The Eight Vowels of Turkish

There are eight vowels in Turkish.
They are divided into two groups:

  • The A-UnDotted Vowels: A I O U
  • The Dotted Vowels are produced at the the front of the mouth similar to French pronounciation.
  • The E-Dotted Vowels: E İ Ö Ü
  • The UnDotted Vowels are produced nearer the throat as in English.

Turkish Vowel Harmony A ↔ E

To form plurals we have a choice to add either -lar or -ler to the word:

The Plural Suffix is chosen from -ler or -lar to mirror the final vowel of its noun.

All other suffixes containing a or e follow this Vowel Harmony rule:

Plural of the Turkish A-UnDotted Vowel Group -lar

The plural suffix is -lar to words whose final vowel is one of the A-UnDotted Vowels

  • Final vowel -a:
    balta axebaltalar [balta-lar] axes
  • Final vowel -ı:
    kapı doorkapılar [kapı-lar] doors
  • Final vowel -o:
    palto overcoatpaltolar [palto-lar] overcoats
  • Final vowel -u:
    boncuk beadboncuklar [boncuk-lar] beads

Plural of the Turkish E-Dotted Vowel Group

The plural suffix -ler to words whose final vowel is one of the E-Dotted Vowels

  • Final vowel -e:
    ev houseevler [ev-ler] houses
  • Final vowel -i:
    kedi catkediler [kedi-ler] cats
  • Final vowel -ö:
    göz eyegözler [göz-ler] eyes
  • Final vowel -ü:
    ödül award, prizeödüller [ödül-ler] awards
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, clocksaatler hours, clocks
  • harf letter (of alphabet) → harfler letter (alph.)

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 [rol-ü] almak istiyorum.
    I want to take (on) the is rôle.
  • Bu rolden [rol-den] çok bıktım.
    I am really fed up with this rôle.
  • Bu rolde [rol-de] bir sürü aksaklık var.
    There is something wrong in this rôle.
  • Bu role [rol-e] hiç alışamadım.
    I could not get used to this rôle at all.
  • Some Suffixed Exceptions
  • 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.

Common and important words which are in constant use: in, on, at, from, to, with, etc. are suffixes in Turkish.

They must harmonize with final vowel of the word they modify.

Turkish Static Position (locative) Suffix

The static location suffix -de/-da in, on, at

This suffix t shows concrete place (location):

The plural adds two suffixes -ler + -de or -lar + -da and tagged them altogether to make one word in Turkish.

  • adamda on the man
    [adam-da]
  • adamlarda on the men
    [adam-lar-da]
  • kedide on the cat
    [kedi-de]
  • kedilerde on the cats
    [kedi-ler-de]
  • evde at home
    [ev-de]
  • evlerde at the houses
    [ev-ler-de]
  • kapıda at the door
    [kapı-da]
  • kapılarda at/by the doors
    [kapı-lar-da]
  • köprüde on the bridge
    [köprü-de]
  • köprülerde on the bridges
    [köprü-ler-de]
  • odada in the room
    [oda-da]
  • odalarda in the rooms
    [oda-lar-da]
  • Odadayım.
    I am in the room.
    [oda-da-yım]
  • Ali bey, evdeymiş.
    Ali bey must be at home.
    [ev-de-ymiş]
  • Bahçedeki çocuklar top ile oynuyorlar.
    The children (who are) in the garden are playing with a ball.
    [Bahçe-deki]
  • For animate subjects the verb tense suffix must agree:
    Both the subject and the verb are singular or both subject and verb are plural.
  • Çocuklar oynuyorlar. The children are playing.
    [subject children is animate so verb is also plural.]
  • For inanimate subjects, the verb should be always singular.
  • Yapraklar düşüyor. Leaves are falling.
    [subject leaves is inanimate so verb is singular.]

Turkish Motion Away (ablative) Suffix -den -dan

The motion away suffix -den/-dan from, by, via, through

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

Turkish Motion Toward (dative) Suffix -e -a

The motion toward suffix -(y)e/-(y)a to, towards

Buffer letter -y is used between vowels.

  • adama to the man
    [adam-a]
  • adamlara to the men
    [adamlar-a]
  • kediye to the cat
    [kedi-ye]
  • kedilere to the cats
    [kediler-e]
  • eve to home
    [ev-e]
  • evlere to the houses
    [evler-e]
  • kapıya to the door
    [kapı-ya]
  • kapılara to the doors
    [kapılar-a]
  • köprüye to the bridge
    [köprü-ye]
  • köprülere to the bridges
    [köprü-ler-e]
  • odaya to the room
    [oda-ya]
  • odalara to the rooms
    [oda-lar-a]

Turkish Vowel Harmony I ↔ İ U ↔ Ü

There are two different forms of I (İ) and U (Ü) in Turkish.

  • The UnDotted Forms of  I or U follow the A-UnDotted group A I O U
  • The Dotted Forms of  İ or Ü follow the E-Dotted group E İ Ö Ü

Suffixes containing a can have two forms: a or e.
The the suffix -den -dan from was shown as an example.

Suffixes containg the generic letter -I has four forms -i -ı -u -ü.

The suffix -im my harmonizes 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 follow this vowel harmony.

Suffıx -im

The suffix -im follows words whose last vowel is -e or -i.

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

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

Suffıx -ım

The suffix -ım follows words whose last vowel is -a or -ı.

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

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

Suffix -üm

The suffix -üm follows words whose last vowel is or -ü.

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 [göz-ler-im] and güllerim take the -im suffix.
[NOT the -üm suffix as in the singular]

They immediately follow the final vowel -e of the plural -ler.

Suffix -um

The suffix-um follows words whose last vowel is -o or -u.

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

jeton token, jeton
jetonum [jeton-um] my token, my jeton
jetonlarım [jetonlar-ım] my tokens, my jetons

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

oyun game
oyunum [oyun-um] my game
oyunlarım [oyun-lar-ım] my games

The plurals jetonlarım and oyunlarım take the -ım suffix.
[not the -um suffix as in the singular]

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 -ım -um -üm my is dropped to prevent two vowels occurring together.
[the root word itself is preserved.]

  • baba fatherbabam my father
    [NOT: babaım]
  • baban your father
    [NOT: babaın]
  • kedi catkedim my cat
    [NOT: kediim]
  • kedimiz our cat
    [NOT: kediimiz]
  • palto overcoatpaltom my overcoat
    [NOT: paltoum]
  • paltonuz your (pl.) overcoat
    [NOT: paltonuz]

When adding -im my (or the other Possessive Adjectives) to a word which ends in a vowel:
Only the shortened suffix -m, -n, -miz, -niz is added.
This prevents two vowels occurring together.

The third person singular suffix a bare vowel -i

It uses buffer letter -s- in order to keep two vowels apart.

It preseves the original root word and decomes ‑is ‑sı‑sü ‑su :

şapka hat
şapkam my hat
şapkası his/her hat
[not: şapka-ı]

soru question
sorum my question
sorusu his/her question
[not: soru-u]

The Complete Rules of Turkish Vowel Harmony
  • A - E Harmony
  • UnDotted A I O U
    are followed by
    A UnDotted suffix
  • Dotted E İ Ö Ü
    are followed by
    E Dotted suffix
  • I - İ Harmony
  • UnDotted A or I
    are followed by
    I UnDotted suffix
  • Dotted E or İ
    are followed by
    İ Dotted suffix
  • U - Ü Harmony
  • UnDotted O or U
    are followed by
    U UnDotted suffix
  • Dotted Ö or Ü
    are followed by
    Ü Dotted suffix