Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian … What do they have in common?

Do you know what I really love about Istanbul? It’s the only city in the world in which I’m able to say that I’m going spontaneously for a short trip to Asia. And indeed I changed continents several times during my stay. This picture was taken near Topkapı Palace. In Turkish it means cannon gate it was the place of administration and the domicile of sultans. Through this gate you can see the Bosporus which divides the city into the European and the Asian part. Turkeys geographical situation is also visible in the Turkish language as you will remember from my previous articles although the Turkish language has a different stucture than for example English, French, German or Russian.

The definition of agglutination

The term agglutination originally comes from the Latin verb agglutinare and means to glue together. And that’s what you do with all clauses of the sentence. In Indo-European languages we are use to put the preposition and possessive pronoun before the noun. For instance in English you say in my house, in French dans ma maison or in German in meinem Haus. In Turkish and other agglutinative languages prepositions and pronouns don’t exist as separate words.

The grammatical structure of agglutinative languages

When learning a few Turkic and Finno-Ugrian languages you will realize that Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian have a similar grammar like Turkish. Just look at the simple example that I already introduced to you. Let’s take the example in my house. In Turkish house is ev. If you want to add the possessive pronoun and say my house you take the suffix -im and you say evim. Instead of a preposition in Turkish uses the suffix -da or -de. It depends on the so-called vocal harmony which of these two forms you have to use. So you say evimde. It works the same way in Hungarian. The word for house is ház and my house is házom. While the preposition in is replaced by the suffix -ban or -ben. So you say házomban in Hungarian. In Finnish there’s a slight difference as the preposition Comes first and then the possessive pronoun. So talo means house, talossa means in the house, and talossani means in my house.

Vocal harmony

I want to mention once again the vocal harmony as it is the most typical phenomenon of agglutinative languages. The last vowel decides about which kind of suffix you have to use. For the Turkish plural you use either the form -lar or -ler. The Turkish word for apple is elma. So you have to use the form elmalar in the plural while the word for dog is köpek and requests the form köpekler in the plural. It works exactly the same way in Hungarian. The Hungarian word for apple is alma so you have to say almák in the plural while egér which means mouse in Hungarian requests the plural form egérek.

Similarities in the vocabulary

You might even notice very few similarities in the vocabulary. In all these languages the word for apple sounds quite similar: elma in Turkish, alma in Hungarian, omena in Finnish, õun in Estonian and алом (alom) in Mongolian. The preposition under standing after the noun is also quite similar: altında in Turkish, alatt in Hungarian, alla in Finnish and all in Estonian. Linguists still keep on arguing whether the Turkic and the Finno-Ugrian languages belong to one common language family. There are quite a lot of theories either confirming or denying it. However you can see that these languages got in contact with each other in the past. Maybe I already told you that I love learning agglutinative languages and I had a lot of fun with them. So if you are Turk, Finn or Hungarian you will learn another agglutinative language with ease. During my study I met a girl at university who was Turk and studied Korean cultural studies. I asked her whether it’s difficult for her to learn Korean. She said that it’s not that hard as she’s very familiar with the grammatical structure. By the way I have to admit you something. In this article I also mentioned Mongolian but that’s one language I still have to learn. But I will do my homework!


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