Turkish language


Turkish (Türkçe)
Spoken in: Turkey, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Belgium, France, Bulgaria
Total speakers: about 100 million
Ranking: 19
Genetic classification: Altaic (disputed)


Official status
Official language of: Turkey, Republic of Cyprus
Regulated by: Türk Dil Kurumu (Turkish Language Institution)
Language codes
ISO 639-1tr
ISO 639-2tur, ota
See also: LanguageList of languages

Turkish (Türkçe or Türk dili) is a Turkic language, spoken natively by over 100 million speakers in Turkey, Cyprus, and worldwide.



Turkish is a member of the Turkish family of languages, which includes Balkan Gagauz Turkish, Gagauz, and Khorasani Turkish in addition to Turkish. The Turkish family is a subgroup of the Southern Turkic languages, themselves a subgroup of the Turkic languages, which some linguists believe to be member of the disputed Altaic language family (which is considered part of the even more disputed Ural-Altaic language family.)

Geographic distribution

Turkish is spoken in Turkey and by minorities in 35 other countries. The Turkish used in countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Cyprus, and Uzbekistan is also called Osmanli.

Official status

Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is one of the official languages of Cyprus.


Dialects of Turkish include Danubian, Eskişehir (spoken in Eskişehir Province), Razgrad, Dinler, Rumelian, Karamanlı (spoken in Karaman Province), Edirne (spoken in Edirne), Gaziantep (spoken in Gaziantep Province), Urfa (spoken in Şanlıurfa Province).


One of the characteristic features of Turkish is the vowel harmony (if the first vowel of a Turkish word is a front vowel, the second and other vowels of the same word are usually the same vowel or another front vowel; e.g. vişne; "cherry"). Stress is usually on the last syllable, with the exception of some suffix combinations and words like masa ['masa]. The so-called "soft g", "ğ" in Turkish orthography, represents the phoneme and is pronounced as a front-velar or palatal approximant between front vowels. When it is is word-final or followed by a consonant it becomes a lengthening of the previous vowel an in all other context not pronounced at all.


Consonants phonemes of Standard Turkish
Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosives p b t d c ɟ k g
Nasals m n
Fricatives f v s z ʃ ʒ ɣ h
Affricates ʧ ʤ
Tap ɾ
Approximant j
ɫ l


Front Back
Close Unrounded i ɯ
Rounded y u
Open Unrounded e a
Rounded œ o


Turkish, like Finnish and Hungarian, is an agglutinative language. Turkish is known for having an abundance of suffixes and it has no prefixes (some Arabic loan words have their own prefixes, but those are the common prefixes of Arabic). There can be up to four or five suffixes attached to one word at the same time. Suffixes can derive words and also establish the tense meanings. Two examples are as follows:

  • göz means "eye." By adding the suffix -lük, we have gözlük, which means "glasses." If we add another suffix -çü, we have gözlükçü, which means "someone who sells glasses." By adding another suffix -lük, we have gözlükçülük, which means "the business of selling glasses." To this word, we can add the suffix -te (which is the suffix for "in","on","at"), making the word gözlükçülükte, which means "in the business of selling glasses."
  • gel is the root for verb "come."
    • By adding the negation suffix -me, we have gelme, which means "do not come."
    • By adding the suffix -miş (the suffix for perfective tense), we have gelmemiş, which means "he/she/it has not come."
    • By adding another suffix, -ti (the suffix for simple past tense), we have gelmemişti, meaning "he/she/it had not come."
    • By adding the suffix -n (the suffix for singular second person in verbal system), we obtain gelmemiştin, meaning "you had not come."
    • We can add another suffix -iz (the suffix which pluralizes the second person singular): gelmemiştiniz "you (plural) had not come."
    • We can go even one step further and insert the question particle -mi (with the addition of consonant -y-, which becomes necessary to avoid having two contiguous sounds of i and d) between the two suffixes of -miş and -ti: gelmemiş miydiniz? ("hadn't you (plural) come?").
    • Finally, we can add the suffix -e (meaning not be able to) right after the verb root: gelememiş miydiniz? ("hadn't you (plural) been able to come?").

In Turkish, all verbs are regular.

Word order in Turkish is Subject Object Verb similar to Japanese and Latin, but unlike English.


The vocabulary of the Turkish language is a subject that is worth discussion, as the language's vocabulary has gone through drastic changes in history. Especially in the last sixty years, the Turkish vocabulary has gone through changes almost equivalent to a three-century time period of any other language.

Replaced old words

When the Turks came from middle Asia to Anatolia about a thousand years ago, they came in contact with Islam and the Arabic societies. Since the Turks accepted Islam, Arabic words (and fewer, yet still many, Persian words) started infiltrating the language. During the course of over six hundred years of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish kept borrowing loan words from these two languages. Towards the end of the 19th century, this got to a point where the language was rather called the Ottoman language. This is because Turkish had been inundated with so many loan words that the language became a mix of Turkish, Arabic and Persian. In contemporary Turkey, the Ottoman language is almost incomprehensible.

After Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey, he established the "Turkish Language Foundation" (Türk Dil Kurumu, TDK), whose task was to replace Arabic and Persian origin words with their new Turkish counterparts. The foundation did succeed in expelling over a few hundred Arabic words from the language, which are now considered obsolete in Turkish today. While most of the words introduced to the language by TDK are new, TDK also suggested using old Turkish words which had not been used in the language for centuries.

It is remarkable to note that different generations in Turkey prefer to use different words to express the same meaning. While the generations born up to the 1940s have tendency to use the old Arabic origin words (even the obsolete ones), the younger generations favor using the new expressions. Even though many new words completely replaced their old ones, one usually finds that both the new and the old words are used together in today's Turkish with some nuances. It is also important to point that some new words are not used as often as their old counterparts or have failed to convey the intrinsic meanings of their old equivalents. In the list below, these cases are explained in the Remarks section and a few examples of some new suggested words which have failed to gain acceptance in the language are also included.

Please see the discussion section for complete list of replaced old words and current loan words

Writing system

Turkish is written using a modified version of the Latin alphabet, which was introduced in 1928 by Kemal Atatürk as part of his efforts to modernize Turkey. Until 1928, Turkish was written using a modified version of the Arabic alphabet (see Ottoman Turkish), but use of the Arabic alphabet was outlawed after the Latin alphabet was introduced. See Turkish alphabet.


thanksteşekkür ederim
excuse meaffedersiniz
you're welcomebir şey değil
good nightiyi geceler
good-byehoşça kalın

A famous quotation and motto of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: "Yurtta sulh, cihanda sulh." -Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which is translated as "peace at home, peace in the world." This quote by Atatürk is expressed in the new language as "Yurtta barış, dünyada barış."


  • International Phonetic Association (1999) Handbook of the International Phonetic Association ISBN 0-521-63751-1

External links


da:Tyrkisk sprog de:Türkische Sprache et:Türgi keel es:Turco eo:Turka lingvo fr:Turc it:Lingua turca li:Törks nl:Turks ja:トルコ語 no:Tyrkisk språk pl:Język turecki pt:Língua turca sv:Turkiska tt:Törek tele tr:Türkçe zh:土耳其语


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