5 Facts About Turkish

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

5 Facts About Turkish artAn official language in three countries and native to ten nations total, Turkish is the most widely-spoken of the Turkic languages. The other languages in that family include Azerbaijani, Qashqai, Turkmen, and some 30 others, all living, that are spoken from Eastern Europe all the way to Siberia. Turkish, however, is the mother tongue of 40% of speakers of all Turkic languages.

On that note, here are five of the most important facts about the Turkish language:

1. There are more than a handful of Turkish dialects

Though there is one standard variety of Turkish that is based off of the dialect that is spoken mainly in Istanbul, there are enough dialects of Turkish to warrant creating dialect groups. The first group is called Rumelice, and includes the dialects spoken by immigrants from areas of the Balkans that were part of Turkey in the past. Cypriot Turkish, Edirne (spoken in the area of the same name), and Ege of the Aegean region are all important dialects. Other specific dialects and dialect groups are found in southeastern and central Turkey.

2. Turkish words have “vowel harmony”

This is true of other Turkic languages as well, but Turkish being the most common of these languages in terms of number of native speakers, we will focus on vowel harmony in Turkish. There are eight vowels in Turkish, classified based on where they are formed in the mouth (front or back) and other factors as well. Vowel harmony is the concept that a word native to Turkish must have either all back vowels or all front vowels, with exceptions.

3. Turkish is an agglutinative language

Agglutinative languages are those where words are formed by putting together morphemes that do not change once joined with others. In the case of Turkish, many times new words are formed by adding a suffix, or ending, to a noun or any other word. Nouns are often turned into verbs, as well as roots turned into nouns. The affixes (endings or beginnings, in this case) show what kind of word the new word is.

4. Turkish has influenced English

English is known for its habit of taking words from other languages and making them seem like they were always English words. This is the case as well with English’s relationship with Turkish, and we can see this through the different words that may seem everyday and typical to native English speakers but are, in fact, Turkish. A few of them are food words, such as “yogurt”, “shish kebab”, and “baklava”, but others are used in more contexts, like “kayak”, “kiosk”, and “divan”. These are just a few examples, so imagine how many others there could be.

5. Turkish is mutually intelligible with some languages

These languages are all Turkic languages, but are spoken all over Central Asia. This means if you are a native Turkish speaker or have learned it, it could serve you well when traveling or speaking with people from many parts of Central Asia. Some linguists think Turkish might even be related to Mongolian, Korean, and a few other languages in other parts of Asia.

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