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Turkish language: A brief introduction

The Turkish language (in Turkish: Türkçe) belongs to the Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family. It has a very high degree of mutual intelligibility with Azerbaijani, Balkan Gagauz Turkish, Gagauz and Qashqai, which are all members of the thirty Turkic languages.

Turkish speakers constitute about 40% of all Turkic-speaking communities, making it the most widely spoken Turkic language in the world. This language is deemed official in Turkey, as well as the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is also spoken by some ethnic groups in Bulgaria, Bosnia, Greece, Iraq, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and some other regions of Eastern Europe.

What languages have influenced the Turkish language?

Throughout the history of Turkey, the Turkish language experienced influences from European languages, and from Arabic and Persian when Islam was embraced by Turks.

Additionally, most medical, financial and fashion-related terms were imported to Turkish from French. Ottoman Turkish, which is the variety of Turkish that was spoken by the Ottoman Empire from the 14th to the 20th century, went through an influx of Arabic and Persian.

The Turkish language written in Latin alphabet

Other examples of Turkish words that come from Arabic are: aile (family), din (religion), insan (human), kalp (heart), takvim (calendar) and zaman (time).

Other terms that reflect the French influence in Turkish are: kuaför (hairdresser), argo (slang), tuvalet (toilet), ekran (screen) and banliyö (suburbs). Ateş (fire), hafta (week) and taze (fresh) are examples of traces of Persian in Turkish.

What languages has the Turkish language influenced?

On the other hand, Turkic has lent world languages some terms that made their way via traders and soldiers from the Ottoman Empire. Most of these terms carry connotations related to ethnographical aspects. For example, the word "coffee" is said to be derived from the Turkish word kahve, which is imported from the Arabic word qahwa and to Arabic from an African language.

What alphabet is used in Turkish?

The Ottoman Turkish alphabet, which is the Perso-Arabic alphabet, was used to write Turkish until 1928. Many Turks believed that the Arabic alphabet was not suited to representing some Turkish phonemes, making the language very hard to learn and use.

Turkish has eight vowels, while Arabic is not well-equipped with vowels and has a poor sound-letter correspondence. During the Ottoman Empire, literacy was considered for the elite of the country. However, the founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, needed to revolutionise the country and cut ties with the Ottoman Empire, so he imposed the usage of the Latin alphabet.

The new Turkey aimed to improve the life of the common people and educate them, so literacy and language simplicity was very important.

Modern Turkish now uses the Latin alphabet, with a few modified letters (Ç, Ş, Ğ, I, İ, Ö, Ü) to meet the phonetic requirements of the language.