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The Turkish Language Reform

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Sarah Hercula

on 30 April 2013

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Transcript of The Turkish Language Reform

The Turkish Language Reform The
11th Century Islam becomes the predominant religion of the Turks The Turks give up their Uygur alphbet... Which looks like this: [Image from http://www.uyghur1.com] In favor of an Arabic alphabet Which looks like this: [Image from http://studyarabic.eu] They begin borrowing both lexical items and grammatical conventions from Arabic and Persian because of their prestige and religious, scientific, and literary traditions (Doğançay-Aktuna 2004: 5). And ultimately, the Turks take way more Arabic and Persian words than they "need," including words for "city," "army," and "fire," which they already had (Lewis 1999: 5). The 20th Century In actuality, the original Arabic alphabet was not very well suited for Turkish; for example, the Arabic consonant "k" functioned to represent "g," "k," "n," or "y" in Turkish and Arabic can only represent three vowels, while Turkish has eight (Lewis 1999: 27). 1918: The fall of the Ottoman Empire
1923: Kemal Atatürk founds the Republic of Turkey Atatürk initiates the Turkish Language Reform (alongside other political and social reformation) with two goals:
1) Make Turkish more Turkish (nationalize)
2) Link Turkish with more prestigious societies and languages (contemporize)
(Spearman and Turfan 1979: 89) He does this in two ways:
1) Ditching the Arabic alphabet in favor of a Latin alphabet
(Doğançay-Aktuna 2004: 7) Which looks like this: [Taken from http://www.readliterature.com] And
2) By replacing the Arabic and Persian lexical items and grammatical conventions with more sufficiently "Turkish" forms
(Doğançay-Aktuna 2004: 7) Turkish Morphology Turkish Lexicon Because of two predominant morphological characteristics of the language, agglutination and vowel harmony, the Latin alphabet is better suited to represent the language. “Turkish is an agglutinative language with word structures formed by productive affixations of derivational and inflectional suffixes to root words... [like] bead[s] on a string” (Güvenir & Oflazer) Crazy Turkish word:
Formed via agglutinative processes--can be broken down into 12 morphemes and means "(behaving) as if you were of those whom we might consider not converting into an Ottoman"
(Oflazer, Göçmen, & Bozsahin 1994: 2). Vowel harmony is a process "that force[s] certain vowels in suffixes [to] agree with the last vowel in the stems or roots they are being affixed to" (Oflazer, Göçmen, & Bozsahin 1994: 4). This means that when you add suffixes to Turkish words (agglutination), the vowels in the suffix(es) must be back vowels (Turkish has four: a, ı, o, and u) if the last vowel in the root is a back vowel; similarly, the vowels in the suffix(es) must be front vowels (Turkish has four: e, i, ö, and ü) if the last vowel in the root is a front vowel.
(Thomas and Itzkowitz 1967: 22) Here is an example:
The suffix indicating plurality in Turkish is either -ler or
-lar, decided based on vowel harmony

So: "ev" (house) becomes "evler" (houses) and "gün" (day) becomes "günler" (days) [front vowel harmony]

But: "dağ" (mountain) becomes "dağlar" (mountains) and "yıl" (year) becomes "yıllar" (years) [back vowel harmony]
(Itzkowitz 1967: 22-23) The committee Atatürk appointed to initiate the Turkish Language Reform formed/found Turkish words to replace the Arabic and Persian words in four ways:
1) gathering Turkish words commonly spoken in everyday language
2) researching Turkish words from texts written prior to the influx of Persian and Arabic influences
3) deriving and compounding existent Turkish words to create new ones
4) inventing neologisms
(Doğançay-Aktuna 2004: 8; Lewis 1999: 108) The other large influence on the lexicon was the borrowing of new loanwords to replace the Persian and Arabic loanwords (ironically). These loanwords were taken from western European languages (including English) which Atatürk considered to be more prestigious, unlike the "Arabic-Persian civilization, which he believed to be exhausted."
(Spearman and Turfan 1979: 89) This trend of borrowing (particularly from English) has extended into modern day.
Examples: taksi (taxi) and otomatik (automatic) Of course, all the new words taken into the language during the Turkish Language Reform and the ones that are still being borrowed into the language today must follow the rules of agglutination and vowel harmony (as well as the spelling and phonological rules of the language). Here are a few examples of English loanwords in Turkish. These examples, like English loanwords being adopted into many other languages today, have computer/technological settings:
çetleşmek (to chat)
resetlemek (to reset)
instol etmek (to install a new program)
(Razuvajeva 2009: 303-304) çetleşmek (to chat)
resetlemek (to reset)
instol etmek (to install a new program)
Notice that each of these words uses an agglutinative process of combining an English root with the Turkish suffix -mek (which signifies the infinitive form)
(Razuvajeva 2009: 304; Thomas & Itzkowitz 1967: 26) The Turkish Language Reform “has been labeled the most famous and successful case of extensive language reform” partly due to the fact that “Turkish people from all walks of life were involved in the language reform,” not just those in places of political, educational, and social power, as has been the case with other language reforms campaigns.
(Doğançay-Aktuna 2004: 8)
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