Turkish – A very interesting and international language – Part II

From my previous article you will certainly remember that I introduced to you the grammatical structures of the Turkish language which is not that hard to learn as it might seem at first view. Especially beginners can start speaking their first words soon when coming for the first time to Turkey. After having introduced some essential Facts about the grammar to you I’m going to focus on the vocabulary today which gave the Turkish language as much colour as you can see on the picture with the gorgeous fountain in front of the Hagia Sophia.

Kemal Atatürk as transformer of Turkey

It was Kemal Atatürk who tried to make a modern country out of  Turkey following many examples from Western Europe. Of course this also had huge influences on the Turkish language. He introduced the Latin script in the 1920s as well as many new words from many Western European languages and especially from French. It’s also obvious that you will find many Arabic words in Turkish like kitap (كتاب) for book, şehir (شهر) for city or cami (جامع) for mosque to name only a few. Especially from the Egyptian dialect of the Arabic language you will find a bog amount of influences in Turkish. For instance room is oda in Turkish as well as in Egyptian Arabic while in Standard Arabic it’s ghurfa  (غرفة). Furthermore there’s a big amount of Farsi words which sometimes got a different meaning than the origin form.

Influences from Farsi

My favourite example in Turkish is hemşire which means nurse. In Farsi hemşire (همشیره) is an antiquated word for sister. Let’s take a look at it’s original meaning. The first part hem (هم) means the same while şir (شیر) means milk. So a sister is somebody who drinks the same milk. Walking through Istanbul or any other Turkish city you will often see the ending hane. It’s another word adapted from Farsi and hane (خانه) means house. In Turkish this word is used in combination with another noun which by the way doesn’t necessarily need to be of Farsi origin as well. For instance you can drink a cup of tea in a çayhane or you can visit Gülhane near Hagia Sophia which means house of roses. And the word gül for rose in Turkish is another example for a word of Farsi origin.

The Turkish love for French loan words

Those of you who are native speakers of French or have learned it before will have even more fun with Turkish as it has a lot of French words. However there’s a slight difference that will require your phantasy. They say that Kemal Atatürks wife was a polyglot speaking a few foreign languages fluently and French was one of them. The funny fact about Turkish loan words in Turkish is that they haven’t been introduced in their original French orthographic form but according to their prononciation. You don’t need to be a language genius to recognize that döviz comes from devise and that you can change money there. And you will also easily know that a koaför will cut your hair an that it’s nothing but the Turkish form of coiffeur in French. But would you recognize at first view that lise comes from lycée in French which is a secondary school? Or what about füze? It requires some phantasy indeed to realize that it’s fusée the French word for rocket.

Turkish influences in other languages

On the other hand you will also find Turkish vocabulary in other languages with a slightly different meaning or orthography. Just take üzüm. In Turkish it means grape while the Russian loan word изюм (izyum) means raisin. And peşkir the Turkish word for towel you can also find in some Balkan languages like for instance peškir in Serbian or peshqir in Albanian. These are the Ottoman influences in the Balkan region. Some words even made their long journey from Arabic or Farsi through Turkish to the Balkan languages. These are the so-called orientalisms. For instance the word for sugar is šećer in Croatian and Serbian which is a loan word from the Turkish form şeker. This word found its way as shakar (شکر) from Farsi into Turkish Of course there are many more examples that I could list you but I want you to discover it on your own. So learn Turkish and you will have a lot of fun!


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