffix
Dotted Ö or Üare followed byÜ Dotted suffix