FREE Quote   Call Toll FREE: 1-800-322-0284
Accredited Language Services
Free Translation Tool Website Translation Language Identifier LanguagesCountries Useful Links

Turkish

The Turkish language has an intriguing history of development, closely intertwined with the history of the Ottoman Empire. Major linguistic and cultural reforms introduced by Ataturk in the 1920s have had an enormous impact on modern-day Turkey, a country still dealing with the changes some of these reforms enacted.

Classification and Early History of the Turkish Language

Turkish is the most widely spoken member of the Altaic language family. Modern Turkish is descended from Old Anatolian, a language disseminated throughout Asia Minor by the Seljuk Turks during the 11th century.

The earliest known examples of Turkish language writing appear in on the Orkhon inscriptions, two monumental slabs of stone erected to honor Prince Kul Tigin and Emperor Bilge Khan. Dating from circa 732 and 735, these monuments display inscriptions in the old Turkic language, using the Orkhon script, which closely resembles that of the Germanic runic alphabet.

From Old Anatolian to Ottoman Turkish

Map of Turkey

The Ottoman Empire was founded around 1300 by the regional chieftain Osman (“Uthman” in Arabic). Throughout the reign of the Ottoman Empire, massive expansion was undertaken in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Thanks to the aggressive expansion of the Ottoman Empire, the language of Ottoman Turkish, also known as Osmanli, was disseminated throughout many areas of conquest. Contact with other languages and cultures also influenced the Ottoman Turkish language, as it came to borrow words and constructions from other languages such as Arabic and Persian. Ottoman Turkish was written in an Arabic script.

Literary vs. Spoken Turkish During the Ottoman Period

Turkish literature during the Ottoman period was heavily influenced by the Arabic and Persian languages. Ottoman divan poetry, for example, shows Persian influences as it made use of a variety of Persian loan words as well as poetic meters commonly used in Persian literary works.

Throughout the Ottoman Empire, the official language was comprised of a mixture of Turkish, Persian and Arabic, a language known as Ottoman Turkish. This language was significantly different from the more common spoken Turkish used in everyday life.

Modern Turkish Language Reforms Under Ataturk

The Republic of Turkey was created in 1923, and major Turkish language reforms followed shortly after. One landmark event was the declaration that the commonly spoken form of Turkish, rather than the more formal Ottoman Turkish script, would be the national language.

Another enormous development occurred in 1928, under the leadership of Ataturk, when a modified Latin alphabet was introduced to replace the Arabic-based script of Ottoman Turkish. This new alphabet, developed and introduced by a team of Turkish linguists, writers and academics, was a more appropriate reflection of the standard spoken Turkish.

Ataturk played a significant role in helping Turkey’s linguistic transition. He personally toured the country to teach the new letters and encourage their use. His efforts were supported by cooperation from educational institutions and publishing houses. As a result of these reforms, literacy rates in Turkey rose significantly.

Purification of the Turkish Language

Efforts to purify the Turkish language were another central aspect of Turkish language reforms after 1923. Under supervision of the newly-established Turkish Language Association (TDK), loan-words that had previously been adopted into the Ottoman Turkish language were removed from the official lexicon and replaced with Turkish-origin equivalents.

Many new words, based on Turkish roots, were introduced to the language. In some cases, ancient words from the Ottoman Turkish language that hadn’t been used for centuries were reintroduced into the new Turkish language lexicon. The combination of these purification efforts and the establishment of the new Latin based alphabet created the modern Turkish language that we know today.

Effects of Modern Linguistic Change: A Generation Gap

The linguistic changes that took place after 1923 were not automatically adopted by all Turkish residents overnight, of course. A generational gap appeared between older people who had spoken older forms of Turkish and younger people who had learned the modified modern Turkish language.

In fact, a speech by Ataturk himself, given in 1927, used such an archaic style of Ottoman diction that later generations have had to “translate” the text of the speech in order to make it comprehensible to later generations.

Modern Turkish Language and Dialects

Flag of Turkey

Today, the Turkish language serves as the national language of Turkey, where it is spoken by approximately 60 million people. It is also an official language of Cyprus and is spoken by a significant number of minorities throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans.

The dialect surrounding the area of Istanbul is the basis for the official standard language of Turkey. A number of other dialects exist throughout the country. A few examples include the Ege dialect spoken in the Aegean region, the Guneydogu dialect spoken in the southeast of the country, and the Hemsinli dialect spoken by the eastern Hamshenis, which exhibits an Armenian language influence.

