Introduction to the Turkish Language

An Introduction to the Turkish Language

Perhaps you have not started learning Turkish yet and want to know a little more.   Maybe you have started to learn Turkish and are looking for a better way to learn the Turkish language.

Have you discovered that Turkish is a little different to most European languages?   Well the reason for this is that languages, rather like people, live in families.      Most European languages are members of the family group that is  referred to as the Indo-European group of languages. That language group is divided into three main family groups, Latin (including French, Italian and Spanish), Germanic ( including German, Danish and English) and Slavic (Russian etc).   

Turkish is a member of the Turkic group of languages: this is a different language family altogether.    These are the languages of the Turkic peoples. Turkish is the principal language in the group, its near relatives include the languages of the peoples of modern Kazakistan, Kirgizistan, Azerbeijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

You may already know that languages are constantly changing and "evolving".    The French we hear are not too happy about the use of English words in French which in this day of rapid communication is happening all too frequently for some peoples taste.    Some of you may remember a little from your school days about the development of the English language and especially that once the Norman French invaded Britain there were for a time three languages spoken, the everyday language of the ordinary people an early form of English*, the language of royalty and nobles (Norman French) and the language of the Church and the scholar (Latin).

Turkish has also been affected by the history of its peoples and their Social and political experiences.    The first big influence, following the conversion of the Turkish peoples to the Islamic faith was of course Arabic the language of the faith which has influenced the Turkish words for many religious objects and concepts and even the days of the week.    Much later influences have included the close relationship between the later Ottomon “Empire” and the French (who had a close relationship with the Ottomons at the beginning of the twentieth century)  leading to a number of loan words being absorbed into Turkish for example “pantalon” (trousers) and “top” (ball).
Perhaps because, historically, there was little contact between the Turks and the English very few Turkish words have been absorbed as “loan words” into the English language.   I can think of two “yogurt” and “horde” which derives from the Turkish for a camp or army “ordu”. 
 No introduction to the Turkish language would be complete without a reference to the “alphabet revolution” of 1928.    The Turks borrowed the first script used to record written Turkish from the arabic. This meant that Turkish sounds were recorded in Arabic script reading right to left of course.     In 1923 a Turkish Republic arose phoenix like from the ashes of the Ottomon Empire.      The leader of that republic, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, introduced many “Westernising” reforms which included the banning of the Fez (hat), introduction of western “weekends” and the replacing of the Arabic script with Latin script. The effect of which you will benefit from as you learn Turkish given that a Latin script “ a, b, c” is now used albeit the Turkish alphabet has 29 letters so is not exactly the same as the alphabet you are used to in English.
In learning Turkish you are setting out on a cultural, historical and linguistic adventure!

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