Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Introduction to the Turkish Language

Before beginning the Itty Bitty Course for Turkish, there are a few things you should know.

1. Turkish is written with a very particular script adapted from the Roman alphabet. Be sure to distinguish the following:

a = ah; e = ay; ı = ih (as in bit); i = ee; o = oh; ö = er (like the “u” in burn); u = oo (as in coo); ü = oo at the front of the mouth (as in “view); c = j (as in judge); ç = ch; ğ is just a pause; ş = sh

2. A lot of Arabic and Persian (and a little Italian) have crept into Turkish. If you know any of these, the further you go in Turkish the more familiar words you’ll find.

3. Turkish has vowel harmony. That means that word endings change depending on the vowel in the preceding syllable. Look at these four phrases:
Amerikalı(y)ım = I am American
iyi(y)im = I am good
mutlu(y)um = I am happy
üzgünüm = I am sadIn all four phrases, the boldface means “I am.” But the vowels changed, as you can see, to match the vowel in the syllable before. It’s more complicated than that, so just learn the phrases as they are. But know you know why the endings change. Incidentally, if you make mistakes with this, you’ll probably be understood. Don’t worry about the grammar; just focus on saying things the way you hear them.

4. Turkish uses endings in a lot of places where English uses short but separate words. You’ve already seen how “-im” means “I am.” In the “Are you happy?…” sections of lessons two and three you’ll see a little of how this works.