Turkish Language in Germany

Germany is home to a significant Turkish immigrant population, due to the migration of Turkish workers in the 1960s and 70s. By the mid 1950s, West Germany faced a labor shortage, a problem that was intensified by the building of the Berlin wall, which restricted the flow of immigrant workers from East Germany.

In response to the issue, West Germany began to recruit Mediterranean workers, introducing “gastarbeiter” (guest worker) legislation that allowed these workers to easily come to work in Germany. A recruitment agreement was signed with Turkey in 1961, and the first wave of Turkish workers arrived the same year.

Although the “gastarbeiter” were meant to have only temporary residency in Germany, pressure from German employers resulted in changes that allowed the Turkish workers to stay for a longer period of time. Many simply did not return to their home countries, and brought their families to Germany.

Today, a significant Turkish population continues to live in Germany. The children of many Turkish immigrants have integrated more fully than their parents, speaking fluent German and often using the Turkish language only at home.


Get Your FREE Quote



 

Turkish Quick Facts

Alternate Names & Spellings: Türkçe, Türkisch, Anatolian

Language Family: Altaic, Turkic, Southern, Turkish

Official Language of: Turkey, Cyprus

Spoken by Approximately 57,000,000 people

Also Spoken In: United States

Related Services


Learn About Other Languages


A

Afar

Afrikaans

Akan

Albanian

Amharic

Arabic

Aramaic

Armenian

Ashanti

Aymará

Azerbaijani

B

Bafut

Bahasa

Bambara

Basque

Bassa

Belarussian

Bemba

Bengali

Bislama

Blackfoot

Bosnian

Breton

Bulgarian

Burmese

C

Cajun

Cambodian

Cantonese

Catalan

Cebuano

Chamoro

Chichewa

Chinese

Chinook

Creole

Croatian

Crow

Czech

D

Danish

Dari

Dhivehi

Dutch

Dzongkha

E

Edo

English

English (American)

English (Australian)

English (British)

Estonian

Ewe

F

Faroese

Farsi

Fijian

Fijian Hindi

Filipino

Finnish

Flemish

French

French (Canada)

French (France)

Frisian

Fulani

Fuuta Jalon

G

Ga

Gaelic

Galician

Georgian

German

Gikuyu

Greek

Greenlandic

Guaraní

Gujarati

H

Hausa

Hawaiian

Hebrew

Hindi

Hmong

Hungarian

I

Ibo

Icelandic

Ilocano

Ilonggo

Indonesian

Italian

J

Japanese

Jola

K

Kannada

Karen

Kazakh

Khalkha Mongol

Khmer

Kinyarwanda

Kirghiz

Kirundi

Kissi

Kiswahili

Koniagui

Kono

Korean

Kurdish

Kwanyama

Kyrgyz

L

Laotian

Latin

Latvian

Liberian

Lingala

Lithuanian

Luxemburgian

M

Macedonian

Malagasy

Malay

Malayalam

Malinke

Maltese

Mandarin

Mandingo

Mandinka

Maori

Marathi

Marshallese

Mirandese

Moldovan

Mongolian

N

Nauruan

Navajo

Ndebele

Nepali

Niuean

Norwegian

Nzema

O

Oriya

Oromo

Ossetian

Otetela

P

Palauan

Papiamento

Pashtu

Polish

Polynesian

Portuguese

Provencal

Punjabi

Pushtu

Q

Quechua

R

Romanian

Russian

S

Samoan

Sanskrit

Scots

Serbian

Sesotho

Sign Language

Sign Language - American

Sindhi

Sinhala

Sinhalese

Sioux

Slovak

Slovenian

Somali

Soninke

Spanish

Spanish (Latin America)

Spanish (Spain)

Sranan

Swahili

Swati

Swedish

T

Tagalog

Taiwanese

Tajik

Tamil

Telugu

Tetum

Thai

Tibetan

Tigrigna

Tokelauan

Tongan

Turkish

Turkman

Tuvaluan

Twi

Tzotzil

U

Ukrainian

Urdu

Uzbek

V

Valencian

Vietnamese

Vlaams

W

Wallisian

Welsh

Wolof

X

Xhosa

Y

Yanomami

Yiddish

Yoruba

Z

Zarma

Zulu